Waiting times at the airport may increase as U.S. borders reopen

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When the ban on international travel is lifted on November 8, the deluge of travelers combined with the need to verify vaccination status and COVID test results could create some serious bottlenecks.

All indications are, the floodgates are about to open. On November 8, fully vaccinated international travelers from 33 countries who have been effectively barred from entering the United States for 20 months will finally be able to travel to the United States.

The emotion is palpable. In the last month, flight bookings to destinations in the United States have reached 70% of pre-pandemic levels; 52% of them were for international entry flights, according to travel technology provider Travelport. Bookings for flights to the U.S. from the UK alone during Thanksgiving week rose 2,200 percent after the October announcement that U.S. borders would open in November, Travelport reported .

As of November 8, the vast majority of foreign nationals, including those from the European Schengen area of ​​26 nations, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, China, Iran and South Africa, who had restricted the entry into the United States from March 2020., they will be allowed to enter the United States as long as they provide a vaccination test: the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals does not apply to U.S. citizens and residents and adds to the negative COVID test needed for everyone, including U.S. citizens and residents, entering the United States.

Where do travelers go once they arrive in the United States? According to Travelport, the top five U.S. destinations that book international travelers for the coming weeks are New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Francisco. But getting to your vacation destination could take more time and patience.

“The big problem we anticipate is the billing of airlines at airports outside the U.S.,” says Sherry Stein, chief technology officer at SITA Americas, a communications and airline information technology provider that works with numerous airports. ‘around the world. “[U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] requires airlines to be responsible for verifying vaccination records and test results before allowing [international travelers] to register. ”

Stein points out that the verification of health records is and will continue to be largely a manual process, at least for a time. Take time for airport staff and the airline to individually verify each passenger’s vaccination status and COVID-19 test results prior to boarding.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), average passenger processing and waiting times have already doubled from what they were during peak travel periods prior to the pandemic. “This is putting immense pressure on travelers and the industry at large, creating a cocktail of congestion and confusion, not to mention frustration,” Stein adds.

SITA is working with governments to create a digital travel solution that will allow passengers to share the necessary travel and health documentation with authorities digitally, before they arrive at the airport.

But until that solution is implemented, U.S. Border and Customs Patrol (CBP) authorities also warn that waiting times and lines are likely to increase on Nov. 8.

“CBP anticipates an increase in travel volume and waiting times to cross the border. Travelers should be prepared with the right information and documentation to improve and accelerate their travel experience,” Matthew Davies said. executive director of CBP’s eligibility and passenger programs, during a media conference on the opening of U.S. land borders to vaccinated foreign travelers.

Travelers from Canada and Mexico can currently enter the United States by air, but have been waiting for the freedom to travel to the U.S. by land since land borders were closed to non-essential travel in March 2020; only essential workers have been able to cross.

As of November 8, fully vaccinated leisure travelers will be able to enter the United States by land or ferry from Mexico and Canada and will not be required to submit a test for a negative COVID-19 test, as required for international air arrivals to the United States.

“These travelers will need to certify vaccination status and submit a vaccination test to a CBP officer upon request,” Davies said.

The CDC considers that someone is fully vaccinated as long as 14 days have passed since they received the single or second dose of vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which are Pfizer-BioNTech, Modern and Johnson & Johnson Vaccines. , or the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes the Oxford-AstraZeneca / Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.

The acceptable vaccination test will be a digital or paper vaccine certificate, including the National Health Service COVID Pass and the European Union COVID digital certificate. For those using a digital QR code, the code should link to information confirming that the vaccination test comes from an official immunization record.

The vaccination test must include the full name and date of birth of the traveler and must match the information on their passport or other travel documents. You must also have the official source who issued the record, such as the public health agency, government agency, or other authorized vaccine provider, as well as the vaccine manufacturer and inoculation dates.

Those who are not vaccinated for “religious reasons or other moral convictions,” are not exempt from the requirement, according to the CDC.

Children under the age of 18, those with documented medical reasons that make it inadvisable to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 and citizens of countries with limited availability of the vaccine against COVID-19 are exempt from the vaccine requirement and, in change, they must provide a negative COVID test from within. one day before your departure flight to the US or prove that you have recovered from COVID in the last 90 days. They must also certify that they will be tested within three to five days after arriving in the US and that they will be quarantined for seven days.

All international passengers flying to the United States who are two years of age or older, including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents, must submit a test for a negative COVID-19 test (PCR, antigen, or approved home tests). or self-tests) performed within the previous three days. to board your flight to the U.S. Starting Nov. 8, unvaccinated Americans will have to take the test within 24 hours of boarding their flight to the U.S. (compared to three days).

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