This holiday season, thousands of flight cancellations left travelers stranded in airports across the United States. While many cancellations were due to severe weather across various states, the spike in Omicron infections also played a part in disrupting holiday travel plans for thousands.
Were you one of the many whose travel plans were impacted by omicron this holiday season?
How the virus affected airline travel
The Omicron variant began spreading rampantly over the Thanksgiving travel period and has since continued to spread rapidly. Omicron is reportedly more transmissible than other COVID-19 variants.
In an article by Bloomberg, David Powell, physician and medical adviser to the International Air Transport Association, estimated that “aircraft passengers are two to three times more likely to catch the virus during a flight since the emergence of Omicron.”
The higher chance of infection and rapid spread has led to new travel guidelines and unexpected flight cancellations.
Since December 24, more than 15,000 U.S. flights have been canceled, The Washington Post reported. Additionally, some airlines have already preemptively canceled flights for the month of January. Last week, JetBlue announced it would cancel 1,280 flights through January 13.
The rising infection rate does not only affect travelers but also airline workers, including air traffic controllers. Derek Dombrowski, a JetBlue spokesman, said the airline has seen a surge in sick calls because of the omicron variant.
Additionally, Henry Harteveldt, an aviation analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, said in the same article, if Omicron infections continue to rage on, airlines may announce further cancellations for the remainder of January and possibly into February.
Current Omicron travel restrictions and guidelines
While many airlines continue to cancel flights, travel is still possible. If you’re planning to travel, here are the newest guidelines to follow to reduce your risk of infection.
According to the CDC’s newest requirements:
- If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
- Unvaccinated Americans and legal permanent residents are allowed to enter the country with a test taken within one day of departing for the United States.
- If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19
In addition to these requirements, foreign travelers arriving in the United States to be fully vaccinated. All children over the age of 2 flying into the United States must also show negative test results before traveling.
Currently, there is no post-arrival testing or quarantine requirement.
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Federal mask mandate is still in effect and has been extended through March 18. This mandate requires all travelers to wear masks in airports, on planes, and on other forms of public transportation including buses and trains.
Travelers should continue to practice general COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as keeping adequate distance from others, avoiding tight crowds, keeping masks on indoors, and washing and sanitizing hands.