WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 (Reuters) – The United States is bracing for long lines and delays on Monday when restrictions are lifted for non-U.S. International travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, a top said on Friday responsible to Reuters.
President Joe Biden’s administration “expects pent-up travel demand, which means longer-than-normal wait times for travelers,” the official said. The government was increasing staffing to pre-pandemic levels, but “long lines are expected in the early days.”
The United States on Monday lifted travel restrictions for fully vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries and at their land borders with Mexico and Canada, ending historic entry bans to combat the spread of COVID-19 for a large part of the world’s population.
The official said land border traffic was around 70% of 2019 levels at the southwest border and 30% of 2019 levels at the northern border.
US Customs and Border Protection “will continue to adjust their resources to meet the demands of the traffic workload and ensure operational security, while balancing its mission of trade facilitation and national security,” said the responsible. Travelers should familiarize themselves with the new guidelines and prepare their documents in advance, the official said.
Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) chief executive Ed Bastian also said travelers should be prepared for long lines starting Monday.
“It’s going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you there will be lines unfortunately… but we’ll fix it,” Bastian said.
Delta said that in the six weeks since announcing the reopening of the United States, it has seen a 450% increase in bookings at international outlets.
United Airlines expects around 50% more international inbound passengers on Monday compared to Nov. 1, when it had around 20,000.
The Biden administration has organized several calls with U.S. airlines to prepare for the influx of additional travelers who will begin arriving at airports across the country.
The restrictions, put in place in early 2020 during the pandemic, banned most non-US citizens who in the past 14 days had stayed in one of 33 countries – the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls , China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, Great Britain and Ireland.
Also on Monday, new contact tracing rules will come into effect, requiring airlines to collect information from international air passengers if necessary “to keep track of travelers who have been exposed to variants of COVID-19 or to ‘other pathogens “.
Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool
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