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Thanksgiving week air travel is expected to set a pandemic-era record despite calls to stay home

Thanksgiving week air travel is expected to remain strong enough to set a pandemic-era record despite urging from federal health officials to spend the holiday at home.



a group of people walking down the street: Millions of passengers have passed through US airport security in the last week, according to the TSA.


© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Millions of passengers have passed through US airport security in the last week, according to the TSA.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Americans to not travel for Thanksgiving last week — but that didn’t stop more than 1 million travelers from passing through US airport security on Sunday and more than 900,000 on Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Since the CDC issued that warning, nearly 5 million people have boarded airplanes. The agency receives passenger information from the airlines as part of its screening responsibilities, and the data does not show widespread cancellations in recent days, TSA spokesman Andy Post said.

From September to October, the number of scheduled available seats departing US airports was down nearly 50% compared to the same timeframe last year. Due to increased demand, that number is only down 39% for the Thanksgiving holiday period, according to Airlines for America, a trade association that represents major North American airlines.

Still, officials still expect Sunday — when everyone heads home from their holiday travels — to be the busiest day of travel since the pandemic began.

While the number of travelers passing through airport security on Sunday is concerning, many Americans are heeding the warnings from officials and health experts. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they changed their Thanksgiving plans, according to a poll released on Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos. More surprising is that nearly one in 10 Americans that were polled say they do not plan to celebrate the holiday at all.

The country added 172,935 new Covid-19 cases and had 2,146 reported deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Tuesday also marks the fifth highest single day for new cases during the pandemic, and the US has posted over 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the 22nd consecutive day. The US is now averaging 174,225 new cases per day, which is up 11% from last week.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the percentage of available seats departing US airports. It is down 50% compared to the same timeframe last year.

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Thanksgiving week air travel is expected to set a pandemic era-record despite officials calls to stay home

Thanksgiving week air travel is expected to remain strong enough to set a pandemic era-record despite urging from federal health officials to spend the holiday at home.



a group of people walking down the street: Millions of passengers have passed through US airport security in the last week, according to the TSA.


© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Millions of passengers have passed through US airport security in the last week, according to the TSA.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Americans to not travel for Thanksgiving last week — but that didn’t stop more than 1 million travelers from passing through US airport security on Sunday and more than 900,000 on Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Since the CDC issued that warning, nearly 5 million people have boarded airplanes. The agency receives passenger information from the airlines as part of its screening responsibilities, and the data does not show widespread cancellations in recent days, TSA spokesman Andy Post said.

From September to October, the number of scheduled available seats departing US airports was up nearly 50% compared to the same timeframe last year. That number dropped down to nearly 39% for the Thanksgiving holiday period, according to Airlines for America, a trade association that represents major North American airlines.

Still, officials still expect Sunday — when everyone heads home from their holiday travels — to be the busiest day of travel since the pandemic began.

While the number of travelers passing through airport security on Sunday is concerning, many Americans are heeding the warnings from officials and health experts. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they changed their Thanksgiving plans, according to a poll released on Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos. More surprising is that nearly one in 10 Americans that were polled say they do not plan to celebrate the holiday at all.

The country added 172,935 new Covid-19 cases and had 2,146 reported deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Tuesday also marks the fifth highest single day for new cases during the pandemic, and the US has posted over 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the 22nd consecutive day. The US is now averaging 174,225 new cases per day, which is up 11% from last week.

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Thanksgiving Air Travel Down 60 Percent From Last Year, as Officials Tell People to Stay Home

In a sign that many people are heeding officials’ request to stay home for Thanksgiving, airplane travel in the days leading up to Thanksgiving is down about 60 percent from the same time last year.



a group of people wearing costumes: Holiday travelers pass through Los Angeles international Airport on Thanksgiving eve as the COVID-19 spike worsens and stay-at-home restrictions are increased on Wednesday in West Hollywood, California. Holiday plane travel is down dramatically from last year, but for the first time since March, more than 1 million people passed through TSA checkpoints in one day.


© David McNew/Getty
Holiday travelers pass through Los Angeles international Airport on Thanksgiving eve as the COVID-19 spike worsens and stay-at-home restrictions are increased on Wednesday in West Hollywood, California. Holiday plane travel is down dramatically from last year, but for the first time since March, more than 1 million people passed through TSA checkpoints in one day.

Cases of a new coronavirus in the United States have now surpassed 12 million. With spikes in cases occurring across the country, deaths on Tuesday were higher than they’ve been in six months. Officials urged people to stay home and imposed quarantine requirements for out-of-state visitors. While more people are traveling than health experts would like, there’s been a significant decrease from the usual holiday influx via plane travel.

20 Interesting Thanksgiving 2020 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know In 90 Seconds

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Historically, more people travel around Thanksgiving than any other time of the year, and the Wednesday before the turkey-centric holiday is the busiest travel day of the year. However, as has been the case since the pandemic started, the outbreak stunted travel around the holiday. About 1.52 million fewer people traveled on Tuesday than on the Tuesday before last year’s Thanksgiving.

From Thursday until Tuesday, the biggest drop in travelers was on Friday when 1.53 million fewer people went through TSA checkpoints than the same day of the week last year. Since Friday, about 6.9 million fewer people have passed through TSA checkpoints, a 58 percent decline from 2019, according to data from the agency.

Despite the significant decrease in travelers from last year, the number of people making their way through airports is higher than it’s been since the pandemic started.

Before mid-March, it was common to have a million people or more passing through TSA checkpoints. But daily travelers dropped below a million on March 17 and hadn’t surpassed the benchmark for eight months. That changed on Friday when 1,019,836 people passed through TSA checkpoints.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), acknowledged during a Wednesday interview with Good Morning America that it’s difficult not to gather for Thanksgiving because it’s filled with beautiful traditions. However, he said sacrificing now would prevent a rise in infections and deaths, a message officials have been touting since the start of the pandemic.

This time around, Fauci said the end is in sight because of the development of three effective vaccines. The first doses of the vaccines could be administered within 24 hours of the drug companies receiving an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—according to General Gustave Perna, who is heading “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump administration’s plan to produce 300 million doses of a vaccine before the end

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Qantas Airways Moves To Require COVID-19 Vaccine For Air Travel

A widespread vaccine for COVID-19 hasn’t reached the public yet, but already, airlines are planning for how to handle travelers with and without immunity. On Monday, Alan Joyce, the CEO of Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways, shared that his airline would eventually only allow for vaccinated travelers to board its flights. The move would essentially lock down the spread of the virus through air travel and allow for travelers to move around the globe unhindered by quarantines, though it would only open up the carrier to the select population that had received the vaccine.

Joyce’s marks come as part of the early discussion around how airlines will plan for and accommodate travelers once the vaccine becomes more widespread across the traveling population. Already, some air carriers have enforced strict safety measures in-flight to stem the spread of COVID-19 while in transit; by late October, Alaska, Delta and United had banned over 900 passengers for not complying with mask mandates while some carriers are still blocking middle seats.

Restricting travelers based on level of vaccination may yield a new level of contention between airlines and passengers as carriers look to balance safety with sentiment. In some regions, the virus and the safety precautions taken around the virus have turned into polarizing topics. Beyond the airline-level bans, passengers have turned to social media and public shaming to argue their respective viewpoints.

To help enforce policies, the BBC reports that Qantas is already considering modifying its terms and conditions to ensure that it has grounds to restrict travel from unvaccinated travelers. Other air carriers will need to look into sketching out the same legal boundaries if restrictions are built around vaccinated travelers.

One other consideration for how airlines will allow for vaccinated travelers is in how the public is able to provide credentials. Right now, many routes around the world require travelers to present a recent, negative COVID-19 test in order to fly. On a similar tack, airlines will need to come up with a way to check and verify passenger immunity before the traveler boards the flight — or even reaches the airport.

Those restrictions will also need to adapt based on which countries and populations receive the vaccines first.

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US air travel rises despite Thanksgiving pandemic warnings

US airports had their busiest weekend since March despite public health officials’ pleas for Americans to curtail Thanksgiving travel and even while the number of coronavirus cases passed 12m and hospitalisations continued to hover at record levels. 

More than 3m people passed through US airports last weekend, according to data from the US Transportation Security Administration. Nearly 1.05m travellers passed through US airport checkpoints on Sunday alone, the most since mid-March, when Covid-19 first began spreading throughout the US — although still less than half the number of people who travelled on the same day a year earlier. 

Air travel has been hit hard during the pandemic as people have put business and leisure journeys on hold to curb the spread of coronavirus, which has killed nearly 250,000 Americans. But it has started to climb back slowly, as lockdowns eased and cooped-up citizens ventured back out cautiously. 

With virus cases accelerating at an alarming rate and hospitalisations at 85,836 as of Monday — a record high for the 14th day in a row — public health officials have raised the alarm about the potential for Thanksgiving holiday travel to further accelerate the disease’s rampant spread. 

“Cases, positivity, hospitalisations, deaths — we’re seeing more Americans negatively impacted,” Jerome Adams, the US surgeon-general, told ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday. “We want everyone to understand that these holiday celebrations can be superspreader events,” he added. “We want them to be as small and smart as possible.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, typically one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Nevertheless, thousands of Americans have queued up to receive coronavirus tests ahead of the holiday, driven by demand from people hoping to receive an all-clear before celebrating with friends and family. 


123%


Rise in coronavirus hospital cases in New York in the past three weeks

State and local officials have urged people to stay at home and avoid large indoor gatherings, with some states — including New York, New Jersey and Illinois — limiting the number of people mingling from different households. 

Others, such as California — which reported a record one-day rise in cases over the weekend — have implemented curfews on restaurants, bars and other non-essential businesses to limit their hours of operation. 

New York, which was hard hit by the pandemic in its earliest months, has moved to tighten controls once again as cases creep higher. New York City’s public school system, the largest in the US, has temporarily moved to all-remote instruction, while the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, has warned that indoor dining may be shut down completely in the near future. 

Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, warned on Monday that the increasing number of patients with Covid-19 was starting to strain hospitals in parts of the state, including Staten Island, where an emergency facility will be opened at local officials’ request. 

“This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts,” Mr Cuomo said

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A Cautionary Tale For All Those Planning Air Travel

In September, a man boarded a flight from Dubai to New Zealand. Not 48 hours before he had tested negative for Covid-19. Days after disembarking, while quarantining in compliance with national containment policy, he and six other passengers of the 86 on board were confirmed to be infected with the virus SARS-CoV-2.

According to a preprint case study released by New Zealand health authorities, at least four of the infections occurred in-flight—all tracing back to one man who, at least by the time he stowed his belongings and took his seat, was presymptomatic but shedding active virus. The chain of transmission was confirmed afterwards via genomic analysis.

Incoming travelers to New Zealand are required by law to quarantine for two weeks in designated hotels upon arrival, where they will be monitored and tested at least twice before being released. The samples of those who test positive are isolated, genomically sequenced, and compared to determine their exact origins. This was how health authorities were able to identify the four passengers who contracted the virus in-flight, as well as the man who gave it to them.

While not the first piece of evidence to affirm the possibility of in-flight transmission—just last month another study traced nearly 60 Covid-19 cases back to a single flight—reports of the incident make for a cautionary tale, especially with Thanksgiving fast approaching in the United States. The first takeaway is that air travel is dangerous, even when everyone, including the crew, is instructed to wear masks and, as far as we can tell, observes those instructions. The second takeaway is that a negative test isn’t foolproof. Most likely, the man on the New Zealand flight was infected shortly before or after completing a test and didn’t develop symptoms until a day or two after arriving at his destination.

Many Americans traveling by plane this Thanksgiving and for the winter holidays soon to follow will be heading straight from the airport into the arms of relatives and loved ones, rather than supervised quarantine facilities. Surveys show that in general, most recognize the risks this entails and will take necessary precautions. But they also show that two in five Americans plan on attending a gathering of more than ten people—and as for the hosts of these large gatherings, one in three won’t require guests to wear masks.

Now New Zealand, unlike the United States, has come incredibly close to eliminating Covid-19. So has China. Perhaps in anticipation of the travel surges to come, the Chinese government has tightened restrictions on points of entry, now requiring all airline passengers entering mainland China to submit not just a negative PCR test, but a negative IgM antibody test. My interpretation of this is that health authorities picked up on enough 

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Dominic Thiem wants “sun & fresh air” after hectic season, says his Iceland vacation got cancelled because of COVID

World No. 3 Dominic Thiem ended a memorable 2020 season with a heartbreaking defeat in the summit clash of the ATP Finals on Sunday. The Austrian star lost to Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, settling for the runner-up trophy at the season-ending event for the second year running.

That said, Dominic Thiem would still be satisfied with his performance this season overall. He ended his wait for a maiden Grand Slam trophy by capturing the US Open, and he also finished as the runner-up at the Australian Open. The 27-year-old also participated in a series of exhibition events during the tour suspension.

Ever since the resumption of the tour, Dominic Thiem and the rest of the players have had to stay in bio-secure bubbles with little to no outside contact. That has also deprived them of the elements of nature and fresh air, as Thiem pointed out in a recent interview.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there, having a bit more sun and fresh air,” Dominic Thiem was quoted as saying by Eurosport.

The two-time French Open finalist further mentioned that he had planned a trip to Iceland during the off-season, just like 2019. However, the recently renewed COVID-19 restrictions in Europe meant that he had to cancel his trip.

“I actually wanted to fly to Iceland and Sweden, but that is no longer possible because of the corona rules,” Dominic Thiem continued.

It will be nice to play in full stadiums again: Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem finished runner-up for the second time at the ATP Finals
Dominic Thiem finished runner-up for the second time at the ATP Finals

Dominic Thiem hopes to carry forward his magnificent form over to the upcoming season as well. Thiem recently stated that he would love to climb further up in the rankings, from his current position of No. 3.

However, the lack of spectators in the stands is something that continues to bother the Austrian.

“It will probably be all the nicer to play in full stadiums again,” Thiem said. At the same time, the World No. 3 acknowledged that tennis players are “incredibly privileged that we were able to play the big tournaments despite the pandemic”.

Dominic Thiem is set to play in the Australian Open at the start of 2021, although the dates of the tournament are yet to be confirmed. Thiem has also changed his mind about the Olympics, having recently clarified that he plans to play in the 2021 Tokyo Games next year.

Dominic Thiem beat Alexander Zverev in the US Open final
Dominic Thiem beat Alexander Zverev in the US Open final

The reigning US Open champion will be hoping to use his break from tennis to recharge his batteries for the packed 2021 season. It will be interesting to see if he can better his 2020 performance next year, and maybe even win his second Major in Australia.

Published 23 Nov 2020, 21:32 IST

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Air Travel Rises Ahead of Thanksgiving, Despite Warnings: Live Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…David Santiago/Miami Herald, via Associated Press

More travelers were screened at airport security checkpoints on Sunday than on any day since the pandemic took hold in March, a worrying sign that people flying to visit their families for Thanksgiving could increase the spread of the coronavirus.

A little more than one million people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration on Sunday, according to federal data published on Monday. That number is about half of what it was in 2019, but it represents a big increase from the spring, when less than a half a million people flew on any given day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, have been strongly discouraging holiday travel for fear that it would increase the number of new infections, which have surged in recent weeks as the weather turns colder and more people spend time indoors.

Airlines have said that flying is safe because of the precautions the industry has put in place, like high-end air filtration. They also point to the relatively few published cases of the coronavirus being spread during a flight. But the science on in-flight safety is far from settled, and travelers would still be at risk of contracting or spreading the virus at airports and once they are at their destination.

The increase in travel during the holidays has been encouraging for airlines. But it won’t be enough to offset the deep losses they have suffered during the pandemic. The nation’s largest airlines have collectively reported tens of billions of dollars in losses so far this year, and analysts expect demand to remain weak for a couple of years or more. The industry is hoping that the incoming Biden administration and Congress will give airlines more aid early next year.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Black Friday has long been the biggest shopping day of the year, with doorbuster deals inspiring some die-hard shoppers to camp out all night in front of big-box stores.

But as coronavirus cases climb across the country and public health officials beg people to avoid crowds, will stores still try to lure customers inside? And if they do, will customers take the bait and show up?

“This year is going to be a Black Friday unlike any other,” said Kelly O’Keefe, managing partner at the Brand Federation, a consulting firm. “We’re not going to have crowds knocking down Walmart’s door this year. There will be fewer people in stores and there will be much better management of those people.”

Here’s what some of the biggest retailers are doing to keep customers safe on Black Friday this year:

Best Buy said it was selling this year’s new gaming consoles online only, to avoid lines

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Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble postponed

Singapore and Hong Kong have postponed a planned air travel bubble meant to boost tourism for both cities, amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Hong Kong

The air travel bubble, originally slated to begin Sunday, will be delayed by at least two weeks, Hong Kong’s minister of commerce and economic development, Edward Yau, said at a news conference.

The arrangement is meant to allow visitors between the two cities to travel without having to serve a quarantine as long as they complete coronavirus tests before and after arriving at their destinations, and fly on designated flights.

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including 13 untraceable local infections.

Under the initial agreement, the air travel bubble was to be suspended if the number of untraceable local infections in either Singapore or Hong Kong exceeds five on a seven-day moving average. The current average of unlinked cases in Hong Kong is nearly four.

Although the average of five had not been reached in Hong Kong, the bubble was suspended after Yau and Singapore’s transport minister, Ong Ye Kung, held discussions on Saturday.

Prior to the postponement, Singapore said Saturday morning that travelers arriving from Hong Kong via the bubble would be required to take a coronavirus test on arrival. Originally, only people landing in Hong Kong were to be required to be tested.

Ong said in a Facebook post Saturday that the postponement is a “sober reminder that the COVID-19 virus is still with us.”

“I can fully understand the disappointment and frustration of travellers who have planned their trips. But we think it is better to defer from a public health standpoint,” Ong wrote.

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Hong Kong looks to mainland China for next air travel bubble

SINGAPORE — Hong Kong is hopeful its next “air travel bubble” could be with mainland China, the executive director of the city’s tourism board has said.

Dane Cheng told CNBC such plans would hinge on the success of the forthcoming Hong Kong-Singapore travel corridor. But he noted that adding a similar arrangement for quarantine-free travel around China’s Greater Bay Area would be the logical next step for business and leisure travelers.

“The next one for Hong Kong that we would like to see (would be) with the mainland, the Greater Bay Area,” Cheng said Friday.

The Greater Bay Area links several cities in Guangdong province with the special administrative territories of Hong Kong and Macao.

“That would be a key border for us,” he added, noting both proximity and common business and family ties.

Rising Covid cases threaten deal

We would like to see more countries and more regions, more cities, planning to open in the first quarter of the coming year.

Dane Cheng

executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board

If the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble is suspended due to the deteriorating coronavirus situation in either city, it could dash hopes of air travel bubble becoming a model for other countries.

A blueprint for other countries

Cheng, for his part, noted that both sides would have to be “cautious” about implementation of the program. But he added that it is “an important first step” in resuming international travel.

In October, tourist arrivals into Hong Kong were down 99% year-on-year, to 7,800 passengers. Typically, travelers from mainland China account for 60% of Hong Kong’s inbound tourism.

“We would like to see more countries and more regions, more cities, planning to open in the first quarter of the coming year,” said Cheng.

On Wednesday, major Asian travel operator Klook said tourism boards across the region had already been in touch to discuss plans should other bilateral travel deals emerge.

Watch: The Greater Bay Area — Bridging Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China

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