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Brooke Sutherland and Sam Fazeli

Can Vaccinations Reopen International Travel?

Airlines want to see restrictions eased, but that may take many more months.

Someday none of this will matter, but when?

Someday none of this will matter, but when?

Photographer: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images

After more than a year of sheltering at home, people are itching to travel internationally again — especially those who’ve been sitting on credits from trips canceled in 2020. Airlines would like nothing more than to see borders reopened. While the industry supports continued mask mandates, physical distancing and other safety measures, they are banking on vaccinations to loosen the more cumbersome international testing and quarantine requirements.

In the U.S., the airline industry has called on the Biden administration to update Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to exempt vaccinated international travelers from current Covid testing requirements. In Europe, Michael O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair Holdings Plc, argues that the litmus tests for maintaining travel restrictions should be hospitalizations and deaths. “Once you’ve eliminated that risk with vaccinations, frankly I think people are going to rebel. They’re not going to be willing to be locked up,” O’Leary said in an interview with Bloomberg TV last month. “Covid will become — I mean it will still be with us — but it will be much more I think similar to the annual flu, the annual cold, because of the success of vaccinations.”