Pilot project at Canada U.S. border crossing offers hope for stalled Nexus program

Here’s why the U.S. border reopening matters not just for road-trippers, but the entire travel industry

TORONTO — It was almost exactly one year ago – Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 – that Pfizer announced its new vaccine against COVID-19.

The next two Mondays brought similar announcements from Moderna and AstraZeneca. More vaccine updates would follow. Since that time more than 3 billion people worldwide have received full vaccination against COVID-19, with millions more added to the tally every day.

And here we are today, Mon. Nov. 8, 2021, and the U.S. side of the Canada-U.S. land border has at long last reopened, after almost 20 months. The U.S. is reopening to international air travellers too.

On the travel industry’s road to recovery, it’s an important milestone.

At first glance today’s reopening of the land border may look like a bigger deal for road trippers and cross-border shoppers than for travel advisors and tour operators selling U.S. trips with airfare. Canadians have been allowed to fly to the U.S. throughout the pandemic, even if relatively few did.

But today’s reopening is yet another signal to Canada’s travellers that travel is back. And with full COVID-19 vaccination requirements in place, it’s as safe as it can possibly be.

There was even potentially good news on the PCR testing front, with Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam saying on Friday that current border measures requiring all travellers to present a negative COVID-19 test to enter Canada should be re-examined.

The U.S. reopening is getting lots of coverage, not just in Canada but internationally. Today also marks the reopening of the U.S. to fully vaccinated international travellers, as the U.S. first announced back in September.

On parallel runways at London’s Heathrow Airport today, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic coordinated a simultaneous take-off at 8:51 a.m. local time. In a video posted by BA, flights BA001 and VS3 can be seen soaring into clear skies on their way to New York-JFK.

“After more than 600 days of separation, today is our moment to celebrate the UK-US reopening,” said British Airways CEO, Sean Doyle, who was onboard BA001. The airline is operating 26 flights to the U.S. today.

Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss noted that today marks the first day since March 16, 2020 that the vast majority of UK nationals have been able to fly to the U.S.

“Today is a time for celebration, not rivalry,” said Weiss. “Together with British Airways we are delighted to mark today’s important milestone, which finally allows consumers and businesses to book travel with confidence.”

BA001 marks another important achievement: the A350 flight is being directly powered by a 35% blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) provided by bp and made from used cooking oil. It is believed to be the first commercial transatlantic flight ever to be operated with such a significant level of the fuel blended with traditional jet fuel.

BA says its newest and most fuel-efficient long-haul A350 aircraft are up to 40% more efficient than the B747-400s that used to operate between London and New York.

It’s a new world for air travel and airlines, and the industry knows it. And after more than a year and a half of COVID-19, the airline sector is ready to take flight once again.

For more than 18 months visitors to IATA’s home page saw this message: ‘COVID-19: We will beat this crisis and reconnect our world.’

What’s IATA’s message now? ‘Restoring the freedom to fly safely and sustainably.’

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