Maybe it’s falling asleep on the red-eye flight, dreaming of gleaming skyscrapers before waking up to views of Long Island, ready to live out all your NYC fantasies.
Or perhaps it’s finally breezing down Route 66, the California wind in your hair, and the open road boundless in front of you.
For many British travelers, a vacation in America is a dream come true, a culmination of years of consuming US cinema and culture.
But it’s been a dream that’s been essentially off the table for over a year.
In March 2020, as Covid-19 spread across the world and borders closed, the US banned all non-essential travelers from the UK.
This rule remains in place, and while there’s no reverse ban on US travelers entering the UK, ongoing British quarantine and lockdown restrictions mean few Americans are vacationing in Britain right now.
Both the US and the UK have suffered greatly over the course of the pandemic, with grimly high death rates.
But recently there’s been a glimmer of hope: both nations are enjoying speedy and largely smooth vaccine roll-outs.
While much of mainland Europe is entangled in vaccine delays, as of April 9 the UK had fully vaccinated 9.16% of its population and the US had vaccinated 18.74%.
President Joe Biden has promised vaccines for all US adults by the end of May, recently upping that to mid-April. Meanwhile, Britain is on track to meet its goal of offering the first jab to all adults by the end of July.
The CDC recently amended guidance to confirm fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves. In March, CNBC reported that Biden’s administration is considering lifting the long-standing UK travel ban, and the similar bans that currently block EU and Brazilian arrivals.
And while non-essential international travel in the UK is off the table until at least May 17 — and potentially illegal until June 30 — the UK government’s recent reveal of a “traffic light” system for international travel, in which destinations would be grouped into “red”, “amber” or “green” categories depending on their vaccination roll-out and infection rate, suggests the US could be one of the more viable options for UK travelers this summer.
Popular airline route
Pre-pandemic, the transatlantic travel corridor was one of the most popular in the world. Unsurprisingly, the major UK aviation players are keen for the route to be reopened.
British Airways’ CEO and Chairman Sean Doyle calls transatlantic travel “crucial,” highlighting that in 2019, 22 million passengers flew between the UK and US.
Doyle points to the impact of the travel ban not only on vacationers and business travelers, but also on families.
Covid-19 travel rules across the world have forcibly separated some binational couples, many of whom have rallied under the Love is Not Tourism banner and have been campaigning for a lifting of — or exception to — stringent travel restrictions since they were first instituted.
“I hear heartbreaking stories of Britons separated from loved ones and companies unable to restart global business operations for more than a year now,” Doyle says.
He says he is “optimistic” about the UK’s May 17 target date for the recommencement of international travel, but stresses that for overseas vacations to realistically start up this summer, advance notice is needed for both travelers and airlines.
“Our focus is on working hard to bring our operations back up to speed, but what we do is highly complex so it’s vital that we hear more as soon as possible in order to safely restart, with time to plan effectively,” he says.
Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss also points to the successful vaccine roll-outs in the US and the UK as offering “a clear opportunity to safely introduce a transatlantic corridor from 17 May”…