LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday there was still no exact date for when the United States would open for travellers from the United Kingdom, beyond guidance of early November.
The lack of clarity on the U.S. opening is one of the final barriers remaining for UK travel after Shapps promised an announcement in the coming days on scrapping the requirement for expensive PCR tests for fully-vaccinated arrivals into England.
Asked on Sky News if he had a specific date for when the U.S. would allow Britons in, Shapps said: “I don’t.”
Transatlantic bookings with airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic surged following the U.S. announcement in September but with no further clarity, concerns are growing that the date could be pushed back.
Shapps said he was in touch with his U.S. counterpart and the U.S. ambassador over the matter and that the U.S. still wanted to proceed but it was a matter of working out the technicalities of how to do it.
“They’re still saying to me, early November,” he later told Times Radio.
Shapps, who on Thursday scrapped tough COVID-19 hotel quarantine requirements for dozens of countries, said there would be an announcement shortly on allowing cheaper lateral flow tests for arrivals into the country and the new rule would be in place before Oct. 22.
“We anticipate having it ready for the half term,” he said, referring to the upcoming school break.
Airlines and travel companies have been calling for travellers to be allowed to do the cheaper COVID-19 test for months, saying that the more expensive test adds hundreds of pounds to family holidays and has dampened demand.
Referring to the recent rule changes, British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said: “It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel.”
But he said more needed to be done. As well as a firm date for the U.S. reopening, he asked for testing to be entirely scrapped for fully vaccinated travellers.
(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton and James Davey)