NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The U.S. lifted COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated international travelers Monday, finally allowing families to see their loved ones for the first time in nearly two years.

CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis joined a flight from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport to capture the touching reunions.

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The historic flight marked a major milestone for tourism and business, but especially for families who’ve been apart. Americans have been allowed to travel across the pond, but foreigners could not come here.

“Excitement is sort of mounting the nearer I get. So I’m really excited,” said Katie Mydlarz, who was traveling from the U.K.

From the gate at London’s Heathrow Airport, Mydlarz was one of many eager Brits who waited more than 600 days to travel to the U.S. to see family.

CBSN New York Extended: Jenna DeAngelis Takes Us Through First Flight From London

“Thank goodness President Biden said we’ll open the gates on Nov. 8. So I thought, I’m going to get a ticket,” Mydlarz said.

She got a ticket to finally meet her newborn grandson in person.

“Really excited to actually hold him now. So it’s going to be a wonderful trip,” Mydlarz said.

The plane was full of travelers heading to the U.S. for various reasons, from family reunions to doing business to honeymooning.

“Eat lot’s of food… go to a comedy show… see the sights, be romantic,” said India and Ash Tunnard Johnson.

“I’m traveling to New York for the first time, going to visit my team in Manhattan,” said Thomas Lau.

Before anyone could board, British Airways agents checked required documents, including negative COVID test results and proof of vaccination.

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DeAngelis was invited by British Airways to document the historic trip.

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The airline’s first flight to the U.S. after restrictions lifted departed London in a synchronized takeoff with Virgin Atlantic.

“Today is a very important milestone and it’s really a celebration because we’re finally able to reunite thousands of travelers with their loved ones in the U.S.,” said British Airways CEO Sean Doyle.

In addition to loved ones, the arrival of tourists from overseas is expected to be a boon to the Big Apple’s economy.

“The U.K. is typically our number one source of international travel. That has been that way for many, many years. They are so important to the lifeblood of New York City tourism,” said Chris Heywood of NYC & Company.

“It’s a great moment to continue to be able to drive that economic growth, that business development. And without human connection, all of that is that little bit harder,” said British Consul General to New York Emma Wade-Smith.

There was excitement in the air and on the ground as eager families waited to embrace their loved ones.

“I’m just still so emotional. It’s just like a dream come true. I just need to hug my sister. It has just been the hardest, hardest two years ever,” said U.K. resident Jill Chambers, whose sister lives in Connecticut.

After touching down, there were cheers and tears from those touched by a reunion two years in the making, especially when Chambers saw her 6-year-old nephew waiting with a sign stating they had spent “730 days” apart.

It was incredible to capture the historic journey step by step from London to New York and for those here, we welcome you!

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This story first appeared on Nov. 8, 2021.

Jenna DeAngelis