US reopens border to vaccinated UK travellers after 'more than 600 days of separation'

ITV News Correspondent Chloe Keedy reports on the significance of UK visitors now being able to travel to the US for the first time in nearly two years

The US reopens its borders to UK visitors on Monday, bringing an end to almost two years of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Thousands of travellers are jetting off on transatlantic flights for long-awaited reunions with family and friends.

Travel from the UK to the US has been suspended for non-residents since March 16 2020- some 602 days ago.

Rival airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have operated a synchronised departure from Heathrow to celebrate the end of the travel ban.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights left Heathrow in a simultaneous departure from parallel runways

Their aircraft took off from parallel runways at the west London airport at 8.30am before flying to New York JFK.

In early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic led to then-president Donald Trump to ban visitors to the US from dozens of countries, including the UK, Ireland, the 26 Schengen nations in Europe, China, India and South Africa.

Thousands of travellers will jet off on transatlantic flights for long-awaited reunions with family and friends. Credit: PA

Fully vaccinated travellers from those locations will be allowed to enter the US from Monday.

Excited travellers have spoken of their relief and excitement to be able to travel to America again.

Visiting relatives and getting a chance to go to the US for family holidays were some of the opportunities previously denied by the pandemic.

'My sister lives there and we have not actually met her since 2019 because of the pandemic,' one traveller said

A total of 3,688 flights are scheduled to operate between the countries this month, according to travel data firm Cirium.

That is up 21% compared with October, but remains 49% down on the pre-pandemic levels of November 2019.

Here are the requirements foreign travellers need to adhere to in order to gain entry into the US

The lifting of the travel ban is vital for the UK’s long-haul airlines, airports and travel firms, which have been hit hard by the virus.

Airlines have ramped up UK-US flight schedules to meet the increased demand for travel.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the reopening of the US borders was a “moment to celebrate” after “more than 600 days of separation”.

He went on: "We must now look forward with optimism, get trade and tourism back on track and allow friends and families to connect once again.”

His counterpart at Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, said: “The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years and we are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic.

“We’ve been steadily ramping up flying to destinations including Boston, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities to reconnect with loved ones and colleagues.

US president Joe Biden announced in September that the US would reopen its border. Credit: AP

US president Joe Biden announced in September that the US would reopen its border to the world.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was a “significant moment” as transatlantic travel has “long been at the heart of UK aviation”.

The Cabinet minister added that the “vitally important” UK-US flights routes boost the economy, create British jobs and help develop plans to reduce carbon emissions from flying.

In addition to being fully vaccinated, foreign travellers arriving by air must also provide proof of either a negative result from a coronavirus test taken no more than three days before travel, or that they have recovered from the virus in the previous three months.

There are limited exemptions for travellers who are not fully vaccinated.

Children are exempt from the vaccination requirement but those aged between two and 17 must take a coronavirus test three to five days after arrival.

Fully vaccinated people travelling from the US to the UK must take a test on or before the second day after their arrival.