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America's reopening: What it means for airlines and travellers

The United States has announced that it will relax travel restrictions on 36 countries, including Brazil, China, India, and most of Europe, ending a restrictive travel policy that was introduced at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A woman sightseeing in New York's Times Square
Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

It's the news that the travel industry has long been waiting for: From November 8, non-US citizen, nonimmigrant passengers that are deemed fully vaccinated by the US government will no longer be prevented from entering the United States by air, provided they also show a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of travel. Under the new rules, non-US citizen, and nonimmigrant travellers that are not vaccinated will be denied entry from November 8, regardless of their country of origin.

For large European airlines that previously operated busy flight schedules to and from the US, this is a key moment in their recovery. In 2019, transatlantic routes accounted for up to 30 percent of these airlines' available seat kilometres (ASKs). Following the introduction of travel restrictions in March 2020, transatlantic ASKs fell by up to 70%. The loss of lucrative transatlantic business travel has been particularly painful for full-service European carriers.

US carriers will also welcome the opportunity to fly more inbound passengers on their international routes - North Atlantic routes accounted for up to 18% of pre-pandemic capacity on some large US carrier networks.

sherpa° is helping airlines maximize revenue opportunities arising from the return of US travel

The surge in flight bookings will inevitably result in high demand for ESTAs. Of the 36 countries that the US is easing restrictions on, 31 are included in the US Visa Waiver Program, which allows nationals from certain countries to travel to the United States for business or pleasure, for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

We looked at search patterns on our platform to see what effect this news is having on travel intent. The results are striking. Following the October 15 announcement that restrictions were to be lifted in November:

  • Searches on the sherpa° platform from Visa Waiver Program countries to the US rose by 44% week-over-week
  • Searches on the sherpa° platform from travel-restricted countries to the US rose by 53% week-over-week

- Paul Buckley

We work with many of the world's leading travel brands to deliver travel documentation directly to passengers, with confidence, and at scale. As the demand for ESTAs grows, we are uniquely positioned to help travellers move freely around the world. Our mission is to shift the way travel providers think about travel identification and to open new ancillary revenue streams.

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