Numbers Approaching Pre-Pandemic Levels Despite Emergence Of Omicron
The United States can expect over 109 million people traveling around the country over the Christmas and New Year week, according to AAA.
If their estimates are correct, 6 million passengers will be crowding the skies, while the bulk of the other 106 million will rose tripping more than fifty miles to their holiday destinations. About 3 million are expected to be utilizing rail, bus, or cruise lines for their travel. The figures are an estimation of December 23rd to January 2nd.
The figures mark a drastic increase from 2020, with more than 27 million more Americans making a trip this year end. Although not quite at the same level, the figures anticipate almost 92% of the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
Airlines in particular are set to enjoy a much needed boost, and will see a 184% increase in business from the same period last year, now that restrictions have loosened.
The figures come in the face of several obstacles, highlighting the pent up desire much of the population has felt over the last two years. With gas prices over a dollar higher than the same time last year, the financial burden is proving one that drivers are willing to undertake for the holidays.
The emergence of the Omicron variant will have caused some discontent in the airline industry particular, as the threat of new restrictions could hamper their business. As of now, there are no new developments to suggest that passengers will face any new mandates before they begin their journeys.
But according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute Of Allergy and Infection Diseases, “if you have a vaccinated situation, your family is vaccinated, enjoy the holidays indoors with your family”.
The variant is currently listed as one of “concern”, and data is still being compiled as to the severity. Europe is seeing disruption across the continent as it fights a growing number of the new strain combined with a resurgent Delta variant spread. Many countries have implemented lockdowns, border closures, and selective bans on other countries.
Although the US has implemented changes for international arrivals, its domestic air travel is not currently affected by any Omicron based regulations. Currently, domestic travel does not require a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination but it is recommended. Masks, however, are required for any form of public transport and airports, train stations etc.
With the new strain comes worry, and many travelers are questioning whether or not they should travel. Medical experts suggest it’s both a personal choice and common sense decision. As their is so much unknown about the new variant, those in health conditions that would leave them more susceptible to COVID may decide to stay put, while a healthy and fully vaccinated individual will have few concerns about a trip.
The pressure will be firmly in the hands of the airlines supporting the mass migrations across the country. Some of the airlines will be seeking to repair some damaged reputations over the thanksgiving and halloween weekends. Mass cancellations were blamed on staff shortages and poor weather, leaving thousands of traveler stranded in airports for hours.
The American Airlines CEO, Doug Parker, who was testifying in the Senate earlier this week regarding the use of allocated federal aid, wrote that “The return of demand for air travel has been intense. Like other airlines, we have experienced some operational challenges in recent months, which we have worked to manage as deftly as possible and with the utmost care for our customers and team members”.
Parker claims to have been onboarding new hires “aggressively” to help counteract any problems that may be faced over the coming weeks.
Travelers are advised to keep up to date on any potential changes in restrictions, and to expect severe delays both on the road and in airports.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories