Jubilant scenes across US as travel ban is lifted

Nov 8, 2021

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A woman met her 1-year-old grandson for the first time on Monday. Parents and their adult children were reunited for the first time in years, couples shared a first kiss after 18 months of resorting to video chat, and foreign exchange students breathed a sigh of relief as they began programs before it was too late.

These scenes played out across U.S. airports on Monday as the country reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers, ending 18 months of restrictions on residents of dozens of countries.

couple hugging at airport
Scenes of reunion at Boston Logan Airport as the U.S. reopened its borders to visitors from dozens of countries. (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated visitors can enter the U.S. after testing negative for COVID-19 within the past three days, the same rule for vaccinated Americans who travel abroad. Unvaccinated Americans and foreign visitors under 18 must test negative within one calendar day of departure.

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The lifting of the travel ban — which applied to those who had been in any of 33 specific countries within the prior two weeks, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, European Union countries within the Schengen zone, Brazil and China — is welcome news for the global travel industry. Airlines and hospitality companies have seen increases in business as destinations reopened to American travelers and intra-Europe travel became accessible again. Still, U.S. restrictions continued to prove a hindrance to the industry.

grandfather hugging family member at airport
Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

But it was not simple tourism or business travel that was on display Monday. Instead, it was personal reunions with loved ones, an end to forced separations that came as the transit lines across our increasingly global and interconnected society were abruptly severed early in the pandemic.

Matthew Nicoll wiped a tear from his eye at Boston’s Logan Airport on Monday as his wife’s family arrived from Amsterdam and finally met his 1-year-old son, Cairo.

Amsterdam-based Balbina Gonzalez hugs her grandson for the first time after the U.S. lifted its restriction on European travelers. (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

Balbina Gonzalez, Cairo’s grandmother, told TPG that she planned to come for the delivery but could not travel. She and her daughter spoke every day after, but she said it couldn’t replace being together in person.

More: An emotional return to New York: What it was like on the first British Airways flight to the US on reopening day

Amy Langevin was with her daughter Emerson and her granddaughter Pennsley as they waited for Loana, an exchange student from Germany who was on her way to live with them.

Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

Amy and her husband had previously lived in Germany with the U.S. military with their older children, now 31 and 27. They don’t plan to live abroad again but wanted Emerson, who is 9, to be exposed to different cultures, which led them to sponsor Loana’s exchange application.

While everyone had been in contact for more than a year, the travel restriction prevented Loana from actually moving.

Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

Meanwhile, countless scenes played out across the international arrivals hall at Logan Airport, with emotional reunions between partners, parents and children, siblings, and even owners and pets.

Similar scenes will continue in the coming weeks. U.S. airlines have reported surges in bookings made abroad and are ramping up service. Delta, for instance, said that it had seen a 450% increase in bookings sold overseas in the six weeks between the announcement that the U.S. would reopen and Monday. The airline said that most international flights were expected to be full on Monday, with pandemic-era high load factors through the holidays.

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

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