To go above and beyond, take a gift for the flight attendants. Simpson says flight attendants love an unexpected treat or goodie bag from passengers. She recommends sealed snacks (candies or pastries), gift cards for coffee, unopened lip balm, hand sanitizer, chewing gum, vitamin C packs and moisturizing masks that help them regroup on layovers.
The problems continued Monday, with nearly 900 flights canceled within, into or out of the United States, according to FlightAware. More than 1,600 flights are delayed.
The troubles come at the busiest time of year for air travel: The US Transportation Security Administration said it screened millions of people each day over the holiday weekend, peaking at 2.19 million travelers on Thursday, December 23. Seven of the last 10 days have seen more than 2 million screenings.
A nasty brew of issues has complicated air travel, including the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the labor shortage and a surge in travelers crowding airports and the skies.
Just when airlines thought they were on the verge of normalcy and profitability again, along came the Omicron variant to put those hopes in doubt. The variant has sparked a sharp uptick in cases — New York broke a single-day record with 49,708 new Covid-19 cases reported on Christmas Eve.
United Airlines said last week it had to cancel hundreds of flights because it lacked enough crew members to safely fly all of its scheduled routes.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” said a United memo obtained by CNN.
Delta Air Lines also said the cancellations are due to multiple issues including the Omicron variant.
“We apologize to our customers for the delay in their holiday travel plans,” Delta said in a statement. “Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight.”
Airline travel is surging again
Leisure travel is back to near pre-Covid levels. On Friday and Saturday, TSA screened about two-thirds of the passengers it did on those days in 2019 (when Christmas fell on a Wednesday).
AAA recently estimated that more than 109 million Americans will travel over the long Christmas and New Year’s week — a number approaching the pre-pandemic record 119 million travelers of Christmas 2019.
Airlines are projected to carry 6.4 million of those passengers, AAA said. That’s about triple the number from last year when the pandemic significantly curtailed holiday travel.
The labor shortage
Airlines were already having trouble finding enough crew to meet the surge in demand for travel. Omicron is making that labor shortage even worse.
Staffing shortages are leading to overworked flight crews and most of the canceled flights. Less choice in flights has led to higher ticket prices. And altercations over masks have been the cherry on the top of a miserable year for travel.
American Airlines and Southwest blamed service meltdowns in October and November on lacking enough pilots and flight attendants to adjust for weather-related cancellations.
Officials with various airline unions say that their members are stressed to the “breaking point” by work conditions because of understaffing. Many pilots and flight attendants say they’re having trouble getting the hotel rooms they need to meet the government-mandated rest requirements while working.
Pilots at American have held informational pickets in recent weeks to complain about work conditions. And the airline unions correctly predicted that the problems would get worse with the pick-up in travel over the holidays.
(Copyright (c) 2021 CNN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – For many doctors, nurses and health care staffers, this is not just another Christmas away from loved ones, but it’s the second year battling the COVID-19 pandemic and another wave of winter cases.
LaTasha Hines has been a nurse for seven years and now she’s working as a travel COVID-19 ICU nurse with UNC Health.
“We wake up and we think about what can we do to safe a life today?” Hines said while working over the holiday weekend.
As the Omicron variant continues to spread, she says working the holidays this year feels similar to last year’s winter COVID-19 surge in cases.
“You are so used to giving your all and you feel like you’ve left it but with this new COVID, all these different strands, it’s like, did we really give it our all?” said Hines who is from Kinston. “Have we really given it everything?”
While she’s an hour and a half away from her children and the rest of her own Kinston family, she knows that for some people on her ICU floor, she’s all the comfort the patients will have during the holiday, Hines says.
“It’s not fighting for a stranger’s life, it’s fighting for your patient’s life. It’s like having your baby in that bed,” Hines said. “So you definitely give every bit of your heart and you leave it there with that patient.”
She’s urging people to get vaccinated, practice safe gatherings and cherish the time they have with loved ones.
“By the time you get off you are mentally drained and exhausted but you have to dig deep and look into your heart and still provide that warm smile and those hugs to your children and your family,” Hines said.
With all hands on deck for nearly two years, she hit pause on her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner.
But she hopes that by next Christmas, that dream will be a reality.
“I was very blessed to get the opportunity here at UNC-Chapel Hill to complete my clinical rotation,” Hines said. “I have two clinical rotations left and one class.”
BOSTON (CBS) — Massachusetts drivers are being asked to avoid traveling on Christmas morning after freezing rain turned roads icy.
Massachusetts State Police said “icy flash freeze conditions exist across the state” and “troopers are responding to cars sliding off the roads. They shared a photo of a car off a slippery road in Central Massachusetts.
“If you can avoid or delay driving please do so,” police said.
Icy flash freeze conditions exist across the state. Patrols in the Troops are responding to cars sliding off the roads. Roads are being treated. If you can avoid or delay driving please do so. This photo is from central Mass., Troop C. Stay safe. https://t.co/XzKn6ouSoKpic.twitter.com/kJMlNip3Xz
(CNN) — While the number of people flying out of US airports this year has matched, and at one point exceeded, 2019 levels, Christmas Eve air travel fell sharply below pre-pandemic levels.
Thousands of Christmas weekend flights were canceled at the last minute because of staff and crew calling out sick amid the Omicron surge. The new variant has become the dominant strain of coronavirus in the US.
More than 1.7 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints Friday, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said on Twitter. This is more than 800,000 fewer people than the nearly 2.6 million screened in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic.
That number is still higher than the 846,520 people the agency screened on Christmas Eve of 2020.
Less than three weeks after Omicron was first detected in the US, it accounted for over 73% of all new cases as of Monday, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In spite of rising coronavirus cases, millions are still flying with the TSA reporting 2.19 million people screened at airports across the country on Thursday, the highest figure since the uptick in holiday travel started a week ago.
On Wednesday, there were more people traveling through US airports than in 2019.
Globally, airlines have canceled about 5,700 flights on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after, according to FlightAware. That includes about 1,700 flights within, into or out of the United States.
Health officials recommend third booster shots
In the last few weeks, reacting both to Omicron and clear evidence of fading immunity to the Delta variant after six months, public health authorities strongly encouraged the already vaccinated to receive a third dose — the booster — pronto.
Adding the third shot clearly is effective against Omicron as well, with National Institutes of Health data on the Pfizer vaccine showing that protection after three doses can reach about 80% effectiveness. Preliminary data from Imperial College London on both mRNA vaccines used in the US places the protection from a third dose between 55% and 80%.
As former NIH director Francis Collins and UK leaders noted, booster-induced immunity is also critical for reducing the risk of severe symptoms, even if a breakthrough infection should occur.
Commercial airlines around the world cancelled more than 5,700 flights over the Christmas weekend according to a flight tracker website, as a mounting wave of coronavirus infections driven by the Omicron variant created greater uncertainty and misery for holiday travellers.
On Saturday, Pope Francis prayed for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, using his Christmas Day address to urge vaccines for the poor and health care for all.
“Grant health to the infirm and inspire all men and women of good will to seek the best ways possible to overcome the current health crisis and its effects,” Francis said in his address.
Here are the latest updates for Saturday:
Indian PM Modi announces booster shots to healthcare workers next month
India will start administering COVID-19 booster shots to healthcare and frontline workers from January 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
In an address to the nation, he also said those aged 15-18 would start receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations from January 3.
Turkmenistan to register Russian Sputnik Light vaccine
Turkmenistan became one of the first nations to approve the use of Russian COVID-19 vaccines, including Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, and Sputnik Light, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Medical Industry.
The ministry said in a statement that it registered the Sputnik Light vaccine and issued a corresponding certificate for its use.
Another Top14 Rugby games gets postponed
Clermont’s visit to Brive became the third game in the post-Christmas round of Top 14 Rugby matches to be cancelled because of a cluster of coronavirus cases.
The match, scheduled for Sunday, was called off after Clermont reported coronavirus cases in their squad, the French league (LNR) announced.
“Due to the health situation of the squad of Clermont, following new tests, the match Brive-Clermont, is postponed. The rearranged date will be communicated later,” said the LNR in a statement.
More than 5,700 flights scrapped on Christmas weekend
At least 5,743 flights have been cancelled worldwide over the long Christmas weekend and thousands more were delayed, a tracking website reported.
According to Flightaware.com, more than 2,500 flights were scrubbed around the globe on Christmas Day, including more than 870 originating from or headed to US airports, with some 4,200 delays as of 1430 GMT.
On Friday, there were around 2,400 cancellations and 11,000 delays, while Sunday cancellations have already topped 800.
Two more members of Korean group BTS test positive for virus
Two more members of the K-pop group BTS tested positive for COVID-19 following their return to South Korea from the band’s first pandemic-era concerts in the United States, their management company Big Hit Music said.
Rapper RM, 27, and vocalist Jin, 29, were diagnosed with COVID-19 a day after Suga, a songwriter and rapper for the seven-member group, tested positive.
All three had completed second doses of a coronavirus vaccine in August, the company said.
Japan’s Fukuoka finds first Omicron case
Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture has confirmed its first infection with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, its governor Seitaro Hattori said.
The case was a result of possible community transmission as the infection route was unclear, Hattori told a news conference.
Pope prays for end of pandemic in Christmas blessing
Pope Francis prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, using his Christmas Day address to urge health care for all, vaccines for the poor and for dialogue to prevail in resolving the world’s conflicts.
“Grant health to the infirm and inspire all men and women of good will to seek the best ways possible to overcome the current health crisis and its effects,” he said on Saturday.
“Open hearts to ensure that necessary medical care – and vaccines in particular – are provided to those peoples who need them most.”
Djokovic ‘won’t go’ to pre-Australian Open ATP Cup: Local media
Novak Djokovic will not play in the ATP Cup ahead of the Australian Open, where his participation is in doubt as the Serbian tennis star refuses to say if he has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, his team have told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“It is 99 percent sure that Novak won’t go to the ATP Cup. He is training here (in Belgrade) but he has decided to give that tournament a miss,” an unnamed member of his team said.
The ATP Cup in Sydney is a team tournament that traditionally kicks off the men’s season.
Kenya to start booster shot drive amid virus fears
Kenya will offer COVID-19 booster shots to individuals six months after their initial shots, the health ministry said in a document published a day after the country logged its highest rate of positive COVID-19 tests.
Kenya last month said it would demand proof of vaccination to access public spaces and transport from December 21. The move met with a combination of bemusement, dismissal and occasional spot enforcement, given the country’s low vaccination rate.
By Friday just over 14 percent of Kenyan adults had been fully vaccinated.
US hit by further flight cancellations
According to Flightaware.com, at least 2,000 flights were cancelled worldwide on Christmas Day.
On Friday, there were around 2,400 cancellations and almost 11,000 delays. The site also reported over 600 cancellations for Sunday.
Pilots, flight attendants and other staff have been calling in sick or having to quarantine after exposure to COVID, forcing Lufthansa, Delta, United Airlines and many other carriers to cancel flights during one of the year’s peak travel periods.
China’s COVID-hit Xian city reports rise in infections
China’s Xian city has reported an increase in daily COVID-19 infections and local companies curtailed activity as the country’s latest COVID-19 hot spot entered its third day of lockdown.
Xian, a northwest Chinese city of 13 million, detected 75 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms for December 24, its higest daily count of the year and reversing the previous day’s decline, official data showed on Saturday.
Residents are banned from leaving town without clearance from employers or local autorities and households can send only one person to shop for necessities every two days.
India COVID deaths rise by 387
India’s health ministry reported on Saturday that daily COVID-19 deaths in the country have risen by 387, bringing the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic to at least 479,520.
COVID cases have also risen by 7,189 to at least 34.8 million.
In Omicron-free New Zealand, Christmas without restrictions
New Zealanders celebrated Christmas on Saturday in the warmth of southern midsummer with few restrictions, in one of the rare countries in the world largely untouched by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Ninety-five percent of adults in New Zealand have had at least one dose of a vaccine, making it one of the world’s most vaccinated populations. The only Omicron cases that have been found in New Zealand have been safely contained at the border.
As COVID-19 spread across the globe in the past two years, New Zealand used its isolation to its advantage. Border controls kept the worst of the virus at bay, and by Christmas this year, New Zealand had recorded just 50 deaths in a population of 5.5 million.
Daily COVID cases in Australia’s New South Wales top 6,000
Australia’s most populous state recorded more than 6,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time Saturday, adding a sombre note to Christmas celebrations.
Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, reported 2,108 new cases and six deaths on Saturday.
Health expert highlights importance of wearing mask to fight COVID
📍Just went to a major retail store—almost nobody wearing masks, and even then—only flimsy masks under their noses. I asked two mask wearers why not wear a KN95–their response… ➡️“I don’t know what that is” & “I can’t afford that fancy stuff”. We’ve failed somewhere horribly.😢 pic.twitter.com/vUh8jaQejt
A US Navy warship has paused its deployment to South America because of a coronavirus outbreak, the Navy said Friday.
The USS Milwaukee, a littoral combat ship, is staying in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where it had stopped for a scheduled port visit. It began its deployment from Mayport, Florida, on December 14 and was heading into the US Southern Command region.
The Navy said in a statement that the ship’s crew is “100% immunized” and that all of those who tested positive for COVID-19 have been isolated on the ship away from other crew members. The number of crew testing positive was not disclosed. The ship has a crew of a little more than 100.
The Navy said that “a portion” of those infected are having mild symptoms and that the specific variant is not yet known. COVID-19 cases have surged across the country due to the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.
Antetokounmpo clears NBA’s COVID protocols
The Milwaukee Bucks received an early Christmas present in the form of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo clearing the National Basketball Association’s health and safety protocols on Friday.
However, Antetokounmpo’s status remains up in the air for Milwaukee’s Christmas Day showdown against the visiting Boston Celtics on Saturday afternoon.
For their part, the Celtics officially placed five more players into COVID protocols on Friday, bringing the team’s total to 12.
Blinken thanks South Africa in call with counterpart Naledi Pandor
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke via phone with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor about an earlier announcement that the US plans to lift travel restrictions on several southern African nations, imposed last month amid fears over the Omicron variant.
“The Secretary again thanked South Africa’s scientists and government for their transparency and expertise,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement describing the call.
“He emphasized the importance of the longstanding partnership between the United States and South Africa to combat the impacts of COVID-19.”
More than 4,000 Christmas flights cancelled worldwide
Airlines around the world called off more than 4,000 flights over the Christmas weekend, due to the increase in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant.
The website FlightAware showed 2,314 flights had been cancelled worldwide on Christmas Eve, a typically robust day in passenger transit. About a quarter of those suspended itineraries were in the US.
Another 1,404 flights scheduled for Christmas Day were cancelled globally, the website said, along with 340 more that had been scheduled for Sunday, Boxing Day.