There were repeated calls in the U.K. this week for the U.S. to revoke the travel ban, which has been in place since March 2020. But as JetBlue launched its new London/New York service, there were signs of increased confidence, despite the airlines believing that the travel ban won’t be revoked before September and possibly as late as November.
Heathrow airport is the busiest airport in the U.K. and before the pandemic, it was the busiest in Europe, but it has called on the government to do more to increase travel–in July, it said that 1.5 million people passed through its terminals, which is well below pre-pandemic levels. As reported by inews, it has asked that PCR tests be replaced with lateral flow tests (which are much cheaper and faster) and that the U.K. government pushes harder for the U.S. to open up its borders and reciprocate by rescinding its travel ban.
A spokesperson for Heathrow airport said this week, “with fully vaccinated U.S. visitors now able to travel to the U.K. without the need to quarantine, the joint U.K./U.S. travel taskforce must capitalise on the U.K.’s world-leading vaccine rollout and reach a reciprocal agreement for fully vaccinated U.K. travellers.”
There are signs though, that confidence is increasing. Passengers traveling from North America increased by 230% during July, with the most popular route being New York’s JFK airport–as it used to be, pre-pandemic. In addition, more Americans have been able to travel to the U.K. since August 2,provided they are fully vaccinated (they can still travel if not, but must enter a ten-day quarantine upon arrival).
Additionally, JetBlue went ahead with its planned opening of a NY/London route, despite the pandemic. The first transatlantic flight left JFK on Wednesday evening and it plans to start a Gatwick route on 29 September, as reported by the BBC. Prices for a ticket started at $941 (£679) one-way, slightly cheaper than British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which both listed $980 a ticket for the same time period. JetBlue has completely redesigned its aircraft for the international journey, rather than using its existing planes.
Adding in other airlines, this now means that there are a possible 28 flights a day running between London and New York.
The U.S./U.K. travel industry is lucrative. As reported by The Independent, almost 4 million travelers made the journey from the U.K. to the U.S. in 2019 (figures from the U.K.’s Foreign Office) while 4.5 million journeys were made in the opposite direction (VisitBritain figures). Before Covid-19, it was the London/New York route which carried the most people–almost 3 million annually.
Virgin Atlantic’s vice president of global sales, Lee Haslett told Travel Weekly that the company and its competitors were ready to fly and it was hoping for a September start date–“Like a lot of people, we’re hopeful for September, but we don’t have a confirmed date so we are focused at the moment on where there are opportunities for us to fly.”
JetBlue has told The Independent it believes that flights might be possible from November. Its Chief Executive told the BBCthat “we are hopeful over the next two or three months, as we get on the right side of the Delta variant increases we have seen, we can revisit that and we can welcome Brits and Europeans to the States again.”
Currently, anyone who is a non-U.S. national/resident/visa/ESTA-waiver holder and who has spent time in either the U.K., Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China and South Africa in the past 14 days cannot enter the U.S. (there are some exceptions for close family members of U.S. nationals).
This article originally appeared on Forbes