US travel plans ‘squashed’ by Covid-19 realised as restrictions ease

Passengers boarding at Dublin Airport excited to catch up with family and friends

The resumption of flights from Ireland to the US on Monday meant Maura Dunne could embark on a journey to visit family she had not seen for 10 years.

“The big impetus for my going this time is that my husband died recently, so this is a break for me,” she said.

Ms Dunne, who lives in Bray, Co Wicklow, was one of many Irish people on the first transatlantic Aer Lingus flights following the lifting of a Covid-19 related ban on non-essential travel into the US from Europe. Aer Lingus says almost all seats on its US flights this week are booked up.

A problem with a contact tracing form that Ms Dunne had filled in online prompted a nervy search on her laptop for an email that had not arrived. However, check-in staff at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2 helped to sort the issue and Ms Dunne was good to go.

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Born in Co Mayo, Ms Dunne’s family moved to Michigan when she was 10 and she lived there until she was 25. Her siblings and their families remain in the US with relatives spread across Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. She plans to travel for at least a month, but might extend the trip further.

Andrew Cregan (27), from Dublin, and his partner Eva Kelly (25), from Galway, were flying to Boston to see her brother.

“We were actually lucky, he was home at Christmas,” Ms Kelly said, but the pair were still “really excited” about the trip. The couple met while in Chicago on J1 visas one summer.

Mr Cregan said the flights were initially booked “a long time ago”, but had to be changed several times due to uncertainty around when the travel ban, which was introduced in March 2020, would end.

For Ian Howard, from Co Cork, his trip to Boston would allow a first in-person meeting with work colleagues since starting a new job earlier this year. The 49-year-old joined a US pharmaceutical start-up, which aims to reduce the prices of oncology drugs, and was one of the company’s first employees in Europe.

“I’ve been Facetime-ing and Zoom-ing with colleagues, so it’ll be great to meet them . . . I started in May this year, so since then I haven’t managed to meet them face-to-face,” he said.

He had been keeping an ear out for any news about when the travel ban might be lifted. “I booked as far back as the end of July, I just took a chance,” he said.

He had heard rumours travel might be allowed to resume from early November, and guessed it would come into effect from the second week of the month.

“I work in planning so maybe it rubbed off,” he said.

Elaine Caldwell, from Co Galway, was travelling to Albany to see her son and two grandchildren. She said she was “extremely excited” as she had not seen them for two years due to the pandemic. She would spend Thanksgiving with the family, and also be there to celebrate one of her grandchildren’s first birthdays.

Daniel Delargy, a retired New York fire department worker, was one American returning home after a holiday in Ireland. He had “multiple first cousins” who he had travelled to meet during a trip that was planned two years ago but then “squashed” when Covid-19 hit.

“People from Ireland were supposed to come over for my daughter’s wedding and they couldn’t do it, so it was a big deal, it was kinda crushing,” he said.