Bookings jump for Europe-US routes after plan to ease restrictions

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European carriers have seen a much-needed rise in bookings for the United States after the White House announced plans to allow vaccinated travelers from other countries to enter from November. 

Britain-based Virgin Atlantic, which has been particularly hard hit by the loss of transatlantic flying, said bookings to the US increased by 91% in the hour following the announcement on September 20, 2021. 

“The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years since our first flight to New York City in 1984,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said in a statement on September 20, 2021. “We are simply not Virgin (VAH) without the Atlantic.”. 

Germany’s Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) meanwhile said on September 21, 2021, that bookings increased 40% after the news broke in comparison to the previous week.  

“The removal of travel restrictions to the USA announced today is not only a major step out of the crisis for our airlines but also terrific news for the transatlantic partnership,” CEO Carsten Spohr said in a statement. 

British Airways did not give details of booking numbers, but said searches for holidays to big US destinations like New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles and Boston had shot up. 

“Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence,” British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said. 

Restrictions on non-US residents had been in place for around 18 months. The new rules announced by the White House will see fully vaccinated adults from other countries allowed to travel to the United States from early November 2021, provided they also present a negative COVID test result.  

The decision was described as a “major step forward” by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents around 290 airlines accounting for 82% of global air traffic. 

“This is excellent news for families and loved ones who have suffered through the heartache and loneliness of separation. It’s good for the millions of livelihoods in the US that depend on global tourism,” IATA director general Willie Walsh in a statement. “And it will boost the economic recovery by enabling some key business travel markets,” he added. 

Walsh noted that the next step was to find a system to manage risks for those who do not have access to vaccines, saying “we must get back to a situation where the freedom to travel is available to all.”

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