What’s Been Going On?
Up until now, travel between the USA and the UK has been challenging, with rules and regulations changing several times.
The US initially suspended all non-essential travel from the United Kingdom on March 17 2020. Whilst there was no reverse ban on US travelers entering the UK, British quarantine and lockdown restrictions meant few Americans made the journey across the pond.
With few alterations made following this decision, in early April this year the chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow airport called for a travel corridor between America and the UK.
Speaking on behalf of the three companies, Shai Weiss, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said “There is a great opportunity here to focus on the corridor between the US and the UK…the US has a hugely successful vaccination programme”.
In spite of this, shortly after the statement was released, on April 23, the US also banned Americans from travelling the UK due to ‘very high levels of COVID’ on the British Isles. The UK was subsequently placed on America’s ‘do not travel’ list - the highest of all travel warnings for American citizens.
The former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the travel ban between America and the UK makes little sense.
“I’m not sure what we are hoping to accomplish. If the goal is to try to prevent the introduction of the virus into the US, there’s plenty of virus here,” Gottlieb said.
So, what now?
The most recent update was announced on Monday when a coalition of US and European travel, airline, union, business and airport groups called for fully reopening the US-UK air travel market “as soon as safely possible.”
The letter, which was written to President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, asked for the two leaders to announce “the full reopening of the US-UK air travel market for both US and UK citizens” before the G7 meeting in early June.
It continued by saying “The return of Transatlantic flying would not only have a significantly positive impact on our respective economies but will also reunite those who have been separated from their loved ones for over a year,”.
Those who signed the letter, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Airlines for America and Virgin Atlantic, believe that the reopening of these two boarders is “essential for both countries’ economic recovery from COVID-19.”
High rates of vaccination in both America and the UK is hoped to speed up the creation of a travel corridor between the two nations.
Delaying the opening of travel between the two countries until September could cost $76bn in lost trade and $4.1bn in tourism GDP, with passenger numbers down 99% compared to two years ago, devastating both tourism and trade revenue.
On May 17, the United Kingdom is due to reveal a traffic light system for international travel which will demonstrate whether Americans will need to quarantine on arrival. Destinations will be categorised based on the percentage of the population who’ve been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the “prevalence of variants of concern” and the country’s “access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.”
If the U.S. is marked as a “green” destination, Americans will need to take a pre-departure COVID test, plus a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back in the UK. They won’t need to quarantine.
If the US is designated as an “amber” destination for the UK, Americans will need to quarantine for 10 days, with visitors from the “red” list having to quarantine in a managed hotel, alongside regular testing.