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Travellers head to the United States as flights reopen

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Travellers started heading to the United States on Monday to see family and friends for the first time in nearly two years following the lifting of restrictions on the entry of non-U.S. citizens imposed to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The extraordinary U.S. travel restrictions, first imposed in early 2020, had barred access to air travellers from 33 countries – including China, India and much of Europe – and had also restricted overland entry from Mexico and Canada.

The unprecedented ban has dealt a huge blow to tourism but also kept loved ones from attending weddings, funerals, or meeting new babies.

From Monday travellers who can show official proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and have had a recent, negative viral test can fly to the United States.

“We went from zero activity to one that is similar to October 2019 levels, so before COVID,” said Jerome Thomann, of Paris-based Jetset Voyages travel agency, which specialises in trips to North America.

There are expected to be few if any empty seats on many of the international flights from London, Paris and elsewhere on Monday, and passenger volume is expected to remain high in the coming weeks.

‘WE MIGHT CRY’

Bindiya Patel was one of those intending to be on the first New York-bound BA flight leaving Heathrow on Monday morning. read more

Patel, from south London, was so excited at the prospect of being able to finally meet her nephew for the first time. “I think we might just start crying,” she told Reuters on Monday.

Airlines, which have warned there will likely be long queues at first, will check vaccination documentation for international travellers as they currently do for COVID-19 test results. read more

The reopening of the United States to British travellers will help all airlines operating between the two countries, but for UK-based trans-Atlantic-focused Virgin Atlantic, it means “the world”, its chief executive said.

“This is the market that is at the heart of everything that we do,” CEO Shai Weiss said in an interview. read more

Delta said that in the six weeks since the U.S reopening was announced it had seen a 450% increase in international point-of-sale bookings versus the six weeks prior to the announcement, though most experts believe that corporate travel will lag the recovery in leisure travel. read more

Starting on Monday, the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border between Mexico and the United States will also be open again.

Hundreds of migrants have arrived at Mexican border cities such as Tijuana, hoping the reset will make it easier to cross and seek U.S. asylum.

At land border crossings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will ask if travellers have been vaccinated and spot check some documentation.

Children under 18 are exempt from the new vaccine requirements. Non-tourist travellers from nearly 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10% will also be eligible for exemption.

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