State Department issues ‘do not travel’ warning for Ukraine as embassy staff is told to leave


The U.S. State Department has ordered the evacuation of American citizens in Ukraine amid the threat of Russian military action.

“U.S. citizens in Ukraine should be aware that Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine would severely impact the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including assistance to U.S. citizens in departing Ukraine,” the State Department said in a travel advisory.

The State Department said in the travel advisory that eligible family members are being ordered to leave the country, while U.S. citizens in Ukraine should “consider” leaving the country.

BIDEN’S ‘GREEN LIGHT’ TO PUTIN ON UKRAINE WILL HAVE ‘RIPPLE EFFECT’ THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, CRITIC SAYS

Presidents Biden and Putin

Presidents Biden and Putin
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images |   Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

“On January 23, 2022, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct hire employees and ordered the departure of eligible family members from Embassy Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action. U.S. citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options,” the advisory reads.

According to the travel advisory, security conditions in Ukraine can “deteriorate with little notice.”

“There are reports Russia is planning significant military action against Ukraine. The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice,” the advisory states.

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Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine's army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion.

Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, volunteer military units of the Armed Forces, train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Dozens of civilians have been joining Ukraine’s army reserves in recent weeks amid fears about Russian invasion.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The announcement comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine, and the U.K.‘s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office announced on Saturday that it had information suggesting that the Russian government is plotting to install a pro-Kremlin leader in Kyiv.



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Queensland travel agent warns of staff shortages as quarantine-free travel opens


A veteran Queensland travel agent is warning of a looming “supply crunch” as agents struggle to meet the demand from the high number of people planning an overseas holiday.

From 1am today, quarantine-free international travel into Queensland for fully vaccinated people resumed.

Travellers will not have to quarantine, provided they are fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test (RAT) result within 24 hours of entering the country.

The principal of Main Beach Travel on the Gold Coast, Mike Dwyer, said one in three travel agencies had closed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

“We’re already struggling to service existing demand which is really just the tip of the iceberg.”

The industry veteran said people who wanted to travel overseas needed to start thinking about it sooner rather than later. 

“About half of our incoming calls are from travellers who are stranded overseas needing help to reorganise their flights home,” Mr Dwyer said.  

Great haired man wearing a white shirt and black jacket.
Mike Dwyer is concerned there’s a looming shortage of agents to service overseas travellers.(Supplied: Mike Dwyer)

“I am really concerned about our industry and the lack of travel agencies and the lack of support for the industry.

“As the demand ramps up, we are going to hit a supply crunch, because there’s not enough agents to help people make their plans.” 

Mr Dwyer opened his business in 2000 and said his focus is on servicing outbound travellers.

“Aussies have always been great travellers and many people have had their plans cancelled over the last two years.

“There’s lots of people with family in Europe who they haven’t seen for two years.”

The travel business owner said quarantine-free travel would now give more people the confidence to book a holiday.

a closed travel agency displays closed signs on its doors
Mr Dwyer says one in three agencies closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

“One of the biggest impediments for travelling overseas has been the fear of coming home and quarantining for two weeks,” he said.

“Removing that restriction makes it a lot better for people wanting to get overseas.

“I think people have lost faith in the consistency of the rules so there will be a lot of nervousness still.”

Logistical challenges

Mr Dwyer said COVID-related challenges meant more people were choosing to book through a travel agent rather than handle the bookings themselves.

“Every country has its own set of rules and regulations.

“On top of that, the airlines have specific requirements about being tested either 24 or 48 hours before a flight.”

Passangers wearing face masks exit an airport tunnel
Chris Mills says it could take months for airlines to restore international connections. (AAP: James Ross)

Inbound travel 

When it comes to inbound travel, the chief executive of Queensland Airports, Chris Mills, said he was expecting a trickle, and not a flood, of international travellers to arrive in tourist destinations including the Gold Coast.

“What we’re expecting [is] from February onwards; we’re working with the airlines to get them back on restoring connections with countries that are in pretty good shape.”

Mr Mills said countries including New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea would be prioritised.  



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Christmas UK travel news live: Train strikes and staff sickness creates chaos for airports and rail services


Festive travellers are facing disruption to Christmas getaway plans as a combination of industrial action and Omicron staff sickness has led to air and rail delays.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said a strike by its members who are train managers and senior conductors at CrossCountry is being “solidly supported in all depots”.

The action means CrossCountry, which runs trains from Scotland and northern England via the Midlands to South Wales and southern England, is running a heavily reduced service on Christmas Eve.

The cancellation of train services by operators across Britain due to pandemic-related staff shortages also continues, with LNER, CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast, Northern, ScotRail, Southern, Thameslink and TransPennine Express among those affected.

Meanwhile, Network Rail is preparing to begin 370 engineering projects on the railways, which will also disrupt services.

Heathrow Airport will be cut off from the rail and Tube network on Christmas Day and Boxing Day due to Network Rail and Transport for London doing simultaneous work.

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Millions embark on last-minute Christmas getaway

Millions of people are embarking on a last-gasp getaway to spend Christmas with friends and relatives.

The AA estimated there would be 17.8 million cars on UK roads today, as drivers making Christmas Eve leisure journeys and trips to buy presents compete for road space with commuters.

The worst queues were expected to take place in Wiltshire on the A303 between West Solstice Park and the A36, according to the RAC and traffic information supplier Inrix.

National Highways reported “severe” congestion on the M6 between Junctions 5 and 6 near Birmingham at 11.30am.

Chiara Giordano24 December 2021 13:30

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Why does travel always go wrong at Christmas?

You may find yourself wondering why travel always seems to go wrong at Christmas.

But is that actually the case? Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has taken a closer look in this piece:

Chiara Giordano24 December 2021 13:11

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Train strike, Omicron and flight cancellations affect Brits’ festive plans

Festive travellers are facing disruption to Christmas getaway caused by a combination of industrial action and Omicron staff sickness.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said a strike by its members who are train managers and senior conductors at CrossCountry is being “solidly supported in all depots”.

The action means CrossCountry, which runs trains from Scotland and northern England via the Midlands to South Wales and southern England, is running a heavily reduced service on Christmas Eve.

Hundreds of other trains are cancelled across Great Britain because so many rail staff are isolating because of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Our travel correspondent Simon Calder has more details here:

Chiara Giordano24 December 2021 12:59

1640350713

Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of the cancellations and delays facing those attempting to travel home for Christmas.

We’ll guide you through the latest travel news and updates throughout today.

Chiara Giordano24 December 2021 12:58



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Live Travel news latest: Covid-related staff shortages threaten Christmas travel chaos – The Telegraph



Live Travel news latest: Covid-related staff shortages threaten Christmas travel chaos  The Telegraph



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Snobby Salt Bae London restaurant Nusr-Et staff turned their noses up at £10 tip in front of surprised diners


SALT Bae’s pricy dining is WORSE than a Wetherspoons steak, one diner said after the snooty staff turned down a £10 tip.

The Instagram sensation’s London eatery now has a paltry two out of five stars on travel bible TripAdvisor, after relentless negative reviews.

Customers have been relentlessly complaining about their experiences at Salt Bae's London restaurant saying it worse than a Wetherspoons

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Customers have been relentlessly complaining about their experiences at Salt Bae’s London restaurant saying it worse than a Wetherspoons

The Turkish chef, made famous for his elaborate salt sprinkling and eye-wateringly expensive gold covered steaks, is being slated by diners once again.

One customer Matthew Hynes wrote on TripAdvisor: “The only reason we came here was to prove that its popular because of the media hype.

“Given only 30 minutes to finish the meal with a service that can only be described as robotic and false.

“The steak had little flavour and we’ve had better steaks at Wetherspoons on steak day! 

“And to top it off we got asked if a tip was possible by the server. When we offered £10 they refused it and shook their head.

“Keep up the great act Salt Bae.”

Salt Bae became a meme sensation in 2017, having since opened a his brand of steakhouses across the globe including to London.

Celebrities have flocked to the flagship restaurant in Knightsbridge, including Wayne Rooney and TOWIE stars.

However, Salt Bae has been the target of numerous complaints, with some customers shocked at their £37k food bill.

The chain has recently been under fire for allegedly treating their staff poorly.

Recently, several other diners have taken to the TripAdvisor to complain of being turned away and having celebrations like birthdays ruined despite having reservations.

Sara wrote a week ago “Absolutely disgusting service” after her table was turned away despite having a booking.

She said: “Management extremely rude and I will be taking legal advice.. I wouldn’t even give them one star.”

Jodie echoed Sara’s complaints: “We booked a table for 8, we received confirmation and then we arrived and was told we did not have a reservation.

“It was booked 8 weeks ago and it was for a birthday. I am so infuriated the service is disgusting.

“Don’t bother/waste your time.”

Previously, couples have even said it was cheaper to fly to his Turkish restaurant than pay the prices at his London flagship.

Some of the restaurant’s specials include a Golden Burger for £100, a Golden Giant Tomahwak steak for £1,450, Golden Giant Striplion for £1,350 and Golden Kafes for £500.

Nusret recently admitted that the gold leaf on their £1,450 steaks does not actually improve the taste.

‘ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED’

Najla said her party had to wait outside in the cold for 30 mins at the recently-opened Knightsbridge restaurant.

She said: “Absolutely disgusted by the stuff and whole experience.”

“We had 3 burgers and only 3 alcoholic drink and couple of starters and the bill was £385 ,they do not deserve the business since they are extremely expensive but yet so rude and unprofessional !!!.”

Another diner spent more than £2,000 but the experience left a bad taste.

The person said: “The food is very average.

“We had a Nusret special, kafes, baklava, onion flower, giant tomahawk, 4 cocktails, water and kunefe. for 2 people we spent just shy over £2,200. an eye watering amount for what would be a £150 meal.

“I would describe the level of cooking as basic.

“Waiters were friendly but also a bit of a gimmick; they were making annoying sounds when they were cutting our baklava. We felt we were treated like babies.

“I guess this place is more for the elite that are on a completely different social hierarchy. 1 star for me as I couldn’t justify the amount i spent for what I got.”

Salt Bae – real name Nusret Gökçe – now has 28 restaurants to his name and he is currently in Saudi Arabia overseeing the opening of his latest venue.

Some customers have complained that they were charged a £40 cancellation fee of they couldn’t make their booking.

SALT Bae’s newest restaurant in Saudi Arabia with £400 steaks has also been branded a “waste of money” by diners – who gave it just 1.7 stars.

Salt Bae now has 28 restaurants and he is currently in Saudi Arabia overseeing the opening of his latest venue

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Salt Bae now has 28 restaurants and he is currently in Saudi Arabia overseeing the opening of his latest venueCredit: theodolls/Instagram

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Travel Care’s Staff Preparing for Busy Holiday Season : South Florida Caribbean News


Travelers Care Founder & CEO Shelly-Ann Cawley with Mr. Aristides Cordoba, 80 years-old,  Fort Lauderdale International Airport Traveling to Havana, Cuba.

Travelers Care Founder & CEO Shelly-Ann Cawley with Mr. Aristides Cordoba, 80 years-old, Fort Lauderdale International Airport Traveling to Havana, Cuba.

by Howard Campbell

[FORT LAUDERDALE] – As Christmas approaches, Shelly-Ann Cawley is preparing her troops at Travelers Care for the busiest period of the year for the airline industry.

It is a time when families gather for seasonal parties celebrating Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Many travelers are senior citizens who require professional accompaniment.

Cawley is a leisure industry veteran who started Travelers Care in early 2019. Their prime market is assisting seniors from the United States, Canada and the Caribbean to various destinations.

She envisages a hectic winter season as more persons shed the anxiety of commuting by air due to the Coronavirus.

“With the entire travel industry currently being impacted by continued workforce shortage, weather delays and other factors creating irregular operations, traveling can be even more difficult especially now in a pandemic,” said Cawley.

She added that her company has seen interest for their service from Germany, Costa Rica, Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom.

Shelly-Ann Cawley, Doreen Dwyer, Sophia Williams-Coley

Ms. Doreen Dwyer, 88 years-old with her grand-daughter Sophia Williams-Coley (left) and Travelers Care Founder and CEO Shelly-Ann Cawley at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada.

That service includes:

  • Arranging all flights
  • Baggage, Check-in & TSA processing
  • Ensure all paperwork is completed and in place for travel
  • Assist with all Travel Authorizations
  • Ensure all international requirements are met
  • Arrange wheelchair and other assistive services
  • Arrange transport on the ground with our transportation partners
  • We work with airlines to ensure compliance with all FAA & ADA regulations
  • Complete personal assistance onboard the aircraft
  • Provide updates, pictures, and constant communication to your family
  • Provide Safety, Comfort and Peace of Mind for you and your relatives

Like Cawley, Travel Care’s staff has years of experience in the travel and hotel industries under their belts.

It has seasoned them for what can be a challenging job.

“My team and I have learnt personally when working with seniors that the small things are important. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, listening to their stories, addressing them with titles, a hand shake, and or giving them a honest compliment,” she said. “Rather than seeing their impediments we enjoy the experience and humor of the seniors we care for – don’t forget the life lessons passed on to us too.”

 





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Southwest offers staff extra pay, frequent flyer miles to avoid holiday travel disruptions


A baggage handler pushes a bag near a Southwest Airlines airplane at Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, California, October 10, 2021.

Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines on Saturday offered its flight attendants new incentives aimed at avoiding more flight cancellations, particularly over the peak holiday period, amid concerns over staffing, according to an internal memo.

Southwest canceled more than 2,000 flights around Columbus Day weekend, disruptions the air carrier said cost it $75 million. American Airlines, which is also offering flight attendants and other crews extra pay for holiday shifts, struggled with mass flight cancellations late last month and in early November as well.

Flight attendants, pilots and other operations employees could receive up to 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, valued at more than $1,400. Flight attendants are eligible for working 36 days between Nov. 15 and Jan. 14, while cabin crews who work 28 days over that period could get 60,000 points, the note stated. Southwest said that the number of qualifying shifts or days varies by work group.

The number of no-shows or unreachable flight attendants has been elevated recently, Southwest’s vice president of Sonya Lacore, vice president of inflight operations, said in her note to cabin crews, which was reviewed by CNBC. Sick calls have surged as well when the company has lifted emergency policies that required flight attendants to show a doctor’s note if calling out ill. For example, Lacore said when the airline last lifted those procedures on Nov. 9 sick calls went from 20 an hour to 90 an hour for two hours in a row.

“We have a great opportunity here to uphold that commitment to them, and you, in the midst of what has been a difficult time for us all,” wrote Lacore. “Our first step in addressing this, and actively working to protect the operation, was to reduce the schedule, and we believe this incentive program will take us another step in the right direction.”

The airline is also offering as much as triple pay to ground operations employees for working Thanksgiving and Christmas and double pay for overtime shifts between Nov. 17 through Nov. 30 and Dec. 17 through Jan. 3, up from time-and-a-half pay.

Airlines had offered staff early retirement packages and leaves of absence to cut their labor bills during the pandemic but found themselves short-staffed when demand bounced back this year. More flight attendants are returning to American and Southwest from leave, while those airlines and others are also aggressively hiring.



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Staff shortages could crush travel options as borders reopen


After 18 long months, international travel is about to be back – but one major issue could see hundreds of flights cancelled this summer.

Australia is just days out from opening up to the world again – with the international travel ban to be dropped on November 1 – but a group of workers that are integral to ensuring our reopening plan goes smoothly are warning of big issues already.

The Australian Aviation Ground Handler Industry Alliance (AAGHIA) this week warned hundreds of flights could be cancelled this summer due to more than a third of the nation’s 16,000 aviation ground operations leaving the workforce.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the AAGHIA said thousands of workers have been without work and income for the past six months, forcing them to leave their aviation careers and look elsewhere for work.

The alliance also warned the situation with the remaining 9000 workers could worsen before it gets better as they wait for travel to peak again over the next three months.

The AAGHIA warned many would be waiting months for their income to return to normal, with fears many still in the job move elsewhere in search of immediate paid work.

The finalisation of JobKeeper in March left many workers without income, with thousands of professionally trained ground staff struggling to find work.

Airline staff were eligible for the payments but specialist ground staff, employed by third party operators, were not.

AAGHIA Chair Glenn Rutherford predicted up to half of the alliance’s staff were gearing up to leave the industry for good.

“We are likely to see many flights grounded in November, December, January and February owing to a nationwide shortage of professional aviation ground operations staff,” Mr Rutherford said.

“It will take at least six months to recruit workers when borders reopen, train them up to government standards and have them accredited by the government.

“The inescapable fact is that as borders reopen, and flights are rescheduled, many will be unable to occur due to a chronic shortage of vital aviation workers on the ground.

“What will be left is an industry of rookies, with many experienced and skilled staff having left the industry for good.”

The same issue has already hit Europe and the US, with hundreds of flights cancelled as airports grapple for staff.

In the US, things have become so bad, companies are resorting to handing out $US1000 bonuses to try and attract people to the industry.

Aviation ground operations staff perform 15 key functions at airports including managing all aircraft movement on the ground, communicating with aircraft control towers, aircraft cleaning, security assessment of passengers at check-in, driving passenger buses across tarmacs, in-flight catering and baggage and cargo handling.

“Without them planes cannot fly,” the AAGHIA warns.

Mr Rutherford said the AAGHIA had been speaking with the federal government since Covid brought the travel industry to a standstill – but especially since April, when JobKeeper started to dry up.

Despite that, an estimated 96 per cent of the government’s $5 billion aviation support package was provided to airlines and airports, with only four per cent left for the “vital third leg” of aviation – the ground staff.

Eighty per cent of all aviation ground operations are performed by specialist outsourced providers, with only 20 per cent performed by airlines themselves.

 “We are hopeful Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport, Barnaby Joyce, will be able to provide emergency funding relief immediately to ensure half of the remaining workforce are not lost in coming weeks,” Mr Rutherford said.

“What at stake is Australia’s economic recovery. Without that support there could be a catastrophic impact on the national economy at precisely the time it is trying to reopen.

“All we ask is for our 9000 specialist ground handlers to receive the same treatment as the rest of the aviation industry.”

Rural and regional airports are expected to be hit the hardest with the smaller hubs having a greater reliance on outsourced staff.

”Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania could be particularly badly hit, although every state will suffer,” Mr Rutherford said.

The AAGHIA represents 80 per cent of all aviation ground handlers, which includes more than 9800 workers across 51 Australian capital city and regional airports.

Its members include Swissport, dnata, Menzies Aviation, Oceania Aviation, NTL Aviation Services, Precision Aviation Services, Aus Flight Handling and Star Aviation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce referred to the funding already given to the aviation industry.

“Having the airlines ready to resume operations quickly as soon as they are able is critical to Australia’s economic recovery, and has flow-on effects to a wide range of industries including, but not limited to, aviation ground operations, tourism attractions, hotels, taxis, restaurants and freight,” the spokesperson said.



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Nurse shares experience around switching from staff nursing to travel nursing


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The pandemic has put an immense amount of pressure on the healthcare system over the past year and a half. Because of this, many nurses are left overwhelmed and burned out.

“Nurses are humans too and we have feelings that need to be validated just as much as our patients,” said Lacey Bolden. “I feel like people tend to forget. Nurses take care of people but who’s taking care of us?”

A year and a half into a pandemic and many of them are feeling defeated. Lacey Bolden was a staffing nurse at a hospital in Alabama before becoming a travel nurse.

“Coming from a situation where you’re understaffed, you’re overworked, everyone’s exhausted,” she said. “We’ve seen the worst of the worst. It’ll drive you to a point where you need a change. And that’s kinda where I was. I just was in a bad mental place where I needed a change and so that’s what I did for myself and honestly, it’s the best decision that I ever made.”

Bolden is now working in Florida under a contract, where she says she could do the same job while feeling more appreciated and earning more money.

Bolden graduated from nursing school in 2019. Just months later, COVID-19 hit the United States. Basically, she started her career in a pandemic. Bolden said she was living in what they learn about in school.

She says seeing so many pass away so quickly has caused a huge mental toll.

“You tend to take home a lot of the emotional part that comes with nursing and that is the hard part,” said Bolden. It’s also part of the reason many nurses are either pursuing travel nursing or quitting healthcare altogether.

News 19 asked Bolden what the solution is, to keep nurses at local hospitals.

“Honestly right now I feel like there’s not,” she said. “Unless these hospitals are willing to pay their staff nurses more for… the amount of work it is, physically, emotionally. Everything that it takes to wake up a do your job.”

That job remains on the frontline of a pandemic, that’s not yet over.

“Trust and believe we are doing the best we can under the circumstances,” said Bolden. “We’re all just trying to fight this fight together.”



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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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