Fully vaccinated Americans can now visit England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without quarantining, a long-awaited change for travelers.
"This is a good start; we are showing that the vaccine is our passport to freedom," said Heathrow Airport's chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
The U.K.'s updated travel requirements took effect Monday. They were initially only announced for travel to England, but authorities from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – which set their own policies – said they would also waive their 10-day isolation period requirement for fully vaccinated people from the European Union and U.S.
"We're helping reunite people living in the U.S. and European countries with their family and friends in the UK,'' Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had announced on Twitter.
"We’ve been waiting for this moment for quite a long time,'' said Susan Handfield, who met her granddaughter for the first time at Heathrow on Monday. Baby Charlotta, who was born in February, arrived with her parents from Berlin.
Planning an international trip?: Get ready to show a negative coronavirus test to board your flight home
The lifting of quarantine requirements came just a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department recommended against traveling to the United Kingdom due to rising COVD-19 case counts.
U.S. citizens have been allowed to travel to the U.K. during the pandemic but faced travel restrictions, including coronavirus testing requirements and quarantine.
Requirements for travel to UK from US
Under the relaxed rules for vaccinated Americans and Europeans, visitors to England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland will still be subject to COVID testing requirements.
Travelers must have received their final vaccine dose at least 14 whole days before arriving in the U.K.
The countries require a pre-departure test as well as a test upon arrival. The latter must be taken by day two of the trip. Vaccinated Americans must also provide proof of U.S. residency and fill out a passenger locator form.
Travelers returning to the United States must also still show a negative coronavirus test or recent recovery from COVID-19 to board U.S.-bound international flights under a CDC requirement in place since January. The requirement applies to all U.S.-bound travelers on international flights, even those who are fully vaccinated.
But the U.S. has no plans to reciprocate by lifting travel restrictions anytime soon given the rise of the delta variant, according to the White House.
The United States' current travel restrictions – which deny entry for people from the European Schengen area, United Kingdom and other countries – will remain in place.
“Given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing last Monday. "The more transmissible delta variant is spreading both here and around the world. Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead.”
Travel industry reacts
In light of last Wednesday’s announcement, United Airlines said it will have six daily flights between the U.S. and London in August, including the addition of a second daily flight from Washington, D.C.
The airline plans to resume additional flights to London "in the coming months" and launch nonstop service between Boston and London.
"Today's announcement is yet another major milestone in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of one of the most important markets from the U.S." said Patrick Quayle, United's vice president of international network and alliances, in a news release.
Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association trade group, urged U.S. leaders to follow the U.K.’s lead and set a timeline to reopen its borders to travelers.
"We encourage them to start with vaccinated travelers from the U.K., E.U. and Canada," Emerson Barnes said in a news release. "The reality is there's no difference between a vaccinated American and those vaccinated in the U.K., the E.U. and Canada."
International cruising returns to England
The U.K. also said Wednesday that it would restart international cruise sailings from England. The decision comes after the government restarted its domestic cruise industry earlier this year.
Northern Ireland followed suit Thursday, announcing a restart to international cruising beginning Saturday.
All new travel measures will be kept under review, according to the release.
'Absolutely critical to both countries': US, UK airlines plead for easing of travel restrictions
Delta variant impact: CDC recommends wearing masks indoors, again
Contributing: Bailey Schulz, Eve Chen, USA TODAY; Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UK travel: Fully vaccinated Americans can now visit, skip quarantines