Story by the Staff
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Is Travel Back to Normal?
With the announcement that the USA is open to vaccinated tourists from other parts of the world, the international airline industry is heaving a sigh of relief and announcing the resumption of seasonal and extended flights to and from the major US gateways. As schedule changes and requirements are announced almost on a daily basis, it is advisable to check with your travel professional or the airlines themselves for current details on particular destinations.
The new policies allow fully vaccinated noncitizen, nonimmigrant travelers to enter the United States, replacing a patchwork of bans that have been in place since the start of the pandemic. The vaccination requirement went into effect November 8 of 2021, for both air travelers and those crossing borders via land and ferry.
The new system means foreign nationals arriving from countries that have been subject to bans -- China, Iran, Europe's Schengen area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and India -- will be allowed to travel to the US. All FDA-approved and authorized vaccines, as well as vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the WHO, will be accepted for entry.
That means the AstraZeneca vaccine, used in Canada and Europe, will be accepted. The Sputnik V vaccine developed in Russia is among several vaccines in use that have not been approved by the World Health Organization or the Food and Drug Administration. People are considered "fully vaccinated" by the CDC two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.
Mixed-dose vaccinations will also be accepted. That means individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receipt of the last dose of "any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series."
The CDC orders that establish the new air travel rules do not apply to US citizens, US nationals, US lawful permanent residents or immigrants. But unvaccinated members of those groups will face more stringent testing requirements for air travel.
They will need to provide a negative viral test taken within one day of departure for the US. A test 3 to 5 days after travel is recommended for all American travelers. Those who are unvaccinated should also self-quarantine for a full 7 days, even if the test is negative, the CDC advises. The rules for Americans and legal permanent residents are different for travel via land and ferry crossings. They do not need to show proof of vaccination to return to the US, according to CBP officials. COVID tests are not required to cross a land border.
There are a few other rare vaccination exceptions for international travelers, according to a White House fact sheet pertaining to air travel.
Those include "certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel), those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), and other very narrow categories."
The list of countries with limited vaccine availability is posted on the CDC website and will be updated every three months.
However, travelers' reasons for entering the US on an emergency-basis from those countries must be compelling. "They need to have a specific, compelling reason. So, tourist visas will not qualify for that," a senior official said.
Both digital and paper proof of vaccination will be accepted, as long as the documentation meets US requirements for being fully vaccinated, officials said.
According to the White House fact sheet, airlines will be responsible for determining that the record "was issued by an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency) in the country where the vaccine was given." Airlines will also be charged with reviewing the information presented to determine that it meets the CDC's definition of "fully vaccinated."
All inbound air travelers will be required to provide contact information to airlines, per a CDC contact tracing order. That information must be turned over by airlines to the CDC when it's needed to follow up with travelers to mitigate the spread of disease.
According to the CDC, all proof of vaccination must include personal identifiers -- minimally the passenger's full name and date of birth -- that match their passport. The name of the source issuing the record and the vaccine manufacturer and dates of vaccination are also required.
At land and ferry crossings, travelers will be required to attest to their vaccination status and reason for travel and present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request, according to CBP officials, and vaccine cards do not need to be in English.
Individuals traveling for essential reasons, including students, will still be allowed across borders until early January, whether they're vaccinated or not.
In January 2022, documented non-citizens traveling across the land border for both essential and nonessential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated.
As of November 8, the approved vaccines for travelers are:
• Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
International travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are considered at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants.
A gradual recovery seems to be almost certainly for international air travel. According to figures published by aviation analysts, the number of filled seats arriving in the US from Europe this December is projected to be about 67% of the December 2019 level.
Airlines are still bringing back employees and aircraft sidelined because of the pandemic. Staffing issues, which could be exacerbated by employee vaccine mandates, have complicated operations for some carriers.
TAP Air Portugal is once again operating from all 7 of its US gateways with the return of service from New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport. With daily service from JFK, New Yorkers will have three daily flights to Lisbon on TAP, from JFK and Newark Liberty International, with fares starting as low as $421 roundtrip.
Portugal has confirmed that discretionary, non-essential travel is allowed to mainland Portugal, provided visitors present a negative COVID-19 test result at boarding and entry into the country. Travelers will need to present the documentation to the Borders Officers at arrival and no other test or quarantine will be required. However, visits to the islands i.e. Madeira, the Azores etc. have different requirements. Consult your travel agent for exact details
Finnair is meeting the increased travel demand by adding frequencies and destinations in its network to Europe, Asia and North America flying to almost 100 destinations. Finnair will strengthen its North American services and serve Chicago, previously only a summer route, throughout the winter season. Finnair also serves New York daily from Helsinki and operates three weekly flights to Miami and Los Angeles respectively. In addition to serving North America from its Helsinki hub, Finnair introduces direct routes to Los Angeles and New York from Stockholm, Sweden and direct routes from Stockholm to Miami, Phuket and Bangkok.
Turkish Airlines flies to more countries and international destinations than any other airline in the world, and currently operates to more than 300 international passenger destinations in a total, in 127 countries. Finnair and Turkish Airlines announced a codeshare agreement that will bring more choices to their customers.
Brussels Airlines is one of the four Lufthansa Group network airlines (Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and Swiss) and a member of Star Alliance. Brussels Airlines is Belgium's national airline, connecting Europe to more than 70 destinations, including North America. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Belgian airline operates an adapted flight schedule that is based on market demand and that takes into account the travel restrictions of the different authorities.
Air Asia has resumed domestic and international flights in its Southeast Asian market. The budget airline now requires its passengers to provide a negative COVID-19 test result as a prerequisite to boarding. The test must be taken within 72 hours prior to boarding. The airline continues its routes to popular destinations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and India.
All Nippon Airways is currently servicing 47 international routes. Bangkok, Beijing, Brussels, Chicago, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Honolulu, Houston, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Manila, Mexico City, Munich, New York, Paris, Perth, Phnom Penh, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Singapore, Sydney, Vancouver, Vienna, Vladivostok, Washington D.C., and Yangon. All passengers and staff are required to wear face masks/shields throughout the journey. Cabin air is renewed every 3 minutes by way of an air recycling system consisting of HEPA filters identical to those used in operating theatres, which trap 99.9% of particles.
Air France is strengthening its presence in Northern Europe. In total, the airline offers flights to 12 US cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Passengers are required to wear a surgical mask upon arrival at the airport and for the duration of the flight.
Cathay Pacific will operate flights to 14 destinations: Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, Jakarta, Surabaya, Osaka, Tokyo, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, London.
The airline has increased their precautionary measures with additional disinfecting of their planes and cabins, along with thorough cleaning of their lounges. To provide peace of mind to passengers, contactless check-in and boarding have been introduced. A modified meal service designed to reduce contact with crew and the temporary suspension of the pre-meal bar and pre-poured drinks (drinks will still be available throughout the flight). Thailand is open to fully vaccinated American travelers with no quarantine requirements.
Delta Airlines will continue to add more nonstop flights between major hubs. The airline is also adding service for Florida and throughout the West Coast. Delta will continue to operate a limited schedule for Minneapolis, Detroit and New York-JFK serving as Delta’s main gateways to destinations like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg. Delta will also continue service to Vancouver from Seattle.
Delta is now operating to 36 destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean. The airline looks to serve leisure travelers with gateway routes to Cancun, Los Cabos, Montego Bay, Nassau, St. Thomas and Punta Cana. Delta will resume high-demand routes in the Caribbean like Aruba, St. Maarten, St. Lucia and Puerto Rico.
Many Delta flights due to arrive on Monday, November 8, are 100% full with very high load factors in the following weeks, according to the Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant. Delta has seen a 450% increase in international bookings in the six weeks since the US reopening was announced.
British Airways' VeriFly mobile digital health pass works on all BA's flights to the US, the airline confirmed. Hard copies are a good idea, too.
"I would definitely make sure I have paper copies ... of my passport and vaccination card and major credit card, kept separate from my wallet/handbag. And have digital copies of the same on my phone and emailed to my email account in case my phone/handbag/backpack/etc. gets lost or stolen," said Kathleen Bangs, a former airline pilot who is a spokeswoman for FlightAware.
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