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US travel is back on for fully vaccinated passengers

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The US is re-open to fully vaccinated UK residents and those of more than 30 other countries after a 19-month ban.

New rules now replace the ban, with international visitors required to show proof of vaccination and a recent negative Covid test. Exceptions include travellers under the age of 18 and those traveling from countries with low vaccine availability.

To celebrate the rule change, rival airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flew synchronised departures from Heathrow to JFK in New York. British Airways flight BA001, a flight number previously reserved for Concorde, and Virgin Atlantic flight VS3, operating on A350 aircraft, both left Heathrow for JFK at 8.30am this morning.

Both carriers have campaigned for the safe return of transatlantic travel to ignite economic recovery and allow friends and families to reunite.

Reopening the transatlantic travel corridor more than 600 days since the US travel ban was introduced will provide a significant boost for the aviation industry, help both nations’ economic recoveries and re-establish vital business connections.

The US is the UK’s largest trading partner, and aviation contributes £23m per day to the UK economy. In 2019, 22 million people travelled between the two countries, along with 900,000 tonnes of cargo.

Sean Doyle, British Airways chairman and CEO, said: “After more than 600 days of separation, today is our moment to celebrate the UK-US reopening. We’re setting aside rivalry and for the first time ever, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic aircraft will be seen taking-off together to mark the vital importance of the transatlantic corridor.

“Transatlantic connectivity is vital for the UK’s economic recovery, which is why we’ve been calling for the safe reopening of the UK-US travel corridor for such a long time. We must now look forward with optimism, get trade and tourism back on track and allow friends and families to connect once again.”

The news comes just weeks after it was announced that fully vaccinated UK residents won’t need to take a pre-departure test before flying into the UK. However, day two tests are still required, although since 24 October it has been possible to use cheaper lateral flow tests rather than PCR tests.

What’s the best airline for US flights?

Which? recommends that anyone thinking of travelling to the US pick an airline with a flexible booking policy in case the rules change again.

The consumer champion has advised travellers to book with a UK-based airline, as you’ll benefit from additional EU legislation protection for delayed flights.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, for example, would be obliged to compensate you if your flight is more than three hours late on either leg of your journey. Non-European airlines, such as Delta and American Airlines, will only have to compensate you when flying from the UK.

Which? found that British Airways and Virgin have the best flexible booking policies out of the UK airlines because in addition to offering rebooking you can instead choose a voucher. This will be useful if new restrictions are introduced as it can be difficult to know which new dates to book for.