Last year saw a huge drop in tourists to Greece, especially from the major origination points of the UK, Russia, and the US. Together, they make up a significant amount of the annual tourist numbers to Greece and, due to Covid-19, this all went away. This means that millions of people are wondering if they can make that dream trip to Greece this year.
When Will Americans Be Able to Travel to Greece?
At present, the Schengen Zone and most of the European Union is still closed to most people from America. There are a few exceptions but they still exclude most people from traveling to Europe. This as been in place for almost a year now.
Greece was at the front of the movement last year to open up and allow Americans to visit since the country relies so heavily on summer tourism. However, month by month went by where direct flights between the US and Greece were postponed and then canceled and Americans headed to beaches in the US or just postponed their Greek vacation until 2021.
This is a question I hear a lot – when will Americans be able to travel to Greece? We do have some early indicators of when this may happen and how, even as Greece continues to restrict most movements from people within the country.
Flights Are Scheduled
This is nothing new as US airlines had scheduled non-stop flights to Greece for months last year – and ended up canceling them. But, this cost a lot to the airlines in terms of trust. People kept being tired of booking their trips only to have to deal with postponements and outright cancellations, even as airlines assured that the trips would go on.
But, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, and United Airlines all have their non-stop flights scheduled from the US to Greece again this year – United is starting as early as April 30!
- United Airlines –
April 30Now June 3 (From Newark – Athens)
- Delta Air Lines – May 2(From JFK – Athens)
- Delta Air Lines – May 27 (second flight every day from JFK)
- Emirates – June 1 (From Newark – Athens)
- American Airlines – June 2 (From JFK – Athens)
- American Airlines – June 3 (From Philadelphia – Athens)
- American Airlines – June 3 (From Chicago – Athens)
By June 3, there will be 7 separate non-stop flights from the US to Athens – and these flights are being sold now. Again, as we saw last year, just because they are being sold does not mean that they will actually fly them but I believe the airlines are operating with a greater deal of caution this year to encourage travelers to actually book.
All that being said, I feel that the United and Delta start dates are a tad bit ambitious. The only thing I can think is that they are flying them to bring those allowed to travel to Greece back to Greece for the Greek Easter which takes place on May 3. With churches all being closed last year during the first lockdown, this year will likely be very busy and many will want to come so these early flights may be catering to them.
The Greek Prime Minister has made it quite clear that he wants a regular vaccination certificate or pass to allow for easier travel for those who have received the vaccine. At the same time, he has also made it clear that having a vaccine is not a requirement for visiting Greece (and hoteliers are also not requiring a vaccine for guests to be able to stay).
But, this will certainly be a big push as they try to welcome all those who have been vaccinated by not requiring testing or quarantines for any visitors that are vaccinated. This is in the works now to roll out an aggressive campaign to welcome any and all who are vaccinated and late March/April has been a timeframe that has been mentioned for this (the campaign rollout).
Again, if you have not been vaccinated, you will still be welcome but you will be required to present a negative test for travel and possibly take another test on arrival. This would be in conjunction for a 24 hour quarantine while you await the results of your test at the airport.
But, WHEN Will the Country Open for Americans?
Here is the problem for Greece – the EU kept pushing back against them last year since entering a Schengen country essentially gives you access to all countries within the Schengen Zone and the EU wanted this to be a joint opening by all countries within that zone.
However, Greece has been showing that they do not mind at all making unilateral moves to open to select countries even though the EU is technically still closed to them. The most recent move (that did cause some waves within the EU) was the deal signed between Greece and Israel to allow vaccinated travelers to go back and forth as early as April. This will likely be a trial of sorts to see how well Greece is able to deal with this before opening up for a larger bloc of travelers.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis said earlier this month that “It would be good to achieve this on a European level, to be united. If this doesn’t happen, we will proceed bilaterally with all the countries that interest us.”
They are already doing this by allowing people to travel to Greece from the UAE, which is not on the approved list for the EU. So, if they feel they have enough safeguards in place, expect an arrangement like this to happen with the US – even if the EU does not technically open to the US by June.
The good thing for the US airlines (and Emirates) is that the non-stop flights would be the only way for US visitors to get to Greece if Greece opens up to them without the support of the EU.
June – in my opinion
Based on everything going on and the talks being had, I think June will be the target date for when Americans can visit Greece again. It may not be the 1st of June but would likely be by the middle of June.
There is no question that Greece is going to do everything possible to open to Americans this year. They are already telling UK nationals that they can visit this spring. Based on the rollout of the vaccine in the US right now, there should be a good picture of the overall situation in the US by the end of April so this would give Greece time to prepare for a mass of visitors by June.
But, for Now, Lockdown is Still Going On
It is strange to think that the country would open up in the spring when Greece will enter March in a state of lockdown. The retail sector is not even going to reopen until at least March 8 and restaurants and cafes are still closed. Cases are rising again as well and the hospital capacity for Covid patients is reaching high numbers again in certain areas.
Obviously, something will need to change before visitors are able to visit and move around freely. If you one of the millions that is planning a trip to Greece this year (and yes, that is millions), I would suggest something deeper into the summer season or even late September. It will still be lovely and prices will likely be lower as well.
So, when will Americans be allowed to travel to Greece? By my best guess based on everything going on and what is being said, I think it will be by mid-June. It could be earlier but there is still way too much to happen for the country to open to the millions that would visit if it opened in May.
The airlines certainly think it will be open in May and I hope it is! One way or another, Greece will open up a lot more this year than it did last summer – the only question is “when.” We will know the answer to that in about 4-6 weeks.