U.S. Travel Ban: Airlines Push Back Schedules Fearing A November Open

Forbes – With U.S. borders closed to travelers from the EU and the U.K. now for over 530 days under the travel ban put in place by President Trump’s administration, there is little clear indication of when it might be relaxed by President Biden.

However, whilst no formal announcement is even expected, a good indication is usually when airlines either ramp up schedules in anticipation of a route opening or conversely begin taking upcoming flights off the table.

The Telegraph reported that a major airline is pushing back the scheduled restart of its London-New York flights from September to November. The airline was unnamed. Virgin Atlantic was also reported to be delaying the restart of its Heathrow to Las Vegas service until at least mid-September.

Unsubstantiated news out of Ireland this week suggests that the U.S. will lift its travel ban in time for Labor Day weekend, a decision that seems unlikely with current infection rates–the EU is currently discussing whether to curb travel from the U.S. and the Department of Homeland Security recently announced that it will keep its land borders with Mexico and Canada closed until at least 21 September. (These land border restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, nor to people who are crossing for medical reasons or school. Travel into Canada from the U.S. is now allowed for the fully vaccinated and Americans can fly to Mexico on holiday.)

The White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients gave a press briefing earlier this month, as reported by CNN and said that “the interagency working groups are currently developing a policy process, and we will be ready when it is the right time to consider reopening travel. And that’ll be guided, as always, by the science and the public health.”

The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, said “in the past 48 hours I have asked a number of travel industry chief executives about when the current presidential proclamation banning arrivals from the U.K. might be lifted. Their answers and predictions range from ‘September’ to ‘no idea’.”

“The main problem now appears to be two-fold: inertia (once draconian rules are imposed, they can be slow to remove), combined with an unwillingness in Washington DC to complicate the difficult domestic situation at a time when the Delta variant is running wild across America, especially in the key tourism state of Florida.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told The Telegraph, “I don’t think it is looking good at all for U.S. travel, but I would hope it would reopen before Thanksgiving.”

Likewise, Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group told The Telegraph that “the figures are going in the wrong direction for the U.S.” and that he didn’t see “any appetite in the U.S. to open up sooner rather than later.” Smith added, “it is slightly different for the U.S. because they have such a big domestic market, which means international travel makes up a smaller proportion of the industry’s revenues.”

The U.S. currently allows entry to any U.S. citizen and their dependents as well as anyone who has spent 14 days in a country not on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s prohibited list (there are other special status exemptions). All air passengers must present a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken no more than 3 days before arrival.

It is currently expected that when the U.S. opens its borders and rescinds its EU/U.K. travel ban, it will be only for vaccinated travelers.