Airports in the U.S. can welcome vaccinated international travelers from 33 countries starting Monday.
Friday afternoon held a brisk amount of passenger traffic at DFW International Airport with hopes for more traffic starting Monday. Terminal D, where the greatest impact from COVID-19 travel restrictions have been felt, international passenger traffic this year is down 40% compared to the same time in 2019.
All of that changes Monday with the U.S. once again allowing international passengers from 33 countries, including the world’s most populated like China, India and most of Europe, as long as those travelers are vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of traveling.
International travelers under the age of 18 are not subject to the vaccine requirement due to limited vaccine supply and eligibility for that age group worldwide.
Maggie Butler of Chicago was flying out Terminal D on Friday on the way to the United Arab Emirates and says she welcomes the return on international fliers in her hometown too.
“I think everyone is waiting to get back to the “normal”, so yeah I’m looking forward to seeing people being able to travel back and forth again,” Butler said.
Travel site Hopper says international searches for U.S. flights are up 338% since the announcement on lifting restrictions was made in September with Tampa, San Francisco, Miami and Dallas named as the top four cities searched for flights.
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However, some aviation observers say they do not see a large wave of international travelers coming to the U.S. in the short term.
Michael Boyd is an aviation consultant with Colorado-based Boyd Group International.
“I just don’t see a lot of tourist traffic coming into DFW starting on Monday,” Boyd said.
Boyd added other factors like mask requirements and low vaccination rates in other countries means domestic international terminals may not bounce back right away even with travel restrictions lifted.
“You’re going to have personal travel – people to go see grandma in Omaha but you’re not going to see a lot of people coming over here for wonderful vacations like they might have done in 2019,” Boyd said. “That’s months or maybe even a couple of years off.”
The responsibility to verify vaccine status for international travelers will fall to domestic air carriers instead of a government agency.
On Friday, Fort Worth based American Airlines told NBC5 it is readying for the return of international travelers on Monday.
“Our team is working hard in preparation for supporting our customers and our team members when the new approach goes into effect,” a spokesperson said.
David Sweeney of Austin arrived at DFW on Friday on a returning flight from Paris. He added he is skeptical of a plan that leaves the responsibility of vaccine verification to airlines.
“American couldn’t even get my TV to play on the flight over here so I’m a little nervous about that,” Sweeney said.