United Airlines is expanding its transtlantic network to London as the UK relaxes quarantine restrictions on fully vaccinated US and EU travellers from Monday.
The airline will run up to 40 flights a week between the US and Heathrow from next month, including a second daily frequency from Washington DC and a daily service from Houston, up from five a week.
Additional London services are due to be resumed in the coming months as well as new flights from Boston.
United will continue operating daily flights to London from Chicago, New York/Newark and San Francisco. The airline plans to continue offering these six daily flights in September.
The move came as Business Travel Association chief executive Clive Wratten welcomed the UK allowing double vaccinated travellers to enter from the US and EU without quarantine.
He said: “This is a vital shot in the arm for the travel industry and places the UK at the forefront of international protocols.
“The key to success is for other nations to reciprocate and get people travelling safely for business and leisure once more.”
However, the US is unlikely to reciprocate by lifting its overseas travel ban until September, although the UK is pushing for the country to open up sooner.
More than five million Britons visited the US and over 4.5 million US travellers came to the UK a year prior to the pandemic.
World Travel & Tourism Council senior vice president Virginia Messina said the sector would get a “huge boost” but added that unless it’s reciprocal and the US responds with a similar move, “we won’t see the full benefit”.
She added: “Research shows that before the pandemic US visitors to the UK contributed more than more than £4 billion to the economy in 2019, underlining the importance of transatlantic travel.
“We urgently need internationally co-ordinated action to reopen borders to safe international travel for all visitors who are fully vaccinated or can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
“Harmonisation would restore international mobility, ensure reduced protocols for vaccinated travellers, emphasise the importance of global vaccine recognition, and enable global use of ‘digital health passes’.”
Passengers travelling to England must be fully vaccinated in the US with approved vaccines, take a test before departure as well as a PCR test within the first two days of arrival. They will also need to complete a passenger locator form prior to travel and provide proof of US residency.
Scotland and Wales also followed suit by also reopening their borders from next week.
Scottish Passenger Agents Association president Joanne Dooey said: “It’s gratifying that Scotland is to follow the UK government’s plans to relax the requirements for those arriving from EU and USA.
“It’s important to remember however, that traveller confidence is at an all-time low as changes have followed changes to international travel and U-turns have been made within the space of days.
“We hope that, because this suite of changes is for so many territories, these new regulations may stay in place long enough to build some confidence in both inbound and outbound travellers.
“We urge anyone considering travelling abroad to make their booking through a travel agent and not to book independently. And above all not to book various elements of a trip such as flights and accommodation separately. Travel agents across Scotland are ready to give advice and guidance to travellers.”
UK is the second most searched international destination after Mexico for US travellers on Skyscanner in the last month.
Responding to Wednesday’s announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps, United’s international network and alliances vice president Patrick Quayle described the measure as “yet another major milestone in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic with the opening of one of the most important markets from the US.”
He added: “United has demonstrated that we can operate flights between the U.S. and England safely and we are eager to help rebuild these economies by facilitating business and leisure travel.”
United has served Heathrow for nearly 30 years and maintained continuous service between the US and London over the course of the pandemic.
The carrier has expanded its service to Europe including new routes this summer to Athens, Dubrovnik and Reykjavik.