The U.S. on Monday will open its doors to a wide swath of international travelers for the first time in 20 months under its new COVID-19 rules.
Airlines say things might be messy, and passengers should expect long lines as there is a rush to travel and reunite with friends and family across oceans — right as industries try to get back up and running and fix staffing shortages.
Nonetheless, separated loved ones and travel companies are celebrating new rules that allow international travelers to enter the U.S. with proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said they teamed up for a dual takeoff from Heathrow Airport in London. The plans are both scheduled to land in New York around 11 a.m. on the “special day.”
Delta Airlines told CNN it has seen a 450% increase in international bookings in the six weeks since the rule change was announced. It also said many of the flights arriving Monday are completely full.
Border towns near Canada and Mexico also expect a big uptick in travel and their economic fortunes after a long period of restrictions.
The U.S. is accepting travelers who have been vaccinated with one of the brands approved in the states or by the World Health Organization. The AstraZeneca vaccine, for instance, is not used in the U.S. but is widely available in Canada and Europe.
Wives will hug husbands for the first time in months. Grandmas will coo over grandsons who have doubled in age since they last saw them. Aunts and uncles and cousins will snuggle babies they haven’t met yet.
“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” Gaye Camara said of the husband in New York she has not seen since before COVID-19 brought the fly-here-there-and-everywhere world to a halt.
“Just talking about it makes me emotional,” Camara, 40, said as she wheeled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, which could almost be mistaken for its pre-pandemic self, busy with humming crowds, albeit in face masks.
American citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but the travel bans grounded tourists, thwarted business travelers and often separated families.
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.