Travel Restrictions Between New York and London May Be Relaxed Next Month, Other Places To Follow

The U.S. is working with several governments to create ‘air bridges’ where people would be able to travel, at least between specific cities, with both pre-departure Covid testing along with testing on arrival. Talks with the U.K. are farthest along, and could allow travel next month or the month ago. The U.S. and Germany have also been in discussion about allowing reciprocal travel with double negative tests.

Current Travel Restrictions Make No Sense

It’s been strange for the U.S. to continue bans on travel from China, Europe, and Brazil when SARS-CoV-2 is already spreading here. We’re not keeping the virus out. With over 40,000 confirmed cases and an unknown number of untested cases each and every day, keeping out a handful of people who might have Covid-19 doesn’t really alter the course of the pandemic.

Meanwhile the U.S. never placed restrictions on travel from Qatar, Bahrain, Aruba or other countries with more confirmed per capita cases than there are here. Countries with less testing than the U.S., like India, likely have far more total cases than there are here as well.

For while it made at least some coherent sense for the U.K. to require quarantine on arrival for Americans. But that was an admission of failure – even 8 months into the pandemic they didn’t have a testing regime in place that would assure them arriving passengers were unlikely to be bringing the virus, after Britain had already paid a heavy price to the novel coronavirus earlier in the year.

Over the past week, though, the U.K. has been reporting more cases per capita than the U.S. has. It’s not clear what the U.K. is doing trying to keep the virus out. It’s already ‘in’ and spreading again rapidly.

This isn’t to say that travel restrictions don’t make sense anywhere. There are many island nations that have kept out the virus, and where their medical facilities simply couldn’t handle an influx. They’re still in the containment stage of dealing with the virus, not just mitigation. (Just as there are countries that are ‘too poor to lock down’ and the consequences of banning travel may be even greater than Covid-19.)

We’re Just Now Getting Real Progress Towards Allowing Travel With Testing

Despite the lack of public health logic in many of the current travel restrictions, they’re tough to remove. Discussions about a ‘bubble’ between New York (which had largely suppressed virus spread) and London have been ongoing for over six weeks. Since that time New York’s caseload and positivity rate has inched up and the U.K.’s has shot up.

We’re still only talking about opening up flights between New York and London even as circumstances on the ground change, but we’re apparently getting closer to it being a reality… although it looks like any such opening won’t happen until at least late next month.

  • The U.S. is working with a variety of countries on allowing reciprocal travel with negative Covid rapid tests.

  • This planning involves numerous agencies on the U.S. side, including the Department of Transportation and Homeland Security as well as the National Security Council which “approved the corridor plan to move forward in recent weeks.” Things move slowly on both sides: the U.K. has only committed to “study the potential role of airport testing.”

  • The plan is for testing both prior to travel and on arrival.

  • The U.S. is open to reciprocal arrangements with a variety of countries. New York – London appears to be first in the queue but there have also been discussions between the U.S. and Germany.

Many countries remain reluctant to allow U.S. residents to enter even after two negative Covid-19 tests. And even American Airlines, whose business depends on travel returning, is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying “we want to ease into this.”

Ultimately testing is a stopgap, and we can expect countries to require proof of vaccination in order to enter. Of course that too has its conceptual flaws, for instance if a vaccine is only 50% effective (which the FDA has said is a floor for their approval here).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “It’s been strange for the U.S. to continue bans on travel from China, Europe, and Brazil when SARS-CoV-2 is already spreading here. We’re not keeping the virus out.”. Well the ban on europe (at least some european countries) and Brazil is just fine. China isn’t necessary. What you are missing is that Europeans and Brazilians are not flocking to the midwest where there are virus hotspots. Instead they head to places like NYC, where the numbers are inching up but things are still under control with a state positivity rate of like 1.26% even with the hotspots and certainly much better off than brazil and many countries in europe. That’s where many of these tourists will flock to and they certainly will spread the virus all over the region where states actually take the virus seriously unlike some parts of the country.

  2. Without travel demand generators returning (business meetings, conferences, arts and museums, restaurants at increased capacity, other attractions), removing travel restrictions won’t matter much. Why fly to London when my business contacts are now allowed to take a meeting, when soccer matches don’t allow fans, when pubs are closed. The solution is reducing the spread globally (masks, treatments, vaccines, rapid testing/tracing/isolation), which then leads to decreased fear of Covid from the public and decision makers. All of this other stuff is just putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

  3. The proof of vaccination concept is not far-fetched. I recall years ago, before smallpox was entirely suppressed, that to enter the US, citizen or not, you had to present proof of smallpox vaccination. My son, born in 1968, took his first trip to England at nine months old. He needed the vaccination certificate even though our paediatrician said it wouldn’t be effective because of his age . But there were no exceptions. So he got the vaccination.

    What goes around apparently will come around again.

  4. Proof of vaccination absolutely should be required. And probably will be, except for a handful of countries desperate enough, same countries that are letting Americans in now (Mexico, Dominican, etc.)

  5. US and UK seem to be about even in terms of people acting the fool when it comes to not wearing masks and misled by a government of oafs, although TEAM USA USA is definitely in first place, so indeed why not have US and UK reciprocal travel? as long as you contain them in those two places.

  6. I went to London last week for a few days. Had no problem getting in (I’m a us citizen ). Didn’t fill out any form. I’m now back in the US. Not sure what they are going to “open up”. It’s very easy to travel there now. Oh, and I don’t quarantine. I make my own decisions and take my own risks.

  7. stvr’s racist comment needs to be deleted – and yes you can be racist even if you are part of the same race as I suspect you are.

    There is a 4 week lockdown in the UK so this new airbridge couldn’t possibly come into effect until early December.

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