Airlines have reported holiday search surges of up to 700 per cent, in the wake of yesterday’s announcement that UK travellers will be permitted to enter the US from November.
Virgin Atlantic saw a 91 per cent increase in bookings in the single hour following the announcement, its CEO Shai Weiss describing the move a “major milestone” for the aviation industry.
British Airways Holidays claimed an increase in searches of “nearly 700 per cent” for its US holidays, as of 8pm yesterday. According to the tour operator, the most in-demand destinations are New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles and Boston.
Travel industry analysts have warned that the new demand will trigger a rise in fares, for the first time since March 2020. According to research firm Hopper, return flights between the US and Europe, including the UK, cost an average of £410 pre-announcement. This was the lowest price recorded in five years.
However, a search on Skyscanner this morning, for return economy flights UK–US in November, indicates little change in prices so far [see post below, 8:12am].
Scroll down for more of today’s travel news.
Kayak reports 238pc spike in US travel searches
Just as BA and Virgin have claimed rising bookings and searches for the US, flight comparison site KAYAK is reporting buoyant interest in journeys across the pond.
It reports this lunchtime that searches rose by “about 238 percent on Monday (20/09) when compared to last Monday (13/09)”. Furthermore, those same search figures are around 76 per cent higher than those recorded on the same date in 2019, pre-pandemic, indicating pent-up demand for transatlantic travel.
UK’s new ‘low risk’ list for travel: everything you need to know
England is to move to a new system for foreign travel under which countries will either be categorised as ‘high risk’, requiring hotel quarantine for returning Britons, or ‘low risk’, from October 4.
The UK Government announced last week that it would be replacing its traffic light system for foreign travel with a two-tier system.
The previous green and amber lists will be merged into a ‘rest of the world’ category, effective October 4. All other countries will be on the red or ‘no go’ list; arrivals from these countries will need to enter hotel quarantine on their return.
Eight countries – Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya – are to be removed from the quarantine hotel list, effective tomorrow.
The 10 things about the US that we have missed the most
From motels and landscapes to clichés and clam chowder, Marcel Theroux reflects on the very specific things he misses about the USA:
“It’s your world,” I once overheard a waiter saying at a bar in Logan Airport to a customer who wanted to tweak their order. No, he wasn’t being ironic. The presumption that the customer is right and all reasonable requests should be possible is part of the empowering American service philosophy.
As much as the UK tries to emulate it, we’re not quite there. I can’t imagine an attendant at a UK lake saying, “I don’t care,” if someone asks if they can swim in it — as happened to me in Colorado. Historically, they are citizens, we are subjects. They’re less likely to need permission to do something. Okay, it gets them into a spot of bother now and again. But haven’t you missed their can-do attitude?
EU: People vaccinated with AstraZeneca should be able to travel to US
The European Commission said this morning that it “makes sense” for the United States to allow entry to people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot in Europe.
It is not clear which vaccines will be accepted by US authorities when the country reopens to leisure travellers in November.
“We believe the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe,” a spokesperson for the EU Commission told a news conference.
“From our point of view, obviously it would make sense for people who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca to be able to travel,” the spokesperson added, noting that this is a decision for the US authorities.
US to require ‘vaccination on arrival’ for some travellers
Under new US rules, foreign nationals admitted to the United States on humanitarian grounds – who are not required to have Covid vaccinations – will have to agree to be vaccinated upon arrival, according to a planning document seen by Reuters.
The White House on Monday said it would lift restrictions that bar many non-US citizens from travelling to the United States by air starting in November. The United States will require nearly all foreign nationals age 12 and over to show proof of their vaccinated status before entering the country.
Exemptions to the policy will include “children, COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants and humanitarian exceptions for people traveling [sic] for an important reason and who lack access to vaccination in a timely manner,” the planning document said.
Most people who receive those “very limited” exemptions would be required to agree to get vaccinated upon arrival, the document said. It was not immediately clear how or where vaccines would be administered or if the travellers would have to quarantine while waiting for their immunity to build.
A White House official said the administration is still working on the rules that will govern exemptions and added those arriving under humanitarian exemptions “will also need a compelling reason to come to the [United States].”
“To the extent there are people fleeing sort of exigent circumstances, violent conflict… that is something we’ll consider” when granting a humanitarian exemption, a White House official said.
Easyjet to boost capacity with extra Spain and Portugal aircraft next summer
Yesterday, we reported on Easyjet’s plans to add an extra 51,000 seats to its October half term schedule – and today, it has revealed an expansion of its Spain and Portugal operations next summer.
The plans include:
- Two extra aircraft in Malaga, two in Palma, and one in Faro – from May 2022.
- Around 150 jobs for pilots and crew will be created, with 120 roles in Spain alone.
- Increased flight capacity between the UK and Spain and Portugal, roughly 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, said: “The decision to add five aircraft to these bases is testament to the important role they play in our network now and in the post-pandemic recovery.
“They have provided us with the additional flexibility to capture the most demand on these popular routes. We can now continue growing our presence in these key destinations from next May, demonstrating our confidence in the continued recovery of leisure and beach travel next summer.”
Indian foreign minister urges UK to resolve quarantine dispute
India’s foreign minister has urged Britain to remove a rule requiring Indian travellers to quarantine, even if they are fully vaccinated.
India’s Covishield vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute, is not currently recognised by Britain – despite being identical to the doses given to millions of Britons.
Many Indians have branded the decision as discriminatory, as Britons vaccinated in the United Kingdom with the same Indian-made doses are not required to quarantine.
They could also lead to a retaliation from New Delhi, with Indian government sources saying it was likely to take reciprocal steps if the issue is not quickly resolved.
“Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,” Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said in a tweet after a meeting with his British counterpart Liz Truss in New York, where both are attending the United Nations General Assembly.
The British High Commission (embassy) in New Delhi said the United Kingdom was working with India to resolve the issue.
“We are engaging with the Government of India to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India,” a spokesperson said.
The rise of the autumn ‘studycation’
A third of us took up a new hobby in the pandemic – and canny hotels know how to draw us in with workshops and weekend courses, says Anna Hart:
Every September, without fail, I go back to school. I either book a fabulous week away mastering some new sport or skill, or embark on a short course close to home. The impulse is the same: I want to learn something new.
This month though, it feels different: I’ve been joined by an influx of fellow students. Around a third of Brits took up a new hobby during lockdown, with bread baking, knitting, gardening and yoga among the most popular. I barely scraped on to the waiting list for an upholstery course at Margate Design Collective (margatedesigncollective.co.uk), and jewellery-making workshops and pottery classes are being rapidly booked up.
£3.29 billion boost for US cruise industry
The resumption of US-UK travel represents $4.5 billion (£3.29 billion) within the US economy annually for cruise travel alone, says the Cruise Lines International Association. A statement from the industry body reads:
The cruise industry is an important driver of international visits to the United States, prompting approximately 2.5 million international visitors to travel to the United States to embark on a cruise in 2019, representing nearly 18 percent of all US cruise embarkations.
International cruise visitors in the United States spend $4.5 billion annually on hotel stays, transportation, retail and other US businesses, supporting nearly 60,000 American jobs. Our members look forward to welcoming international travelers, including from the United Kingdom and the European Union, back to the United States while continuing to prioritize public health.
Fauci: Travel ban expected to be dropped for travellers who’ve had AstraZeneca jab
US chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci has suggested that British travellers who have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca (AZ) jab will be allowed into the United States.
Dr Fauci told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t believe there’s any reason to believe that people who have received the AZ vaccine should feel that there is going to be any problem with them.”
But asked if he expects that anyone who has had other vaccines approved by the UK Government will be able to travel to the US, Dr Fauci told the programme: “I can’t account for every vaccine that has been approved by the UK.
“I am not sure about all of them but the specific one about AZ, given that we have a substantial amount of information on the AZ vaccine – again without being definitive about it – I would predict that there would not be a problem there.
“The final decision goes with the CDC.”
Tourists flee Canaries volcanic eruption
5,500 people evacuated as lava flows toward coast
Some 100 houses destroyed, no fatalities
Lava flowing from the volcanic eruption in La Palma has forced the evacuation of 5,500 people and destroyed around 100 houses, while tourists continue to leave the area.
“It was horrible,” said Eva, a 53-year old tourist from Austria told Reuters yesterday. “We felt the earthquake, it started in the morning… Then at three in the afternoon the lady from our house came and said you have to pack everything and leave quickly.”
“We’re happy to go home now,” she said at the airport, boarding a flight back home after cutting her trip short.
Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said yesterday the eruption was “a wonderful show” which would attract more tourists to the tourism-dependent archipelago – comments that were criticised by the opposition at a time when many residents have lost their homes.
Many of the tourists at the airport disagreed with Maroto. “We want to leave as fast as possible,” said Wienard, a 55-year-old social worker from Salzburg.
“The movement of lava is much slower than it was initially… There has not been a large advance during the day,” local emergency coordinator Miguel Angel Morcuende told a press briefing last night. He said the stream had made its way about halfway to the coast.
A new stream of lava erupted from the volcano late yesterday, prompting the evacuation of residents in the town of El Paso, the regional emergency agency wrote on Twitter.
The volcano first erupted on Sunday, shooting lava hundreds of metres into the air, engulfing forests and sending molten rock towards the ocean over a sparsely populated area of La Palma, the northwesternmost island in the Canaries archipelago.
Today’s other international headlines
While this morning’s travel news has been dominated by the November reopening of the US to vaccinated travellers, here are some other global headlines:
- Health experts in Singapore are calling for mandatory vaccination amid a growing toll of Covid among unvaccinated people. Vaccine take-up is currently at 82% of the population, and the Government has paused the easing of restrictions this month.
- Protests have erupted in Melbourne, after virus worries shut down construction sites. Hundreds of people demonstrated in the locked-down city today. Anti-vaccine protests in the city turned violent yesterday.
- In China, the city of Harbin has ordered spas, cinemas and mahjong salons to close today, while tourism attractions must operate at half-capacity.The shutdowns were imposed after just one case of community transmission.
Confusion over US rules for under-18s
There was uncertainty last night over whether unvaccinated children would be able to accompany their parents on US trips.
US sources indicated there would be very limited exemptions, which might include children, but officials refused to confirm whether they would be included.
UK government sources also said they expected children under 18 who had not been jabbed to be allowed to travel with their families, but there was no confirmation from the US that this would be the case.
UK children aged 12 to 17 are eligible for the jab, and most 12 to 15-year-olds will be offered Covid vaccinations by half term. This means they could be treated like adults by the US and therefore required to be vaccinated before being allowed entry.
Will the US finally recognise AstraZeneca?
If you’ve had the AstraZeneca vaccine, you may well be wondering this morning if the relaxation of US travel rules will apply to you – as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is yet to recognise its efficacy.
The White House said it would defer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a decision, but the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday it was expected that the vaccine would be approved.
He said: “I have no indicators that it won’t be.”
“I am convinced that any vaccine we have used, every vaccine acquired in the UK and licensed by the NHS, clearly signed off by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency), and the WHO (World Health Organization) will be applicable.”
Live prices for economy UK–US return flights
There are still bargains to be had on UK–US flights. This morning, prices on Skyscanner for return flights in November are as follows:
- UK to Orlando starting from £313
- UK to New York starting from £306
- UK to Las Vegas starting from £419
- UK to LA starting from £327
Prices do rise significantly for the final week in November, as Thanksgiving falls on Thursday November 25.
Boris Johnson ‘delighted’ by US announcement
Mr Johnson said he was “delighted” that Mr Biden was reinstating transatlantic travel, saying: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.”
Yesterday’s White House announcement came after The Telegraph revealed that Boris Johnson would press Joe Biden, the US president, to change Covid travel rules and let Britons fly to the United States when they meet in the White House for the first time today.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Johnson had appeared to be out of the loop on developments in Washington, saying he thought there would not be a change in the travel rules this week.