In the latest developments, AAA is predicting a busy holiday weekend for U.S. travel; JetBlue brings back a San Jose route to New York while United will add flights to the Sierras from SFO this winter; Hawaii will end its COVID testing requirement for vaccinated mainland visitors next month; United eases up some fare and award travel rules; five more European nations start to welcome American tourists again, but travel to the U.K. is still on hold; U.S. airlines urge the Justice Department to bring federal criminal charges against disruptive passengers as the TSA resumes self-defense training for flight crews; Delta adds service on a number of European routes; Hawaiian Airlines will bring back Honolulu-Tahiti fights; and new passenger lounges open at New York LaGuardia and Fort Lauderdale.
The upcoming Fourth of July weekend is on track to be the busiest period for U.S. airline travel since the pandemic began. In its annual Independence Day travel forecast, AAA said last week that it expects 3.5 million Americans to fly between July 1 and 5, an increase of 164% over last year and a volume that will be back to 90% of pre-pandemic levels. While holiday air travel remains down a bit from 2019, trips by car over the Fourth are expected to total 43.6 million, the highest on record and 5% more than the previous peak in 2019, AAA said. According to Transportation Security Administration statistics, the number of daily airport screenings has topped 2 million on seven days so far during June, getting ever closer to the average 2.7 million recorded in June 2019.
Bay Area travelers have another option for getting to New York City now as JetBlue has just resumed service between Mineta San Jose Airport and New York JFK. The route revival comes just two weeks after JetBlue brought back SJC-Boston service, a route that is expected to be seasonal with a hiatus from October through April. JetBlue had pulled out of San Jose altogether in April 2020 due to the pandemic-related falloff in traffic. The new JFK flight will operate four days a week (Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday) as an eastbound redeye with an SJC departure at 10:50 p.m. and arrival in New York at 7:22 a.m. In other local route news, ThePointsGuy.com reports that United Airlines will introduce United Express/SkyWest
winter service Dec. 16 through March 26 from San Francisco International to the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport (BIH) near Bishop, California — the first commercial service to that airport in decades. The new route, served with a 70-seat CRJ-700, will reportedly replace United’s suspended flights to Mammoth Yosemite Airport.
Hawaii has finally set July 8 as the date after which fully vaccinated travelers from the mainland will no longer have to get a pre-departure COVID-19 test if they want to avoid the state’s mandatory quarantine. The testing requirement will remain in place for the unvaccinated. By that date, Gov. David Ige said, 60% of the state’s residents are expected to be vaccinated — the threshold he had set for an opening up of travel. Visitors will have to upload their vaccination cards to the state’s Safe Travels website and carry a hard copy with them during their stay.
United is making some changes to its fare rules and frequent flier policies. Customers who buy the airline’s basic economy fares, which do not allow any changes or cancellations, can now get around that restriction by buying a $45 upgrade to economy class, presented as a “switch to economy” option in their flight record on United’s app or website. Once that is done, the reservation can be changed without any additional fee (except for the fare differential if the new flight costs more). Meanwhile, United has eased some of the rules for claiming award flights in its MileagePlus loyalty program. Blackout dates for award travel that previously applied to all members except elites and Chase MileagePlus cardholders have now been eliminated. And the prices of some reward flights have been reduced to as little as 5,000 miles one-way for domestic flights and 22,500 miles on some routes to reopened European nations like Spain, Portugal and Iceland.
The floodgates for U.S. travel to Europe are reopening as several more countries last week started welcoming American visitors, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. Those are in addition to earlier reopenings by Greece, Iceland, Portugal, France, Italy, Denmark and Germany.
Switzerland opens June 26 to Americans who can show proof of a completed vaccination, a recovery from COVID-19 or a negative COVID test result. The Dutch government put the U.S. on its list of low-risk “safe” countries as of June 24, so Americans can now enter the country with no restrictions — no vaccination certificate, negative COVID test result or quarantine. Austria’s entry requirements include a vaccination certificate, proof of recovery from COVID in the past six months or a negative result from a test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival. Americans arriving in Poland by air need to show a negative COVID test result. And the Czech Republic now welcomes U.S. visitors without any testing requirement — but that’s just to enter the country; once you’re in, you’ll need to show either a negative COVID test result, vaccination certificate or proof of recovery from COVID if you want to stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant or visit a museum. (Reminder: Americans who travel outside the U.S. still need to get a negative result on a COVID test no more than 72 hours before they board their flight home.)
But Americans who want to visit the United Kingdom will have to keep waiting. Amid widespread speculation that Britain was about to reopen to Americans and other foreigners who have been vaccinated, the U.K. government last week issued the latest update to its “green list” of foreign nations deemed to be safe for travel — and the U.S. wasn’t on it. Neither were most of the other nations on the “amber list,” where travel remains restricted; only Malta and some other Mediterranean and Caribbean islands got the nod. According to British newspaper the Guardian, government officials have hinted that a much broader opening of travel for fully vaccinated individuals is still likely to come in the weeks ahead, but probably not until August.
This training was suspended due to COVID, but it’s time to restart and make the voluntary course compulsory as intended originally by Congress. Thanks to the @TSA Federal Air Marshals who lead these classes. We’re going to need a lot more of you! Watch…https://t.co/A5dcRPPVKM pic.twitter.com/QyO9J9TNtK
— Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) June 20, 2021
So far this year, the Federal Aviation Administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy toward in-flight violations of government regulations has led to $563,800 in fines on misbehaving passengers. But now the airlines and their employees are arguing that doesn’t go far enough, and they want to see the bad actors face the prospect of time in federal prison.
The U.S. airline industry’s major trade group Airlines for America (A4A) last week teamed up with other carrier organizations, pilot unions and flight attendant unions to send a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to take stronger action against “the substantial increase in and growing escalation of passengers’ unruly and disruptive behavior onboard aircraft, particularly toward crewmembers.” The organizations said that while they appreciate the FAA’s efforts, including its stiff civil penalties against violators, “the federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance.”
The airline groups noted that federal laws already on the books ban “assault or intimidation of a flight crew member,” with potential penalties ranging up to 20 years in prison. Instead of leaving potential criminal prosecutions to local law enforcement, the letter said, “it is not a local issue subject to jurisdictional variations.” Instead, the airline groups said the Justice Department “should direct federal prosecutors to dedicate resources for egregious cases.” Publicizing those cases and the resulting penalties “will act as an effective deterrent against future onboard disruptions,” they said.
For its part, the FAA last week announced eight more fines ranging from $9,000 to $22,000 against misbehaving passengers for interfering with flight attendants. “The cases announced today include assaulting flight crew, drinking alcohol brought aboard the plane and refusing to wear facemasks,” the FAA said. (It noted that of the 3,100 reports of unruly passengers it has received so far this year, 2,350 involved refusing to wear face masks as directed by the flight crew. The federal mask rule remains in effect through the summer.) The agency said that besides face mask violations and drinking, the latest cases also involved a lot of profanities screamed at flight crew, pushing, shoving and hitting.
The Transportation Security Administration is trying to help by reviving special self-defense courses for flight attendants and other crew members. The training had been suspended during the pandemic but now is seen to be needed more than ever due to the rise in in-flight incidents. The training helps flight crew decide which passengers might pose a serious threat, teach them how to defuse the situation if possible — and how to restrain and/or fight them if it comes to that. “A TSA video featuring one of the courses includes flight attendants practicing gouges to the eyes and kicks to the groin,” the Washington Post noted.
In international route news, Delta plans to revive service between New York JFK and Lisbon on Aug. 1 with weekly flights as part of a big boost in summer flight to Europe. The carrier will also increase frequencies to Amsterdam on July 7 from Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City; boost its New York JFK-Rome schedule to daily flights July 1; kick off Atlanta-Athens, JFK-Venice and JFK-Dubrovnik service July 2; begin JFK-Nice flights July 8; add Boston-Rome, Atlanta-Venice, Atlanta-Madrid and Atlanta-Barcelona service Aug. 5. (And Delta’s partner Air France begins new Denver-Paris flights July 2.) Elsewhere, Delta plans to bring back Atlanta-Johannesburg flights Aug. 1 with an A350-900 — the longest nonstop route in Delta’s system. Delta is also expanding its code-share agreement with Kenya Airways, putting Delta’s code onto a number of the latter’s routes within Africa available via connections at Accra, Ghana, and Nairobi, Kenya.
Hawaiian Airlines said it will resume service between Honolulu and Papeete, Tahiti, on Aug. 7, operating one flight a week with an Airbus A330. The airline said Hawaii and French Polynesia have created a pretravel testing program “that allows for quarantine-free travel within the two archipelagos.”
Two major U.S. airports in New York and Florida have opened new passenger lounges. At New York LaGuardia, American Express has cut the ribbon on a 10,000-square-foot Centurion Lounge post-security in the airport’s new Terminal B, twice the size of the company’s former lounge in the same terminal. Besides the usual celebrity chef dining (chef Cedric Vongerichten of New York’s Wayan restaurant) and fancy bar with views of Manhattan in the distance, the LGS Centurion Lounge also has a unique “study space” stocked with books from the city’s McNally Jackson independent bookstore (which also has a branch outlet in Terminal B). And Delta has opened a new Sky Club in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as one element in a $153 million modernization and expansion of the airport’s Terminal 2. The mezzanine-level club has expansive runway views and is one of the first in Delta’s network to bring back hot food service. “With the opening of the Fort Lauderdale Club, all of Delta’s Clubs will be reopened by the end of June,” the company said.
Originally Appeared On: https://www.chron.com/travel/article/Routes-full-flights-July-4th-SFO-OAK-SJC-Hawaii-16274528.php