United and Delta will offer daily flights to Iceland and Greece this summer, the first European destinations to open to vaccinated Americans

reykjavik Iceland volcano eruption
Weekend hikers visit the area where a volcano erupted in Iceland.

  • United and Delta will offer seasonal daily service to Iceland and Greece this summer.
  • Both countries are heavily dependent on tourism, and the EU is under pressure to reopen to travelers.
  • International travel was still down more than 75% in March compared with 2019, industry data show.

US tourists eager to go abroad will be able to visit three European destinations this summer, so long as they can prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Monday, United Airlines announced it would begin seasonal daily service to Iceland and Greece beginning in July.

United’s move follows Delta’s announcement last month that it would offer daily service to Iceland from three US cities (Boston Logan, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airports) beginning in May, and Delta’s route map indicates flights from JFK to Athens will resume in June.

In addition, United will offer thrice-weekly routes to Croatia, reflecting an increase in search activity on its website over the past month, the company told Bloomberg. Each of the European routes are new for United and are as follows: Chicago to Reykjavik, Iceland starting June 3; Washington-Athens, Greece starting July 1; and Newark to Dubrovnik, Croatia starting July 8.

Iceland is part of the Schengen zone of visa-free travel, but is not a member of the European Union, and is therefore exempt from the general restriction on visitors from outside the EU. Iceland Air recently warned international travelers that the country could not be used as a kind of backdoor to the continent, saying, “further travel from Iceland to the rest of Europe is currently not permitted for non-Schengen residents.”

Greece meanwhile just lifted its restrictions for travelers from the US who can provide a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID test result. As an EU member, Greece’s move puts additional pressure on the bloc to reopen travel more broadly.

Both Greece and Iceland are heavily dependent on tourism dollars. Tourism constitutes roughly a tenth of Greece’s economy, and those revenues plummeted 80% as a result of the pandemic. In 2019, tourism represented 42% of Iceland’s economy. In an attempt to incentivize visitors, Iceland Air is promoting round-trip prices as low as $349 and waiving change fees to give flyers greater flexibility when traveling.

Data from an industry trade group shows international travel was still down more than 75% in March compared with 2019.

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