European Union may open to American travelers this summer

Americans who have had the COVID-19 vaccine will soon have the chance to pack their passports for flights to Europe, according to European Commission officials.

After a year of paused plans, Americans are pressing play on travel.

"We took a trip out to the west coast this weekend and both the plane going out and coming back was pretty filled up," said Greg Jones of Tampa.

Officials with the European Union said they expect countries to welcome back vaccinated Americans this summer, but officials are working out the details on what to accept as proof.

"My husband and I travel internationally probably about three times a year. We’re planning a trip this year with our kids to Europe, so we have three boys," said Maggie O’Neill of Pittsburgh.

The European commission president told the New York Times Sunday the EU will drop travel restrictions. Some travelers said they would feel more comfortable.

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"I think that’s probably a good thing. The more people that become vaccinated, hopefully the safer travel will be and the more people will travel," said Jones.

But others said they are still waiting before they get the shot.

"If you have to prove that you’re vaccinated, I probably don’t think we would go. But if it’s just having a clean COVID test, a negative COVID test then we would definitely go," said O’Neill.

University of South Florida public health professor Dr. Jay Wolfson said Americans are a big part of Europe’s summer travel crowds.

"The Europeans have been dealing with this as we have, they’ve closed down their economy more than we have, and this is a positive step. I think we should all look at it as being a ray of light for all of us as long as we exercise common sense," said Wolfson.

The next question is what documents will Americans need?

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"What we don’t know yet is what the European Union and those specific countries in Europe are going to require of Americans," said Wolfson. "I’ve got my CDC card. Is that going to be enough or are they going to want me, should I travel, to participate in one of their vaccination certification programs?"

The International Air Transport Association launched its Travel Pass app to hold vaccine information and COVID-19 test results, and some airlines and governments agreed to go digital for people booking flights.

"If they are still going got have to stand in line and show that paper vaccination certificate, it’s going to be a very painful experience for them, just in terms of wait times," said Perry Flint, the IATA head of corporate communications in the U.S.

European Union officials said they don’t have a timetable for when the countries will drop restrictions this summer.

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"I think we should be as optimistic as possible. Of course, if you’re booking tickets, make sure you can cancel them without penalty," said Wolfson.

Flint said IATA believes countries should allow negative tests along with vaccines for travel. IATA said vaccine rollout is not uniform across the world and within different regions.

"Therefore, any kind of vaccination requirement is going to discriminate against individuals who are simply unable to get a vaccination," said Flint. "Evidence has shown that testing, pre-departure testing can be a very effective way to identify travelers who have COVID and more likely travelers who do not have COVID."

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