Summer vacation season is underway without a key element this year: packed flights between the United States and London due to COVID travel restrictions.
Airline and airport executives on both sides of the Atlantic say the lifting of restrictions is overdue given high COVID vaccination rates and declining cases in the U.S. and United Kingdom and on Monday pressed President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take action as early as this week’s G7 summit in England.
“These are the poster children of good vaccination programs,” said John Holland-Kaye, CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport. “There needs to be a prize for that.”
The prize: ending what airlines say has effectively been a 15-month travel ban. Most U.S. travelers can’t visit London without quarantining for 10 days, and U.K. residents are not allowed to travel to the U.S. under a broad ban on international travelers put in place early in the pandemic. Holland-Kaye said Heathrow hasn’t seen such a limited number of flights since World War II and said a pact is “absolutely critical to both countries.”
In contrast, some European Union countries, including France and Spain, are already reopening their borders to American vacationers who are vaccinated, even if the United States is not open to travelers from those countries. The United Kingdom left the EU in early 2020.
Have COVID vaccine, will travel: Countries open to vaccinated Americans
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday that there is no timetable for lifting restrictions on travel to the United States.
“We have heard very clearly the desire of our friends in Europe and the U.K. to be able to reopen travel across the Atlantic Ocean, and we want to see that happen,” he said at a White House press briefing. “But we have to follow the science, and we have to follow the guidance of our public health professionals. We’re actively engaging them to determine the time frame.”
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