US lifts travel ban, welcomes vaccinated international tourists

It’s been more than 600 days since travelers from dozens of countries have been cut off from the United States.

That’s more than 86 weeks. Nearly 20 months. Enough time for grandchildren to be born, or for couples to lose track of the number of nights they fell asleep to Facetime calls with their partner. Long enough to lose hope in a U.S. vacation or honeymoon after having to delay plans over and over again.

However you measured the passing time, it came to an end Monday when the U.S. dropped its travel ban.

It’s a long-awaited moment for travelers from more than 30 countries. The U.S. initiated its first COVID-related travel ban on China in February 2020. By the end of March, it added travel bans on the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iran, and 26 countries in the European Schengen Area. Brazil, India and South Africa were later added to the list.

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► US drops travel ban Nov. 8:Expect bottlenecks at airports under strict entry rules

Dueling takeoffs from London to New York

The first passengers headed from London to New York since the travel ban lifted at midnight Monday are in the air.

British Airways Flight 1 and Virgin Atlantic Flight 3 took off at 3:51 a.m. ET on parallel runways from London’s Heathrow Airport, according to flight trackers FlightAware and Flightradar24.

The airlines are rivals but teamed up to commemorate the reopening of foreign travel to the U.S.

Giles English,co-founder of luxury British watchmaker Bremont tweeted a photo of the takeoff from his window seat on the British Airways flight.

The flights are due to arrive at theJohn F. Kennedy International Airport before lunchtime in New York. British Airways CEO Sean Doyle, who repeatedly pushed for an end to the travel ban, is on the airline’s first flight to New York.

— Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY

How did the international travel ban start?

The travel ban barred most foreign nationals who had been in the listed counties in the past 14 days from entering the U.S., regardless of vaccination status. The country also cut off nonessential travel across the U.S. land borders with Mexico and China in March 2020.

It wasn’t until September that the White House announced that it would end the travel ban for fully vaccinated travelers – months after many other nations reopened to U.S. tourists.

The new U.S. entry requirements, which went into effect Monday, require foreign air passengers to test negative for the virus before boarding a plane to the country and, if they are 18 or older, show proof of full vaccination. Travelers entering the U.S. on land or by ferry for nonessential reasons also need to show proof of vaccination.

As airports and border crossings get adjusted to the new travel rules, international travelers should prepare for lines.

The first flight from a country listed the travel ban is set to fly into Chicago from Dublin just before 7 a.m. CT, according to flight tracker Flight Aware and flight-data firm OAG.

Plenty more will follow; there are more than 2 million international flights scheduled to arrive in the U.S. next month, compared to just 728,820 in December of 2020, according to OAG and Flight Aware.

— Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY

► US drops travel ban:Expect bottlenecks at airports under strict entry rules

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