After a long year and a half of mainly staying put, people are beginning to travel at pre-pandemic levels once again. According to data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), almost 2 million people passed through security checkpoints at U.S. airports on Oct. 25, doubling the number seen on the same date the previous year and falling short of 2019's numbers by approximately 300,000 travelers, The Washington Post reports. But even as people begin to take to the skies again, the CEO of Delta Airlines warned that those traveling in the coming weeks should prepare themselves for a different experience when they reach the airport. Read on to see what you can expect before you take off.
Travelers should expect longer lines at airports starting on Nov. 8.
During a conference hosted by the U.S. Travel Association on Oct. 26, Ed Bastian, chief executive officer of Delta Airlines, discussed how the upcoming change in travel restrictions for international visitors to the U.S. would create a surge at airports not seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic brought global travel to a halt. He admitted that most airlines were bracing for an "onslaught of travel all at once" as eager flyers took to the sky again, The Post reports.
"It's going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you, there will be lines, unfortunately … but we'll get it sorted out," Bastian warned. "We're going to have a good surge of demand, but in order to keep that surge up, we're going to need to make it easier and easier for people to figure out what the documentation requirements are."
Travel restrictions on some foreign visitors are being lifted for the first time in over a year.
Bastian's comments came just a day after the White House officially announced that it was lifting travel restrictions that have been in place for many international travelers from 33 countries. Under the current travel ban, most foreign nationals who have been in the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, China, and 26 countries within the European Union within the past 14 days are currently barred from entering the U.S. India was also added to the list of countries in early May.
New rules will require non-citizens to show proof they are fully vaccinated before entering the U.S.
According to a statement from the White House, the new rules will require that all international visitors to the U.S. aged 18 or older show proof they are fully vaccinated to board their flights. In addition, all travelers, including unvaccinated children, will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their departing flight. As such, airlines are warning that travelers can expect longer lines as ground crew verifies documents and as a wave of eager travelers begins to pass through American airports once again.
"With science and public health as our guide, the United States has developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel," the White House said in its statement.
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Other travel experts have also warned that the increased strain will cause longer lines at airports.
Bastian wasn't alone in his concerns about the influx of travelers. In an interview, Roger Dow, chief executive of U.S. Travel, said that he felt border officials could likely be caught off guard by the number of arriving visitors beginning Nov. 8, according to Reuters. "I think there will probably be a few hiccups," he said, adding that most in the travel industry are already anticipating that the initial rush "will be much bigger than people expect."
But in another interview, Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, pushed back on the assumption that airport staff would be immediately overwhelmed. Instead, he assured that his department had already been preparing for a significant surge in the volume of domestic and international travelers as the holidays approached to avoid longer lines for travelers. "I think we're going to be equipped to handle what we hope to be a real surge in holiday traffic," he said.