Report: London to New York during COVID

As soon as we knew that the US border was open, we got Alex booked on a flight to the Big Apple!

Find out what's changed and what's not so you can plan your next business trip with all the facts at your fingertips. 

For the most up-to-date information on the UK's travel rules and COVID information, visit our COVID and Brexit Hub


USA Travel: Know Before You Go

When planning your trip to the USA post-pandemic, there are a few things to get in order once you’ve booked. Having experienced it first-hand on a recent trip to New York City, I can honestly say it’s not as complicated as it seems, but I was certainly helped a lot by my travel consultant. It’s also not as expensive as I thought it would be. Here’s what you need to know:


This isn’t a new requirement, but still a crucial one. It’s recommended that you complete your ESTA at least 72 hours prior to your trip as it can take a few days to be approved. For me, I always sort this as soon as I know I’m going away. These visa waivers last two years, so can be used for multiple trips, and cost US$14pp (around £10.50).


Currently visitors are only allowed entry into the USA if they’ve been double jabbed except under special circumstances. You will need to have had your second dose at least 14 days before you travel, and all WHO-recognised providers (including Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer-Biotech, Moderna and the single shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson) are accepted. You can use your COVID vaccination details from the NHS App; be sure to check you’ve downloaded the version for travel, and not for domestic use.


Travellers to the USA must take a pre-departure COVID test in the three days before you board your plane. I flew on a Tuesday morning, so was able to take my test on the preceding Saturday. Tests can either be PCR or rapid antigen/lateral flow, and should be supervised. As I don’t live near any clinics I opted to use our partners at Qured Health, who do a video consult with a Health Advisor for an extra £10.

The whole process was extremely convenient – I simply ordered my Fit to Fly lateral flow test (with video) via the Qured website along with my day 2 test (more on that later), and the former arrived in the post just a couple of days later. Qured sent me a unique ID for my test via email, which I was able to use to book a video appointment on their website. There were plenty of time slots available, and I had no trouble arranging this.

I logged into the chatroom about 10 minutes before my appointment and was soon joined by a live consultant, who took me through the process for undertaking my test before observing me do so. I can’t say it’s a particularly dignified experience having someone watch you shove a swab up your nose, however my advisor was friendly, and made me feel at ease. The call only lasted about 5-10 minutes, and after my 15-minute timer had run out, I was then able to take a picture of my negative test (along with my ID) and upload it to the Qured website. Around an hour later, I received a medical certificate confirming my result.

Attestation Form

The new attestation form looks complicated on first glance, but all you need do is select a few tick-boxes (mainly stating that you’ve been vaccinated and have a negative COVID test) and you’re good to go. I completed a hard copy of the form, just in case, but was also able to complete a version of it online with British Airways.

Contact Tracing

When completing your API (Advanced Passenger Information) online with your airline, you’ll be expected to fill out a few extra details around where you’ll be staying in the USA. This can be completed 72 hours before you fly and must be done prior to check-in.

BA Verifly

At the Airport

Some airlines allow you to upload all your documents in advance of your trip, enabling you to check-in online and avoid any lengthy queues at the airport. As mentioned, I flew with British Airways who, along with American Airlines, have partnered with the VeriFLY app, where you can add your negative test, attestation form, and proof of vaccination. Upon doing so, you receive a pre-authorisation which also gets sent to the airline. I did just this, and it was a breeze. I checked in online and was told my documents may need to be checked before security, so I printed off everything – from testing to proof of vaccination – just in case. However, I needn’t have worried: I simply showed the app to staff at the airport and was able to proceed.

If you’d rather check-in at the airport, I highly recommend arriving at least three hours before your flight. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a queue when I reached Heathrow, however I’d arrived with plenty of time to spare in case my documents required any further scrutiny.

Masks are mandatory in the airport terminal and on the plane (except when eating or drinking). Rules around what constitutes a face covering vary from airline to airline, but typically it should be a double thickness mask without a vent. Shields on their own are not generally permitted. Crew onboard will also be wearing masks, and undertaking extra cleaning measures throughout the cabins.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that the old US landing cards seem to have been scrapped in lieu of the contract tracing information, meaning you’ll have one less thing to worry about while you’re in the air.

Arriving at JFK

On arrival at JFK, I found the immigration process to be very smooth. At the border, you’ll be asked all the same questions as you were asked pre-pandemic – the purpose of your stay and how long you’re planning to be there. Your passport will be checked and, all being well, you’ll be sent on your way. I didn’t need to show my COVID documentation, as it’s expected that your airline will have already vetted this before you board in the UK. Airlines who don’t check this can be fined, so expect them to be vigorous.

COVID test in NYC

Good to be back in the USA!

It felt liberating to be back in the USA, not to mention abroad at all! Having been to New York a few times, I felt the overall experience was much the same; there were fewer crowds, but the cosmopolitan, upbeat buzz remained. I’d expect nothing less from the City That Never Sleeps!

Mask wearing

Even outdoors in New York, quite a few people were wearing masks. Indoors, it’s a much stricter story: face coverings are mandatory when visiting attractions, in your hotel reception and in restaurants (except when you’re eating of course!). I managed to squeeze in a Broadway show, and staff were actually walking around with signs telling people to put their ‘masks up’ and were being very proactive. This meant I felt exceptionally safe during my trip, especially in crowded areas.

Proof of vaccination

“Vaccine passports” were a big thing – certainly in the city. You’ll need to show your proof of vaccination whenever you want to dine inside and at all attractions, so always have it to hand when out exploring. I carried a hard copy of mine, just in case my phone ran out of battery or I couldn’t get any signal. This isn’t essential of course, but I love to be prepared!

Local apps

In New York, I downloaded the NYC COVID App. Within this, I was able to upload screenshots of my proof of vaccination (an offline version I downloaded from the NHS app), my negative test certificate, and my ID. This is recognised and widely accepted throughout the city, and is also a convenient way to have all your documents stored in one place.

Recommended testing

It’s recommended that adults visiting the USA take another COVID test 3-5 days after they arrive, however this is not currently mandatory. I was only in New York for a couple of days, so I didn’t do this, but if you did want to for peace of mind, there are test centres readily available. Indeed, in Manhattan they had pop-up testing tents on the streets!

Returning to England from the USA

After a whirl-wind couple of days in the Big Apple, I was all set to return to England. I was flying home with American Airlines, so again was able to use the VeriFLY app to upload all my documents in advance. I checked-in for my flight the day before and was able to download my boarding pass and – being hand luggage only – head straight for security. Like in the UK ,masks were mandatory in the airport.

Proof of vaccination

I was able to once again use the VeriFLY app to upload my proof of vaccination. In order to avoid quarantine in England when entering from a non-red country, you need to have had both doses of your COVID vaccine. Those who aren’t are required to self-isolate for 10 days, taking tests on day 2 and day 8 – however, to reiterate for the purposes of this article, those who have not been vaccinated will not be permitted entry into the USA.

Passenger Locator Form

England’s Passenger Locator Form (PLF) must be completed before you fly home. You can complete this on the government website up to 48 hours before your departure. It’s a fairly lengthy form, including information on where you’ve been, where you’ll be staying when you get to England, whether you’re fully vaccinated, and what tests you’ve booked. That said, it’s still easy enough to complete on a mobile phone, and you can actually sign-up for an account in advance and have your main details (name, address, contact info, passport number) already inputted before you head off on your trip. You’ll need to take note of your day 2 test ID and have this handy when you complete your form.

After filling out the PLF you will be able to download a copy of it, which you can upload to VeriFLY and save to your phone in case you need to show it at immigration when you arrive in the UK. I didn’t have to show any of my documents, I simply proceeded to the passport e-gates and then onto baggage claim/arrivals, however, airports are undertaking random checks so be prepared.

Day 0-2 test

I booked my day 2 test with Qured at the same time as my pre-departure test and it arrived the day I landed back in the UK. It was really straightforward, and I received my negative certificate within two hours. In total, both tests cost me £46.44 including delivery with Flight Centre’s unique 10% discount code – available from your travel consultant.

Rules for Children

If you’re travelling with little ones in tow, the rules may slightly differ for them. In summary, they’ll need to adhere to the following:

  • Vaccination: Children under the ages of 18 are currently exempt from the vaccination rules.
  • Testing: Like adults, unvaccinated children aged two-17 years must take a pre-departure test within 72 hours of their flight. Unlike vaccinated adults however, they must also take a test 3-5 days after arrival and self-isolate if they test positive.
  • Mask age: On many flights, children over the age of two years are required wear a mask.

Essential travel links and info for New York

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