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US airlines ready to add more flights to Europe as Covid retreats

Delta and United Airlines are among those introducing new services to European countries that are opening their borders to fully vaccinated Americans

US airlines are looking to increase transatlantic flights schedules to Europe this summer, amid growing confidence the Covid-19 pandemic is in retreat and travel restrictions will be lifted. 

Delta and United Airlines are among those adding new services to those European countries that are opening their borders to fully vaccinated Americans or those who have recently tested negative for the virus. 

Meanwhile, Air France is planning to add a new service to Denver, Colorado, this summer. 

Read more: Flight prices for summer travel from France remain low 

In the US, online searches for flights to Europe this summer surged after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the New York Times in April: “All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by the European Medicines Agency." 

But the lifting of travel restrictions is expected to vary from country to country. Some have already allowed international holidaymakers, while France has set a provisional reopening date of June 9 for non-essential travel from the US, depending on the health situation and subject to rules.

For now, non-essential travel between France and the US is restricted, and a White House spokesman said late last month “there were no changes in [its] travel restrictions planned at the moment”, even for vaccinated Europeans. 

It is hoped the US stance will change as the health situation across Europe improves. "I hope the US will soon reciprocate and open its borders safely to European travellers," the EU's ambassador to Washington, Stavros Lambrinidis tweeted recently. 

For many Americans, the imminent reopening of Europe’s borders to vaccinated Americans is a “relief”, according to political scientist Célia Belin, a visiting fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. 

“For Americans who have been banned from Europe for 15 months, this is a relief. Not only will the beaches of the Mediterranean be accessible to them, but they will also be able to freely find their loved ones,” Ms Brun told Le Monde this week. 

The majority of travellers from the US have been banned from entering much of Europe since March 17, 2020, when EU leaders imposed strict travel restrictions to limit the spread of Covid. Those restrictions were extended until July 1, 2020, when the EU began welcoming back travellers from a short list of approved countries. The US was never put on the list. 

When France reopens its borders to vaccinated travellers from the US, they will have to provide proof of vaccination. 

The United States is studying "very carefully" the possibility of establishing a vaccination passport for international travel, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. 

And France is expected to demand reciprocity on border reopening, according to Clément Beaune, French junior minister for European Affairs.  

"It is a question of fairness and common sense. Europeans would not understand that we allow American tourists or others to travel here and that we do not have the right to go there," he told France 2 in May.  

But there is some mixed messaging.  "We did not demand reciprocity when we declared our territory open to certain nationals. In general, all over the world, the health situation differs, so it is complicated to set up reciprocity,” France's junior minister for Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne later said. 

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