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.



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Omicron Variant Surfaces Amid an Airline Travel Rebound


The discovery the Omicron variant comes at a delicate moment for an airline industry that was just starting to see a rebound.

The question is whether the new coronavirus variant will deter travelers, as the Delta variant did this summer.

Several nations, including the United States, have banned visitors from South Africa and a handful of neighboring countries. Morocco has banned all incoming flights for two weeks, the Philippines has banned visitors from southern Africa and several European countries, and Israel has closed its borders to all foreign visitors for 14 days.

The international travel recovery has been slower than it has been in the United States. President Biden’s decision to ease longstanding restrictions on foreign travelers this month promised to stimulate that rebound. It isn’t yet clear how or whether the Omicron variant will affect travel demand, but if travel bans proliferate and concerns over the variant continue to spread, hopes for an accelerated international rebound could be dashed once again.

Only two U.S. carriers, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, fly out of southern Africa. Both have said that they are not yet planning to adjust their schedules in response to the administration’s ban, which takes effect on Monday and does not apply to American citizens or lawful permanent residents. Delta operates three weekly flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg. United operates five flights a week between Newark and Johannesburg, and it has not changed its plans to restart flights between Newark and Cape Town on Wednesday. None of the countries that have announced the new travel restrictions are major sources of business for U.S. carriers.

No major American airline has announced any substantive changes to procedures because of the variant. And all passengers flying into the United States must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test, with noncitizens also required to be fully vaccinated.

Within the United States, air travel has nearly recovered, even with many businesses still wary of sending employees on work trips. The number of people screened at airport security checkpoints over the past week was down only 10 percent from the same week in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration. And the industry successfully weathered the crush of travelers, avoiding the disruptions that at some airlines lasted for days in recent months.



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