Travel boost for millions as US reopens border to Brits for first time during Covid

8 November 2021, 08:12 | Updated: 15 November 2021, 18:39

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The US has reopened its borders to UK visitors for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Then-president Donald Trump banned visitors to the US from dozens of countries at the start of 2020, which also included Ireland, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe, China, India and South Africa.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was a "significant moment" as transatlantic travel has "long been at the heart of UK aviation".

He added that "vitally important" UK-US flights routes boost the economy, create British jobs and help develop plans to reduce carbon emissions from flying.

The UK's long-haul airlines, airports and travel firms have been hit hard by the virus crisis.

But as US borders reopen, airlines have ramped up UK-US flight schedules to meet the increased demand for travel.

A total of 3,688 flights are scheduled to operate between the countries this month, according to travel data firm Cirium.

That is up 21% compared with October, but remains 49% down on the pre-pandemic levels of November 2019.

Around 3.8 million British nationals visited the US every year prior to the pandemic, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

A survey of 2,000 UK consumers commissioned by travel trade organisation Abta suggested that the US is only behind Spain in the foreign destinations that holidaymakers say they plan to visit.

A US-UK taskforce was launched in June with the goal of opening up travel.

US president Joe Biden then announced in September that the US would reopen its border.

Airline staff at Heathrow on Monday morning
Airline staff at Heathrow on Monday morning. Picture: LBC

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the reopening of the US borders was a "moment to celebrate" after "more than 600 days of separation".

He went on: "Transatlantic connectivity is vital for the UK's economic recovery, which is why we've been calling for the safe reopening of the UK-US travel corridor for such a long time.

"We must now look forward with optimism, get trade and tourism back on track and allow friends and families to connect once again."

His counterpart at Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, said: "The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years and we are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic.

"We've been steadily ramping up flying to destinations including Boston, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can't wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities to reconnect with loved ones and colleagues."

Do I need to get tested?

Yes, all travellers need to get a Covid-19 test, regardless of vaccination status, before they travel into the United States.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires that vaccinated air passengers get a Covid test no more than three days before their flight departs - and present a negative result.

Unvaccinated passengers must take a test no more than 1 day before travel - and present a negative result.If in the last 90 days before the flight you have had Covid-19, you do not require a negative test and you do not need to self isolate.

Instead you must provide documentation of recovery from Covid-19 (i.e your positive test result) and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you are clear to travel.

Do I need to be vaccinated?

No you do not, however your vaccination status will impact the amount of time you have to isolate for, upon arrival in the US.

What classifies as "fully vaccinated"?

You are considered fully vaccinated if:

  • at least 14 days before you fly you have had your second dose of a two-dose vaccine
  • at least 14 days before you fly you have had a single-dose vaccine

What about children?

Children aged 2 to 17 count as vaccinated if travelling with parents or guardians. Those under the age of 2 do not need to have a test before entering the country.

Will I need to wear a mask on the plane?

Yes, passengers are required to wear masks on aircraft, trains, buses and at airports.

Do I need to do a Covid-19 test after I arrive in the US?

If you are fully vaccinated it is recommended by the CDC that you get tested once arriving in the US, but it is not a requirement.

Unvaccinated travellers are also recommended to get tested between day three and five, but once again it is not a requirement to enter the country.

Travellers who are unvaccinated, must stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if they decide to take a test between day three and five, and it comes back negative.

If unvaccinated travellers do not get tested they must stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel, instead of seven.