Experts say ‘wait and see’ for air travel as omicron variant surfaces


Just as things were getting on a roll for the Thanksgiving holiday, passenger traffic at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport more than doubled than it was at this time in 2020, and now people are looking forward to end-of-year trips.But with the uncertainty of the omicron variant, many people are left wondering if they should take their trips. Unfortunately, according to the experts, it is still a wait-and-see situation.|| COVID-19 updates | Maryland’s latest numbers | Get tested | Vaccine Info ||People heading home from the Thanksgiving holiday spoke with 11 News Monday saying they still feel comfortable traveling.”I don’t mind traveling as long as we’re all being pretty safe. Every time I’m in the airport, everyone has their mask on unless they’re eating. Most people are vaccinated and even if they aren’t, they do at least adhere to the rules, keeping their mask so I’m not too worried about traveling,” traveler Gladys Kanu said.According to the Transportation Security Administration, during the 10-day Thanksgiving travel rush from Nov. 19-28, almost 21 million passengers went through TSA checkpoints. Last year, that number was almost 10 million. At BWI-Marshall, just over 257,000 passengers compared to more than 118,000 a year before.”People who hadn’t traveled in quite some time or probably not a custom to seeing some of the changes that have been implemented as a result of the pandemic,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said.| LINK: BWI-Marshall Holiday Travel Guide 2021TSA officials said things went smoothly as officers are now all wearing masks and gloves, using acrylic shields for protection and passengers can now scan in their own IDs and boarding passes, but there are concerns going forward concerning the omicron variant.”We are monitoring the situation with the new COVID variant. We take our cues from the CDC,” Farbstein said.So, what are travelers to do? Travel agent Dilworth Daley said, “Wait and see.” Daley said for those who haven’t made plans yet get “cancel for any reason” travel insurance.”So, if you decide to change your mind or something comes up you don’t want to go, you’ll lose the cost of the travel insurance, but you’ll get your money back,” he said.| RELATED: Maryland monitoring COVID-19 omicron variant; Hogan urges vaccinationFor those who have already booked, it gets more tricky. Daley said you should check with your credit card and or airline to see if they can offer any credits as many did at the beginning of the pandemic.”They were pretty flexible. They were giving credits, sometimes a year in advance, a year and a half-supplied people had plenty of time to hopefully use those credits at another destination in the future,” Daley said.| RELATED: Federal officials bracing for first detection of omicron variant in USSo far, the United States has halted travel to eight African countries. Travelers coming to the U.S. from out of the country do need to show a negative COVID-19 test.It is not clear at this point whether more travel restrictions will be put in place soon.

Just as things were getting on a roll for the Thanksgiving holiday, passenger traffic at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport more than doubled than it was at this time in 2020, and now people are looking forward to end-of-year trips.

But with the uncertainty of the omicron variant, many people are left wondering if they should take their trips. Unfortunately, according to the experts, it is still a wait-and-see situation.

|| COVID-19 updates | Maryland’s latest numbers | Get tested | Vaccine Info ||

People heading home from the Thanksgiving holiday spoke with 11 News Monday saying they still feel comfortable traveling.

“I don’t mind traveling as long as we’re all being pretty safe. Every time I’m in the airport, everyone has their mask on unless they’re eating. Most people are vaccinated and even if they aren’t, they do at least adhere to the rules, keeping their mask so I’m not too worried about traveling,” traveler Gladys Kanu said.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, during the 10-day Thanksgiving travel rush from Nov. 19-28, almost 21 million passengers went through TSA checkpoints. Last year, that number was almost 10 million. At BWI-Marshall, just over 257,000 passengers compared to more than 118,000 a year before.

“People who hadn’t traveled in quite some time or probably not a custom to seeing some of the changes that have been implemented as a result of the pandemic,” TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said.

| LINK: BWI-Marshall Holiday Travel Guide 2021

TSA officials said things went smoothly as officers are now all wearing masks and gloves, using acrylic shields for protection and passengers can now scan in their own IDs and boarding passes, but there are concerns going forward concerning the omicron variant.

“We are monitoring the situation with the new COVID variant. We take our cues from the CDC,” Farbstein said.

So, what are travelers to do? Travel agent Dilworth Daley said, “Wait and see.”

Daley said for those who haven’t made plans yet get “cancel for any reason” travel insurance.

“So, if you decide to change your mind or something comes up you don’t want to go, you’ll lose the cost of the travel insurance, but you’ll get your money back,” he said.

| RELATED: Maryland monitoring COVID-19 omicron variant; Hogan urges vaccination

For those who have already booked, it gets more tricky. Daley said you should check with your credit card and or airline to see if they can offer any credits as many did at the beginning of the pandemic.

“They were pretty flexible. They were giving credits, sometimes a year in advance, a year and a half-supplied people had plenty of time to hopefully use those credits at another destination in the future,” Daley said.

| RELATED: Federal officials bracing for first detection of omicron variant in US

So far, the United States has halted travel to eight African countries. Travelers coming to the U.S. from out of the country do need to show a negative COVID-19 test.

It is not clear at this point whether more travel restrictions will be put in place soon.



Source link

US coronavirus: Omicron concerns should spur millions of unvaccinated Americans to get their Covid shots, experts say


“I would hope that within the next week or two weeks, so many of those people will take advantage of the vaccine,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Friday. “That will help us in the immediate term. And I would anticipate that, as bad as Omicron might be, our vaccine still will be partially effective.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed Schaffner’s stance on vaccination and boosters as mitigation tools.

“I’m saying this absolutely clearly that if ever there was a reason for unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and for those who have been vaccinated when your time comes up to go and get a booster shot,” Fauci told NBC News’ Lester Holt on Friday.

“The booster shots give you a very, very important edge,” he said, noting that boosters increase the level of antibodies that protect against the virus.

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 196 million Americans, or 59% of the US population, was fully vaccinated as of Friday. An additional 37.5 million have received booster shots, the data shows.
On Friday, the US moved to restrict travel from eight mostly southern African countries starting Monday as the World Health Organization deemed Omicron a variant of concern after it was first detected in South Africa. Travel into the US is restricted for those entering from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.
What we know about the Omicron variant

Omicron has raised concerns for health officials because there’s a possibility that it could be more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, and it also has a significant number of mutations, the WHO said.

There have been no indications so far that the variant has made its way into the US, Fauci told CNN on Friday.

The CDC said the US variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in the past.

“We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.,” the agency said in a statement.

After a pandemic that has lasted nearly two years, experts and global leaders are anxious about the impact of Omicron and many nations issued travel bans. Besides South Africa, the newly identified variant has been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Friday there was a “high to very high” risk the variant would spread to the Continent.

Vaccine makers are working to determine effectiveness against Omicron

Meanwhile, vaccine makers have disclosed they are taking action to address Omicron’s elevated risk.

Moderna said Friday that it’s working quickly to test the ability of its vaccine to neutralize Omicron, and data is expected in the coming weeks.

The strain includes mutations “seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape,” Moderna said in a news release.

“The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.”

Moderna explained that if its current vaccine and booster are insufficient against the variant, one possible solution is boosting people with a larger dose, which is undergoing testing.

Newly discovered Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 is 'red flag' but US needs to learn more, Fauci says

The company is also evaluating two multivalent booster candidates to see if they provide better protection against Omicron — both of which include some of the viral mutations present in the variant.

Moderna said it is also testing an Omicron-specific booster.

“For several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in the news release.

Scientists at BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to make its Covid-19 vaccine, are also investigating the impact of the variant on their shot, with data expected within the upcoming weeks.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesperson told CNN in a statement the company was also testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron.

Scientists work on the Covid-19 at the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Covid-19 travel restrictions aren’t all that effective, experts say

The Biden administration’s decision to curtail travel from eight countries is a precautionary measure as the US government learns more about the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

But some experts say travel restrictions aren’t as effective as they may seem.

“Travel bans are modestly effective. They can obviously influence travel directly from that country to the United States,” said Schaffner, the doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Travel doors slam shut as new Covid variant triggers alarm, stranding hundreds of passengers

“But obviously US citizens will be permitted to come back. They could bring the virus. And people could go from the country of interest, South Africa for example, and go to other countries that are not on the travel ban, and enter, if you will, by the side door. So travel bans are somewhat effective, but let’s not expect a miracle,” he said.

US citizens, lawful permanent residents and noncitizens who are the spouses of citizens or permanent residents are exempted from the new restrictions.

Dr. Megan Ranney, a professor of emergency medicine and Associate Dean of Public Health at Brown University, said universal vaccination requirements for all air travel would be more effective.

“Or having quarantines when people arrive in the U.S. from other countries. Neither of those are particularly politically palatable right now, but they would make a much bigger difference in the spread of this variant,” Ranney told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Friday.

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Virginia Langmaid, Michael Nedelman, Frederik Pleitgen and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.



Source link

Experts say holiday travel is back near pre-pandemic levels


TAMPA, Fla— Ready or not, Thanksgiving week is here, which means holiday travel is back in full force.

With the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines for people as young as 5-years-old, travel experts say people are feeling more comfortable and more confident in traveling again.

“Expect congestion on the highways, long lines at the airports,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesperson for AAA.

The Auto Club Group predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, which is up 13 percent from 2020. And here in Florida, they expect travel numbers to come within 2 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

“I think it’s music to people’s ears that we’re gonna see a Thanksgiving very similar to what we saw before the pandemic,” said Jenkins.

Travelers at Tampa International Airport are already arriving at one of the holiday hot spots for the winter season.

“Last year I didn’t get to come for Thanksgiving, so I kind of spent it at home with my friends. We had kind of a friendsgiving, but I missed my family, and my family’s down here,” said Alyssa Delvalle, who is visiting family in Tampa from New York.

Families are feeling more comfortable gathering this year as more and more people have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Now they’re looking forward to spending the holidays together.

“We want to spend Thanksgiving together and have a bunch of turkey and stuff like that and just have a good time with friends and family,” said Johnny Sanchez, whose wife is flying home after spending 6 months in China.

Health experts say celebrating with friends and family is safe this year, especially if you’re vaccinated.

“Obviously, if you’re not vaccinated, you’re in a situation where you’re more vulnerable to getting infected, but for the people who are vaccinated, the people who can get boosted, enjoy your holiday season with your family, indoors, grandparents, children,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House Chief Medical Adviser.

And when it comes to traveling, travel experts just warn people to hope for the best, but plan for potential delays.

“You’re kind of at the mercy of the airlines, and then the weather. Staffing has been a problem as of late, and there’s been a lot of talk that they’re gonna try to shore that up in time for the holidays,” said Jenkins.

Experts expect next Sunday to be the busiest travel day of the year. So as usual, they’re recommending people arrive 3 hours before take-off to ensure time to get to your gate.





Source link

Experts predict 12% increase in holiday travel


WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – If you plan on traveling to see family and friends for Thanksgiving, you’ll likely be sharing the roads and the airport with a lot more people. Travel experts project a 12% spike in holiday travel over the next week compared to last year in Kansas.

The surge usually starts the Friday before Thanksgiving, but airport officials say holiday travel is starting a little early this year. Traffic at the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita was pretty steady on Thursday, and they expect it to continue throughout the holiday season.

“If you are traveling this year, you better pack your patience,” said Valerie Wise with air service and marketing for the Wichita Airport Authority.

The airport authority says this Thanksgiving holiday, passenger numbers are almost to where they were in 2019 – before the pandemic.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Wise. “Families weren’t able to connect last year and are connecting this year.”

The Friday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the Sunday after are projected to be busiest with roughly 3,000 people flying out of ICT. With more people checking and waiting on baggage, going through TSA and waiting in line to board, wait times are longer for just about everything.

With federal vaccine mandates taking effect for TSA workers next Monday, many travel experts feared it would increase wait times even more. But, TSA Administrator David Pakoske says vaccination rates are much higher than they were just weeks ago.

“And the good news for travelers is that more people, including TSA employees, are vaccinated. So for passengers, through a public health perspective, it’s a much safer experience,” said Pakoske.

The Wichita Airport Authority says TSA is fully-staffed and predicts roughly 30 minute wait times for passengers to get through security. Another suggestion is to arrive at the airport roughly two hours before departure time if you are flying out for Thanksgiving this year.

The airport authority also wants to remind passengers that masks are federally required in airports and on planes. They also encourage you to look at coronavirus restrictions or mandates in your destination city before you fly out.

If you plan on hitting the road, AAA says you won’t be alone. The travel agency predicts more than half a million Kansans will be on the road over the next week.

Copyright 2021 KWCH. All rights reserved.



Source link

Arrive Two Hours Early for Holiday Flights, Experts Warn — Best Life


The many struggles at airports around the country have been well documented in recent months, as major airlines have seen delays and cancellations on a massive scale. In recent weeks alone, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines each canceled thousands of flights in high-profile snafus due in large part to staffing shortages brought on by the pandemic. All of the drama for passengers around the country is only expected to get worse in the coming weeks, with demand for holiday travel surging and airlines trying to beef up their employee rosters and trim their schedules in the hopes of minimizing disruptions. If you are scheduled to travel in the midst of the mayhem, you’ll want to make a plan to move through the process as smoothly and proactively as possible to get where you’re going. Read on to find out how early experts suggest you arrive for your holiday flights.

RELATED: Another Major Airline Just Said It’s Cutting Flights for the Next 2 Months.

TSA screening line at airport

The ongoing circumstances mean you should be arriving at the airport with a much larger buffer of time than was necessary in the past, even for domestic flights. Now, both the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airport officials around the country say travelers should plan to arrive two hours before a domestic flight.

Experts call this a “critical” tip, citing the huge demand for travel as well as long TSA screening lines. “Passengers should not cut it close or they could definitely miss their flight. We want to avoid any backlog at the TSA passenger screening checkpoint,” Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, told The Morning Call.

RELATED: The CDC Just Banned You From Bringing This on Flights.

Airport terminal crowded with travelers
Shutterstock

In order to guarantee that you don’t miss your flight—and miss Thanksgiving dinner with the family—always give yourself at least that two-hour buffer, experts say. But you can also get some help gauging wait times at your target airport by downloading the MyTSA app. In advance of your scheduled flight, you can check how busy the airport is likely to be on your specific day and time of travel based on historical data.

A flight attendant grabbing a plastic water bottle during service on a flight
iStock

Consider that TSA data shows that 1,525,948 passengers passed through security checkpoints on Nov. 3, which is nearly two and a half times more than the 636,533 passengers recorded on the same day last year. That’s a lot of people going through airports at a time when the whole industry is struggling to find enough workers. A large-scale staffing shortage happened after airlines slashed rosters early in the pandemic, encouraging employees to take buyouts or furlough arrangements. But the demand for travel roared back faster than expected and left a gap at a time when hiring is difficult and job seekers have choices.

RELATED: For more travel advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

a crowded airport

Airlines are trying to mitigate disruptions through strategies like offering major perks to employees who work throughout the season, CNBC reports. But you’re still likely to face hiccups, so pack your patience—and a few strategies of your own. If your flight is oversold, for instance, know how to negotiate: Never take the airline’s first offer, experts say.

RELATED: Never Do This When Your Flight Is Canceled, Travel Expert Warns.



Source link

Travel experts say ‘Expect traffic this Thanksgiving holiday’


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and with gas prices on the rise, many might think that more people will opt to stay closer to home than drive to their destination. But, travel experts say otherwise.

Clay Ingram, with AAA of Alabama, says families should prepare to brave the roads and the skies to get to their holiday plans.

“We’re expecting 53.4 million people traveling a distance of 50 miles or more this year for Thanksgiving,” Ingram told News 19.

Comparing travel this year to 2020 there is going to be an obvious increase because of the pandemic, “Of course we’re going to see more travel, but what we’re really comparing it to is 2019,” adding that driving traffic is expected to go up by 13% since last year.

“It’s going to feel like a Thanksgiving holiday weekend out there traffic-wise, where ever you’re headed if you’re going to visit friends or family or the Auburn vs Alabama football game, whatever it might be it’s going to be really busy out there.”

That’s not an overall increase. With travel down just 5% from 2019, Ingram says this drop could be a result of travel hesitancy. According to the popular gas company, Gas Buddy, the national gas price average is set to decline to $3.35 a gallon on Thanksgiving day, which is still one of the highest gas prices seen on the holiday in over 7 years.

But, AAA says gas prices are rarely ever the reason as to why people don’t travel, “You may add extra money to your gas budget, but people normally don’t tell their family member they can’t see them because of an extra $10-$20,” Ingram said.

Factors as to why people don’t travel can range from a variety of other different things, Ingram said, “Yeah, usually gas prices don’t affect travel much at all especially around the holidays like this. You know this year the reason we’re seeing decreased travel, down compared to 2019, is simply COVID.”

Still, planning ahead and having a travel plan is always smart, “Have your passenger as your teammate, have them reading you your maps, helping you plan stops,” and always plan for traffic, “Be a conservative driver, I know it’s hard to be patient when you’re trying to get somewhere during slow-moving traffic.”

He says leaving with hours of cushion for traffic will relieve stress and allow you to go with the flow.

“Typically the busiest travel days are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after, so any of the days other than those days are usually pretty good days to travel,” Ingram said.

If you can, Ingram suggests leaving the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving and leaving the Monday after.



Source link

Travel Experts Give Advice On Preparing For Holiday Flight Cancellations


Monday, November 15th 2021, 10:58 am

By: Mallory Thomas

TULSA, Oklahoma –

Flight cancelations are a concern many people are facing as we head into the holiday travel season. News On 6’s Mallory Thomas spoke with a local travel agent about what you can do to protect yourself in case your flight gets canceled.



Source link

Is it safe to eat or drink on a flight during covid? Experts warn against it, even vaccinated.


“When [planes] turn into a flying restaurant, the dynamics of spread become very different,” Wachter says. “I would not eat at an indoor restaurant at this point, even being fully vaccinated, and so the time during which the plane is, in fact, an indoor restaurant is a time when it is somewhat less safe.”



Source link

As American Airlines Pilots Turn Down Holiday Bonus Pay, Some Travel Experts Warn of Possible Holiday Impacts – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth


This year, with more people planning to spend the holidays with family than the year before, holiday travel is expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels.

AAA estimated 4.2 million Americans will fly this Thanksgiving.

And despite a year filled with travel disruptions as demand picks back up and airlines battle staffing shortages, Scott’s Cheap Flights Product Operation Specialist Willis Orlando said analysts were expecting a smooth holiday season.

“We thought that the Halloween meltdown specifically served as a jolt to airlines to get their ducks in a row ahead of the busy holiday season,” said Orlando.

That was before the American Airlines Pilots’ union rejected increased holiday pay.

“This recent dispute with the pilots’ union represents a potential roadblock for the holidays. If there are not enough pilots on reserve and we see a weather-related delay, which is very common around the holidays, we may see ourselves in a situation where they have to do large-scale cancellations again,” said Orlando.

The airline offered them packages similar to those accepted by flight attendants and other employee groups to incentivize work throughout the busy holiday season.

Instead, Allied Pilots Association said it’s waiting on a more permanent fix for tight scheduling that leaves pilots fatigued, with too many flight hours or unable to pivot when severe weather strikes.

“You’ve got a hole in the roof. You can’t just stuff dollar bills in it. You’ve got to fix the roof. We’ve said for months there’s a problem with scheduling practices, and it’s shown. Every time the weather comes through on American, whether that’s in Dallas or other places, it takes them days and days to recover. They’re failing to connect the pilots with the airplane,” said Allied Pilots Association spokesperson Dennis Tajer.

CNBC airline reporter Leslie Josephs said it’s too soon to know how the lack of a deal could impact holiday flights.

“We haven’t seen that there is going to be an impact yet. What is clear is that American does not in any way want a repeat of what happened over Halloween,” said Josephs.

Still, Orlando said American’s competitors are hoping to capitalize, pricing competitively out of DFW.

For those already booked to head out of town for the holidays, he offered this advice.

“Be proactive. Be vigilant. Be prepared. That means check your status frequently ahead of time. Make sure that you’re on top of things. You’d much rather discover that your flight is changed, delayed or canceled, you know, two or three days ahead from the comfort of home rather than being one of those folks who turn up at the airport to a nasty surprise,” said Orlando.

He also reminded that anytime a flight is significantly delayed or canceled, airlines are obligated to refund their passengers.



Source link