There’s this idea out there that ‘once this is over’ (whatever this is, the first phase of lockdowns or the immediate virus threat) travel will turn back on like a light switch. I do not expect that to happen.
More travel will start back up domestically. Even there we might see some restrictions, since certain parts of the country will get through the virus faster than others and there will be a desire not to re-infect the ‘clean’ places and to avoid spreading the virus again from ‘dirty’ places. There wil be some pent up demand but also fear that holds people back.
International travel will take a lot longer to recover. Some parts of the world won’t get through the virus as quickly as others. It’ll take longer for some governments to lift restrictions than it will for others.
However lifting of outright bans alone won’t mean it’s as simple to just buy a plane ticket and go, provided you have a passport, the way it was before for many destinations.
- The U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases. Some countries could retain restrictions on Americans longer than for some other nationalities.
- Expect new visa requirements, and hurdles to get a visa, because countries will want to make sure visitors aren’t bringing in the virus.
- initially we may see some combination of mandatory 14 day quarantines on arrival or proof of current health and prior illness (so there’s an assumption of retained immunity for a period of time and thereefore little risk of bringing an infection)
- Once there’s a vaccine expect vaccination to be mandatory for travel. You’ll likely have to provide proof (whether for visa in advance or on arrival)
- One challenge will be demonstrating the authenticity of documents, so people from countries that are less vaccinated (poorer countries especially) are more likely to have to submit documents for a visa in advance, or will still require either quarantine or testing on arrival
- There will also be fewer people visiting the U.S. either out of fear (virus epicenter) or due to heightened restrictions placed on travelers coming here, just as we’ll see for travel abroad.
This is my basic framework for what to expect as international travel begins to return, and why I think it will return slowly – fewer flights with fewer passengers for longer than most people think.
Reader T.C. asks about traveling to Scotland in June for his mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. He says the family in Tucson is “her last remaining family.”
My question….do you think flights will resume to Scotland from the US by June? Should we risk buying tickets now? If we do, and flights don’t resume, will we be out the money?
There are transatlantic flights now, it is possible to get to Scotland. There will even be some flights added to the schedule.
If you buy tickets and flights are cancelled you should get your money back. The US Department of Transportation is insistent on that. And you could file a credit card charge back if otherwise.
I think the risk is more travel restrictions – that you can buy tickets for flights that operate but that you might not be permitted to enter at least without arduous conditions. I would wait and see how international restrictions unfold especially for a trip as close-in as June.