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Lawyers Travel's weekly client e-newsletter, the Informed Traveler, keeps readers updated on travel industry news and trends.
Following is a recap of December's Top 5 (most clicked by Lawyers Travel's clients) e-newsletter stories.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) officials recently unveiled Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) terminal features as part of its commitment to transform three major airports, reports Transportation Today. The new design delivers four distinct areas for taxis, app-based ride-share vehicles, buses and private passenger vehicles to reduce traffic congestion, ease passenger loading and improve the customer experience. Additionally, officials indicated the new terminal design includes technology and safety features in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Port Authority’s airport redevelopment projects are designed to meet the needs of the 21st-century traveler,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said. “We are constantly looking at ways to improve our new facilities and ensure their look, feel, and functionality are best-in-class. The arrivals frontage design changes introduced at Newark Liberty’s new terminal will make dramatic improvements to the functioning of the arrivals level, easing passenger movements from the terminal into whichever mode of ground transportation travelers choose.“ The new terminal is slated to open in late 2022.
Delta Air Lines is in talks with governments to add more quarantine-free trips to international destinations, reports Skift. The aviation industry has largely backed the creation of such agreements, travel corridors and “bubbles,” where travelers testing negative for COVID-19 can fly without lengthy quarantines to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Delta already has two such flights, Atlanta to Amsterdam, that require travelers to take multiple COVID tests in order to fly. Even as COVID-19 vaccinations get started this week in the US and Canada, airlines see testing as the fastest way to resume international travel without quarantines since inoculation campaigns will take time.
American Airlines has announced that it is expanding its preflight testing program for domestic travel. American is the first airline to expand access to at-home testing for all flights to US locations that have COVID-19 restrictions, including Puerto Rico. Tests will be available for purchase beginning December 9th, for travel starting December 12th, through American’s at-home testing partner, LetsGetChecked. “We’ve made great strides to help open international travel with our testing partners, and we recognize the need for similar domestic travel solutions,” said Alison Taylor, Chief Customer Officer for American Airlines. “As travel requirements continue to quickly evolve, we’re simplifying the research and COVID-19 testing fulfillment process for an overall more seamless travel experience.” The airline will continue to work with LetsGetChecked to expand domestic testing as state testing requirements evolve. Current cities, states and territories with COVID-19 travel restrictions include: Alaska, Chicago, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and Vermont.
On Friday, December 18th, the weekend before Christmas, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) scanned 1,066,757 travelers at airport checkpoints, reports Forbes. That’s only the fifth time that volumes at airport checkpoints have surpassed 1 million travelers and the third highest volume on record since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Saturday saw volumes reach over 1 million once again, as TSA screened 1,073,563 people. TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said last weekend was the first instance since March that traveler screenings have exceeded one million on two consecutive days. Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year at airports, with daily traveler volumes only surpassed by Thanksgiving traffic. 2020 already seems to be following in the same tack as other years. Over the Thanksgiving break, four days saw traveler traffic surpass 1 million travelers. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the highest traveler volume seen post-COVID-19 was reached as 1,176,091 travelers passed through airports.
Recent announcements of successful COVID-19 vaccine trials by Pfizer and Moderna have provided hope to airlines, which view vaccines as the answer to get air travel volume back to pre-pandemic levels, reports Travel Weekly. But in order for such vaccines to be distributed widely enough to sharply alter the market for travel, passenger airlines themselves will have to play a key role. According to IATA, passenger airlines typically carry approximately half of the world's air cargo, utilizing the bellies of aircraft that are also transporting the flying public. Air cargo specialists, such as UPS, FedEx and DHL, typically carry the other half. In recent months, IATA as well as individual passenger carriers have been readying for a surge of pharmaceutical business when COVID-19 vaccines become available. United's cargo operation, for example, developed a COVID-19 readiness task force over the summer. A key challenge, said United vice president of cargo Chris Busch, is to be ready for the deep freezing that at least some vaccines would require. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, must be kept at minus 94 degrees. In a similar vein, Lufthansa Cargo opened new cold-storage facilities at its Munich hub and at Chicago O'Hare. Meanwhile, IATA has been collaborating with a wide range of governing bodies and global humanitarian organizations, including the World Health Organization, Unicef and the World Bank, in preparation for what will be a sudden and massive increase in the air transport capacity required to address COVID-19 distribution.