By Eric Hanson
The travel industry is responding to the latest pandemic-related executive orders issued by the White House, including President Joe Biden's mask mandate that will require face-coverings to be worn in national parks and on airplanes as well as a controversial new requirement that U.S.-bound international travelers self-quarantine upon arrival.
The U.S. Travel Association commended Biden for making masks a requirement and lifting the travel ban from certain Muslim-majority countries but appears hesitant about new restrictions on inbound travel.
"We welcome the president’s focus on policies that will encourage safe travel and help restore the millions of U.S. travel jobs that were lost last year," U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement on Friday. "The CDC’s inbound testing requirement is the key to reopening international travel and it adds another important layer of safety. If the testing requirement is going to work on a global scale, it has to be flexible and reflect where testing resources are available and where they’re not. The executive order would allow for flexibility if it’s needed."
"We also strongly support the president’s mask mandate for interstate travel, which is in line with the industry’s health and safety guidance and consistent with what countless travel businesses are already doing to protect travelers and workers," he added. "In particular, the repeal of the travel ban from certain Muslim-majority countries is the right move. The CDC testing requirement for international travelers should also pave the way to ease other travel restrictions, including those on the U.K., the E.U., and Brazil in the near term."
However, U.S. Travel raised concerns over the administration's quarantine requirement, calling it "unnecessary."
"The executive order on travel also leaves many important questions unanswered. We believe a mandatory quarantine requirement for international travelers could be extremely difficult to enforce—and unnecessary in light of required testing and the many other protections now in place. In the domestic environment, where there aren’t defined ports of entry for travelers, mandatory testing and other requirements are also impractical and could divert scarce public health resources away from other priorities," said Dow. “We look forward to working with the Biden administration to develop realistic and effective risk-based policies, and to educate travelers on additional recommendations, to help continue the safe reopening of travel.”
Ryan Doncsecz of Bethlehem, Pennyslvania-based VIP Vacations Inc believes that "the new CDC ‘guidelines’ will be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ for so many small business owners across our country" and urges those in the travel industry to make their voices heard to their local representatives and senators.
Airlines for America (A4A)—which includes members Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, among others—mirrored the travel industry as a whole in its response, applauding Biden's mask mandate but expressing concern over often hard-to-enforce quarantine requirements.
"Airlines for America (A4A) welcomes President Biden's dedication to supporting the U.S. airline industry and appreciate his leadership on policies that promote restoring travel in a way that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of all passengers and employees," said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio in a statement issued Friday. "We appreciate the Biden Administration’s decision to implement a federal face-covering mandate for all domestic modes of public transportation, including airports and commercial aircraft. The safety and wellbeing of passengers and employees are always the top priority of U.S. airlines. We recognize that face coverings are a critical measure in our multi-layered approach to protecting the traveling public, which is why U.S. airlines have been vigorously enforcing face-covering requirements since April 2020. We welcome the federal mandate as an additional layer of support, which will strengthen our flight crews’ ability to enforce face-covering requirements for the duration of the pandemic."
"U.S. airlines have been strong advocates for a national testing standard set by the federal government and appreciate that the executive order moves our country forward on a framework for testing," Calio added. "We remain hopeful that this announcement will be followed by a recognition that testing can be used to safely resume travel without quarantines, which are difficult to enforce and often prove ineffective. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Administration to implement programs and policies that can be relied upon to defeat this virus, restore economic growth and enable the safe and responsible lifting of travel restrictions and quarantines."
By Eric Hanson
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby is advocating for all airlines to adopt a policy that would mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all employees.
“The worst thing that I believe I will ever do in my career is the letters that I have written to the surviving family members of coworkers that we have lost to the coronavirus,” CEO Scott Kirby said at an employee town hall Thursday, a transcript of which was reviewed by CNBC. “And so, for me, because I have confidence in the safety of the vaccine – and I recognize it’s controversial – I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory."
As Kirby said, it’s a controversial statement to be sure. Airline employees are considered essential workers and can get the vaccine long before the general public, but there is a large fraction of people – no matter what industry they are in – reluctant to take a vaccine.
“I don’t think United will get away with and can realistically be the only company that requires vaccines and makes them mandatory,” Kirby said. “We need some others. We need some others to show leadership. Particularly in the healthcare industry.”
In the employee memo, Kirby said United is working with government officials and health-care providers to set up vaccine distribution centers at some of its bigger hubs.
“It’s certainly a sensitive topic all the way around,” Michael Klemm, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 141, which represents fleet and passenger service workers at United, told CNBC.
“We’ve received some frustration from members who don’t want to take the vaccine as well as concern from members who don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t take it.”
“Right now, Flight Attendants are in different tiers for access in each state,” Association of Flight Attendants spokeswoman Taylor Garland said in a statement. “We need a federal approach that prioritizes Flight Attendants as essential workers facilitating interstate commerce.”
Fellow airlines have yet to follow United’s lead. While they have encouraged employees to get the vaccine, they haven’t demanded it.
By Walter Sanchez
West Coast Bureau
The bottom line of any business will tell its story, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association says it will have a good story to tell about its industry – but not until 2022.
In its State of the Hotel Industry forecast, the AHLA said it expects nationwide hotel occupancy to average 52.4 percent for 2021, meaning almost half of all U.S. hotel rooms will sit empty this year.
Although that figure is above 2020's annual average occupancy level of 44 percent, it remains well below 2019's average of 66 percent.
In addition, the AHLA says U.S. hotel room revenue for 2021 is predicted to remain 34 percent below 2019 levels, at around $110.5 billion.
The organization is also concerned with the hotel industry’s inordinate unemployment rate, which was close to 19 percent as of December of 2020.
"Job losses have been massive," said AHLA CEO Chip Rogers during the online forum on Thursday. "And even though we'll see an uptick in jobs in our industry [this year], we're not going to be anywhere close to where we were in 2019."
In large part, the drop in hotel room occupancy can be traced to the loss of business travel, which Rogers and the AHLA predict will still be down 85 percent this year compared to 2019, saying it was "the most damaging part of the economic impact we have seen so far."
On the leisure travel front, however, the forecast is significantly brighter. The report cited recent AHLA consumer survey results indicating that 56 percent of Americans say they are likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021 – right at the 58 percent of Americans who said they stayed in a hotel at least one night a year for leisure in 2019.
By Paul Marcotte
U.S. West Coast Bureau
United Airlines is betting that profit margins will recover faster on international flying than they will in the domestic market once the pandemic finally releases its grip on the airline industry.
Speaking during the carrier's year-end 2020 earnings call Thursday, chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella predicted that during the recovery domestic seat capacity will remain well ahead of demand. But he expects international capacity to lag behind demand because so many widebodies have been pulled out of worldwide fleets.
"That gives us a lot of confidence the world is very different on the international front than it had been," Nocella said.
Nocella said that United's profit margins on international flights had lagged behind domestic margins by two to three percentage points prior to Covid-19 but coming out of the crisis the carrier expects international margins to outperform profits for domestic service.
He alluded to Norwegian Air, which has permanently ended transatlantic flying, and also referenced retirements by major airlines of Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s. Air France, for example, has retired its A380s during the pandemic and British Airways has retired its 747 fleet. Stateside, Delta has retired its Boeing 777 fleet and American has done away with A330s.
United, conversely, has not retired any widebody fleet types.
"It is easy to retire an aircraft but it's a lot harder to induct new ones to replace them," noted Nocella. By maintaining as diverse a widebody fleet as possible, United expects to be able to scale nimbly when long-haul flying returns, and in so doing, to capitalize on the revenue premiums it expects international flying to offer.
Such a strategy could be especially suitable for United, which flew more long-haul capacity than American and Delta prior to the pandemic. According to Cirium data, United flew 10.7 million seats to regions beyond North America, the Caribbean and Central America in 2019, compared with American's 8.8 million seats and Delta's 9 million seats. That was despite the fact that United was the smallest of the Big Three airlines in terms of overall flights and seat capacity.
During the most recent quarter, United's long-haul capacity was down 62.1% year over year. But even as the pandemic has forced United to slash international flying, the carrier has made strategic additions to its international route network, adding 10 new routes with 15 more planned for launch in 2021. United has especially touted a combined five new and planned routes to Africa and India that will be geared toward serving expat populations in the U.S.
'The year of going through hell'
The discussion of United's bullish medium-term outlook for the international environment came as the carrier reported brutal year-end results for 2020.
Over the course of what CEO Scott Kirby described as "the year of going through hell," United recorded net losses of $7.07 billion, compared with $3 billion in net income in 2019. The carrier's year-over-year operating revenue declined 64.5%.
During the fourth quarter of last year, United took net losses of $1.9 billion on a year-over-year operating revenue decline of 68.7%.
United's daily cash burn during the fourth quarter was $33 million, while core cash burn, which doesn't include items such as debt principal, severance payments and investments in recovery, was $19 million.
The carrier anticipates similar daily cash burn in the current quarter and also expects revenues to be down a similar 65% to 70% compared with 2019.
Despite the deep losses, United entered 2021 with $19.7 billion in liquidity, having raised $26 billion in financing during 2020. The carrier expects to maintain its year-end liquidity through the first quarter as losses are countered by $2.6 billion in federal Payroll Support Program funding.
By Glenda Richards
West Coast Bureau
“We have teams working to identify third parties who can provide vaccines to our employees as soon as they are able to do so—likely during later phases in the vaccine roll-out plan,” the Dallas-based carrier said in a statement.
The company said that its workers are “strongly encouraged” to get the COVID-19 inoculation when the time comes. The vaccines themselves will be funded by the federal government, while the cost of administrative fees will be covered by the airline under its employees’ health plans.
"Southwest is strongly encouraging employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. In these very early phases of roll-out of vaccine, states and counties are driving prioritization and distribution, and that’s generally limited to state or county designated medical providers," a Southwest spokesperson explained to Fox News.
"We’re developing our plan for vaccines as quickly as new information becomes available, as are many other organizations and communities," the spokesperson continued. "In the meantime, we continue to encourage Southwest employees to seek out updates and information from the CDC, as well as on state and local websites on access to vaccines."
By Mary Johnson
The Global Tourism Crisis Committee, at a meeting in Madrid last week organized by the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is calling for a vaccine passport, saying it must become an essential travel document to help restart international tourism.
“The rollout of vaccines is a step in the right direction, but the restart of tourism cannot wait,” UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. “Vaccines must be part of a wider, coordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel.”
The rising number of COVID-19 cases has forced the United Kingdom to shut down all travel corridors, require all arrivals to quarantine and a total ban on arrivals from South America and Portugal, The Guardian noted.
But achieving such a passport has its issues. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), for instance, has already branded them discriminatory.
“We’re at the very early stage of the vaccine rollout. If you make vaccines compulsory it will mean an awful lot of people won’t be able to fly, even if they are COVID-free,” a WTTC spokesperson told The Guardian. “It’s far better to have a test-and-release scheme where travelers test before travel to prove they are COVID-free.”
But Dr. Richard Dawood, a specialist in travel medicine at the Fleet Street Clinic in London, said proof of vaccination in order to travel is inevitable.
“It won’t really be our choice – [vaccine passports] will de facto be a requirement by individual countries to prove immunity,” he said. “The ground work has been laid. At the moment people in the UK are given a bit of paper once they’ve been vaccinated. It’s not exactly secure. There needs to be some fair consideration at some point to how we will keep records of vaccinations without burdening the National Health Service. [For health passports to work] we need a way to authenticate vaccines.”
By Roger Barta
East Coast Bureau
For U.S. travelers eyeing close-to-home vacations, a quick hop across the northern border to Canada remains out of the question for at least another month.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently extended the ban on nonessential travel between the United States and Canada through Feb. 21, 2021, according to Forbes. Government leaders in both countries first announced the border closure on March 21, 2020, and have extended the order on a near-monthly basis since.
“We’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau stated in the Jan. 12 announcement released over Twitter. Earlier this month, Canada also tightened its requirements for travelers arriving by air: As of Jan. 7, all travelers ages 5 or older must present a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding any flight entering Canada from another country.
In a similar tweet on Jan. 12, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also announced an extension of U.S. land border closures with Canada as well as Mexico. U.S. land borders will remain closed to non-essential travel through Feb. 21, with the possibility of extension again. Essential workers such as healthcare professionals, delivery trucks and airline crew members are still permitted to travel between countries.
At this time, only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, people registered under Canada’s Indian Act, protected persons, select foreign nationals traveling for essential reasons and immediate family members of Canadian citizens or residents are allowed to enter Canada. Of course, there are exceptions.
As announced on Oct. 2, 2020, there are new processes in place that allow certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada, in addition to individuals wishing to enter Canada for compassionate reasons, to petition for access to enter Canada.
Despite pressure from some members of the travel industry, certain Canadian provinces continue to restrict or discourage travel around Canada.
When Canada does reopen its borders, many existing safety measures will almost certainly remain in place. Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, told CNN last spring that the mandatory two-week quarantine “remains a cornerstone as we go forward.”
So, when will Canada reopen, and what will travel there look like when it does? Here’s everything we know so far.
Even travelers who have no symptoms of COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days — the type of travel restriction that, even if the border were open, would likely discourage travelers from visiting Canada for leisure. After all, there’s nothing that can siphon the fun out of a vacation quite like a government-mandated, 14-day period of isolation.
At this time, consequences for violating the quarantine period can be severe, with penalties including a fine of up to $750,000, six months of imprisonment and being removed from Canada and refused entry for a year. At least one U.S. visitor is already facing a $569,000 fine for flouting Canadian quarantine requirements.
If someone causes “a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while willfully or recklessly contravening this act or the regulations,” the fine could go up to $1,000,000 with jail time increased to three years, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
In March 2020 when the pandemic first spread throughout North America, Trudeau announced a ban on cruise ships which has since been extended, making it one of the longest cruise ship bans from any major cruise destination. The ban forbids cruise ships from stopping at Canadian ports until at least March 1, exempting smaller vessels that carry fewer than 100 people including passengers and crew.
The move not only affects cruises to Canada but also most Alaska cruises, which rely heavily on Canadian ports to be lawful. And given that cruise ships generally don’t operate in Canadian waters during the winter, the ban effectively means there will be no more cruising to Canadian ports until April 2021 — at least by all but the smallest vessels.
There are some reports that the popular port in Victoria, British Columbia, might not reopen until 2022.
In addition to a valid passport and, if necessary, a valid visitor visa, all Canada-bound travelers must affirm they are exempt from travel restrictions and traveling for an essential reason at this time. That could mean proof of residency; proof of relationship to an immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen; or written authorization from the Canadian government. Without these documents and permissions, you will not be allowed to board your flight.
You must also provide contact information upon arrival in Canada. This form can be accessed in paper or digital form, as well as with the ArriveCAN mobile app, which could speed up your arrival process.
The Government of Canada requires temperature screenings for all passengers traveling to Canada or travelers leaving Canada for international or domestic destinations.
“For international flights to Canada, air operators must conduct temperature screenings at the point of departure, unless the local authority has an equivalent measure in place, in addition to the existing required health check questions for symptoms prior to boarding,” the Government of Canada announced in June 2020.
Furthermore, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority will conduct temperature screening of passengers as part of departure procedures. This measure was added in addition to mandated face coverings and health screening questions for all passengers.
The nation’s flag carrier, Air Canada, launched a spate of new health and sanitation measures, including a temperature check, ahead of the government. Called CleanCare+, the program established mandatory infrared temperature checks for all passengers. It was the first airline in North America to introduce this type of screening. Travelers who present with a temperature will be rebooked on a later flight at no cost but will be required to get medical clearance before flying.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is launching a pilot program with WestJet that would test passengers on domestic flights for coronavirus with instant tests. If the pilot program, and others like it elsewhere, is successful, it might become standard at airports around the world.
For Air Canada and other carriers, masks are also required at check-in, during boarding and for the duration of the flight.
Travelers should pack their own face masks, though Air Canada began providing “care kits” stocked with a face mask, gloves, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, among other amenities.
By Alice Richards
East Coast Bureau
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, several countries that once welcomed U.S. citizens with few restrictions closed their borders. In other words: They rolled up the welcome mat and packed it away. It wasn’t just other countries, though. Many U.S. states all but closed to visitors by mandating 14-day quarantines upon entry.
Since then, more than 400,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, which remains one of the hardest-hit countries.
And despite the arrival of promising new vaccines, we’re still in for a pretty grim winter. Cases are spiking across the country and a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in the United Kingdom was recently discovered stateside.
Still, travel seems to be on the rise. Millions of people flew during the holidays, and even though some destinations are once again locking down or barring American travelers, others are making it easier for travelers to skip lengthy quarantines upon arrival with a battery of coronavirus tests.
If you need a coronavirus test for travel, you might be wondering where you can get one, what type of test you’ll need to take, how long it will take to get an appointment (and wait for results) and what it will cost.
To help you prepare, we visited testing sites in several cities across the country — and researched where you can get tested in 25 major metropolitan areas.
We found that some tests are entirely free, while others require a copay or can be covered with insurance. When requested for travel (instead of due to symptoms or exposure), some will require full cash payment. Many countries and some states require negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests taken within a certain amount of time — usually 72 hours —before departure. Many facilities can provide results between 48 and 72 hours, but that isn’t always true.
Also, keep in mind that some testing sites deliver results over the phone, which likely won’t be suitable for boarding an aircraft or entering a country.
There are many different types of testing for coronavirus, and the devil is in the details if you need a test for travel.
Two types of tests that often won’t help you when it comes to travel are rapid antigen tests that check for proteins on the virus’s surface and antibody tests (a blood test that can identify if a previous COVID-19 infection caused your immune system to produce COVID-19 antibodies).
What you’ll usually need for travel is a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction).
These are the most reliable tests for detecting active COVID-19 infections and are considered the current “gold standard” of tests. We’ll focus in this guide only on those sites that are providing these more-accurate PCR tests, though keep in mind that some destinations — like Hawaii — only accept PCR tests from a specific list of testing providers.
As I said earlier, PCR tests generally take around 72 hours for results. Some urgent care facilities, however, have introduced “rapid PCR tests,” where you can receive your results in as few as 30 minutes. That said, if you’re looking for a faster way to get a PCR test, it’ll cost you.
Some rapid PCR testing options include:
If you’re in a location without many COVID-19 testing sites, you may want to head to your neighborhood drugstore.
You’ll notice several major chains on the list of where to get a COVID-19 test, including CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid, all of which often offer PCR testing at no additional cost if using insurance or if you fall under some federal programs for those without insurance. Ride Aid specifically offers test at no cost to anyone 18 and older. Passport Health also offers a network of clinics in over 100 locations nationwide primarily for people who need a negative PCR test to fly or return to school.
Even better, you can make these appointments online, which may save precious time instead of waiting in a long line. Many of these locations offer drive-up testing, where you swab yourself and don’t need to leave your vehicle.
You may need to complete an online questionnaire to see if you qualify for testing and then make an appointment one to three days in advance. In our experience, living in an area with community COVID-19 spread (which, sadly, is most of the U.S. right now) often qualifies you for a test with these providers if a questionnaire is required. Increasingly, these nationwide providers are serving younger patients. Currently, CVS serves patients 10 and up while Walgreens serves patients as young as 3.
Several TPG Lounge members and TPG staffers have taken advantage of this option. TPG Lounge member Gina DeWitt got tested at a CVS location in Roseville, California, and got results back in two days.
Turnaround times can vary by chain and location:
If you’re heading to Hawaii, CVS says you may want to look for another option. CVS updated its testing site to read: “We cannot guarantee a specific turnaround time on the lab tests accepted by Hawaii — travelers to Hawaii should make other testing plans.”
There are many mail-in COVID-19 testing providers available. Some are not valid in certain states, and some are not available in all situations.
Most will not bill insurance for you, with Pixel being an exception to that general rule. Some mail-in tests are nasal swabs, while others are now saliva samples. Some are only valid for adults, and others require a Zoom appointment. But, these are all the gold-standard PCR tests that are considered highly reliable.
TPG senior associate Katharine Leitch ordered a Pixel test, which arrived the next day. She received her results two days later. But TPG’s social media producer, Caroline English, said she was turned away from Pixel even though she had possibly been exposed.
Some of these companies have partnered with various airlines, and the state of Hawaii as approved providers, so this can be a legitimate testing option for travel. In fact, if your airline has a mail-in testing partner valid for your travel destination, we recommend going through their system as it may get your sample prioritized in the lab’s testing order.
Some mail-in COVID-19 testing programs include:
Most states or countries that require negative COVID-19 tests for entry (or entry without quarantine) use a 72-hour timeframe, from the test until either the time of your departure to or arrival in the destination. Sometimes, however, the window is even shorter.
To get a better sense of what COVID-19 testing is like for travelers, several TPG staffers shared where they took COVID-19 PCR tests across the country throughout December:
While there are exceptions, two to four days for COVID-19 test results seem to be common across the country.
TPG reviews editor Nick Ellis received a PCR test from Spectrum Health, a hospital system in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the holiday season and was surprised how quickly he received results.
“When I got a test from the same place in the fall, I received results in about 48 hours, but this time they came in less than 24 [hours], which is the kind of testing turnaround times we need across the country to allow people to travel with greater peace of mind.”
You may need to research PCR testing locations that promise same-day results or provide rapid PCR tests analyzed on site if the arrival of your test results could make or break your trip. Several facilities on the list below reported delays in test results due to an increase in demand.
A growing number of U.S. airports offer COVID-19 testing to all passengers, or travelers on specific flights or heading to specific destinations. If you can drive to the airport to get a test a day or two ahead of your trip, this could be a great option.
But we don’t recommend waiting to get a test until your travel has already started if you can avoid it if you do get a positive result. Quarantining for at least two weeks at a connection city will likely be an expensive hassle.
Some current airport testing centers available within the U.S. include:
Hawaii travelers at Newark (EWR), Denver (DEN) and SFO can also get a rapid test on the day of travel. Newark (outside New York City) costs $200, but a 10% discount will be applied for customers who get tested before the day of travel. The Denver location costs $200, while San Francisco is $250. There is a drive-up option near SFO airport that can also be booked a couple of days in advance of travel for $105.
Pre-travel testing is also becoming more common at hotels, as dozens of hotels and resorts roll out plans to provide on-site testing.
The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas is reportedly building an on-site testing facility, while the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi offers an on-site doctor and complimentary COVID-19 test. The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa partnered with a local clinic to offer on-site testing for guests that can either be billed to your insurance or paid out of pocket.
Some current hotel COVID-19 testing options available worldwide include:
If you’re traveling back to the United States from abroad, you will now need to provide a negative COVID-19 test starting Jan. 26.
All passengers will be required to get a viral test within three days before departure. Even if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, you’ll need to provide a negative test before boarding. Airlines must confirm the negative result (or recovery from COVID-19) for all passengers before boarding, and travelers without documentation, either printed or digital, will be denied boarding flights to the United States.
If you get a negative test and travel and return within three days, the test before departing the U.S. will be accepted.
There are several exemptions to this rule:
As testing becomes more widespread, efforts to bypass requirements have as well. Several news outlets have reported a black market for negative coronavirus tests.
Not only does a fake negative COVID-19 test defeat the purpose of testing and tracing, but it could also land you in jail. According to the Associated Press, police in France arrested seven people in early November for allegedly selling negative COVID-19 tests.
By Steven Richards
Now that President Trump has relinquished Air Force One to the new administration, how does a man coming out of the Oval Office — and for that matter, all living past presidents — accomplish air travel?
Before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, former President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, the couple’s son Baron and several other family members took off for Florida. After flying from the White House front lawn to Joint Base Andrews on Marine One, the Trumps boarded the Boeing 747 with callsign Air Force One for the final time.
It’s unclear when former President Trump and Melania Trump will fly next, as the couple has said they plan to live at Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida.
But, when they do take to the skies for the first time post-presidency, you shouldn’t expect to find them on commercial airliners. Trump still has his own private Boeing 757 which, for much of his time in the White House, sat dormant at an airport in New York. The aircraft, which is registered as N757AF, will likely be the preferred mode of transportation for the Trump family.
When the Obama family flew for the first time without Air Force One, it was a luxe private experience. Former first lady Michelle Obama was seen boarding Sir Richard Branson’s Falcon 900EX jet in Palm Springs, California on the way to a Necker Island getaway in the British Virgin Islands. And, while the former president was not seen getting on the plane, you can rest assured he didn’t fly commercial down to the Caribbean.
Because of security details — all presidents and spouses are entitled to lifetime Secret Service protection (offspring are protected up to the age of 16) — flying commercial usually isn’t viable. Also, considering the traffic jam a president’s appearance would cause in a public airport terminal, it probably isn’t the best idea.
Former President George W. Bush has had a few private jet incidents since leaving office — one emergency landing in 2013 after smoke was reported on board, as well as a bad publicity episode after he accepted a $20,000 private jet flight and a $100,000 speaking fee in order to attend a veteran’s event.
The only former president who is the exception to the private jet trend is former President Jimmy Carter — and his wife, Roslyn — who traveled on a commercial Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. for former President Trump’s inauguration.
Travel for former presidents and no more than two of their designated staff is actually covered by taxpayer dollars, thanks to the Former President’s Act (FPA) of 1958. In 1969, the General Services Administration (GSA) took control of determining the travel costs and capped annual appropriations at $1 million per president and $500,000 per president’s spouse. In order for travel to be funded by the GSA, travel needs to be related to a function dealing with their capacity as a former president — pure leisure travel does not make the cut.
Before you get too outraged at those figures, consider this: In the fiscal year 2015, only former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used official travel funds, which totaled just $66,000.
Former presidents who make millions of dollars in public speaking fees and book deals have received criticism for accepting benefits under the FPA, originally enacted to “maintain the dignity of the Office of the President” after former President Truman was so poor after leaving office, he had to move into his mother-in-law’s house.
If you’re flying through Atlanta in the future, be sure to keep an eye out for the Carters, who hopefully have been collecting their Delta SkyMiles. Otherwise, the only time you may catch a glimpse of former President Trump, Obama, Clinton or Bush would be as they’re coming to or from their respective private jets.
By Michael Barta
West Coast Bureau
United will launch summer 2021 service from Newark to Maui and from Chicago O'Hare to Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The route to Maui will be the first offered there from the East Coast by any airline, said Patrick Quayle, United's senior vice president of international network and alliances. Similarly, the Kona route will be the first offered to that island from east of the Mississippi. Each service will operate four times weekly.
United previously said it was planning to increase its service to Hawaii and other destinations this month as it ramped up following cutbacks made earlier in the pandemic.
The two Hawaii routes were among a combined seven new domestic and international services United announced Wednesday as it recalibrates its network to focus more on leisure traffic and the family-and-friends-travel market rather than the largely dormant business market.
"We are really focused on rethinking the network. We aren't just looking at building everything back the way it was before the coronavirus," Quayle said.
United also said it will add five new international routes. Three will serve Africa, and two will serve India.
It plans to fly three-times weekly between Washington Dulles and Accra, Ghana, as well as thrice weekly between Dulles and Lagos, Nigeria, beginning next spring. Daily Newark-Johannesburg service will also begin in the spring.
United, which is the only U.S. carrier currently serving India, will launch daily O'Hare-New Delhi service in December. That route will complement the carrier's existing New Delhi flights from Newark and Dulles. United will also connect the tech hubs of San Francisco and Bangalore on a daily basis starting next spring. Quayle said that service will be the first between the U.S and Bangalore, beating out the launch of American's planned Seattle-Bangalore service.
By Eric Hanson
U.S. climate policy hung a U-turn yesterday, with President Biden using his Inauguration Day to launch a domestic and international response to climate change that is diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor.
The new administration marked the day by rejoining the Paris climate agreement, revoking the Keystone XL oil pipeline’s federal permit and pledging to “review” a laundry list of Trump administration regulatory actions aimed at propping up high-emitting industries.
The breadth of day one actions on climate change is in line with Biden’s promise that the issue would be a top-tier priority for this administration, along with inequality, systematic racism and the coronavirus pandemic.
After an inaugural address in which Biden pledged to “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again,” his State Department sent the necessary paperwork to the Paris Agreement.
The U.S. will rejoin the deal on Feb. 19—107 days after it withdrew.
The new administration in a press statement promised to “exercise global leadership” in advancing Paris’ objectives. That said, the U.S. still must formulate a 2030 pledge that tracks with the Paris objective of containing warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius” with efforts at a 1.5 C limit.
Experts say a 50% reduction below 2005 emissions levels would achieve that goal—a heavy lift for a country whose emissions reductions have stalled in recent years.
Slim Democratic majorities in Congress mean the Biden team is likely to rely on state and local partners to help demonstrate emissions cuts, indicating a consultation process that could last months.
“To inject momentum into the collective task of accelerating decarbonization around the world, it will be important for the U.S. to send a strong signal of the pathway it intends to pursue as soon as possible,” said Mariana Panuncio-Feldman, senior director of international climate cooperation for the World Wildlife Fund.
She added that it could mean releasing a full Paris commitment in the near future or just a set of top-line numbers.
The Biden administration also used its first day to yank a Trump administration permit for TC Energy Corp.’s controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would have carried crude from the Alberta oil fields to Gulf of Mexico refineries.
The cross-border pipeline has been a lightning rod for 12 years, with activists arguing that the environmentally damaging and high-carbon oil from the tar sands industry couldn’t grow without new conduits to move the oil to market.
President Obama denied the project a permit in 2015 on environmental grounds, but Trump granted one two years later. A tiny segment of pipeline has been built in the United States. But, while litigation over the pipeline may continue, Biden’s decision to revoke its permit means its chances of being built are significantly diminished.
“It’s a decision of both enormous symbolic and substantive impact,” said Anthony Swift, who directs the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Canada program.
The decadelong battle around Keystone has discouraged multinational oil companies from investing in what environmentalists call the tar sands.
“Keystone XL was a project that would support the expansion production of one of the dirtiest sources of oil in the world at a time when climate science was clear we needed to transition away from fossil fuels,” said Swift, noting that the pipeline would have supported new production beyond 2050—when the Paris Agreement envisions the world weaning itself off oil.
“I’ve never seen a credible effort to show that tar sands expansion was consistent with a global market consistent with 1.5 C,” he said.
But Biden’s decision leaves the Canadian province of Alberta with more than $1 billion in taxpayer losses at a time when the new president is seeking to reset relationships with U.S. allies. And GOP lawmakers claimed that yesterday’s decision would cost jobs on both sides of the border.
“President-elect Biden’s actions will not end our need for oil from our strongest ally, Canada. Instead, it will cost jobs, result in more shipments of oil by rail and make America even more vulnerable to OPEC and foreign adversaries, like Russia,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in a statement.
The Biden administration has telegraphed its plans to reverse four years of deregulatory and anti-science policymaking at EPA. And before yesterday’s swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol, the Biden team circulated a hit list of agency actions slated for “review,” including at EPA.
These include the Trump EPA’s eleventh-hour effort to make future greenhouse gas regulations contingent on a sector contributing at least 3% of overall U.S. emissions (Climatewire, Jan. 13).
EPA promulgated the rule last week in lieu of a long-awaited revision to an Obama-era rule for new coal-fired power plants. And it doesn’t take effect until March—a fact that makes it vulnerable to the Biden administration’s freeze order for last-minute Trump administration rulemakings.
Also up for review is the 2019 rule repealing and replacing Obama’s flagship Clean Power Plan for existing power plants.
The Biden EPA long has been expected to scrap the Trump-era rule and replace it with an update that can help achieve the new president’s goal of making the U.S. power grid carbon neutral by 2035.
But Tuesday’s decision by a federal court to throw out the Trump rule greases the skids by allowing EPA to return to the drawing board to decide how power plants should be regulated.
Provided the Supreme Court doesn’t decide to take up the case—which legal experts say is unlikely—Biden’s EPA can now focus on constructing a replacement. And this week’s decision provides EPA with certainty that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, at least, rejects the argument that EPA can’t use the Clean Air Act to compel fuel switching from coal to less-emitting fuel sources, like renewable energy (Climatewire, Jan. 20).
A conservative Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on that issue, said Richard Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University Law School.
He noted that a Biden EPA would have to bear that in mind when constructing a new rule.
“The rule that the Biden administration will write will be written against the backdrop of some prediction of not just what the D.C. Circuit would do, of which we now have a fairly good sense, but also what the Supreme Court could do, which we don’t know,” he said.
Also on the agenda were a pair of EPA regulations finalized last year that would limit the way oil and gas leakage is regulated. The rules apply to new facilities only but are designed to make it harder for a subsequent administration to regulate older, leaky infrastructure for methane—a powerful greenhouse gas many times more damaging to the climate than carbon in the short term.
The list also included EPA’s recently finalized greenhouse gas rule for airplanes, as well as the Transportation Department’s revision of fuel economy rules for vehicles. EPA under Biden is likely to reinstate joint standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions.
The Biden administration also announced plans yesterday to reestablish the Obama-era interagency process that developed and maintained the social cost of carbon and methane.
Those metrics assign monetized value to each ton of CO2 emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere and are used in cost-benefit analyses for regulations and other government actions.
The Biden memo announced the upcoming release of “an interim social cost of greenhouse gas schedule to ensure that agencies account for the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions, including climate risk, environmental justice and intergenerational equity.”
Environmental justice, which considers the disproportionate impacts to low-income communities and people of color from climate change or environmental degradation, was not part of the Obama process.
Michael Greenstone, an environmental economist who co-led that process, released a paper last week with Tamma Carleton of the University of California, Santa Barbara, proposing updates to the Obama administration’s formula, including ways to incorporate environmental justice (Climatewire, Jan. 14).
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2021. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.
By James Schlessinger
West Coast Bureau
Shortly after pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol, videos of passengers being arrested or deplaned went viral on social media, with some people claiming they show Capitol rioters being prevented from flying because they've been put on the no-fly list.
While many of those claims have turned out to be false, the idea that Capitol Hill rioters should be added to the no-fly list appears to resonate with a lot of people.
This comes after politicians ranging from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to Bennie G. Thompson, the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, called for all rioters involved to be added to the no-fly list, and amid airlines attempting to step up their security measures post-siege.
While it sounds easy enough to add identified individuals who participated in a domestic terrorist attack on the federal no-fly list, it actually isn't.
Forbes reports that if it were to happen, it probably wouldn't be until President Joe Biden passes a law against domestic terrorism. This would be necessary for putting the rioters on the no-fly list as domestic terrorists.
Currently, as Forbes reports, the definition of domestic terrorism provided by section 802 of the PATRIOT Act does not make it a chargeable criminal offense: none of the rioters were charged with offenses labeling them terrorists.
However, according to CNN, the FBI is now considering adding rioters to the no-fly list.
Little is known about the no-fly list, though, and the notoriously secretive list has been criticized on all sides for being unconstitutional and in need of a major overhaul.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has authority over US travel security, the no-fly list "is a small subset of the US government Terrorist Screening Database (also known as the terrorist watchlist) that contains the identity information of known or suspected terrorists."
The list, along with the TSA as a whole, was launched in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The list is maintained by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, but used by the TSA as part of its Secure Flight program, which allows the TSA to prevent those it deems high-risk from getting past security.
Representatives for the TSA declined to provide further information about the no-fly list but said in a statement that they're on high alert following the events of January 6, and that "TSA prepares for all contingencies, and employs multiple layers of security that are both seen and unseen."
The statement also clarifies that their no-fly list screening is just one of many security measures and that it takes place prior to passengers arriving at security checkpoints.
The government doesn't disclose how many people are on the no-fly list, though a June 2016 statement by Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein said that there were around 81,000 people on the no-fly list at the time, with fewer than 1,000 of those people being US citizens.
Most US-based airlines have their own, separate list of banned passengers, in addition to the federal no-fly list.
Airlines' individual lists basically consist of passengers that have failed to comply with airline policies in some way, from refusing to wear masks to assaulting crew members. The policies that can get passengers on airline-specific lists are usually outlined in airlines' individual contract of carriage rules.
For example, a spokesperson for United told Insider that they've banned 615 people from the airline since implementing their mandatory mask policy in early May.
Representatives for Delta, United, and American Airlines did not wish to share further details or specifics about their internal no-fly lists.
According to a spokesperson for American, "At American, safety is our highest priority. We will continue monitoring closely and working with local law enforcement and airport authority partners to ensure the safety of our customers and team members on the ground and in the air."
For Capitol rioters to end up on airlines' individual no-fly lists, they would have to fail to comply with airline-specific regulations.
Very little is known about who goes on the list and why, as the government doesn't disclose this information. However, the Yale Law Journal writes that "public record suggests that it's based on tips collected by confidential sources."
According to the FBI, those on the list "may present a threat to civil aviation or national security."
The FBI further states that to get on the list there must be "credible information demonstrating that the individual presents a threat of committing an act of terrorism with respect to an aircraft, the homeland, US facilities or interests abroad, or is a threat of engaging in or conducting a violent act of terrorism and is operationally capable of doing so."
HG.org, a website for legal resources pertaining to law and government, says that the list is not just used against domestic terrorism, but also to stop registered sex offenders or those suspected of trafficking illegal drugs from boarding flights.
Patrick G. Eddington, a research fellow in homeland security and civil liberties at the Cato Institute think tank, told Insider that, according to his sources at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "the criteria is fairly expansive."
He said that the only reason the public knows anything at all is because of leaks that have been made to various press organizations over the last several years.
Citing a 2013 leak of watchlist guidance, he said getting someone added to the list "doesn't require that you have any kind of concrete facts or irrefutable evidence."
"So because the bar is so relatively low to be put on these lists to begin with, anytime you get people like Chuck Schumer and Bennie Thompson making noise about putting literally what could be hundreds or thousands of people on a list, that raises all kinds of alarm bells" he said, calling it "a completely due process-free approach to things."
Things may change soon, though, making getting added to the list more difficult.
A bill titled "No Fly for Terrorists Act," was introduced to Congress in 2019, which would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from stopping US citizens or permanent residents from traveling "unless they have been convicted of a federal crime of terrorism."
The no-fly list has been criticized on the basis of impinging on civil liberties, as well as for its potential for ethnic, religious, economic, political, and racial profiling and discrimination.
"The No Fly List has been used since its inception to unjustly target Black and Brown people, particularly Muslims, and is a due process nightmare," Manar Waheed, a senior legislative and advocacy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Insider.
Of the many calls to add Capitol rioters to the list, he said "Doubling down on it now will simply further entrench an error-prone and unconstitutional system that will continue to be used unfairly against people of color."
There are currently a number of lawsuits against the government by individuals on the list who claim no affiliation to any terrorist groups, many of which are represented by the ACLU, according to law website HG.org.
However, since the US government can withhold classified information on the grounds of protecting national security, HG.org says that prosecuting these claims is difficult.
There have been some wins for plaintiffs.
In 2015 for example, the 9th Circuit ruled that the TSA had to start disclosing whether people were on the list, and summarize why — previously they had to share absolutely no information regarding the no-fly list.
However, they must do this without revealing classified information, which the ACLU argues keeps their reasonings too vague.
In 2019 however, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government was not required to give full detailed explanations due to national security concerns, according to the AP.
Another issue with the no-fly list is that it's allegedly prone to "false positives," which is when innocent people are added to the list because, for example, their names are similar to those of suspected terrorists.
In 2008, it was reported that "one major US airline records 9,000 false-positives a day," according to an NBC article sourcing then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Public figures such as the late Senator Ted Kennedy and former Georgia Representative John Lewis have found themselves on the no-fly list, according to CNN, as well as Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.
Eddington described the calls for adding rioters to the no-fly list "security theater," a term he borrowed from privacy and security expert Bruce Schneier, saying that the FBI acknowledged having over a hundred thousand digital images to sort through and that not everyone on Capitol grounds on January 6 committed a crime.
Those who did commit crimes, were identified, and have arrest warrants issued he said are "automatically going to be on the no-fly list," though he worries that this will just spur people to drive next time.
"Think about what that means for somebody who went to the Capitol, didn't actually engage in the breach, has their photograph swept up in all of this, and then because of this political pressure winds up getting put on the list," he said. "Their ability to get off that list is going to be really difficult because there is no judicial review stuff."
Eddington believes that Americans ought to have a legally protected right to sue the TSA, DHS, or FBI should they find themselves on the list without reason.
He also believes that the no-fly list is in need of "massive legislative overhaul," saying that the list needs to be based on actual probable cause, and ought to be directly tied to constitutional standards from a legal standpoint.
"And it's not, that's why this stuff is so troubling," he said.
By Stuart Danvers
West Coast Bureau
Having been newly sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden immediately set to work following his inauguration by signing a series of executive orders, several of which are aimed at getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control and curbing its continuing spread across the country.
One of these new orders requires both visitors and employees to "wear masks, maintain physical distance" and adhere to THE COVID-19 guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while they’re on any federal lands or inside federal buildings. That includes places like national parks and federal monuments, such as New York’s Statue of Liberty.
"It is the policy of my Administration to halt the spread of coronavirus…by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures," Biden wrote in his executive order. "Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives."
Travel + Leisure reported that Biden plans to fulfill a campaign promise today by mandating that masks be worn by anyone traveling via public transportation, such as on buses, trains and airplanes, including while in stations and airports. While the airlines, and rail and bus companies have already instituted policies requiring all passengers to wear masks, a federal mandate carries more weight with the force of law behind it.
It was only earlier this month—following January 6’s deadly Capitol riots, and related incidents of pro-Trumpers and anti-maskers behaving threateningly aboard flights—that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally stepped in with a pledge to prosecute such unruly passengers and policy-breakers.
The FAA’s new law enforcement program applies to “passengers who assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember” or anyone else on board, and also extends to those who violate airlines’ mask-wearing policies. Those who break the rules face penalties of up to $35,000 or potential imprisonment.
Prior to, the airlines’ only recourse for disciplining passengers who refused to wear their masks on board had been to ban those customers from flying with them again. While plenty of rule-breakers have been added to various airlines’ no-fly lists over the course of the pandemic, that wouldn’t prevent said individuals from simply booking with another airline.
By Eric Hanson
On his second day in office, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that will require international travelers, not only to have a negative COVID-19 test to enter the U.S., but also to self-quarantine upon arrival.
Previously, quarantine protocol for travelers had been issued only as unenforced guidance.
President Biden will also codify an action introduced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on January 12, which requires all visitors and returning residents to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure for the U.S.
President Biden also signed an executive order today, requiring anyone using public forms of transportation, such as buses, trains and airplanes, to wear masks in transit, including while they’re in stations or airports. This regulation pairs with yesterday’s executive order mandating that masks be worn by workers and visitors in all federal buildings and on government-controlled lands, including national parks and federal monuments.
The White House also today released a nearly-200-page document, titled the “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness” plan, which lays out a roadmap as to how the new administration intends upon tackling the COVID crisis as it currently stands.
In part, the document reads: “For international air travel, Executive Order ‘Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel’ requires a recent negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure and quarantine on arrival, consistent with CDC guidelines,” which was recently amended to 10 days. The CDC also recommends getting tested again between three and five days after arrival and, if the second test is negative, allowing that the quarantine period may be shorted to seven days.
Details of the new quarantine mandate haven’t yet been hammered out just yet and President Biden has asked federal agencies to submit within the next 14 days their recommendations regarding the appropriate duration of quarantine, and acceptable timing and types of COVID tests under this order, within the next 14 days.
By Bruce Rigsby
West Coast Bureau
A positive COVID-19 test can throw a wrench in even the best-laid plans.
And if you’re abroad and trying to get back to the U.S., prepare to stay put for a while: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just announced new requirements that travelers entering the U.S. must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test. The new reentry policy affects all travelers — U.S. citizens included — and kicks in on Jan. 26, 2021.
The onus on enforcing these rules falls on the airlines. That means you won’t be allowed to board a flight bound for the U.S. if you don’t provide the necessary documentation, including a negative test result (PCR or antigen) or proof of recent recovery from COVID-19.
So, what do you do if you test positive and can’t reenter the U.S.? Let’s take a closer look at how you should plan for this possibility in light of the newest policy from the CDC.
First, the prospect of a positive coronavirus test should be on every traveler’s mind.
And for international passengers who must fly now, it’s particularly important to budget for — or purchase insurance coverage for — an unexpected quarantine should that be necessary after a positive test abroad. Keep in mind that quarantine period could stretch for days, if not weeks or longer, after the initial positive test.
“Typically, after exposure, you would have a positive result three to five days after the exposure. You can remain positive, shedding viral particles, up to 14 days [after],” said Healthline’s senior manager of medical integrity, Dr. Jenny Yu (Healthline is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). “Either way, you should always wear a mask, keep a 6-foot distance from others and wash your hands frequently.”
Upon recovery, you’ll be required to show your positive test and a letter from a healthcare provider stating that you’re cleared to travel (or have a negative test).
The bad news: Your current insurance plan — including the coverage on your credit card — probably won’t reimburse you for a COVID-19 quarantine abroad. You’ll likely have to opt for a premium add-on such as “cancel for any reason” coverage that has to be purchased within a certain number of days from when you made your initial trip payment.
Another option is medical transport coverage such as Medjet. Mike Hallman, Medjet’s CEO, told TPG that, “We have not been told that this [new CDC policy] affects contained, hospital-to-hospital transports.” In this case, if you become hospitalized with COVID-19, you may be able to get medical transportation back to a hospital in the U.S.
Your contingency plan also needs to consider what will happen if you’re forced to spend an extra week or two in another country (or however long it takes to recover and be cleared by a doctor).
For instance, if you’re in a country that offers a 30-day visa upon arrival, will it expire by the time your quarantine is completed? While some hotels and resorts may help, many others won’t be able to — or simply won’t know the rules. Contact the local U.S. embassy for assistance.
If you test positive, you’ll have to find a place to stay abroad until you recover.
Some hotels may allow you to extend your stay to quarantine on the property, but most that do will require you to pay out of pocket.
There may be exceptions, however. For instance, Hard Rock all-inclusive properties will provide complimentary on-site medical assistance for all new and existing reservations. This assistance not only includes two antigen tests per room (only for stays of three nights or more) but also generously covers the cost of an extended hotel stay during a necessary quarantine.
Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos, Hard Rock Hotel Riveria Maya and Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta are all eligible.
AMResorts, which has dozens of properties across the Caribbean and Mexico, announced it will also be covering the cost of quarantine (up to 14 days) should guests test positive and be unable to depart. Guests must stay at least three nights and a viral antigen test will be conducted at the property at no cost. This policy is valid for travel through March 31, 2021.
Properties such as the Baha Mar resort complex in the Bahamas have taken a different approach.
For some time now, a test has been required upon arrival. But Baha Mar will now also provide two complementary rapid antigen tests per room for guests who need a test result before boarding a flight to the U.S. While quarantine costs are not covered by the hotel should you test positive, the mandatory Bahamas travel health insurance should apply. (More on that below.)
Other hotels may follow similar procedures in the coming days and weeks as properties work with local officials and hotel management maps out a plan to keep visitors coming.
Certain international airlines offer COVID-19 insurance to passengers, usually folded into the fare. These policies differ from one airline to the next, so before you even book your next trip, considering reserving flights with a specific carrier that covers quarantine expenses. And, if you’ve already booked, check to see if your airline has you covered.
For instance, Etihad Airways has one of the most comprehensive COVID-19 policies. Passengers who contract coronavirus within 31 days of flying with Etihad will have medical expenses covered up to 150,000 euros (approximately $177,000) and quarantine costs up to 100 euros (approximately $118) per day for two weeks.
The cost of the policy? Nothing, since it’s baked into the cost of your ticket. Additionally, if you’re traveling through June 30, 2021, you can even reschedule your flight for free to a later date — no difference in fare required.
Etihad is far from the only international airline offering COVID-19 coverage, but no U.S. carriers are currently offering any pandemic-related insurance.
The major U.S. airlines have already done away with change fees, including on most international flights. Be aware of exceptions including on basic economy fares and itineraries that originate in certain regions.
If a change fee is waived, at the very least, you won’t be penalized for shifting your flight to a new date when you’re cleared to fly again. In many circumstances, however, you’re not exempt from the difference in fare — which could be quite significant for international itineraries.
With that said, it’s wise to reach out to your carrier immediately upon receiving a positive COVID-19 test result to see what they may be willing to do. While current policies for U.S. airlines do not allow for free changes, airlines may be more generous than usual given the regulations. And elite status may help in this case, too.
If you do want to change your flight to arrive in the U.S. before the CDC order goes into effect on Jan. 26, the major U.S. airlines are waiving the difference in fare.
Some countries with robust tourism and COVID-19 infrastructure have specific regulations in place in the event that you test positive. But there’s also good news if you’re worried about excessive out-of-pocket costs.
For instance, Aruba requires any traveler who tests positive and shows symptoms to stay in isolation for 10 days. Asymptomatic positive cases are required to stay in isolation for seven days. Most notably, hotel and timeshare guests cannot stay on property and instead will be transported to a government-designated quarantine location.
A spokesperson for the government of Aruba said, “The isolation location will not be a medical facility but rather private properties such as condominiums, villas, vacation rentals or apartments in different parts of the island, which will be covered by the Aruba [visitor insurance].”
To enter Aruba, you must pay a mandatory visitor’s insurance ($30 for a stay up to 180 days for most individuals). Should a traveler test positive for COVID-19 in Aruba, that insurance policy will cover most expenses, including quarantine costs at the isolation location.
The Bahamas also requires compulsory travel health insurance up to $60 per person, per visit. Should you test positive and need to quarantine or isolate, you’re covered for up to $500 per day, up to a total of $7,000 maximum.
On the flip side, some countries have strict COVID-19 policies that may end up costing you a pretty penny.
In Rwanda, should you test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival or at any time during your stay, the severity of your symptoms will determine whether you are isolated in a government-run treatment center or a hotel. Either option would be completely at your own expense. Additionally, you cannot leave Rwanda until you receive a negative PCR test result, which could take several weeks. In this case, a rapid test isn’t allowed to get back to the U.S.
It’s best to check with each individual country that you plan to visit to see what will be covered (or not).
If you test positive for COVID-19 while abroad, don’t expect to come back to the U.S. until you recover or get a negative test.
If you must travel now, there are a few ways to ensure you don’t incur an inordinate amount of expenses while quarantining. One option is to pre-pay for the appropriate travel insurance before you depart the U.S. Another is to only visit countries or fly with airlines that offer a robust COVID-19 insurance policy. Finally, you could also stay at properties that will help out with the cost of isolation.
Remember, upon returning to the U.S. after being cleared for travel, the CDC still recommends you get tested three to five days later and stay home for a full seven days.
The map features a color-coded map and a drop-down menu of more detailed restrictions and state-specific rules.
Aiming to make deciding where to travel a bit easier, as COVID-19 continues to spark restrictions and rules for traveling around the United States, United Airlines created an interactive, color-coded map detailing everything travelers need to know ahead of planning a trip.
The map lists everything from whether or not entry into a state is allowed, potential quarantine measures, testing requirements, and even mask mandates for all 50 states and Washington D.C., the company shared with Travel + Leisure. Travelers can see if restaurants, tourist sites, or hotels are open and if there are any specific restrictions in place.
"We know it's a challenge to keep up with the ever-changing list of travel restrictions, policies and regulations so we are offering a simple, easy tool that helps customers decide where to travel next," Linda Jojo, the executive vice president for technology and chief digital officer, said in a statement.
"By providing the most up-to-date information on the destinations we serve, customers can compare and shop for travel with greater confidence and help them find the destinations that best fit their preferences."
The map's color-coded feature and drop-down menu offer more detailed restrictions and state-specific rules.
Several states have implemented quarantine or testing measures for out-of-state visitors. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, for example, require travelers from dozens of states to self-isolate for two weeks when entering the tri-state area. Similarly, Hawaii requires visitors to quarantine and has pushed back its plan to welcome tourists again until at least October.
United’s new feature comes as the airline eliminated most change fees on domestic flights and committed to allowing all customers to fly same-day standby for free on both domestic and international flights. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines then followed suit.
United isn’t alone in trying to inform passengers before hopping on a flight. Google Travel introduced a similar feature, linking to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travel Health Notices.
By Judith Thompson
West Coast Bureau
According to Kat Kamalani, water should be avoided at all costs while on a flight — here's why.
TikTok is a space where you can watch viral dance crazes and unusual trends, but it's also a place to learn some random facts — even ones you might not want to know.
The latest TikTok video making its rounds on the internet comes from flight attendant Kat Kamalani, who dishes on what you absolutely should not eat or drink while on a plane. Brace yourself — her advice might surprise (and perhaps even disgust) you a bit.
"Rule number one: Never consume any liquid that is not in a can or a bottle," she says in the video, explaining that "those water tanks are never cleaned and they are disgusting."
Kamalani goes on to say that she and her fellow flight attendants hardly ever drink coffee or hot tea while on a flight, as they both use the same water tanks that "are rarely cleaned unless they are broken."
To make matters worse, those water tanks are located right next to the lavatories.
Kamalani recommends asking for bottled water or canned soft drinks instead — and she's not the first flight attendant to make this suggestion.
A few years ago, flight attendants urged passengers to steer clear of coffee and tea, citing a 2004 EPA sample of 158 planes with some very grim results. Of the planes sampled, 13% contained coliform and two even had dangerous levels of E. coli in the water.
More recent studies have not been very promising, either.
A 2019 study by the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center at the City University of New York and DietDetective.com analyzed the quality of drinking water on 11 major and 12 regional airlines.
"The quality of drinking water varies by airline, and many airlines have possibly provided passengers with unhealthy water," the study states.
A "water health score" ranging from five (best) to zero (worst) was given to each airline. Several factors were taken into consideration, including fleet size and positive E. coli and coliform water sample reports. Any score above three indicated relatively clean drinking water, according to the study.
Of 10 major airlines analyzed, seven received a score of under three, leaving the study with the same conclusion as Kamalani: Avoid airplane tap water at all costs.
The study even takes things a step further, suggesting that passengers shouldn't wash their hands on a flight, as the water in the lavatories comes from the same tank. Instead, the study recommends using hand sanitizer.
Whether or not you want to take things that far is up to you, but there seems to be enough consensus on avoiding anything that doesn't come in a bottle or can while flying.
By John Sandoval
West Coast Bureau
Visitors hoping to score a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida will now have to prove residency in order to get on the wait list.
The state of Florida cracked down on “vaccine tourism” Thursday, with Surgeon General Scott Rivkees now requiring proof of permanent or seasonal Florida residency in order to receive vaccinations.
“The Covid-19 vaccine remains scarce within the U.S., and vaccine availability in Florida is extremely limited,” Rivkees said in a statement announcing the new directive. Rivkees emphasized the importance of prioritizing the health of Floridians, since vaccine quantities are still severely limited for locals and visitors alike.
Vaccine seekers can prove residency by providing official documents such as driver licenses or mortgage statements for property owned in Florida. Healthcare workers who come in direct contact with patients, and workers in similar capacities such as first responders, are exempted from the residency requirement at this time.
Florida began offering the vaccine to people 65 and older, including nonresidents, in December 2020. The decision quickly led to a number of foreigners and winter vacationers taking advantage of the program, according to Miami newspaper The Sun-Sentinel, which highlighted a handful of individual offenders in addition to some rising trends in vaccine-driven travel. Locals have raised an outcry in response, with many senior citizens and healthcare professionals decrying the fact that rich visitors from elsewhere can exploit the loophole and “skip the line.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has discouraged travelers from visiting the state solely for the sake of scoring a vaccination. However, DeSantis has expressed support for vaccine seekers who own property in Florida but reside elsewhere for at least part of the year.
In execution, cities and counties are responsible for enforcing their own local policies. While Jackson Health System in Miami has yet to update its website’s frequently asked COVID-19 vaccine questions page to reflect the new policy, news outlets report that vaccinations now require either photo identification with birthdate, or two documents proving Florida residency, such as utility bills or tax documents.
By Cedric Johnson
West Coast Bureau
The line also canceled the European season for Carnival Legend, which was scheduled for May through Oct. 31, 2021.
In addition, Australian operations were canceled through May 19, 2021.
Carnival said it was notifying booked guests and travel agents about the options for a full refund or a future cruise credit and onboard credit.
“Our guests and travel agent partners continue to express their loyalty to Carnival and their desire to get back on our ships as soon as they can, and we are heartened by the booking demand and activity we continue to see,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.
“We are certainly committed to welcoming them back as quickly as possible, but unfortunately, we have determined it’s going to take a while longer, and the situation in Europe will also impact Mardi Gras’ departure to the U.S., and Carnival Legend’s itineraries in Europe.”
For cruises of six days or more, Carnival is offering a 100 percent future cruise credit and a $600 onboard credit per stateroom on the next cruise booked by Sept. 30, 2021, for sailings departing by April 30, 2023.
For cruises of five or fewer days, Carnival offers a 100 percent future cruise credit and $300 onboard credit per stateroom for cruises booked by Sept. 30, 2021, on departures by April 30, 2023.