Travel News

Dollar scarcity: Foreign airlines slash ticket sales on Nigeria routes - PUNCH

OCTOBER 10, 2021

BY Oyetunji Abioye

…unable to repatriate over $144m revenue as CBN rations forex

As the naira crisis continues to worsen, foreign carriers operating in Nigeria have begun moves to reduce the total number of tickets they sell on Nigerian routes amid worsening dollar scarcity that has made it difficult for them to repatriate billions of naira in ticket sale proceeds to their head offices abroad.

The development will lead to a significant reduction in the about N1tn total ticket sales over 25 foreign carriers make on Nigerian routes.

This is happening as the International Air Transport Association–the global body for international carriers–said foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had been unable to repatriate about $144m (N60bn) in ticket sales back to their home countries, calling on the Federal Government to make forex available to the carriers to do so.

Already, United Kingdom mega carrier, British Airways, which make billions of naira in ticket sales from Nigerians annually, has issued a notice to travel agents informing them that it would be restricting ticket inventory in Nigeria due to exchange problems in the country.

The BA’s notice to travel agents, which was obtained exclusively by Sunday PUNCH, was titled, “BA notification to control inventory due to unstable exchange rate.”

The notice read, “I wish to inform you of British Airways intention to control their Global Distribution System inventory by removing all the lower classes from the GDS, leaving only the below classes to be sold and issued and we all know the cost implications to this: Economy Y, Premium Economy W; Business Class J; First Class F. This became necessary due to fluctuating and unstable exchange rate in Nigeria. I hereby implore you all to pay for and issue all pending BA bookings with you before this takes effect”

Travel agents who spoke to Sunday PUNCH said the notice, which came about a week ago, might take effect anytime soon according to BA officials in Nigeria.

  The development means over 65 per cent of the total number of categories of Economy Class, Business Class and First Class tickets available for sale will be removed by BA as soon as the notice takes effect.

“We are really surprised by this move. BA is doing what some other airlines have done tactically. BA officials told us they can’t repatriate their ticket sales and this is affecting their operations. As it is now, they want to reduce the total number of tickets they sell in Nigeria with this move. Until the CBN makes dollars available to the airlines to repatriate their ticket sales proceeds, things might continue to get worse,” the chief executive officer of a leading travel agency told Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity to avoid possible backlash.

Meanwhile, findings showed that Virgin Atlantic had technically reduced its ticket inventory by making cheaper ticket classes available in dollars.

This, according to travel operators, will force intending buyers to patronise tickets that are available in dollars, instead of the ones available in naira.

Already, other Middle East and African carriers have begun moves to sell tickets in dollars by encouraging travel operators to buy in dollars.

Also, it was learnt that intending individual buyers who patronise the airlines head offices are encouraged to buy tickets in dollars in other to get cheaper fares.

Travel operators said most of the foreign airlines were asking passengers, who patronise them directly through their head offices, to pay into their domiciliary accounts.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria has said it will launch an investigation into reports that some foreign carriers have started the sale of tickets in foreign currencies instead of the naira.

The spokesperson for CBN, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, said the apex bank would investigate and take appropriate action if any carrier was found culpable.

“The CBN is going to investigate such reports and take appropriate action, even though we have yet to get official reports on that.”

But IATA, the global airlines’ body had called on Nigeria and other countries with exchange rate problems to ensure forex  availablity to foreign carriers to repatriate their ticket sale proceeds.

IATA urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate close to nearly $1bn in blocked funds from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said its member airlines were facing challenges in Nigeria and a few other countries.

Walsh said, “Governments are preventing nearly $1bn of airline revenues from being repatriated. This contravenes international conventions and could slow the recovery of travel and tourism in affected markets as the airline industry struggles to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Airlines will not be able to provide reliable connectivity if they cannot rely on local revenues to support operations. That is why it is critical for all governments to prioritise ensuring that funds can be repatriated efficiently. Now is not the time to score an ‘own goal’ by putting vital air connectivity at risk.”

  According to IATA, approximately $963m in airline funds are being blocked from repatriation in nearly 20 countries.

“Four countries: Bangladesh ($146.1m), Lebanon ($175.5m), Nigeria ($143.8m), and Zimbabwe ($142.7 m), account for over 60 per cent of this total, although there has been positive progress in reducing blocked funds in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe of late,” IATA said.

“We encourage governments to work with industry to resolve the issues that are preventing airlines from repatriating funds. This will enable aviation to provide the connectivity needed to sustain jobs and energise economies as they recover from COVID-19,” said Walsh.

Meanwhile, the Association of Foreign Airlines in Nigeria, the umbrella body of foreign carriers operating in the country, said carriers needed dollars to carry out the maintenance of their planes and run their operations.

As such, it said there was the need for the CBN to provide dollars for their members flying in Nigeria.

The President, AFARN, Mr Kingsley Nwokeoma, said, “As we all know, the industry like all other international sectors is dollar oriented. Inconsistent government policies have pushed some of the foreign airlines to start selling tickets in US dollars through certain means as a survival option

“It is worrisome that airlines in Nigeria can’t repatriate about $144m. Imagine if this situation is applicable to other countries, the industry will be in jeopardy. The government should know that without this repatriation, the airlines won’t be able to fund maintenance, operations, aircraft purchases, salaries and other commitments. The government has to seriously look into this and find a solution as this is embarrassing for a country like Nigeria.”

When contacted, Virgin Atlantic denied selling tickets in both local and foreign currencies.

A statement by Virgin spokesperson said, “The allegations that Virgin Atlantic demands payment in US dollars is false. Our trade partners in Nigeria are extremely important to us and we work very closely with them, offering a range of fares available in Nigerian Naira. However, should our trade customers wish to pay via other currencies including the Great British Pound or US Dollar we are also able to accommodate this.”

Some of the foreign airlines flying in Nigeria are British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Others include Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, RwandAir, Egypt Air, Middle East Airlines, Africa World Airlines and South Africa Airways.

In 2006 when there was downturn in global oil prices and the CBN could not sell enough forex to foreign airlines to repatriate billions of naira in ticket sale proceeds, a number of foreign airlines were badly hit many of them resorting to the sale of ticket in dollars. The move was frown on by the CBN.

National carrier gets N400m allocation despite failure to begin operations - PUNCH

OCTOBER 10, 2021

BY  Okechukwu Nnodim

The Federal Government plans to spend N400m as working capital on its proposed national carrier which has failed to begin operations and has remained on the discussion table since 2015.

It disclosed this in the 2022 appropriation bill that was submitted to the National Assembly on Thursday by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

In the bill, the Federal Ministry of Aviation provided a budget of N400m as working capital for the national carrier, describing it as an ongoing project.

Since three years after the Federal Government unveiled the branding and livery for the proposed airline, named Nigeria Air, the project had remained a subject of continuous debate.

Officials at the aviation ministry, however, stated on Friday that plans to get the airline up and running were still in place.

“This, of course, is why you saw the amount that was budgeted for it as working capital in the 2022 appropriation bill,” an official at the ministry, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.

In May this year, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, tweeted that discussions for the project was held at the United States Embassy in Abuja.

This came as Nigerians condemned the continued delay on the part of the Federal Government in establishing the national airline.

In July 2018, the Federal Government unveiled the branding and livery for the new airline, Nigeria Air, and stated that the carrier would be inaugurated at the end of that year.

Sirika unveiled the carrier at a press conference during the Farnborough Air Show in London that year.

“I am very pleased to tell you that we are finally on track to launching a new national flag carrier for our country, Nigeria Air.

“We are all fully committed to fulfilling the campaign promise made by our President, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015. We are aiming to launch Nigeria Air by the end of this year,” the minister had stated.

He also stated that the government had obtained the Certificate of Compliance from the Nigerian Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission and would go into investor search.

“I am confident that we will have a well-run national flag carrier that is a global player, compliant with international safety standards and one which has the customer at its heart,” the minister had said.

But for more than three years down the line, no national carrier has been inaugurated, as against the initial plan to inaugurate the airline before the end of 2018.

Rather, the government through the aviation ministry had been saying that discussions were still ongoing for the proposed airline.

“The plan is still in place and the processes for the establishment are still being pursued despite the delay since it was unveiled,” the aviation ministry official stated.

The ministry had also in May this year stated that private investors were to raise $250m to start up the national airline.

It disclosed this in a document on the updated status of the government’s aviation roadmap that was seen in Abuja at the FMA.

FG appropriates N20bn for second Abuja airport runway

Meanwhile, the ministry stated in the latest 2022 appropriation bill that it would require N20bn for the construction of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

There had been repeated calls among public and private entities urging the Federal Government to construct a second runway at the NAIA in order to enhance flight operations at the country’s second busiest airport.

Nigeria seeks participation in $1.2 tr global luxury travel market - THE NATION

OCTOBER 11, 2021

By Kelvin Osa Okunbor

Nigerian operators are seeking more participation in the global luxury travel market estimated to grow by $1,232.77 trillion between 2021 and 2025 as increasing demand for private travel/seats sharing is pushing high networth individuals to patronise business jet services.

Experts rate Nigeria as one the biggest business jet markets in the world with huge potential yet to be fully exploited, because of brokers who do not disclose the full value of charter to owners of aircraft.

There are over 197 business jets acquired for personal/corporate/charter luxury services in the country.

In the last few years, Nigerians spent over $6.5billion on business jets, making it the largest market in Africa for luxury aircraft and one of the fastest growing in the world.

As the global travel industry picks up following increasing number of people vaccinated with contactless checking in place at airports and possibilities of reduced health/safety risks operators are now exploring digitalised processes which would enable high net worth individuals and other high end travel users book for and pay for luxury travel services without third party players.

Also, Chief Executive Officer, Zuma Jets, Captain David Augustine, said the size of the luxury travel market was increasing because more high networth individuals were coming to terms with the need to travel in smaller groups with people they know and trust.

Besides, the pilot said such people with sufficient disposable income were increasingly realising the need to avoid the crowd.

He said it is such realities that were creating a growing brand of people looking for new holiday resorts using business jets

The pilot said: “Nigeria is the third biggest private/ business jet market in the world. Despite the huge volume of the market, operators are yet to fully scratch the surface of the market. With the right strategy and partnership and relevant regulatory support the market could grow faster.

”Part of the ways to accelerate the growth of the industry is for the regulator to explore policies that would grant approval for seat sharing to allow more people to utilise business jets, then the operators could earn more money.This would require rejigging of the licensing policy to allow for more operators in the sector, who with the right partnership will deliver quality services.”

Also, Chief Executive Officer, Jet West Mobility, Mr Nwachukwu Dikko, said luxury travel was gaining more traction because there were digital solutions being provided to resolve many travel anxieties.

He said the pandemic, though devastating, also created a window for players in the luxury travel space to rethink their strategies on how to navigate around hurdles, including restrictions and other obstacles imposed on scheduled transportation.

Customs move to impound 29 private jets - DAILY POST

OCTOBER 12, 2021

By  Fikayo Olowolagba

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) released its report on the verification of privately-owned airplanes in the country on Tuesday in Abuja.

It threatened to impound 29 jets on which the owners did not pay statutory import duties.

Customs’ Spokesman, Mr Joseph Attah, told a news conference that the 29 airplanes would be impounded if the owners did not show up at the expiration of the 14 days ultimatum given.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on May 31, Customs announced its plan to verify import documents of privately-owned airplanes in the country.

The exercise took place between June 7 and Aug. 6 at the Tariff and Trade Department of the Service.

Attah explained that within the stipulated period, 86 private jets or airplane operators showed up for the exercise and presented relevant documents for verification.

He added that 57 of them were verified as commercial charter operators and were duly cleared for operations.

He said the 29 private jets/airplanes owners and or their representatives were issued with demand notices on Oct. 11 and were given 14 days to make payments to designated Federal Government accounts.

He said they would be issued Aircraft Clearance Certificates after payment.

“Owners of private aircraft for which no presentations were made for verification, and whose status remains uncertain are requested to immediately furnish Customs Service with documents for verification and clearance.

“To this effect, all 57 commercial charter jets or aircraft operators who presented their documents for verification are requested to come to the Nigeria Customs Service Headquarters, Abuja, to collect their clearance certificates.

“All 29 private jets/aircraft owners and or their representatives who have been issued with demand notices have 14 days from Oct. 11 to collect and make payments to the designated Federal Government accounts.

“They will be issued with Aircraft Clearance Certificates after payment,’’ Attah said.

The spokesperson implored all concerned to avail themselves of this opportunity, as Customs would not hesitate to activate enforcement procedures on identified defaulters.

Attah also told newsmen that the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria had been put on notice to ensure that only privately-owned airplanes cleared by Customs were allowed to operate within the country’s airspace.

Macau Cancels Third Public Meeting on Proposed Casino Crackdown - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 13, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Macau has now cancelled three town hall meetings meant for officials to gauge public opinion on a proposed tightening of casino rules in the world’s largest gaming hub, citing Covid-19 flareups and a tropical storm. 

Local regulators put off a consultation meeting scheduled for Wednesday citing typhoon Kompasu, as the city raised its warning signal to No. 8, a severe form of storm, expected to be in effect throughout the morning. It scratched two previous gatherings, on Oct. 9 and Sept. 29, citing a resurgence of local virus clusters.

The proposal to increase oversight on Macau’s biggest industry comes as China cracks down on private sectors from technology to education. It triggered a record $18 billion selloff of local gaming stocks and raised questions about Macau’s future as the world’s gambling epicenter. A Bloomberg Intelligence index of the city’s six casinos hasn’t recovered, plunging 24% since the announcement on Sept. 14. The plan could be a cornerstone of Beijing’s wider push for the enclave -- the only place in China where gambling is legal -- to diversify and cut its reliance on the gaming industry.  

There’s just one public session remaining next Tuesday before the 45-day consultation period concludes on Oct. 29, and still little clarity on what the new rules will look like. Officials last month met Macau’s gaming operators to consult on the proposed changes to the law -- including plans to send government representatives to directly supervise casino companies, allow authorities to approve dividend distribution and increase local ownership of the gambling firms. 

While authorities said they were open to opinions on the proposed revisions to casino law, the meeting yielded few details on major issues concerning investors.

U.S. to lift Canada, Mexico land border restrictions in Nov for vaccinated visitors - REUTERS

OCTOBER 13, 2021

By David Shepardson and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The United States will lift restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, ending historic curbs on non-essential travelers in place since March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement the administration next month "will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings."

The new rules are similar but not identical to planned requirements announced last month for international air travelers, U.S. officials said in a call earlier with reporters.

Lawmakers from U.S border states praised the move to lift the unprecedented restrictions which harmed the economies of local communities and has prevented visits to friends and families for 19 months.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, members of our shared cross-border community have felt the pain and economic hardship of the land border closures. That pain is about to end," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Unvaccinated visitors will still be barred from entering the United States from Canada or Mexico at land borders.

The officials from President Joe Biden's administration emphasized that the White House would not lift the "Title 42" order put in place by former President Donald Trump's administration that has essentially cut off access to asylum for hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to enter from Mexico.

The precise date in early November when the restrictions will be lifted on both land and air travel will be announced "very soon," one of the officials said.

Homeland Security said the administration was creating "consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – whether by air, land, or ferry."

Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel. read more


Once the U.S. curbs are lifted, non-essential foreign visitors crossing U.S. land borders, such as tourists, will be able to visit if they are vaccinated. In early January, the United States will require essential visitors, like truck drivers or healthcare workers, to be vaccinated to cross land borders, the officials said.

U.S. lawmakers have been pushing the White House to lift restrictions that have barred non-essential travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020, and many border communities have been hit hard by the closure. Mexico has also pressed the Biden administration to ease restrictions.

Senator Maria Cantwell said the announcement "will provide great relief to those waiting to see friends and loved ones from Canada."

The White House announced on Sept. 20 that the United States in early November would lift travel restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It also said it would extend the vaccine requirements to foreign air travelers from all other countries.

Foreign visitors crossing into the United States by land or ferry will need to be vaccinated but will not necessarily need to show proof of vaccination unless they are referred by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for secondary inspections.

By contrast, all non-U.S. air travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, and will need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Foreign visitors crossing a land border will not need to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the United States would accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization.

One question unanswered is whether the United States will accept vaccines from visitors who received doses of two different COVID-19 vaccines.

The U.S. land border restrictions have not barred U.S. citizens from returning home.

Reporting by David Shepardson, Steve Holland, Tim Ahmann and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Beech, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Richard Pullin

U.S. to Ease Restrictions on Land Travel to Canada, Mexico - BLOOMBERG

OCTOBER 13, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- The United States will relax coronavirus restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico for vaccinated travelers next month, allowing for the resumption of non-essential travel like tourism.

The changes, announced by members of New York’s congressional delegation, come after the White House previously announced its intention to begin allowing airline passengers from a broad swath of countries – including Canada, Mexico, and Europe – to enter the country with proof of vaccination and a coronavirus test in early November.

The changes are expected to invigorate international travel before the holiday season, and Tuesday’s announcement addresses complaints by those living in border communities that the U.S. was imposing different rules for those traveling by air than for those driving to see friends and family.

“This reopening will be welcome news to countless businesses, medical providers, families, and loved ones that depend on travel across the northern border,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.

The new policy will end restrictions on non-essential travel that were first implemented in March 2020, though Americans were not restricted from returning home. The new standard will also apply to cross-border ferry travel.

Other details of how the program will work must still be finalized, according to senior administration officials who requested anonymity to preview the changes to the Department of Homeland Security policy.

FG to deploy alternative surveillance system in airports - PUNCH

OCTOBER 13, 2021

BY  Friday Olokor

The Federal Government has identified vandalism of sensors located in remote locations within the airport premises as one of the greatest challenges bedeviling the smooth operation of the aviation sector.

The government said it was coming up with security alternative monitoring system of low level wind shear beyond using sensors.

The Director-General of Nigerian Meteorological Agency, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Prof. Mansur Matazu, said these on Tuesday during the second symposium of the Nigerian Aviation Workforce Safety with the theme ‘Mitigating/preventing the adverse impact of windshield occurrences in Nigerian airspace’.

During the event, experts in the aviation sector challenged the Federal Government to adopt home-made solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change on aviation safety in the country.

According to Matazu, climate change has a wide range of consequences for aviation safety.

He said, “The few challenges we are experiencing basically is vandalisation of some of the sensors located in remote locations within the airport premises or beyond the perimeter.

“Recently, we attended a town hall meeting alongside the minister on how to sensitise the public to stop vandalizing sensors because some of this instruments look very simple in the bush but they play critical roles in the aviation industry.

“For each airport, we have ten sensors, we are coming up with security implementation of some of the recommendations by security outfit that conducted vulnerability survey of the sensors and we are involving the communities to help us engage the locals to help us safeguard the installations.”

Matazu said prevention of wind shear occurrence was beyond human technological thrust, saying it took scientists and industry experts a great deal of effort to understand the complexity of wind shear phenomenon.

He explained that early warning and detention mechanisms had proven to be the only dependable solution to the hazards of wind shear, adding that pilots’ awareness of its existence before landing or take-off enables them to make maneuvers in order to avoid the impact of wind shear.

The aviation experts said a few of the consequences included wind shear, increasing global temperature, flooding and storm tides, sand and dust storm in the domestic context as well as jet stream and airframe icing at global aviation arena.

The Director-General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said a multi-disciplinary research effort was ongoing by scientists, engineers and other stakeholders to understand better the impacts of climate change on the entire aviation system, including aircraft and infrastructure.

He said effort was also underway to produce a dedicated guidance material targeted at climate adaptation to support the risk management activities of all stakeholders, including operators and pilots, airport managers, aircraft manufacturers, governments and regulators.

He stressed the need for installation of terrestrial and satellite broadcasting sound and television systems and different mobile radio communication systems that warn aircraft pilots of storms and turbulence as well as the public of dangerous weather events.

Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of Accident Investigation Bureau, Akin Olateru, explained that the symposium was convened to strengthen the Nigerian aviation safety management system and to continually assess preparative action plans to mitigating the impact of unusual meteorological conditions and climate change on aviation safety.

Olateru said that evidences from past and recent aircraft accidents and incidents in Nigeria had been strongly associated with weather and meteorological conditions, amongst which wind-shear was a great cause for concern.

Nigeria, Others Reject Vaccine Passports For Air Travellers - LEADERSHIP

OCTOBER 14, 2021

Nigeria has joined the rest of African countries to reject the idea of imposing vaccine passports on air travellers, stating that it amounts to discrimination.

Speaking in a programme monitored virtually by LEADERSHIP, the minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika said the proposal is against the intent of the Chicago convention on the need to preserve friendship and understanding, reduce the threat to general security and establish international air transport based on equal opportunity, operated soundly and economically.

Speaking during a presentation at the ongoing International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) high-level conference on COVID-19, Sirika, who spoke for Africa said rather than imposing vaccine passports, states that are parties to the convention on international civil aviation should continue to minimise the risks during travel by ensuring compliance with existing multinational treaties, international frameworks, guidelines and recommendations.

The minister also recommended that human rights, regional/continental/global health security, economic growth, social cohesion and good international relations as well as use of innovation and technology worldwide to harmonise requirements should be promoted, while transmission of critical information across borders related to public health issues such as COVID-19 and coordination among key players should also be considered.

He also stated that African nations frowned at states imposing unilateral measures of global nature related to public health and asked such states to refrain from such practices and instead, take measures that would facilitate the reopening and reconnection of the world.

The minister also said two continental joint meetings of African ministers responsible for health, ICT and transport have been so far organised, with the second joint meeting rolling out the African campaign against COVID-19: Saving Lives, Economies and Livelihoods endorsed on 20 August 2020 by the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of States and Government with chairpersons of the regional economic communities of the African Union.

The meetings, according to him, charged African countries to work together towards harmonising travel entry and exit requirements, and to increase mutual recognition and cross-border information exchange for enhanced surveillance.

US to reopen borders to vaccinated travelers Nov 8 - AFP

OCTOBER 15, 2021

BY  Aurélia 

The United States will reopen its land and air borders on November 8 to foreign visitors fully vaccinated against Covid-19 -– ending a more than 18-month ban on travel from much of the globe that separated families, hobbled tourism and strained diplomatic ties.

The decision to ease restrictions was "guided by public health, stringent and consistent," said White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz in a tweet announcing the new policy.

He said the "announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel."


The new policy was quickly hailed by the European Union's ambassador in the US, Stavros Lambrinidis, who called it "important and very welcome news" and said in a Twitter post that more details were expected to follow.

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, US borders were closed after March 2020 to travelers from large parts of the world, including the European Union, Britain and China, India and Brazil. Overland visitors from Mexico and Canada were also banned.

The months of restrictions affecting hundreds of millions of people helped fuel both personal and economic suffering brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

- Testing and tracing -

Not all the technical and logistical details of the new policy have yet been announced.

But officials had previously outlined it, saying that vaccinated air passengers will need to be tested within three days before travel, and airlines will be required to put in place a contact tracing system.

US health authorities have said that all vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization would be accepted for entry by air.

At the moment, this includes the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.

Earlier this week, a White House source said the land border opening would happen in two phases.

Initially, vaccines will be required for "non-essential" trips -- such as visiting family or tourism -- though unvaccinated travelers will still be allowed into the country for "essential" trips as they have been for the last year and a half.

A second phase beginning in early January 2022 will require all visitors to be fully vaccinated to enter the United States by land, no matter the reason for their trip.

The new schedule means the land border restrictions, which had been set to expire on October 21, will have to be extended one more time before the new rules enter into force, the White House official indicated.

Despite the strict border closures, the United States has not yet mandated vaccines for domestic air travel.


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