It’s been a rough two years for the cruise industry, where fortunes have taken another downturn with the appearance of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and in the wake of a recent recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid leisure travel on the high seas.
With new infections showing no sign of relenting anytime soon, the CDC has said cruises should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC increased the travel warning for ships to level 4 — the highest risk level — amid a surge of coronavirus outbreaks on seafaring vessels.
All of which should spell bad news for various cruise lines like Carnival (CCL), Disney (DIS), Norwegian (NCLH) and Royal Caribbean (RCL), which have ships on the CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status. In a statement last week, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) criticized the CDC’s move as “particularly perplexing,” given that the total number of cases on ships were a “slim minority of the total population onboard.”
Yet the stocks of all of those companies ended sharply higher on Friday, underscoring how the industry is taking the long view on Omicron. The mutation is highly transmissible but less debilitating, especially among the vaccinated. And despite the CDC’s worrying call, ships have kept sailing from ports around the country.
“The science does not support the CDC. You’re actually safer on a cruise ship,” Stewart Chiron, a cruise expert, told Yahoo Finance on Monday.
“Everybody’s being vaccinated, everyone’s tested, frequently. We’re seeing an increase, which is 90% of these recent cases are crew, not passengers,” Chiron added.
He argued that cruises are doing what they can to mitigate risk, insisting it’s “more safe on a cruise ship than it is to be at home.”
It’s unclear how long the CDC’s travel advisory will be in place, but the agency has issued a Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) that’s been extended until January 15.
However, the data paint a different picture. In figures provided to Yahoo Finance, the CDC found that between November 30 and December 14, only 162 COVID-19 cases were reported to the agency by cruise ships operating in U.S waters.
Yet between December 15-29, over 5,000 COVID-19 cases were reported from cruise ships — a whopping 31 times the number of cases from the comparable two week period.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people are not honest about their health situation,” Chiron explained. “And some people think that, ‘well, I’m symptomatic that I’ll be able to fake my way through it,’ but they don’t realize that your symptoms are only going to get worse.”
Cruise lines constantly test crew three to four times a week, and are expected to bump up testing as they move forward, he said.
“We also have to take into consideration that some of these ships with the 5,000 number [cases] aren’t even yet in service, and as [they] continue to add more ships, there’s a lot of these ships doing short cruises, three, four, and five night sailings, you’re gonna have higher increase,” Chiron said.
“The CDC’s color code really is meaningless because one crew, seven passengers, means you go from green to yellow, so it really doesn’t tell anything,” he added.
Last week, Royal Caribbean reported an increase in people testing positive, but without a corresponding increase illnesses — a sign of how the Omicron wave has been less grave in terms of medical outcomes.
People are still calling the travel agent. They’re still booking their cruises through the travel agent.Stewart Chiron, travel expert
Since the return of cruise ships in June of 2021, Royal Caribbean has ferried over a million guests with over 1,700 people testing positive — a positivity rate of 0.02%, according to company. The majority of those cases were mild symptoms, with 41 people being hospitalized.
In addition, none of the Omicron cases were severe or needed to be taken to hospital, signaling how guests were vaccinated and had negative tests before boarding the ship.
And since resuming operations in September 2020, Carnival, the largest cruise company, has carried 1.2 million guests onboard its ships. As of late November, 61% of the company’s capacity was operating with guests on board; the company expects the full fleet to back in operation in the Spring of 2022.
As the travel industry slowly starts to recover from the pandemic woes, analysts believe the CDC’s stricter guidance would not impact business or travel bookings, especially for warm weather months when the virus tends to wane.
“People are still calling the travel agent. They’re still booking their cruises through the travel agent,” Chiron said. “Bookings for 2022 and 2023 are ahead of where they were in 2019 at record levels and at higher pricing.”
And Wall Street is optimistic that the industry will continue to sail on as it tries to overcome the pandemic’s latest hurdle.
“The view is this is just not gonna be an issue in six months when people go on their summer vacation,” Chris Woronka, a senior analyst at Deutsche Bank who covers the cruise lines and other travel sectors, told Yahoo Finance in an interview.
The impact from Omicron and the CDC’s latest advisory is likely to be less of a factor as the year rolls on — and certainly not in 2023, according to Deutsche’s research.
“The market is just taking a much bigger, longer term view of this and saying that guidance, maybe won’t be out there forever and customers are making their own decision[s],” Woronka said.
Last week, Royal Caribbean reported a decline in bookings and increased cancellations for near-term sailings, but said it was less than they experienced during the summer’s Delta variant surge. The first half of 2022 bookings remains below historical levels, but the second half of 2022 continues to be booked with historical ranges at higher prices.
“People couldn’t go on a cruise for basically 15 months and again, they’re not all back yet, so there’s still that pent up demand,” Woronka said, even as he said investors are worried about the appearance of a new variant.
The course of the pandemic has “been unpredictable and nobody’s gotten it exactly right,” Woronka said.
Meanwhile, Carnival’s short interest has increased 21% since its last report, a sign that some investors are betting on the stock to fall. Woronka has a “Hold” rating on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian. Despite Friday’s rally, all of those have sold off more than 10% since early November.
“We don’t see sufficient enough upside right now,” Woronka said. “There is still uncertainty with the virus out there.”
Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv
Humberto Rumayor works security at Miami-Dade County’s busiest COVID-19 testing site, a drive-thru where waits topped three hours during the pre-Christmas rush for lab results on a virus setting new records on infection rates.
He saw people wait so long their cars ran out of gas, and had to wake up multiple drivers sitting in parked vehicles, asleep in the slow-moving lines in a site administering roughly 8,000 tests a day.
“It’s okay now,” Rumayor said Wednesday afternoon as twin line of cars made steady progress through a system now requiring about two hours before getting a COVID-19 test performed by a technician. “Last week was incredible.”
Nomi Health, the company that runs Miami-Dade’s free testing sites, continues to report record numbers this week as the highly contagious omicron version of COVID spreads across the country at a time when many would be wanting tests anyway for holiday travel.
But administrators say they’re seeing some relief from epic waits seen during the pre-Christmas rush after the county opened more sites, expanded some to 24-hour operations and people sought out satellite facilities where lines are often short.
“We’re seeing a lot less overflow” of cars onto Bird Road, Ron Goncalves, general manager for Nomi’s Florida operation, said during an interview from Tropical Park on Thursday.
He said this week’s re-opening of a test site five miles away at the Youth Fair facility seems to have helped draw some of the demand away from Tropical Park. Miami-Dade has about 30 testing sites across the county, and a Miami-Dade website lets users search locations by ZIP code.
“We want people to be familiar with all of the sites in the area,” he said. “Don’t just focus on going to Tropical and waiting.”
Miami-Dade’s testing system faces a new challenge this weekend, with most sites closed on New Year’s Day. That will leave people seeking a county test with one day of full capacity before Monday, when schools and many offices return from a holiday break.
“You’re going to have a rush on testing on the 2nd,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who is urging Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to encourage county staff to work at home next week to allow more time for testing after New Year’s. “People are not going to get those results in time to make an educated decision.”
Greg Rubin, the assistant county fire chief overseeing Miami-Dade’s testing stations, said about 80% of the test results come back within 24 hours, with some taking as long as 48 hours.
Nomi processes results at a temporary lab set up at PortMiami, with couriers picking up specimens for testing about 200 times each day.
Rubin said the omicron surge has broken past records for COVID-19 tests at county sites.
“The demand has just been overwhelming,” Rubin said.
Miami-Dade kept most of its testing sites open after the summer delta wave subsided, and has added some locations as the omicron surge broke new records on tests. While the county conducted about 25,000 COVID tests a day in late August, now sites are performing more than 60,000 daily.
Rubin said the Levine Cava administration is interested in posting wait times for testing sites to make it easier for people to avoid clogged lines at places already overwhelmed. But Nomi said it doesn’t have yet a way to track full wait times for when cars back up past registration spots. “Tracking wait times is challenging,” Rubin said.
Goncalves, the Nomi executive, said the company doesn’t want to risk posting inaccurate or incomplete wait-time information and cause more frustration. “The last thing we want is for people to feel they were misinformed,” he said.
Sonia Diaz, 45, has spent about a week watching the snaking line of cars at Tropical Park near her home and said she dreaded going there for a test she wanted done before a New Year’s Eve party. Instead, Diaz drove to downtown Miami Thursday for a walk-up testing site at the Salvation Army, where it took her only 30 minutes to get tested.
“It turned out to be a great choice,” she said. “They were playing music the whole time, which was a lot of fun.”
There was no music Wednesday night after sunset at the South Dade Government Center, a 24-hour county site that is the second-busiest location behind Tropical, conducting about 5,400 tests per day. Mark McKinney, 65, was in his truck shortly after 6 p.m., feeling sick and advancing steadily after about 30 minutes in line.
“I’ve been experiencing coughing, fever and chills,” he said. “I really am appreciative this is here.”
Earlier that afternoon, Jaisy Orta, 36, was about an hour into her wait at Tropical Park, with probably an hour to go before getting a test. She had already tested positive with a home test after feeling COVID symptoms around Christmas, and came to Tropical Park in hopes of getting better news.
“I want it done by a professional, and not just me sticking something up my nose,” she said shortly after 4 p.m. In quarantine, Orta said she’d been waiting for a report from her mother on when the wait seemed reasonable for a trip to Tropical.
“She said the lines seemed to be better,” Orta said. “So I came here.”
The United States and the United Kingdom have slashed their recommended self-isolation periods for asymptomatic people — and more countries may soon follow suit, as the highly transmissible Omicron variant threatens to keep hospital staff and other key workers at home.
It comes amid record-setting case figures in both nations, and marks the first time since Omicron emerged that major countries have diverged from the World Health Organization’s recommended 10-day isolation period.
But most countries still follow the 10-day marker, while others, such as Germany, require up to 14 days in isolation. The disparities have led some to wonder exactly when, and how long, people are infectious with the Omicron variant.
The moves were made amid worries over the availability of key workers. “If you are asymptomatic and you are infected, we want to get people back to their jobs — particularly those with essential jobs — to keep our society running smoothly,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN this week.
But there is some emerging data behind the changes as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said their decision was “motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”
“There is accumulating evidence, for vaccinated people, that if we are asymptomatic we are very unlikely to be infectious after about five to seven days,” Brown University’s Associate Dean of Public Health Dr. Megan Ranney told CNN on Tuesday.
Emerging evidence that Omicron may be less severe than Delta likely played a role in the moves too.
But the new guidelines have still prompted some debate in the medical community, with experts yet to fully understand Omicron.
“For the unvaccinated, the data doesn’t really back up that you become non-infectious after five days,” Ranney said. “I’m quite worried about these new recommendations.”
She suggested having different guidance for unvaccinated people until more data comes in — which could also have the “added boost” of encouraging people to take up the vaccine if they haven’t already.
Erin Bromage, a biology professor at UMass Dartmouth, added on CNN Wednesday that there is “absolutely no data that I am aware of” to support the switch in guidance.
He added that people can still test positive on antigen tests up to seven or eight days after their initial test, even if they don’t have symptoms. Unlike the UK, where antigen tests are more plentiful, the US guidance is not dependent on getting a negative result.
Omicron is nonetheless tearing through workforces in several countries, and it’s likely more nations will shorten their isolation periods in the new year if the burden on hospitals grows. “With the sheer volume of new cases … one of the things we want to be careful of is that we don’t have so many people out,” Fauci said.
Three preprint papers released last week revealed some early good news about the severity of the Omicron variant.
That research included preliminary data, and the papers haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But they add to the growing evidence that the new strain, while highly transmissible, may be less severe.
Nonetheless, a lower risk of hospitalization could easily be offset by the higher number of concurrent infections that Omicron is causing in several countries. That’s why experts are urging caution — and encouraging anyone who hasn’t taken up the vaccine or booster to do so before Omicron takes hold.
How to tell if it’s Covid, the flu or a cold
Do you have a sore throat, a runny nose and muscle aches? It could be a common cold, a case of the flu — or Covid-19.
The illnesses all share similar symptoms, sometimes making it hard to distinguish which is putting you under the weather.
“The important thing to remember is a vaccine is like giving a ‘be on the lookout’ call to your immune system. So its capacity to identify, target and destroy viruses is so much higher every time we take another boost of the vaccine,” El-Sayed said.
“It makes sense that the symptoms you would experience are milder if you have been vaccinated.” That does not mean, however, that infections shouldn’t be taken seriously, he added, especially when considering the risk of overwhelming health care systems.
Many Latin American countries now have higher vaccination rates than Europe and North America
Many countries in Latin America were hit with soaring Covid-19 death rates early in the pandemic, as coronavirus raged throughout the region.
The vaccine rollout was slow at the start, with just getting the vaccines in hand a major issue. Just six months ago, Latin America and the Caribbean were reporting just under half of all Covid-19 related deaths worldwide.
Now, the region accounts for about 10% of global Covid-19 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s due to the accelerated delivery of European, American, Chinese and homegrown vaccines that a number of Latin American nations have received in the second half of this year, according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) data.
One reason for those successful vaccination campaigns can be chalked up to history: Many countries in Latin America have long-standing and trusted national inoculation drives against other diseases, such as polio.
Omicron sparks a Christmas travel nightmare
More than 2,000 trips were canceled on Wednesday, following a spate of scuppered trips during the holiday period. Of more than 2,800 canceled flights on Monday, around 1,000 were within, into or out of the US, according to FlightAware.
Almost 11,000 flights are delayed. Globally, airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights on Christmas Eve, Christmas and the day after Christmas. In the US, more than 1,200 flights were canceled and more than 5,000 were delayed on Sunday alone as staff and crew call out sick.
The cancellations come at the busiest time of year for air travel. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it screened millions of people each day over the holiday weekend, peaking at 2.19 million travelers on Thursday, December 23.
On Wednesday, more people passed through TSA checkpoints than on the same day in 2019.
It’s time to upgrade your mask
As the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread, some experts say it’s past time to reconsider your face mask options — especially if you’re still wearing the cloth variety.
“Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Ideally, in crowded places, “you should be wearing a KN95 or N95 mask,” which can be as inexpensive as a few dollars each, Wen added.
By having a better fit and certain materials — such as polypropylene fibers — acting as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers, these masks better prevent tiny particles from getting into your nose or mouth and must be fitted to your face to function properly.
Afghanistan authorities say women must be accompanied by close male relative if travelling for more than 72km, drawing condemnation.
Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities have said women seeking to travel long distances should not be offered road transport unless they are accompanied by a close male relative.
The guidance issued on Sunday by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which also called on vehicle owners to refuse rides to women not wearing headscarves, has drawn condemnation from rights activists.
The move followed the Taliban barring many women in public-sector roles from returning to work in the wake of their August 15 seizure of power, and as girls remain largely cut off from secondary schooling.
It also came despite the group seeking to project a moderate image internationally in a bid to restore aid suspended when the previous government imploded during the final stages of a chaotic military withdrawal by the United States.
“Women travelling for more than 72km (45 miles) should not be offered a ride if they are not accompanied by a close family member,” ministry spokesman Sadeq Akif Muhajir said, specifying that the accompanying man must be a close relative.
The new guidance, circulated on social media networks, also asked people to stop playing music in their vehicles.
Weeks ago, the ministry asked Afghanistan’s television channels to stop showing dramas and soap operas featuring female actors. It also called on female TV journalists to wear headscarves while presenting.
Muhajir said on Sunday the hijab (headscarf) would likewise be required for women seeking transport.
The Taliban’s definition of the hijab – which can range from a hair covering to a face veil or full-body covering – is unclear, and most Afghan women already wear headscarves.
Human Rights Watch has slammed the guidance.
“This new order essentially moves … further in the direction of making women prisoners,” Heather Barr, the group’s associate director of women’s rights, told the AFP news agency.
It “shuts off opportunities for them to be able to move about freely, to travel to another city, to do business, (or) to be able to flee if they are facing violence in the home,” Barr added.
Earlier this month, the Taliban issued a decree in the name of their supreme leader instructing the government to enforce women’s rights, but it did not mention girls’ access to education.
On Sunday, Afghanistan’s Minister for Higher Education Abdul Baqi Haqqani said the authorities were discussing the issue.
“The Islamic Emirate is not against women’s education but it is against co-education,” Haqqani told reporters.
“We are working on building an Islamic environment where women could study … it might take some time,” he said, without specifying when girls might return to school and university classes across the country.
Women’s rights were severely curtailed during the Taliban’s previous stint in power in the 1990s.
They were forced to wear the face-covering burqa, only allowed to leave home with a male chaperone and banned from work and education.
Respect for women’s rights has repeatedly been cited by key global donors as a condition for restoring aid.
The United Nations has warned that Afghanistan faces an “avalanche of hunger” this winter, estimating that 22 million citizens face “acute” food shortages.
Traveling for July 4? Expect crowds, traffic and long delays. The Washington Post
Long lines were seen at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Tuesday as the the busy holiday travel rush began this week with COVID cases rising across the U.S.
Photos and video from the airport showed crowds of people lined up at bag drops and in security.
Between the city’s two airports – O’Hare and Midway – about 3 million travelers are expected between now and Jan. 3.
In total, AAA predicts more than 100 million people will hit the roads, sky and other forms of transportation over the Christmas holiday.
The Transportation Security Administration reported just over 2 million travelers on Saturday alone. That’s well over the just over 1 million reported for the same day in 2020, but short of the 2.4 million seen in 2019.
United Airlines said it expects 8 million people will fly between Dec. 16 and Jan. 2, more than double the number of travelers from the same time last year and about 87% compared to in 2019.
At O’Hare Airport alone, the airline expects 72,000 passengers will fly on its busiest travel day, Dec. 23.
But some experts say demand has started to slow.
“You can see however in the numbers that the comfort and the level of confidence in travel is dropping, but not as steep as we’ve seen in 2020,” Trivago CEO Axel Hefer told NBC News.
COVID is once again surging in many parts of the country, with deaths now topping 800,000 in the U.S.
In Chicago, a travel advisory remains in effect with 42 states and Washington D.C. on the warning list for travelers. The advisory is expected to be updated once more before the Christmas holiday on Tuesday.
But while the new omicron variant has many top health officials concerned, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said the U.S. is in a better position now than it was last year thanks to the expansion of vaccines, which are now available for a wider range of ages, including children as young as 5.
The Biden administration is expecting a series of breakthrough infections with the surge of holiday travelers. Fauci said most people who have been vaccinated and gotten a booster should be fine if they take precautions such as wearing masks in crowded settings including airports.
Local health experts agreed.
“You want to be safe during the time that you’re traveling if you’re on an airplane,” said Dr. Robert Citronberg, medical director for infectious disease at Advocate Aurora Health.
He added that being safe at your destination is also equally as important.
“You want to just try to, as best as possible, avoid large crowds and maybe even more important is just to surrounding yourself with people that you know to be fully vaccinated,” he said.
So what should those traveling keep in mind this holiday season?
“I think the most important thing to remember is how and when to use testing to your advantage,” Dr. Natalie Azar, a medical contributor for NBC News said. “The idea is that you want to do a test really within a few hours of meeting with a family or friends or folks outside of your household.”
If you’re re-thinking holiday travel plans, cancellation policies vary based on the type of ticket purchased and airlines.
Some, like Delta Airlines, temporarily removed change fees during the pandemic.
The much-anticipated moment has arrived.
After nearly four months in court, the jury in the trial of the former Silicon Valley superstar Elizabeth Holmes began deliberations on Monday. The group of eight men and four women will decide whether Holmes — whose blood-testing company, Theranos, collapsed in scandal — should be convicted of 11 counts of fraud-related charges.
We don’t know how long the jurors will take to arrive at their conclusion. The soonest the verdict could come is today: They are scheduled to reconvene in a federal courthouse in San Jose at 8:30 a.m. There are no court proceedings on Wednesday, but the jury would resume on Thursday if needed.
The jurors must reach a unanimous decision, and failing to do so could result in a mistrial. Some legal experts have said that longer deliberations suggest things may go Holmes’s way.
If convicted, Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison. The sentencing would come at a later date.
Since beginning in late summer, Holmes’s trial has dragged on for weeks longer than originally expected. (You can catch up with my colleagues’ stories on opening statements, James Mattis’s testimony, the prosecution’s arguments, the defense’s case and closing arguments.)
Arguably the most stunning moment of the trial came toward the end, when Holmes took the stand in her own defense. Over several days, she presented her version of Theranos’s downfall, saying that she believed the company’s technology worked and that she had been controlled by Ramesh Balwani, her former business partner.
Balwani, who was also her longtime boyfriend and faces a separate trial next year, had controlled every aspect of her life, Holmes testified. She also accused him of sexual abuse, which he has denied.
On the stand, Holmes cried and her voice broke. She said she had begun to rely on Balwani, who is nearly 20 years older than her, after she had been raped while a student at Stanford.
Though it was difficult to read jurors’ expressions through their masks, the testimony awoke a sleepy courtroom, my colleagues told me.
“The prosecution’s case has been all about presenting cold, hard facts,” said Erin Griffith, who has been covering the trial. “Holmes’s testimony introduced emotion and narrative. It is certainly more memorable to jurors than the details of a profit and loss statement or an immunoassay validation report.”
A conviction for Holmes could send shock waves through Silicon Valley and scare executives into treading more lightly when pitching to investors. But it’s possible an acquittal could have the same result.
Take Ellen Pao, another tech executive. In 2015, Pao lost her discrimination lawsuit against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, but her case still brought longstanding gender issues to the surface and forced firms to start making changes, Griffith pointed out.
“The Holmes trial could have a similar effect, regardless of its outcome,” Griffith told me. “Or, start-ups could keep raising more and more money at higher valuations with less progress to show, as they have for the last year and a half.”
Only time will tell.
Today’s travel tip comes from Kevin Werner:
“I recently traveled from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to Los Angeles by bicycle, a wonderful way to immerse in the majesty of California’s deservedly legendary coast. An overnight stay in Ragged Point, at the southern tip of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and just a bit north of Hearst Castle and San Simeon, was a highlight of my journey. Ragged Point is remote, beautiful and sublimely peaceful, boasting hiking trails and unparalleled scenery.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
The love story of Will Jardell and James Wallington begins in the most Los Angeles of ways — during a television audition.
Jardell, an aspiring model, was vying to compete on the reality show “America’s Next Top Model” when he passed Wallington, a casting assistant, in a hallway at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
Flights and airports across the country are expected to be packed on Sunday, one of the busiest traveling days of the year as people rush to get home after the Thanksgiving holiday.
RSW airport wasn’t packed early on Sunday. The lines were short and parking was abundant.
WINK News spoke with a parent who was dropping her child off at the airport to return back to school. They got to the airport two hours before her flight expecting a long line, but when it was empty, they decided to spend some extra time together before they parted ways.
“We got here at 5 expecting the line to be long, and then it was really short and we were like OK we woke up early for nothing,” said Ansley Tedford.
Audra Tedford said, “I was expecting to see full lines at security and then we woke up and it was empty I couldn’t believe it.”
While RSW wasn’t very busy early on Sunday morning, the crowds and lines are expected to grow as the day goes on.
Extra security lines have been set up for overflow. RSW is urging anyone flying out of the airport arrive at least two hours early in anticipation of crowds.
CHICAGO – Good news for air travelers this week: the Transportation Safety Administration is now reporting 93% of its workforce is in compliance with the federal worker vaccine mandate.
That means there at least won’t be a shortage of staff when going through security this holiday season. However, lines are still going to be long this week.
“Even more people are coming out of the woodwork to return to normal whereas Thanksgiving is about 90% of pre-pandemic, Christmas could be closer to 100 percent pre-pandemic,” said DePaul University’s Joseph Schweiterman.
The Chicago Department of Aviation estimates O’Hare and Midway will welcome more than twice the number of passengers than last year, with O’Hare expecting to see 1.2 million travelers Tuesday through Monday.
Schweiterman said prices this week are fairly average, but — if your family allows it — travel on Thanksgiving or Friday morning. He said the airfare is cheap, like it will be in early December until about the 15th.
“There’s going to be some real value out there, starting Monday or Tuesday until December 15th because there’s kind of a vacuum without business travelers and pleasure travelers who tend to stay home at that period,” said Schweiterman.
Schweiterman says don’t forget about trains, buses and rental cars as options for travel this holiday season — all are comparable to airfare.
If you are flying, a few tips: wear your mask, arrive early and take public transportation to get where you need to go.