The United States Government has lifted its level four do not travel advice. The advice has been in force since March. But on Thursday, the US State Department said it was returning to country-specific travel advice. They say this is because the COVID-19 situation is getting better in some countries and worse in others.
State Department winds back its blanket travel advisory
But the State Department warns the situation is extremely fluid. The government agency says foreign governments may implement restrictions with little notice, even in destinations that were previously low risk.
“Challenges to any international travel at this time may include mandatory quarantines, travel restrictions, and closed borders,” the State Department says in a statement released yesterday.
“If you choose to travel internationally, your trip may be severely disrupted, and it may be difficult to arrange travel back to the United States.”
The softening of the blanket travel advisory comes as the Centers for Disease Control records 53,685 new cases and 1,320 deaths across the United States in the 24 hours to 16:00 (ET), August 6.
While the United States Government has never moved to ban its citizens from leaving the country, its blanket “do not travel” advisory threw up certain logistical hurdles, such as securing travel insurance and finding a flight.
US passports holders still face difficulties with international travel
Some United States citizens could now be tempted to ignore the risks and chance fate. But many countries have and are continuing to keep their borders closed to United States citizens.
The 28 member countries of the European Union are not accepting travelers from the United States. The United Kingdom requires travelers from the United States to go into a 14-day quarantine. Both the Canadian and Mexican borders remain closed to nonessential travelers from the United States. Many other countries also have bans and restrictions on US travelers in place.
US airlines tentatively scheduling international flights
It’s the border policies of foreign countries rather than the United States Government that will influence any short-term increase in international flights offered by United States-based airlines.
American Airlines expects a prolonged downturn in international travel. The airline expects its summer 2021 long-haul international capacity to be down 25% versus 2019. While AA is still flying internationally, its timetables are substantially pared back. The Dallas-based carrier has discontinued some international routes, focused on specific hubs, and undertaken what it terms a “reset” of its international operations.
Competitor United Airlines recently said it would resume flights to nearly 30 international destinations from September. The airline is flying 37% of its overall schedule in September compared to September last year. This is a small increase on United’s international capacity in August. However, the airline says it will continue to be “realistic in our approach” to international flying in the short to medium term.
Across at Delta Air Lines, they are flying to 33 international destinations this month. Delta is also resuming service to key international markets across the Atlantic and in Latin America. This includes flights to São Paulo, Dublin, Milan, and Munich. The Atlanta-based airline is also resuming flights to Sydney. This is despite the Australian Government closing its borders to all but its returning citizens. Australia is also capping passenger numbers on incoming international flights to just 50 people.
“Since the pandemic’s start, we’ve taken a conservative approach to rebuilding our network amid fluctuating demand,” said Joe Esposito, a Delta Senior Vice President, last week.
US airlines well placed when travel rebounds
Despite the State Department winding back its travel advice, many other countries show no signs of doing so. With COVID-19 cases remaining high across the United States, that situation remains unlikely to change in the short term. It means passenger loads on international flights out of the United States will continue to stay low.
Yet, retaining international networks, however threadbare, is a key strategic priority for the big US airlines. When other countries begin to unwind their travel advice and border restrictions, and travel starts to rebound, airlines like Delta, United, and American will be well placed to benefit.
What are your thoughts about this update? Will you be flying internationally soon? Let us know what you think in the comment section.