I went on JetBlue’s newest aircraft, the Airbus A321neoLR, that’s taking flyers to Europe next month and now I’m ready to book a ticket

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

  • JetBlue Airways is launching its first flights to London next month and using a new plane to do it.
  • Only 138 seats are offered with a sizeable business class cabin to draw in premium passengers.
  • In-flight entertainment, in-flight WiFi, and hot meals will be complimentary for all flyers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
JetBlue is going to London, UK next month, and powering its transatlantic debut will be a brand-new aircraft to its fleet, the Airbus A321neoLR.

JetBlue Airways taking delivery of its first Airbus A321neoLR
JetBlue Airways’ first Airbus A321neoLR.

Read More: JetBlue is promising London-bound passengers free meals, wider seats, and more when service finally starts this summer — take a look

The next-generation and “long-range” version of Airbus’ largest single-aisle jet offers JetBlue a 4,000-nautical mile range while also burning less fuel on the overseas journey.

JetBlue Airways taking delivery of its first Airbus A321neoLR
JetBlue Airways’ first Airbus A321neoLR.

Passengers accustomed to flying the New York-London route will note that it’s the smallest aircraft to service the busy transatlantic corridor that’s generated billions in revenue for some airlines. But JetBlue is giving the plane a fresh new look compared to its other jets to help bring more travelers across the pond.

Mint business class on JetBlue Airways' Airbus A321neoLR
Inside JetBlue Airways’ Airbus A321neoLR.

Take a look inside the jet that will take JetBlue passengers to London starting in August.

Boarding JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

From the outside, JetBlue’s newest plane looks like any other in the leisure carrier’s fleet. On the inside, however, is a technological marvel jam-packed with passenger-friendly amenities.

Inside JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Only 138 seats are offered on an aircraft that can normally seat around 200.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Mint business class is also making its transatlantic debut with brand-new seats to boot.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

A total of 24 business class seats are angled towards the aisle in what’s known as a herringbone pattern.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

There’s one seat on each side of the aisle in a 1-1 configuration, as opposed to the alternating 2-2, 1-1 configuration on JetBlue’s first-generation Mint planes.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The arrangement is ideal for solo travelers as they offer complete privacy from the rest of the aircraft. JetBlue told Insider that privacy was the greatest request that it received from Mint flyers.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

And to that effect, each seat will have fully closeable doors that block passengers off from the rest of the plane.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

JetBlue is traditionally a leisure airline but is enticing premium customers the most business class seats it has ever offered on a single plane. And it shows, the cabin is so deep that it stretches all the way to the aircraft’s wings.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Each seat offers an abundance of privacy since flyers don’t have to share the row and high walls create a feeling of exclusivity. This seat is referred to as the “Mint Suite.”

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Wireless charging pads are also available in yet another unique touch.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Lighting in the suites is offered through a personal reading lamp and a larger lamp with customizable mood lighting.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

A pillow and comforter kit is left on each seat before boarding. JetBlue tasked Tuft & Needle with designing a new comforter complete with a “foot nook” to keep feet warm during the flight.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Vegan leather material was used to create the seat, which is actually a mattress also crafted by Tuft & Needle. Flyers seeking maximum sleeping time can also flick on the “do not disturb” light and flight attendants will know not to bother them or serve them meals.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Standard at each business class seat is a 17-inch entertainment system. One of the features unique to JetBlue is that the screens can be extended during taxi, takeoff, and landing.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The in-flight entertainment system can be controlled by touch or by using one of the tethered remotes that also act as game controllers. Device-pairing is also an option so flyers can use their phones as a remote.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

In-seat power is offered with 110V AC power outlets and USB charging ports, as well as a hook on which to wrap cords.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Each business class flyer will receive an amenity kit from Wanderfuel with the essentials to survive a long flight.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The other type of seat in Mint is the “Mint Studio,” located in the first row of the cabin.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

There are only two of these seats, both in row one, and JetBlue is selling them at a premium because of the extra space they offer.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The Mint Studio is ideal for those wanting more space or traveling with a companion. There’s more living space and even a cushioned bench for a companion to use.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

JetBlue ran with this idea and even installed another tray table so flyers can work side by side or share a meal.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

There’s even an additional power outlet in the seat.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Other perks of the Mint Studio include a larger 22-inch in-flight entertainment screen.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

There’s also more storage space in the Mint Studio with additional compartments throughout.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

A personal storage closet, ideal for a handbag or other small items, is yet another perk of booking the Mint Studio.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The remaining 114 seats house the economy section in a standard 3-3 configuration.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Seats are split between 24 extra-legroom “even more space” seats and 90 “core” seats with standard legroom.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Even more space seats, denoted by their orange headrests, offer 35 inches of legroom.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Seat width in the section is the standard 18.4 for inches that every economy seat has.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

These seats are also among the closest to the front so flyers can get off of the plane sooner than most, while also enjoying early boarding privileges compared to the rest of economy.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Beyond extra legroom and being closer to the front, there’s not much more that these seats offer.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Even more space seats are nearly identical to standard core seats, with both offering adjustable headrests, in-seat power, and seat-back entertainment screens.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

But the extra legroom may make a bigger difference to some on the longer eastbound transatlantic crossings.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The first row in economy is actually an exit row seat that isn’t listed as part of JetBlue’s “even more space” product because it doesn’t recline. The legroom, however, is quite generous.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

And with only four rows of seats for the entire plane, there are not many to be had.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

The remaining 90 seats are the domain of JetBlue’s core product.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Each seat in this cabin offers 32 inches of pitch and the standard 18.4 inches of width.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Each seat in economy will offer 10.1-inch seat-back screens with JetBlue’s latest entertainment product.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

A selection of movies, television shows, games, and a moving map will be available during the flight.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Armrest remotes aren’t being offered by the screens can be controlled by touch or by pairing a device.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

In-seat power in economy is available both through 110v AC power outlets and USB charging ports underneath the screens.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Complimentary in-flight WiFi will also be available for all passengers throughout the entire flight, with JetBlue the only carrier on the route to offer it.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Hot meals will be offered in economy, with JetBlue tapping Dig to provide the service. Examples of some main courses are charred chicken and brown rice, meatballs and tomato farro, and spiced eggplant and quinoa.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

In the back of the plane, available for economy flyers, is the “pantry.” The self-serve station will have drinks and snacks for passengers to take at their leisure.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

All flyers in economy will receive a blanket but no pillow as part of the initial launch offering.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

All the armrests go up in economy rows so flyers can use the row as a bed if one is entirely free.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

There are some economy seats to be avoided, however, and those are the ones in rows 22 and 23 as the windows are misaligned.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

London’s Heathrow Airport is famous for its approaches that fly right over iconic sites as Canary Warf, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster. But flyers in those rows won’t get to see them.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Otherwise, there are no truly bad seats in the cabin. One of the last rows in economy is also reserved for the flight crew to rest so fewer flyers will be relegated to what is often regarded as the worst place to sit in economy.

Economy class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

One Mint seat is also blocked for flight attendants to rest.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Above the cabin, mood lighting will help shape the ambiance in the cabin with a variety of settings depending on the phase of flight.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

At night, for example, relaxing colors will ease flyers to sleep and then gently wake them up.

Mint business class onboard JetBlue Airways' new Airbus A321neoLR - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Flights to London begin on August 11.

JetBlue advertising inside Terminal 5 - JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neoLR Tour
Inside JetBlue Airways’ new Airbus A321neoLR.

Read the original article on Business Insider

JetBlue’s first flights to London this summer are now on sale and round-trip fares are under $600

big ben london england
JetBlue will soon touch down in London.

  • JetBlue Airways has set August 11 as the start date for flights to London, UK.
  • The New York-London route will start first while the Boston-London route will come in 2022.
  • Both Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport in London will see daily flights from New York.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

JetBlue Airways is finally ready to make its London debut.

August 11 is the official launch date for JetBlue’s flights between New York and London, UK, the airline announced Wednesday.

It’s JetBlue’s first time crossing the Atlantic in its 21-year-history, having announced the service in April 2019. And while the pandemic delayed the inaugural flight until August, the airline is keeping its promise of a 2021 debut.

JetBlue will first stretch its transatlantic legs by flying two routes to London’s two major airports, Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Chief executive Robin Hayes said in a statement that the pandemic actually “opened the door” for JetBlue to access its airports of choice in the London area.

“We’ve always said that JetBlue would serve multiple London airports, and we’re pleased to have secured a path at Heathrow and for long-term growth at Gatwick, which offers speed, low costs, and convenient accessibility into Central London,” Hayes said.

Heathrow will receive the first flights from JFK on August 11. A daily round-trip service will be offered, with the outbound departing New York as an overnight flight at 10:10 p.m. and arriving at 10:10 a.m.

The return flight departs London the next day in the early evening at 6:10 p.m. and arrives back in New York at 9:43 p.m. A likely homage to James Bond, the flight number for JetBlue’s Heathrow-bound flight will be 007.

Flights to Gatwick will then begin on September 29 with similarly daily flights from New York but a slightly different schedule. The outbound flight departs from New York at 7:50 p.m. and arrives in London at 7:55 a.m. while the return flight departs London at 12:00 p.m. the next day and arrives in New York at 3:33 p.m.

Serving the routes will be a never-before-seen aircraft in JetBlue’s fleet, Airbus’ A321LR, or Long Range. JetBlue plans to have three of the next-generation aircraft in its fleet by the end of the year, with all of them flying between New York and London.

Bostonians will have to wait until 2022 to fly non-stop to London on JetBlue when more of the aircraft arrive.

Inside the aircraft will be JetBlue’s newest products in economy and business class. London-bound aircraft will feature 24 business class seats and 117 economy class seats.

New Mint business class seats intended for London flights were debuted by JetBlue earlier this year. Each seat is a private suite with an enclosable door, a fully lie-flat seat, and new amenities like wireless charging pads and laptop drawers.

JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neo
JetBlue Airways Airbus A321neo’s with new Mint business class.

Mint Studio seats, found in the first row of the cabin, are the highlight of the aircraft. The larger spaces offer greater room for passengers and can even accommodate a second passenger with a separate cushioned seat that comes with its own tray table.

Access to premium lounges in New York or London, however, has not yet been announced. The perk is a key benefit of flying transatlantic business class.

Economy class will see JetBlue’s standard mix of standard legroom “core” seats and extra-legroom “even more space” seats. Core seats will offer 32 inches of legroom and 18.4 inches of width.

The airline’s newest in-flight entertainment system will also be featured offering on-demand movies, television shows, games, and more. High-speed satellite WiFi will also be available for free.

Flying JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 New Phase 2 Interior
Flying on a JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 with a new interior.

Complimentary meals crafted by the New York City-based restaurant group Dig will also be served in another first for JetBlue. The JetBlue “pantry,” a self-service snack bar, will also be available to all passengers.

JetBlue’s announcement comes as more countries open their doors to Americans but entry to Europe this summer is far from guaranteed for all tourists.

The European Union also announced on Wednesday a plan for vaccinated travelers to be let into the region, the New York Times reported, just in time for the summer. But the UK, no longer a member of the European Union, has still held off on giving a timeline for vaccinated Americans to visit.

Read More: 7 airlines poised to win big now that Norwegian Air exits the lucrative transatlantic market it once dominated

Fares for London flights start at $599 round-trip in economy while business class fares can be had for as low as $1,979. The low fares are part of JetBlue’s goal of disrupting the market by offering affordable pricing combined with a high-frills offering.

Read the original article on Business Insider

American Airlines made a bet on South America for 2021. Civil unrest and spiking COVID-19 cases are now threatening its success in the region.

American Airlines
An American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER.

  • American Airlines is facing numerous setbacks in South America.
  • Rising COVID-19 cases in Chile, Brazil, and Peru forced the airline to cut flights in April.
  • Civil unrest and protests in Colombia are now further threatening success in the region.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

American Airlines’ expansion strategy in South America is experiencing a seemingly never-ending stream of hurdles.

Tourism-dependent Latin America was among the first regions to welcome US tourists during the coronavirus pandemic, and American was standing ready to fly eager travelers. Earlier in the year, the airline had announced new flights to cities in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil in a bid to attract leisure flyers as it waited for business travel to recover.

But while the continent appeared to be welcoming at first, doing business in South America quickly proved problematic.

Flights to Santiago, Chile, were among the first to be impacted when the country closed its borders for the month of April. American had planned to launch a new non-stop route from New York using one of its largest aircraft, the Boeing 777-200, on May 7.

Chile appeared promising when it opened to Americans in November 2020. But a spike in COVID-19 cases following the country’s summer season prompted the government to once again close its borders to tourists.

The state of emergency in the country planned for the month of April has now been extended through June, according to the US Embassy in Chile. American, as a result, pushed back the launch of its inaugural New York-Santiago flight to July 2; though, Chile may extend its border closure depending on conditions in the country.

Spiking COVID-19 cases were also the reasoning for flight reductions to Brazil and Peru, the airline confirmed to Insider’s Brittany Chang in April. Both countries still allow US citizens to enter despite the rise in cases, according to the US Embassies in Brazil and Peru.

In Colombia, however, American faces a new challenge: civil unrest. Protests have gripped the country with some turning violent and taking the lives of at least 26 people, according to ABC News. The Washington Post Editorial Board is also predicting that Colombia’s levels of unrest could spread to regional countries, like Peru.

American, in response, has issued a travel alert for the Colombian city of Cali, where the protests have been the most extreme, allowing travelers to change their flight to any day between May 4 and May 18.

The protests could discourage future travelers from booking trips to Colombia or encourage flyers with existing bookings to change away from Colombia at a time when American is deploying some of its largest aircraft to the country.

Rebuilding a lost South American network at the wrong time

American’s desire to grow in South American comes as the airline seeks to rebuild following the loss of a partner in LATAM Airlines prior to the pandemic.

Delta Air Lines spent $1.9 billion in 2019 for a 20 percent stake in LATAM, significantly growing its presence in South America. The move saw LATAM drop American and the Oneworld airline alliance to join Delta and the SkyTeam airline alliance, leaving American to rebuild in a historically profitable region.

“Latin America has, for roughly 30 years now, been one of American’s international beachhead,” Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst and cofounder of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “In fact, it’s been American’s most successful region outside of the US.”

With LATAM gone, American was left with Brazil’s GOL Linhas Aéreas, a limited partner in the region. But GOL didn’t have the reach of the larger airlines that were now aligned with American’s competitors.

Delta bought a new partner in LATAM Airlines alongside its existing partner in Aerolíneas Argentinas while United had Avianca and Copa Airlines. To regrow its South American network, American chose to launch new routes from the US with a domestic partner, JetBlue Airways.

American launched its routes to Colombia, Brazil, and Chile in a partnership with JetBlue dubbed the “Northeast Alliance.” For American, the partnership provides access to customers across JetBlue’s network that can connect onto the new routes.

“It’s understandable that American would be eager to start rebuilding its network in Latin America because it is so strategically important to the airline right now,” Harteveldt said.

Ceding Europe to United and Delta, for now

South America isn’t totally lost for American as the airline still operates around 30 daily flights to cities across the continent. Cirium data also shows a steady stream of cargo-only flights operating to Santiago from Miami in 2021, which Harteveldt says helps stem the losses.

But while American focuses on South America, its competitors are locked in on the reopening European continent. United and Delta were both quick to resume flights to European countries open to Americans like Greece and Iceland while also starting new routes to Croatia.

“I think American is looking at this and saying, ‘we’re going to be very careful about which routes we pick and which battles want to fight,'” Harteveldt said, thinking back to 2018 when American launched Iceland flights alongside Icelandair now-defunct Wow Air with flights to Dallas. But the airline hasn’t completely ignored Europe, nor a gradually reopening Middle East.

A new route between New York and Athens, Greece, is scheduled to launch on June 2 and existing routes to Athens from Chicago and Philadelphia will resume in June and August, respectively. The airline also just launched a new route between New York and Tel Aviv, Israel, with plans for another route to Israel from Miami, which may pay off as the Middle Eastern country starts to accept vaccinated tour groups.

American may also be waiting for the European Union to open its doors to US citizens, Harteveldt says, so the airline can fly more passengers on its traditional routes to cities like Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; and Rome, Italy.

But success in South America remains challenging as new and unexpected roadblocks appear that are outside of the airline’s control.

“It’s not American’s fault, for example, that you had a strong surge of virus in a particular country, Harteveldt said. “It’s not American’s fault that travel restrictions are in place when American may have thought that some of these restrictions would have been eased or removed.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Delta and United are now offering flights to all of the European tourist countries welcoming vaccinated Americans

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.
United Airlines and Delta Air Lines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.

  • Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have added flights to the three mainstream European countries open to Americans: Iceland, Croatia, and Greece.
  • All three countries are welcoming US tourists with proof of vaccination, with some also allowing for just a negative COVID-19 test.
  • American Airlines hasn’t been as nimble, focusing more on South America and only launching flights to Greece and Israel for the summer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Europe is once again just a flight away for many Americans.

US airlines were quick to adjust their route maps when coronavirus pandemic travel patterns shifted towards domestic destinations. And with Europe gradually opening up to American tourists, airlines are making similar adjustments to accommodate the international jet set.

Delta Air Lines announced its latest international route between New York and Dubrovnik, Croatia, scheduled to start on July 2. Flights will operate four-times-weekly with departures from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and return flights from Dubrovnik Airport on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

It’s Delta’s first and only route to the Southern European country, which has seen newfound interest from Americans as vaccinated travelers, as well as those presenting a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery, will be able to enter the country. Croatia is situated on the Adriatic Sea and boasts countless historical towns and villages on its over 1,000 miles of coastline.

United Airlines will also serve Croatia with flights between Newark and Dubrovnik launching on July 8. The three-times-weekly flights from Newark Liberty International Airport depart on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and return from Dubrovnik Airport on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

Both airlines will use Boeing 767-300ER wide-body aircraft on their respective routes to Dubrovnik.

Croatia also borders Montenegro, another European country open to vaccinated Americans, according to the US Embassy in Montenegro. Dubrovnik itself is only 25 miles from the border with Montenegro and US citizens need only present proof of recent vaccination or recovery, or a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours old, when entering.

Delta and United have been the most eager to serve the reopening European continent, and have also launched flights to Iceland and Greece, the two other mainstream European tourist countries opening to Americans.

Iceland will be served by United this summer from Newark, starting June 3, and Chicago, starting July 1. Delta serves the Land of Fire and Ice via Reykjavik from New York and begins flights from Boston and Minneapolis on May 20 and May 27, respectively.

Greece, also welcoming vaccinated Americans or those with a negative COVID-19 test, is also served by the two airlines.

United will fly to Athens from Washington, DC starting July 1 and resume its Newark-Athens route on June 3. Delta will similarly resume its New York-Athens route on May 28 and launch a new route between Athens and Atlanta starting July 2.

American Airlines has been less nimble than its competitors on Europe’s reopening, focusing instead on the Americas. Some additions east of the Prime Meridian have been the New York-Athens route starting on June 3, Miami-Tel Aviv route starting on June 4, and New York-Tel Aviv route that launched on May 6.

While Greece is opening its doors to all vaccinated or COVID-19-negative Americans, however, Israel is being more restrictive with its opening and is only slated to welcome vaccinated group tours on May 23 but not individual tourists yet.

Read More: Qatar Airways chief strategy officer reveals how airplane diplomacy let the airline add new destinations to its route map and earned international praise during COVID-19

South America has been American’s main focus with new flights to cities in Chile, Colombia, and Brazil starting this year. American has not yet relaunched flights to Iceland or Croatia, despite serving both countries prior to the pandemic.

But American could soon shift to Europe as more countries welcome US citizens. For now, airlines can rejoice that European route launches are once again common after more than a year.

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Canadians are flocking to US border cities to take advantage of a travel loophole – and it’s creating lucrative opportunities on both sides of the closed border

Welcome to Canada sign
A “Welcome to Canada” sign at the US-Canada border.

  • Canadian tourists are driving up business in US border towns to avoid strict quarantines in Canada.
  • Those arriving in Canada by land can save as much as $2,000 (Canadian) by not having to quarantine in a hotel.
  • Transportation firms in cities like Buffalo, New York, are reaping the benefits with costly fares.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Canadian tourists are once again stimulating the economies of American border cities and bringing back the “Buffalo shuffle” despite the border between the two countries remaining closed to non-essential travel.

Transportation companies in Buffalo, New York, are experiencing a long-awaited boom in business by catering to Canadians heading north, CBC is reporting, and the reason is a loophole that allows them to avoid mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantines when arriving back home.

Recently enacted travel restrictions in Canada require that residents returning by air quarantine in a hotel at their expense, up to $2,000 (Canadian), according to CBC. Canadians traveling across the land border, however, need only submit to a home quarantine while undergoing extensive testing for the coronavirus, in addition to providing a recent negative test to border guards.

Buffalo is one outpost that’s seen an uptick in Canadian visitors, but not directly from Canada. Visitors from the north have been arriving by air from parts of the US and making the last stretch of their journey home by land, crossing the world’s longest border by car.

One transportation company, Buffalo Limousine, told CBC that it transports an average of 50 Canadians per day and business has increased by 50%. The pandemic nearly decimated the company, along with countless businesses that relied on Canadian customers.

A Buffalo Limousine trip from Buffalo-Niagara International Airport across the border to Fort Erie, Ontario costs around $120 one-way for the 17-mile trip, CBC said.

Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York
The Peace Bridge connects Buffalo, New York with Fort Erie, Ontario.

Public transportation options before the pandemic included Megabus Canada and Amtrak, which took passengers from Buffalo to Toronto with stops along the way. Both have stopped cross-border services during the pandemic, according to their websites.

Reviving the Buffalo shuffle

Prior to the pandemic, America’s neighbor to the north was more than willing to cross the southern border to save on everything from gasoline to airfare. Canadian visa holders also frequently visited the now-closed Consulate General of Canada in downtown Buffalo in order to apply for certain extensions that could only be done outside of the country, a trip known as the Buffalo shuffle.

But the US-Canada land border has been closed to non-essential travel since March as part of a mutual agreement between governments to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The US and Mexico have a similar agreement, though Americans can cross into Mexico with abandon thanks to the Latin American country’s lax entry and exit rules.

Ironically, US border restrictions prevent Canadians that aren’t also American citizens from entering by land so flying is the only option for many to enter the Land of the Free. A winter visitor to the US, for example, would have to fly from Canada to the US and then fly to a border town like Buffalo to drive back in to avoid quarantine.

The rules have created another niche industry in Canada that supplies short, cross-border flights so Canadians can take advantage of the loophole. CBC reported in February that many Canadians continued to flock to the US even after their government had enacted stricter travel restrictions, and one company even started offering international helicopter flights.

Great Lakes Helicopters operates 28-mile flights from St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls to Buffalo, which costs $1,500 (Canadian) plus tax, according to its website. Canadians can even drive to St. Catharines and have the company ship their cars across the border – cross-border trucking has not stopped during the pandemic – for between $700 and $1,600 (Canadian), depending on the size of the car.

Robinson R44 Helicopter
A Robinson R44 helicopter similar to the one used by Great Lakes Helicopters.

But temporarily gone are the days of Canadians driving across the border to an airport like Buffalo-Niagara International, Ogdensburg International, or Bellingham International, to avoid paying the high taxes levied on international flights from Canada to the US. Major airlines have largely pulled out of border airports during the pandemic, as a result of the border closure.

Allegiant Air packed up from Ogdensburg, New York, billed as an alternative to Canada’s capital of Ottawa just 60 miles to the north, according to 7 News. Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, an alternate to nearby Montreal, and Niagara Falls International Airport, an alternate to nearby Toronto, also saw some flights disappear during the pandemic, according to the Press-Republican and the Buffalo News.

But Southwest Airlines is preparing for the eventual easing of border restrictions and announced service to Bellingham, Washington, slated to launch sometime in 2021. Bellingham is just south of Vancouver and could attract British Columbia residents seeking to head to points south on the cheap.

Canadians seem eager to flee to the US by any means necessary, in contrast to the pandemic’s peak when Americans were shunned from Canada. Cars with American license plates in Canada were keyed and even flipped by some locals.

The US is vastly outperforming Canada in vaccinations per 100 people, according to the New York Times, and the mutual decision to keep the border closed will ultimately depend on how comfortable Ottawa is in allowing cross-border travel along its southern frontier once more.

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Iceland is officially opening to vaccinated American tourists and its national airline is rushing to launch cheap flights from the US to attract visitors

reykjavik
Iceland is opening to vaccinated American tourists.

  • Icelandair is rebuilding its US route network as Iceland opens to vaccinated tourists.
  • Regular flights to Boston, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C. are scheduled for May.
  • Americans need only their paper vaccination card to enter the country.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The summer of vaccinated travel now includes Iceland as a potential destination for Americans.

Starting April 6, vaccinated travelers from the US will be allowed into Iceland with just their paper vaccination certificate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the first European country to open its doors to Americans with no testing or quarantine required for visitors upon arrival, creating a potential boom for tourism and the country’s national airline.

Icelandair is already ramping up its US network by resuming regular service to five American cities in May, in addition to its current service to Boston. New York, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C. are slated to be the first to receive the non-stop flights again after a nearly year-long pause for many.

Birna Osk Einarsdottir, Icelandair’s chief commercial officer, is “optimistic,” that the airline will return to its full slate of planned US destinations for 2021 in June, just in time for the summer travel season. Service to Portland, Oregon has already been scheduled for July 1, and flights to destinations including Orlando, Florida are planned for the summer.

“The plan is, of course, to return to full strength as soon as possible in the US, our largest market, but realistically, it might take 2-3 years for the route network to be back to 2019 size,” Einarsdottir told Insider.

Pent-up demand also isn’t driving up Icelandair’s prices too high as the country reopens. A new fare sale is promising round-trip prices as low as $349 in a bid to quickly drum up tourism. The airline is also waiving change fees to give flyers greater flexibility when traveling.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

Iceland doesn’t currently require a “vaccine passport” for travel and travelers can enter with just their paper vaccination certificates. But some of Icelandair’s destination countries, including those in the EU, have expressed a desire to implement the standardized protocol and the airline is ready to begin accepting them.

“It would be extremely good for travel to restart if we could join forces in that and find a common mechanism for this,” Einarsdottir said.

The word is out about Iceland and its flag carrier isn’t the only airline trying to get tourists to visit the Land of Fire and Ice. Delta Air Lines is similarly restarting Iceland services on the heels of the country’s reopening. Existing routes to Reykjavik from New York and Minneapolis are scheduled to resume in May, along with a new route from Boston.

American travelers have successfully been entering the country since March 18, when Iceland first began accepting inculcated visitors. Andy Luten, one of the first American tourists to enter Iceland under the new rules, told Insider in March that entering the country was surprisingly easy, despite the ongoing pandemic.

But while vaccinated American visitors can visit with ease, Iceland won’t be the stepping stone to mainland Europe as it once was. American citizens without residency or citizenship in a Schengen Area country won’t be allowed to travel further into Europe than Iceland, at least until the US and European Union ease their mutual travel restrictions

“Until then – welcome to Iceland!” Einarsdottir said.

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Icelandair is warning travelers they can’t use the country as a backdoor into Europe

Iceland
Europe is not open to Americans.

  • Iceland is opening to vaccinated American tourists, one of the first European countries to do so.
  • Americans without residency in the Schengen Area, however, can’t travel onward to Europe.
  • Travel between Iceland and many European countries was once as easy as traveling between US states.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The nation of Iceland is opening to vaccinated American travelers but that’s as close to Western Europe as many US citizens will get, for now.

Icelandair, the country’s flag carrier airline, is warning Americans that they will not be allowed to fly the airline to other European nations from Iceland, even though Iceland is in the European free movement area known as the Schengen Area.

“Iceland is welcoming vaccinated visitors from outside the Schengen zone, but further travel from Iceland to the rest of Europe is currently not permitted for non-Schengen residents,” Icelandair’s website states.

There are some exceptions as Croatia remains open to Americans the arrive with a negative COVID-19 test, according to the US Embassy in Croatia, and Malta will let in Americans that have spent at least two weeks in an approved country, according to the US Embassy in Malta, of which Iceland is one.

The Schengen Area is the reason travelers can move between most European countries without going through border checks each time. Similar to going from state to state in the US, a traveler could theoretically drive from Portugal to Estonia’s border with Russia and not have to produce a passport when crossing the multiple national borders along the way.

Countries can, however, temporarily enact border controls in response to extraordinary circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic saw temporary border controls enacted across the continent as nations went under lockdown.

Iceland’s membership in Schengen has greatly benefited transatlantic travelers by reducing the time spent at passport control upon arrival in mainland Europe. Travelers from North America clear passport control at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport when bound for another Schengen country and their next flight is treated as a domestic flight.

So for vaccinated travelers wondering if they can enter Europe from Iceland, the answer is no. At least for now, Europe is largely closed to Americans as America is to Europeans.

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One of the first American tourists back in Iceland reveals what he went through to enter the country under its new entry rules for vaccinated travelers

Iceland
Iceland is open to vaccinated Americans.

  • Iceland is now letting in vaccinated Americans as of March 18, and all that’s required is the paper card.
  • Andy Luten was one of the first American tourists to visit Iceland in over a year.
  • Luten described entering the country as “nonchalant” as he easily cleared Icelandic border control.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Just 45 minutes after he heard the news that Iceland was opening to Americans, Andy Luten had a ticket booked on one of the next flights to Reykjavik.

Iceland became one of the first European countries to open to US tourists when on March 18 it began allowing vaccinated travelers to enter the country. The rules, at first, were murky and many weren’t sure if the paper Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination card given to Americans would be accepted as proof of vaccination to enter Iceland under the new rules.

But Luten took a microscope to the rules and was confident enough in its wording to book his last-minute ticket. The pandemic had largely grounded Luten, a client management director in the financial services industry and founder of Andy’s Travel Blog, who had been known for his sporadic trips to distant locales on short notice.

“I’m the guy who, once, I was making plans with some friends for a Friday night in like 2016 or something and well, the plans changed so, I’m going to Hong Kong,” Luten told Insider.

Luten hadn’t seriously considered international travel during the pandemic despite the options open to him and other Americans. A Texas resident, nearby Mexico had stayed open during the pandemic and even European countries like Croatia and Serbia had been letting in Americans.

“I love Croatia but for some reason, Iceland just felt right,” Luten said, noting his feel test had deterred him from booking international trips during the pandemic.

The first stop on Luten’s Icelandic adventure was Boston, where Icelandair has consolidated its US operations with two flights per week. All three major US international airlines and Icelandair had offered non-stop flights to Iceland from cities across the US before the pandemic, including Luten’s hometown of Dallas, but those had been scrapped once the borders closed.

Checking in at Boston Logan International Airport was the first hurdle Luten had to clear. “I went to Logan and checked in with the [Icelandair agent] and when he was like ‘what’s your documentation getting you to Iceland,’ I just held up the CDC card,” Luten said.

It was the first time the agent had seen an American traveling with just the paper card. Icelandair couldn’t give Luten a definitive answer on whether the country would accept the card, with the agent simply stating, “as far as I know, it’s going to work.”

The first hurdle complete, Luten boarded the Boeing 767-300ER bound for the Land of Fire Ice and settled in for the quick five-hour journey to Europe, the first transatlantic journey he’d taken in over a year. Even if he didn’t get into Iceland, Luten explained, he’d at least have a story to tell about how he got kicked out of the country.

“The beautiful part about being a writer is that nothing really ends with you because you get to write about it,” Luten said, paraphrasing writer David Sedaris. “And I thought to myself, ‘if this works out, I’m going to end up in Iceland. If it doesn’t work out, I’m going to end up with a really good story.'”

Luten’s flight mate happened to be a former Icelandair executive that was similarly traveling with a CDC vaccination card. “You’ll be fine,” he told Luten.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population – and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

Landing at Keflavik International Airport, 30 miles from Reykjavik, was pretty routine, according to Luten, who had been to Iceland twice prior. Despite being a major transatlantic transit hub between North America and Europe, the airport is quite easy to navigate even for a first-time visitor.

Following the lead of his Icelandic speaking flight mate, Luten was guided to the line for vaccinated travelers and the only thing standing between him and Iceland was a border officer. Luten approached the desk and handed over his passport, vaccination card, and the barcode from a pre-registration that’s now required to enter Iceland.

Within minutes, Luten was granted access to the country, and going through passport control was easier than he could’ve expected with no vaccine passport required.

“It was the most nonchalant thing ever,” Luten said, “nobody asked me a single thing about anything.”

Once he was in the country, Luten didn’t have to submit to any additional testing or quarantine. The vaccination certificate was his golden ticket to explore Iceland.

Luten soon discovered that he had visited at the perfect time as a volcano erupted on the island shortly after his arrival. All the natural attractions that were once plagued by tourists were also empty, allowing Luten to chase Icelandic waterfalls at his leisure.

“From a tourism standpoint, there has never been a better time to go to Iceland than right now,” Luten said.

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It’s not just Ted Cruz, Americans have been escaping to Mexico since the beginning of pandemic – here’s why

Cancun
Cancun, Mexico is one of the few international tourist destinations still open to Americans.

  • Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was embroiled in a scandal last week after fleeing the cold for Cancun, Mexico.
  • Americans have been flying to Mexico during the pandemic thanks to cheap flights and lax entry requirements. 
  • A negative COVID-19 test is not required to enter Mexico but the CDC requires one to enter the US.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Ted Cruz made headlines last week when the junior senator from Texas was spotted flying to Cancun, Mexico, while his home state was battling a crippling winter storm. 

A quick weekend trip with family and friends quickly became a political scandal as Cruz had planned to stay abroad for multiple days instead of returning right back to Texas, where millions of his constituents struggled without power and water. The senator promptly changed his flight and returned home after being discovered. But Cruz was not the first American seeking to escape the harsh realities of daily life during the pandemic by traveling to Mexico, and he won’t be the last. 

US citizens flying south of the border for vacation has been a common practice since the early days of the health crisis, despite all the warnings against non-essential travel. 

One of the few countries open to Americans

The onset of the pandemic saw most nations take the drastic step of closing their borders to the world, with countless remaining closed today. As of late November, an Insider investigation found that less than 100 countries had reopened their borders to Americans and some had instituted strict parameters for travelers, including a negative COVID-19 test taken before departure and upon arrival.

But even as the US, Mexico, and Canada agreed to close their shared land borders to non-essential travel at the pandemic’s peak, a loophole continues to allow air travelers to cross both borders. Travelers arriving in Canada are faced with a quarantine and testing requirement while those bound for Mexico do not have to endure either, opening travel opportunities to the latter. 

For the most part, Americans never experienced a lack of air travel options to Mexico even as the pandemic shuttered countless global air links and the land border remained closed throughout. 

No COVID-19 testing required

Traveling to Mexico during the pandemic is actually easier than traveling between some American states. In New York, for example, most arriving travelers must produce a recent negative COVID-19 test to avoid the state’s mandatory quarantine, with National Guardsmen even patrolling some New York airports and stopping passengers at their arrival gate to ensure compliance. 

No such arrangement exists in Mexico, a country largely dependent on American tourism for revenue. Health screenings may be performed upon arrival in certain circumstances, according to the US Embassy in Mexico, but Americans need not produce a negative test as a prerequisite for entry into Mexico. 

Ryan Ewing, the founder and president of the aviation news website AirlineGeeks, traveled to Mexico twice during the pandemic with no issues getting in or out. 

“Mexico was a safe vacation spot for me,” Ewing, who flew to Mexico in July and December, told Insider. “Access was easy and straightforward with a small health form to fill out and no additional quarantine measures, unlike some U.S. states which require stringent testing measures.”

The US Embassy says the additional health checks may include a temperature screening and passengers showing symptoms may be required to quarantine. 

Cheap flights galore

Air travel has seen a drop in demand that rivals the worst economic periods in American history, leading to some seriously low prices for airfare. Those needing to take to the skies have likely been paying some of the lowest rates in their lifetime on normally expensive routes, especially those to Mexico. 

As Scott Keyes, founder of the flight deal website Scott’s Cheap Flights, noted on Twitter, a last-minute flight from Cancun to Houston on United, the same routing and airline as Cruz, could be had for as little as $101 on the day of the senator’s return.

With rates like that, it’s no surprise that Cruz found himself without a complimentary upgrade to business class as a United Airlines elite status holder. 

Airlines have been shifting their focus to leisure destinations and have often been dropping the price of tickets to encourage travel, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against non-essential travel. Non-stop flights from New York to Cancun can be found for as low as $130 one-way and from Los Angeles as low as $106, at the time of writing. 

A breakdown of a similarly priced $102.11 fare from Cancun to Houston for February 22 on United shows the airline is only bringing in around $30 in airfare while the rest is taxes and fees that go to the US and Mexican governments. 

A United Airlines flight to Cancun, Mexico
A United Airlines flight to Cancun, Mexico.

What airlines lose in airfare, however, they hope to make up for by selling extras. The $102 basic economy fare doesn’t include items like checked baggage allowance, advance seat assignments, and other ancillary products that airlines want to sell as the revenue generated isn’t taxed. 

New CDC testing requirements force travelers to adjust plans

The CDC, however, began requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry into the US in late January to prevent the importation of the virus from abroad. Inbound arrivals, including American citizens, now need to show they tested negative for the virus within the three calendar days leading up to their US-bound flight. 

The requirement has affected airlines flying to international leisure destinations, including Mexico.

“The demand trends have not really changed much in most places, including overseas,” Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer, said in a recent earnings call in response to a question about the CDC’s order. “Where they have changed is in the Mexican beach resort destinations and certain Caribbean resort destinations.”

Some foreign resorts and hotels, as a result, now offer COVID-19 testing to help travelers easily secure a test in compliance with the new rules, as Insider’s Brittany Chang outlined in January

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Israel is freezing flights in and out of the country to slow the spread of COVID-19 strains

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing a protective face mask, attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem, June 14, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner/Pool via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting

  • Israel will ban inbound and outbound flights by foreign airlines to slow the spread of COVID-19 strains.
  • Haaretz reported the freeze will take effect early Tuesday morning and last until January 31. 
  • Emergency medical flights, firefighting planes, and legal travel will be permitted, according to the report.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Israel will ban foreign airlines from flying in and out of the country until January 31 to curtail the spread of new COVID-19 strains.

The country’s cabinet on Sunday approved plans to freeze flights starting at midnight between Monday and Tuesday, Haaretz reported Sunday. Flights leaving the country will only be approved in rare instances. Firefighting planes, emergency medical flights, and cargo aircraft won’t be affected by the policy. Domestic airlines will also face some new restrictions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the new travel policy, saying in a government meeting “no nation has done what we are about to do,” according to Haaretz.

“We are hermetically sealing the country,” he added.

Read more: More than 200 coronavirus vaccines are still in development as the initial vaccine rollout ramps up. Here’s how experts anticipate 2021 playing out.

While several countries have reinstated travel restrictions to slow the virus’s spread, Israel’s latest motion is among the strictest actions yet. Many countries are now requiring passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before flying internationally.

Flights leaving Israel for legal or medical reasons will be permitted, as will those for family funerals or relocations. Travel for personal or humanitarian needs will require approval by the government’s directors-general of health and transportation, Haaretz reported.

The flight halt also marks the first time that Jewish people won’t be able to immigrate to Israel unless it’s “a matter of life or death,” transportation minister Miri Regev reportedly said in the meeting.

The harsher travel restrictions come as new variants of COVID-19 rapidly spread around the world. A new, more contagious strain that originated in the United Kingdom has already affected several in Israel and could fuel a new wave of cases. The country’s Health Ministry said Saturday that six out of seven hospitalized pregnant women were found to have been infected with the UK strain.

Separately, one of Israel’s biggest health insurers recently warned of the variant’s spread. Leumit Health Maintenance Office CEO Haim Fernandes said last week that up to half of its tested members had caught the UK strain, Haaretz reported.

Israel reported 4,933 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Since the pandemic’s onset last year, the country has seen more than 4,300 virus-related deaths.

Read more: From abortion care to LGBTQ rights, here’s how Joe Biden is prepared to tear up Donald Trump’s restrictive gender policies

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