The United States opened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from other countries on Monday, RÚV reports, precipitating a rush of Icelanders looking forward to finally being able to visit family members and/or enjoy some time in the southern sun after over a year and a half of being barred entry to the country.
Prior to Monday, only Icelanders qualifying for particular exemptions, such as travel for work or study, were allowed to enter the US. Now, any traveller who has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test is allowed to visit.
Five Icelandair flights to the US were scheduled on Monday, to US destinations New York (JFK), Seattle, Boston, and Orlando. Florida is a particularly popular North American destination for Icelanders, particularly in the fall and winter months, and many Icelanders own second homes there.
Ragnheiður Gyða Ragnarsdóttir was travelling to the Sunshine State to clear out the basement of a flat that her parents sold last year—and to enjoy “slightly” better weather than Iceland is currently experiencing.
Sigurbjörg Björgvinsdóttir and her husband were embarking on a four-week trip to Florida as well. She noted that lots of Icelanders stay in the area the couple was travelling to, “a whole neighbourhood,” even.
Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason said that local bookings skyrocketed as soon as the November 8 border opening was announced. “We now have 11 destinations in North America—ten in the US and one in Canada.” He said that flights would be added depending on demand. “We’re not quite back to normal, but having gotten through COVID, you could say that we’re in a better place now than we were a few months ago. All in all, we’re on a positive track.”