The air corridor not likely to open before ‘the end of summer’
In June, at with the G7 in Cornwall, a new transatlantic travel taskforce was set up to explore ways to reopen UK-US travel.
The group is exploring options for resuming flights at scale on what was once the busiest and most lucrative intercontinental route network in the world.
Travel between the two nations has been frozen since March 2020, thanks to a series of presidential proclamations, while the US is on the UK’s amber list of countries, requiring a 10-day quarantine when returning to the UK and two post-arrival PCR tests.
After President Biden arrived in the UK for the G7 meeting in St Ives, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, tweeted: “We’re pleased to announce a joint UK/US Taskforce to help facilitate the reopening of transatlantic travel.”
Here’s what you need to know about UK-US travel this summer.
How important is UK-US travel?
The market is huge. In 2019, nearly 4 million Britons travelled to the US, according to the UK’s Foreign Office, while 4.5 million visits were made from the US to the UK, according to figures from VisitBritain.
Pre-pandemic, London-New York was one of the busiest international air corridors in the world (as well as being important economically), with around 3 million passengers annually.
What are the entry requirements for the US currently?
A ban on travel from the UK to the US was introduced on 16 March last year. The presidential proclamation of 14 March 2020 banned UK travellers from entering the US because their presence “threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security”.
It prevents holidays and non-essential business or family trips to the US. The principle exception is: “Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest.”
According to the UK’s Foreign Office advice, British nationals who have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China and South Africa in the previous 14 days will not be granted entry.
Anyone arriving from elsewhere will be subject to usual entry rules: either with a visa or with an Esta visa waiver.
These rules don’t apply to US citizens and permanent residents of the US, as well as close family members and other limited visa holders.
The US is on the amber list – but for how long?
Various factors dictate a country’s entry onto the UK green list: countries must be advanced in their vaccine rollout; have low levels of any virus variants of concern; and have low infection rates. Taken together, the country must pose a low risk for Covid being reimported to the UK.
As of 29 June, according to the US Centers for Disease Protection (CDC), more than 60 per cent of all adults have received at least one dose. As at 27 June, there were 4,716 new cases. A low infection rate and high levels of vaccination which would make it an attractive proposition for the green list.
When will the travel ban be lifted?
Although a new taskforce has been announced, talks are ongoing and no firm timeline has been given for it to report back.
On 29 June, the Financial Times reported that talks between the two have stalled, with officials involved saying it was unlikely a conclusion would be reached by the end of July.
Concern over the rise of Delta cases in the UK and uncertainty over the AstraZeneca vaccine are thought to be behind the delay.
On the UK side, the next traffic light reshuffle is due around 15 July.
Can Americans travel to the UK?
The CDC puts the UK in its level 3 “high” risk category for Covid. It advises travellers who have not been vaccinated to avoid travel to the UK, alongside most of Europe.
However, this is not a legal requirement, and is guidance only.
All inbound travellers from the US to the UK must currently present a negative Covid test at the border, and self-isolate at home for 10 days. They also must present a negative PCR test taken on days two and eight.