"We really were reliant on those flights to be able to get back-and-forth for birthdays, weddings, funerals — all of that," Bobbe Fernando said. "So it's just going to be wonderful to be able to see each other. It's been almost two years."
Fernando and her young son, Ben, were excited right before they were reunited with their beloved Uncle Phil at Kennedy Airport.
For the first time in 600 days, the U.S. is welcoming tourists from more than 30 countries who had been shut out because of the pandemic. Two planes took off from London early Monday morning — one from Virgin Atlantic and another from British Airways — and both landed at JFK.
"We run a watch company and we haven't seen our stores, our team for almost two years, so desperate to get out here," British Airways passenger Giles English said.
"Everybody was just so happy, they had decorations, U.S. flags, British flags," British Airways passenger Kwasi Fokuo said. "It was pretty interesting. It was quite the experience."
The vast majority of travelers must be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative COVID test taken within three days of travel. There are some exceptions for U.S. citizens and residents who aren't vaccinated, as well as people under 18. Individuals in those groups must show proof of a negative test within one day of travel.
Despite the extra steps, the tourism industry in our area is expecting to see a major boom to local businesses.
"International travel is such a lucrative segment for New York City's economy," NYC and Company's Chris Heywood said. "On average, they stay longer and spend more, they represent about 20% of volume but 50% in spending, and they stay on average six and a half to seven nights."
Heywood also said it takes the spending power of four domestic visitors to equal the spending power of just one international visitor. So no doubt businesses right in our area will start to feel the impact.