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Airlines brace for early 'long lines' when U.S. lifts travel restrictions

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian said on Tuesday that travelers should be prepared for initial long lines when the United States lifts international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers on Nov. 8.

"It's going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you, there will be lines unfortunately ... but we'll get it sorted out," Bastian said at a U.S. travel event.

"We're going to have a good surge of demand but in order to keep that surge up we're going to need to make it easier and easier for people to figure out what the documentation requirements are."

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday signed an order https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-usa-travel-facts/factbox-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-u-s-international-air-travel-rules-idUSL1N2RM00E imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national air travelers and lifting severe travel restrictions on China, India and much of Europe effective Nov. 8.

Airlines will check vaccination documentation for international travelers as they currently do for COVID-19 test results.

U.S. Travel Chief Executive Roger Dow said in an interview he was concerned whether U.S. border officials would be prepared for the Nov. 8 surge.

"I think there will probably be a few hiccups," Dow said, saying the travel industry thinks the international travel increase "will be much bigger than people expect."

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at the travel event the department is preparing for a significant domestic and international holiday air travel increase. ""I think we're going to be equipped to handle what we hope to be a real surge in holiday traffic," Mayorkas said.

Last week, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines and the White House said they do not think the Biden administration's executive order mandating that federal contractors require employee vaccinations by Dec. 8 will impact holiday travel or result in employees leaving.

Some airlines and industry watchers initially feared an exodus of unvaccinated airline or government employees involved in travel just before the Christmas season but airlines later said that would not happen and cited comments from the White House last week. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chris Reese)

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