Hawaii airports adding more staff to meet anticipated busy holiday travel season

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The governor’s stamp of approval for non-essential travelers to return to Hawaii will likely increase the number of tourists expected for the holidays, and airport officials are preparing for a busy season and hiring more workers to help travelers avoid long lines.

The airports are staffing up, making sure there are enough screeners and TSA agents to meet the number of travelers.

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Hawaii’s Safe Travels Administrator Sheri Kajiwara said the state program is aggressively recruiting airport screeners for arrivals. About 100 new workers will be added come Thanksgiving time and even more if funding allows.

“We do get reports from every airlines about how many travelers are on board so that we can better prepare to screen them on arrival,” Kajiwara said. “But I do suspect that this will be a busy holiday season.”

All six major airlines flying into Hawaii do pre-boarding checking for Safe Travels, but sometimes there are issues that require all of the screening to be done upon arrival.

“Airlines like everybody else is having staffing issues as well, so sometimes we do get a message that a certain airline was short staffed and not able to wristband any passengers,” Kajiwara said. “We need to be prepared to handle 100% on arrival.”

TSA officials are also recruiting more agents in anticipation to the holiday travel season and the Nov. 22 deadline that requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID.

“Seventy to 80 vacancies across the pacific, so we’re not in too terrible shape. I am expecting we may lose a few people as a result of the mandatory vaccinations,” Federal Security Director at TSA Pacific Area Jenel Chang said. “But we are seeing people go out, those who haven’t been vaccinated yet go out and start to get their vaccinations.”

The new mauka terminal at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport will help alleviate some of the long TSA lines, but smaller airports in the state are likely to feel more of the weight from increased travelers.

“Maui in particular is at capacity. They are actually over capacity, so we often find that we have more passengers coming through than we can screen in an hour which is what drives the wait times,” Chang said. “But we do have all hands on deck and we use our overtime.”

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

The governor said starting Nov. 1 the state will begin welcoming vaccinated travelers back into the state.

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United adding European destinations ahead of summer travel rebound


Chicago-based United Airlines is adding five new transatlantic destinations in Spring 2022 as it prepares for a potential bounce back in summer travel between the United States and Europe next year.

The expansion would be the largest transatlantic expansion in the company’s history and includes destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway, the Spanish Canary Islands and Jordan.

“Given our big expectations for a rebound in travel to Europe for summer, this is the right time to leverage our leading global network in new, exciting ways,” Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, said in a Thursday news release. 

United will be the first North American carrier to fly to the five new destinations.  

  • Bergen, Norway: Starting May 20, United will offer flights three times a week between New York/Newark and Bergen on a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Azores, Portugal: Flights between New York/Newark and Ponta Delgada in the Azores begin May 13 with a new Boeing 737 MAX 8. This will be United’s third Portuguese destination, along with flights to Porto (which return in March) and Lisbon (which are being operated from New York and are set to resume from Washington, D.C. next summer).
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Travelers can fly from New York/Newark to the beach destination in the Balearic Islands in a Boeing 767-300ER starting June 2. United will offer flights three times a week. 
  • Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands: United is set to launch a new flight from New York/Newark to the Tenerife on June 9, offering service three times a week via a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Amman, Jordan: Flights from Washington, D.C. to Amman begin May 5 with service three-times-weekly with a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. 

Tickets for Bergen, Azores, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife go on sale Thursday, and Amman tickets should follow soon after. 

The airline is also adding new flights to five European destinations (Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome) “in anticipation of a resurgence in visitors” and relaunching seven routes that had been paused during the pandemic to Bangalore, Frankfurt, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nice and Zurich, all of which are subject to government approval. 

► US travel ban: US to drop travel ban for vaccinated international travelers starting in early November

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The expansion would follow the launch of a new air travel system in the U.S. in early November that will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nations.

While international flight capacity saw gains this year, it has a ways to go before catching up to pre-pandemic levels. International passenger demand dropped 76% between 2019 and 2020, the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history according to the International Air Transport Association.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz

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Airlines adding flights as interest in travel soars

At this time last year, airlines were canceling flights. Now, they’re adding them back because people’s interest in flying is on the rise with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decreasing and vaccinations increasing.

According to Flightradar24, airlines are adding more flights to leisure destinations, but cutting business routes. Some travelers like August Fusco said they have been ready to travel.

“The problem was there was no place to go, months ago – I would’ve flown back then too,” said August.

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However, others like Delores Tolbert, said they are staying more cautious.

“I understand it from the point that people want to get out, but I’m not ready to go that far yet,” said Tolbert.

No one could blame you if you’re not quite ready to fantasize about a fabulous getaway just yet. After all, international travel from the U.S. is still heavily restricted. The CDC is still advising everyone to avoid travel altogether since it increases your chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

The CDC will be coming out with new guidance on life after the vaccine soon. The guidelines are expected to advise that vaccinated people can host small at-home gatherings with other vaccinated people. No masks required. However, you would still have to wear a mask and social distance in public even if you’ve been vaccinated.

Travelers wearing face masks are seen at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

READ MORE: COVID-19 testing to be available next month at Reagan National, Dulles International airports

Dr. Adalja Amesh, Senior Scholar at John’s Hopkins for Health Security, said the CDC is likely waiting on more data before putting out new protocols.

“If you’re vaccinated you really don’t have much to fear, you really can get back to your life as it was because the risk to you is very low and we’re getting more data that as a vaccinated person you don’t pose a threat to others because you’re very unlikely to be an asymptotic carrier, but it’s going take some time for the guidance to catch up with the real-world data from the vaccine,” said Dr. Adalja.

According to the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, Scott Keyes, every single day for the past week, the number of flight searches is setting a new record since the start of the pandemic. He said though we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with more people getting vaccinated – there is no need to rush.

“I don’t think that folks should be booking flights before they are ready if it’s something that is adding anxiety or adding stress then far be it from me or anybody else to encourage you to do so before you’re ready because a vacation is something that should take away stress, not add to it,” said Keyes.

He also expects this to be one of the busiest travel summers we have seen in recent memory. Keyes adds if you are interested in traveling, buy sooner rather than later because he expects a travel surge.

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Triad hospitals adding travel nurses to help deal with pandemic

Triad hospitals are in the middle of a delicate balancing act – giving patients the best care without putting even more of a strain on staff.

They’re trying to stay ahead of the COVID crisis by adding travel nurses.

These are men and women who travel away from home, typically for months, to go where the need is.

“I knew that there were going to be needs across our nation. I also know that there are needs home,” travel nurse Alex Bearder said.

Bearder was born and raised in North Carolina.

She spent part of her career working in Georgia’s metro Atlanta region.

She’s now treating COVID-19 patients at Cone Health’s Green Valley Campus – the former Women’s Hospital.

“Our goal is to be a part of the team, so we don’t see ourselves really as temporary, but for as long as we can kind of be of service,” Bearder said.

John Ferreira is a travel nurse who has worked at the Green Valley Campus since April 2020.

His first travel nurse assignment was in Greenville.

He was in Salem, Virginia just prior to coming to the Triad.

He says his experiences have been rewarding.

“It really, really has been rewarding because you get to go to different places, meet different people and see what other hospitals do differently than your home hospital,” Ferreira said.

Cone Health has 363 travel nurses, the equivalent of about 10 percent of the staff.

“We’ve got about 287 being used just to treat Covid patients, but we also have travel nurses in some of our harder to staff areas like our intensive care units and some of our progressive care units,” Cone Health Chief Nurse Executive Dr. Kenneth Rempher said.

Getting that many travel nurses on board didn’t come from a quick phone call.

It took weeks of planning based on projections from data scientists.

Looking ahead has not only helped to meet patient needs, but it has also helped address concerns surrounding staff burnout.

“Cause during times like this, we ask people to pick up additional shifts. We ask them to pick up overtime and we’re very careful because we have a worker fatigue policy that requires us to stay within certain guidelines,” Rempher said.

Cone Health’s contracts for travel nurses are typically 13 weeks but can be renewed for longer.

There are plans to add another 50 in the next few weeks.

Novant Health has 242 travel nurses across its acute care facilities in North Carolina and northern Virginia.

Wake Forest Baptist Health is also using travel nurses, but an approximate number was not available.

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