Finally reunited: How travellers reacted as US borders finally reopened
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On Monday, fully vaccinated international travellers were finally allowed to enter the United States for nonessential travel 20 months after the nation closed its borders to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The historic reopening was marked by a dual takeoff by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow (LHR) to New York-JFK on 8 November, 2021, with TPG’s Ben Smithson along for the ride with BA.
— NATS (@NATS) November 8, 2021
Also present on the flight was British Airways CEO, Sean Doyle who said:
“British Airways has traditionally been the largest European [airline] in the United States so to have this important gateway closed has been difficult. We used to fly to 30 destinations in North America; we are only at 17 right now but hope to be back to 23 by Christmas, with all returning by next summer. Our flights to the United States this week are full and that is very encouraging.”
Elsewhere, celebrated mixologist My Lyan (aka Ryan Cetiyawardana) could be seen enjoying the flight, as could U.K. Trade Commissioner Emma Wade-Smith OBE.
What a wonderful way to begin my time as Consul General, seeing 1st @British_Airways & @VirginAtlantic transatlantic flights arrive in @JFKairport since restrictions were lifted for most UK travelers #BritsAreBack @UKinNewYork @UKinUSA #BackTogether pic.twitter.com/AlV3ZQouyb
— Emma Wade-Smith OBE (@ewadesmith) November 8, 2021
Touching down in New York City, TPG’s Ben Smithson said:
“It was an exciting and emotional experience to be on the first flight to the United States on reopening day, from the special flight number, the dual takeoff with Virgin Atlantic and sitting just three feet away from the British Airways CEO the entire flight, culminating with a wonderfully warm welcome from local staff and press in New York City.
“For many passengers like myself, it was our first long-haul flight of the pandemic and a real symbol of how quickly travel is now returning.”
🇺🇸 ❤️ 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/XYoVqw54dX
— Kennedy Airport. Wear a Face Covering. (@JFKairport) November 8, 2021
The flight was a huge emotional release for many as vaccinated travellers were finally able to visit American friends and family, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for almost two years.
— Turningleftforless (@turningleftfor) November 8, 2021
From the moment passengers left the plane, to taking their first tentative steps on American soil and basking in the marvels of the New York skyline, if you were looking for a pop-culture reference here, we’d say it all got a little bit “Love Actually.”
We love to see these scenes again! After 19 months friends and families reunited at JFK airport after the 1st flight from the UK touches down, captured by Royal photographer @chrisfloyduk✈️❤️ #BritishAirways #BackTogether #BritsAreBack pic.twitter.com/OfhIO9McgV
— British Airways (@British_Airways) November 8, 2021
The warm welcome didn’t just finish at the arrival gates of JFK Airport. Visitors to New York were also greeted by the Empire State Building and several other key landmarks illuminated in celebratory hues.
The Empire State Building lit in blue, white and red, the colors of British Airways to celebrate the return of international travel to the United States today #NewYorkCity #nyc #newyork @British_Airways @empirestatebldg @agreatbigcity pic.twitter.com/HwS7rHjksu
— Gary Hershorn (@GaryHershorn) November 8, 2021
Whilst the world may not be quite back to how it was before the pandemic, the reopening of U.S. borders is a fantastic step closer to ‘normality’ for travellers the world over and comes at a great point as we begin to usher in new beginnings for 2022.
Photography by Chris Floyd / British Airways
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