ORLANDO, Fla. - Something’s missing from the arrival boards at Orlando International Airport: flights from England and Europe.
"We have not had any UK service for 18 months now," said OIA CEO Phil Brown.
But that’s about to change. The White House Monday announced it’s easing pandemic travel restrictions. Starting in November, foreigners will be allowed into the U.S. as long as they are fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID test.
"We know people that have just been stuck inside this whole time. It’s not even a quality of life at this point, so I think it’s ok," said Billy Avvento, from New York.
"Considering I just flew an international flight from the Caribbean, I’m ok with it because what we’re following in terms of restrictions of COVID seems to be working. The key thing is to be fully vaccinated," said Cheryl Paul, of Georgia.
The lack of incoming UK flights at OIA has been a huge blow to Orlando. OIA CEO Phil Brown says pre-pandemic, the airport saw roughly 7 million international travelers annually. He estimates about half of them were from England. "A lot of the British citizens have homes here. They like to travel here and we like to see them travel so it’s been a challenge."
He says the next challenge will be gearing up for all the new incoming flights. With this announcement and the upcoming holiday season, Visit Orlando says they now expected a lot of international travelers. Even Universal tweeted about the news Monday, welcoming their friends in the UK.
Travelers are on board too. "Everybody has been affected by the economy, so if travel brings money, revenue, then let’s go for it," said Paul.
But gearing up for November is easier said than done.
"The vaccination requirements, how they’re going to be documented, how they’re going to be processed through customs and border protection are questions that remain for us and the carriers. So I expect there will probably be some glitches along the way," said Brown.
Brown says November will be here soon. He plans to be in close communication with all agencies involved and airline carriers to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.
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