Families Gather in US with Tears and Balloons as COVID Travel Ban Ends

Paul Campbell had waited nearly two years to meet his German fiancee at Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday, the day the United States eased travel restrictions imposed on much of the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“I’m happy she’s here, I’m happy,” said Campbell, 63, a retired Vermont firefighter who greeted her with a heart-shaped balloon. “Our relationship continues to thrive even though we have been separated for two years.”

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, a boy held up a sign that read, “Do I Look Bigger?” while waiting for the first British Airways flight from Heathrow in London. “You lost 730 days! Aunt Jill + Uncle Mark,” her sign read.

The travel ban, imposed since early 2020, barred non-US citizens traveling from 33 countries, including China, India and much of Europe, and had also restricted entry by land from Mexico and Canada.

While travel continued for residents of other countries and visitors included in the exceptions, the ban eliminated the sources of more than half of the visitors to the United States in 2019, according to the trade group US Travel, mainly tourists and others. non-essential travelers to the United States. State.

“Today the United States is open for business. That is our message to the world,” US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Reuters in an interview at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

For many arriving on crowded flights from Europe or queuing at the Canadian and Mexican border crossings, Monday was an emotional journey that ended in the arms of joyful relatives with flowers, balloons and homemade signs.

Months of pent-up demand sparked a major spike in bookings on Monday, with travelers only being required to show an official proof of vaccination and a recent negative viral test. Travel bookings for the holiday season in the United States continue to grow rapidly, according to airline and industry data.

No major issues at the airports were noted in a morning call between airlines and US government officials, though authorities did warn of possible long lines and delays.

Previously, long-term rivals British Airways and Virgin Atlantic carried out simultaneous takeoffs from Heathrow’s parallel runways, a stunt intended to highlight the importance of the transatlantic business to the UK aviation sector.

“It’s a great day of celebration,” Weiss said, adding that planes were “filling very well,” in what he called a significant turning point for an industry brought to its knees by the pandemic.

The U.S. land borders were also reopened for nonessential travel on Monday. Canadian travelers, particularly retirees heading to sunny areas of the US, flocked to the US land border for the first time in 20 months, though testing requirements could slow down the short stay trips.

Nogales-Grand Avenue Port of Entry on the US-Mexico border (credit: VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Janet Simoni, who lives in London, Ontario, crossed the US-Canada border shortly after midnight and drove to the house near Detroit where her husband lives.

“This whole half of my life has been lost for almost two years,” Simoni said.

In Ciudad Juárez de México, in front of the Texas city of El Paso, a line of about 20 people formed early. They crossed over and hugged their family across the border, a Reuters witness said.

“We thought they were going to tell us again that they had decided not to open it,” Lorena Hernández said, stroking her adult daughter’s hair and smiling broadly after they met in El Paso. “I said, if they don’t open up again, I’ll take a plane.”

Hundreds of migrants have arrived in Mexican border cities like Tijuana in recent days, hoping that the resettlement will make it easier to cross and seek asylum in the United States, despite warnings from advocates that the reopening is for individuals. who have papers.

Aysha Mathew fought back tears after her mother and sister arrived at New York’s JFK Airport on Monday, fresh from the first British Airways flight from Heathrow in London.

Mathew was holding her toddler, Adam, and pushing a stroller with her baby, Aaron, whom her mother and sister were meeting for the first time.

“It’s so surreal to finally be here and see them meet in person,” said Mathew. “I am very very happy”.

America’s allies had lobbied the Biden government to lift the rules.

While applauding the resumption of two-way transatlantic traffic, airline officials stressed that tourism and family travel alone will not be enough for airlines whose profits depend on filling the most expensive seats.

According to US Travel, the decline in international visits since the onset of the pandemic resulted in a loss of export revenue of nearly $ 300 billion and a loss of more than a million US jobs.


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