For over 530 days, the U.S. border has been closed to EU and U.K. travelers and families and friends have been separated. And despite some severe comments from EU diplomats and commissioners this week–who are continuing the pressure on President Biden’s administration to open up the country–the White House was clear in its resistance.
However, there was still promising news for would-be, long-distance travelers: the impact of the EU travel ban on U.S. travelers appears muted; travel restrictions are being relaxed between Canada and the U.K.; and Qantas is busy preparing to restart its flights between Australia and the U.K. before Christmas.
Australia and the U.K. reopen to each other
Australia extended its travel ban for another three months until 17 December so that the government can reach its target of getting 80% of eligible people vaccinated before dropping inbound and outbound travel restrictions–the U.K. is sending 4 million vaccine doses to Australia to help them meet objectives. Currently, as reported by The Telegraph, over 12.3 million people in Australia (60% of the population) have had one dose of a vaccine, while 35% have had two.
Despite this delay, the airline Qantas said that it is ramping up operations to restart major routes before Christmas. It hopes that flights between Australia and the U.K. can start from mid-December, as well as routes to Fiji, Singapore, the U.S., Canada and Japan. Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said that “some people might say we’re being too optimistic, but based on the pace of the vaccine rollout, this is within reach and we want to make sure we’re ready.”
Canada and U.K. reopen to each other
Canada will reopen to fully vaccinated passengers on 7 September from anywhere in the world, without quarantine, and in return, Canada was added to the U.K.’s green travel list last Monday.
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Andrew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s Chief Commercial Officer, said that the news showed that “bilateral transatlantic travel had made some progress.” Crawley added, however, that “the US now remains the sole obstacle to the full return of commerce across one of the busiest trade routes in the world. It’s time for the Biden administration to lift 212(f) and take a data-driven, science-based approach to reopening international travel. The global economy can’t afford to wait.”
This point was highlighted by The Telegraph–it reported that after the U.K. decided to allow U.S. vaccinated travelers into England without quarantine on 2 August, bookings increased immediately by 300%.
The EU travel ban has been negligible, so far
Whilst the EU has decided to take the U.S. off its EU-wide safe list for travel, it isn’t (yet) the disaster it could be–EU countries don’t have to follow EU-wide recommendations–and many seem to be continuing with existing policies, for now, and are still allowing travel. A few have brought in new quarantines for Americans, e.g Italy, whilst others are slowly announcing changes–Sweden announced that from 6 September, all U.S. passengers will be barred from visiting, even those that are vaccinated.
With a few more weeks left of reliably good summer weather, undeniably the move is economic, enabling the tourist sector to benefit from a last hurrah of American tourists before the threats of increased infection rates in colder months confound once more.
EU diplomats are still applying pressure on the Biden administration…
Many diplomats were very vocal about the continued U.S. travel ban on EU and U.K. travelers this week:
- Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., Dan Mulhall, talked of how the ban was “damaging relations.”
- European Commission Vice President, Margaritis Schinas, cancelled a planned conference trip to the U.S. in protest at the closed borders. Commissioner Schinas said, “I cancelled my planned trip to the USA next week because I do not find the lack of reciprocity on travel rules fair. Nor does it make sense—Europe is the most vaccinated continent in the world.”
- Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Ambassador to the U.S., posted on Twitter that the ongoing travel ban “seriously harms vital economic & human ties, at a time when they’re most needed.”
… but the White House remained firm
The Press Secretary for the White House, Jen Psaki, was asked again Wednesday, if there was any news on when the U.S. travel ban might be lifted. The answer was a clear no, that the policy remains unchanged for now, although there was some acknowledgement to divided families and friends: “We certainly understand that and relate to that, and know that people are eager to be reunited with loved ones—and that is something that’s impacting many people around the world.”
The White House announced in June that it had set up working groups to analyse when the borders could be reopened with Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and the EU. Psaki was clear on Wednesday that any policy would make vaccination a pre-requisite for incoming travelers from outside the U.S.
Monday 6 September–this article was amended to change the spelling of Qantas in the first paragraph.