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CDC Adds No New Destinations To Highest Travel Risk Category, Though Airfare Set To Rise

For the first time in months, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not added any new destinations to its “very high” COVID-19 travel risk category. The absence of additions is a welcome sight to a category that currently contains 115 destinations, which includes hot tourist spots like France, Turkey, and Spain.

The last addition to the “very high” category came on March 21, when Madagascar — the world’s fourth largest island, located off the coast of Africa — was included. It’s just one of two total destinations added to the CDC’s fourth level since March 14, the other being the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

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The CDC has four levels of COVID-19 travel risk: level four, or “very high”; level three, or “high”; level two, or “moderate”; and level one, or “low.” Level three currently has 33 destinations, level two has 14 destinations, and level one has 36 destinations. Destinations are ranked based on the amount of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over the last 28 days.

There weren’t zero changes across the board when looking at the four categories altogether. Level three saw five countries added Monday — which includes Bosnia, Peru, and Qatar — while level two had six new destinations added. Among those are the popular Bahamas, which have seen a 129% search increase this year when compared to 2019.

As CNN Travel notes, the amount of level four countries has seen a droppage of over two dozen the last several weeks. The surging Omicron variant contributed to a high rise in winter, with 22 countries being added to level four on Jan. 18. In late February, the total level four destinations hovered around 140. Still, level four currently contains more countries than the other three levels combined.

Another positive CDC development is their lifting of the travel advisory for cruise ships, marking it the first time this has happened since the pandemic began. The CDC moved the advisory to the highest level in late December before moving it down a category in February. There are currently 34 cruise ships that have no reported cases, and 69 cruises that are below the CDC’s threshold for investigation.

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While the outlook for travel on all fronts is gradually improving, one area that isn’t a ray of sunshine are costs. According to Hopper, international airfare costs from the U.S. currently match 2019 costs at $810/round-trip. However, predictions suggest they’re set to rise to $940/round-trip in June, a 15% jump from current prices and 5% rise from 2019 costs.

Meanwhile, U.S. domestic travel is taking a greater beating with $330/round-trip airfare, a 7% rise from 2019 costs. Domestic will continue to see spikes, with predictions calling for a 10% increase ($360/round-trip) through May. Both domestic and international airfare are expected to decline into the fall.

The increase in ticket prices can be contributed as a fight to offset costs due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which has resulted in jet fuel prices of $3.07/gallon, the highest totals since January 2014 and up 40% from January 2022’s $2.20/gallon, Hopper noted.

Those dollar signs won’t be detering passengers, however. According to a joint report by Trip.com and the World Travel & Tourism Council, 70% of leisure travelers in major countries plan to spend more on travel in 2022 than in the past five years. The report also found that the important factor for travelers is getting the best value for their money.

Airlines Pushback Reopening Flights Between US And Europe Amid Covid Case Surges 

US borders are currently closed to travelers from the European Union (EU) and the UK, and have been that way for over 500 days now. While there hasn’t been a formal announcement as to when these borders will reopen, airlines are beginning to push back the scheduled restart of their London-New York flights. 

Initially flights were set to resume between the two major cities in September, but now airlines are waiting until November. New outlets in Ireland seemed to allude that the US would be lifting its travel ban in time for Labor Day weekend, however, no official announcements have been made to confirm those reports. 

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The EU is currently discussing whether or not they will reopen their borders to US citizens while the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be keeping land borders between Mexico and Canada closed until at least September 21st. 

Land border restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens.lawful permanent residents, or individuals traveling for school or medical reasons. Travel into Canada is also now allowed for US citizens who are fully vaccinated. 

Jeff Zients is the White House Covid-19 coordinator who recently held a press briefing regarding the reopening of international borders and US travel in general. 

“The interagency working groups are currently developing a policy process, and we will be ready when it is the right time to consider reopening travel. And that’ll be guided, as always, by science and public health.”

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Travel correspondent Simon Calder claims that “in the past 48 hours I have asked a number of travel industry chief executives about when the current presidential proclamation banning arrivals from the U.K. might be lifted. Their answers and predictions range from ‘September’ to ‘no idea’.”

“The main problem now appears to be two-fold: inertia (once draconian rules are imposed, they can be slow to remove), combined with an unwillingness in Washington DC to complicate the difficult domestic situation at a time when the Delta variant is running wild across America, especially in the key tourism state of Florida.”

Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group told the press that “the figures are going in the wrong direction for the U.S. and I don’t really see any appetite in the U.S. to open up sooner rather than later. It is slightly different for the U.S. because they have such a big domestic market, which means international travel makes up a smaller proportion of the industry’s revenues.”

The US currently allows entry to any US citizen and their dependents as well as anyone who has spent 14 days in a country not listed on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s prohibited list.

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Top Tips From A Travel Agent On Booking Future Vacations 

While the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much an issue in our world, with the release of multiple vaccines and advanced health and safety procedures being implemented to curb the spread, many are remaining optimistic, and spending their remaining days in quarantine fantasizing about where they’ll travel to first once the world reopens again. While we may not know exactly when we’ll be able to hop on a plane without worrying about if we have our masks or not, it can be fun to start thinking about the future now.

Nadine Cresswell-Myatt is a travel journalist who recently published the best tips she’s ever received from a travel agent before, so here are some things to keep in mind the next time you have the opportunity to leave your house for a while. 

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First and foremost you should always book early morning flights in the middle of the week, specifically Tuesday if you can. Regardless of if you’re a morning person or not, flights leaving early in the day are much less likely to be delayed, additionally, by the time you get to your destination, depending on how early and long your flight is, you’ll have more of the day to take in the scenery and start enjoying your vacation right away. 

The best days of the week to travel are also always in the middle of the week, and statistically speaking Tuesday’s are the least busy days for most airports in America. Mid-week early morning tickets also tend to be much cheaper than say a 6 p.m flight on a Friday. If you’re the type of person who packs a lot and gets nervous that a packed flight may prevent you from using overhead carry on storage, definitely consider getting a flight on one of the least busy travel days in general. 

A more niche, yet useful, tip for couples or anyone traveling in a group setting is to always pack a complete change of clothes in the other person’s suitcase. While this may sound weird, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where the airline loses your luggage, or accidentally ships it to the wrong location therefore delaying how long you are without your clothes, having at least one change of clothes will be enough to hold you over for the first day or two; or until you can get to a clothing store. 

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Keep all prescription medication in your carry on. This goes along with the previous tip of ensuring you have all your necessities should the worst happen and an airline lose your luggage. Your health is never something to be taken for granted, as this pandemic has taught us, so if you’re an individual taking prescription medication in any context, make sure you have it on you at all times just in case. 

Along those same lines, bring more medication than you will need. Some travelers make the mistake of only packing the specific dosages that they’ll need for the time they’re gone, however, you never know what could happen. For example, say you’re getting ready to leave and a storm hits so your flight gets moved to another day, you don’t want to be left anxious thinking about how much medication you have left. 

Finally, if you’re using a travel agent, only use ones that have actually been to the destination you’re trying to go to. It’s the same concept for any type of professional you would hire to do a service for you. You would never hire a real estate agent that just moved to your town a week ago and didn’t know anything about the area, you would want the more established agent who has been selling homes in your town for decades. So whenever you’re able to take that first trip post-pandemic, plan smartly, and leave no box unchecked. 

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Carry-On Travel Essentials For Your Next Flight

When it comes to travelling, preparation is key. “Who, what, where, when, why, and how” takes on a whole new meaning in regards to packing and prepping for the journey you’re about to embark on, wherever that is. Besides what you need for the trip itself, if you find yourself booking a long flight to paradise, you’re going to need to bring some things to keep you entertained and at ease while you’re en route. So make sure you leave room for some of these essentials in your carry-on. 

To start, make sure you have a quality carry-on to begin with. Most aircrafts can support bags of a relatively large size on board now, but a large backpack should suffice all your needs that don’t fit in your checked bag. Try to find something with a lot of zipped pockets and padding. While it may take you longer to figure out which pocket has what in it, you’ll be more relaxed knowing that all of your belongings are zipped up and secured with you. 

Let’s start by going through the on board essentials that make any flight much more bearable. A neck pillow is the first thing that comes to most of our minds when we think of airplanes, as it should. Airplane seats can be unsupportive and lumpy, and a neck pillow offers the perfect amount of support for your neck and head when you’re trying to catch up on some sleep during your flight. Match that with a weighted eye mask and some earbuds and you’ll be as comfortable as one can be sleeping on a plane.  

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Makeup removing/facial cleansing wipes are an underrated essential to put in your carry-on. We all know that airlines see some of the most foot traffic of any industry, meaning there’s a ton of germs being transferred among all of us constantly. Hand sanitizer and general hand washing will help prevent you from getting sick (among other things), but staying relatively clean throughout a day of non-stop travel can be tough. Cleansing facial wipes will not only remove any makeup, dirt, or foreign bacteria from your face, but give you a more refreshed and clean feeling, something that’s pretty hard to accomplish while on an airplane. 

Along those same lines, toiletries are always good to have on hand when in the air. Since all airlines have pretty strict guidelines as to how much liquid you can bring onto a plane, head to your local drug store to ensure that you’re getting the right size of everything to take on board. Most drug stores, like CVS or RiteAid, have a travel section where they sell mini bottles of things like mouthwash and toothpaste that already fit the size requirements of most major airlines. Pick up some mini mouthwash, toothpaste, and maybe a new mini toothbrush, in case you eat a lovely airplane meal and want your breath to feel a little fresher after. Deodorant is another great thing to have on hand. 

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Sticking to self-care and hygiene, a face mask can be an extremely fun way to pass the time on a flight, and a great way to keep up with your skincare routine. Travelling in general can really stress our skin out; the change in altitude, environment and air can lead to dryness, irritation, and breakouts. Packing a sheet mask in your carry-on is the cleanest face mask option one could bring on a flight. You simply unfold it and place it on your skin, and when you’re done you can just throw it out, no sink or washing off required. While you may look a little strange, most people know what a sheet mask is, and besides, you’re going on vacation and will likely never see these individuals again, so just go for it. 

It should go without saying that you should pack some in-flight entertainment for yourself. In case none of the movie options appeal to you, download some of your favorite films onto your phone, tablet, or laptop the night before you leave. This way, you likely won’t even need the on-board WiFi to watch, and you have a simple way to pass a few hours. 

To keep your devices charged up, pack a portable charger. Some flights have outlets or USB ports for your chargers, but those can be flimsy or not even work. By packing your own fully charged external battery, along with all of the appropriate cords for your devices, you will ensure that no matter how much you’re using your electronics, they won’t run out of battery. 

Finally, bring a change of clothes. Yes I know, you’re technically packing a whole bunch of outfit changes in your regular suitcase, but planning ahead for the climate of your destination, and potential changes in cabin temperature, will ensure that you remain fully comfortable throughout your travels. In addition, once you arrive, you can easily change in the airport so you’re ready for wherever it is you decided to go!

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With Airlines Expecting a Tenth Year of Profits, Employees Are Asking For Better Deals

Thanks to the majority of United States airlines coming to the end of yet another profitable year – the tenth in a row – many of their employees are calling for bosses to provide improved remuneration packages.

Over 120,000 unionized employees will start negotiating their labor agreements that could potentially see major American carriers having higher expenses, including American Airlines who are starting to negotiate not only with pilots and flight attendants but maintenance workers too.

Currently airline companies spend the majority of their expenses on their labor costs with 28 percent of the overall $187 billion revenue being spent on labor costs, an increase of 21% in 2008 – mostly due to higher work forces and increased compensation payments.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants – who has around 50,000 cabin crew members from 20 different airlines, including United Airlines and is calling for flight attendants at Delta Airlines to also join the union – commented that “there are simply more funds to get and workers are cognizant they’re turning out more value.”

This is in stark contrast to ten years ago when many airlines were hit with bankruptcies alongside several megamergers leaving three quarters of the market in the control of four carriers.

However profits started to increase and experts have forecast a net income of under 1% for each of the four big airlines, which although does not sound much actually equates to $12.44 billion.

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Kit Darby tracks the pay rate of pilots and notes that “when the airlines are making money, it’s hard to deny the increase in compensation. Everybody tries to get a good contract when times are good. If it’s a short downturn, they hold on to what they got.”

With the news that profits are continuing to increase airports across the country have started to see protests as airline workers demand better schedules and working conditions as well as pay increases.

Executives at American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have attempted to have labor talks with their employees however they have laid the blame with the mechanics’ unions for delaying talks in an attempt to gain leverage, which in turn has caused operational issues that have led to thousands of flights being delayed or even canceled, although the unions have denied this.

In March of this year a resolution between Southwest and their mechanics ended six years of discussions with the new five-year contract including a 20 percent increase in wages as well as $160 million in back pay for employees.

However the airline’s discussions with their flight attendants is still continuing as well as their discussions with their customer service agents, dispatchers, and pilots. Most of the staff is concerned regarding the Boeing 737 Max still being grounded with the unions claiming the issue has caused employees to lose over $100 million in wages.

American Airlines are still in talks with their mechanics’ unions with the airline suing the unions in May due to the travel disruptions they were causing, winning an injunction that means they can no longer get involved in the airlines’ operations.

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Josh Freed, the spokesman for American Airlines, said “since August, teams for the company and the union have met for multiple days nearly every week” confirming that both groups have “made considerable progress” although further talks have already been scheduled for January.

Another issue is the fact that although unionized airline workers’ contracts are allowed to have the dates amended they do not expire, all contracts are valid beyond the finalized date and any negotiated raises will no longer be applied.

It is worth noting that employees are not only looking for extra wages with American airlines mechanics asking for the outsourcing of jobs to be limited, especially those to foreign companies. American Airlines pilots are also requesting improved scheduling to ensure a “better quality of life.”

Eric Ferguson, Allied Pilots Association President as well as an Airbus A320 captain agrees that “scheduling is our no. 1 issue.” The union has also requested that employees on the less-desirable flights receive higher wages as well as providing easier ways for the routes to be available to pilots. This should encourage the trips to be picked up by pilots, reducing the operational problems, which in turn would enable revenue and profits to increase and therefore be shared with the airline’s employees. However Ferguson wants to make it clear that the unions are not just saying “pay us more,” but that they want the airlines to “fix the problems” they already have.

The APA represents around 15,000 pilots and although talks started in the first half of 2019, the contract would not be amendable until the beginning of 2020. However the union are asking for 16% raises over a three-year deal. The airline has countered with the same increase but over five years.

Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, spoke at a meeting in June last year telling their pilots “shame on us if we can’t figure out over the course of a year how to get a contract done before the amendable date.”

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How The Way You Travel Is Affecting Our Planet

This year there have been increased rumblings around the world about climate change with details regarding the way we are all collectively killing the planet seemingly being reported each day, but there are many ways we can do our own little bit to help save the world.

Currently air travel is being cited as the number one enemy in our fight against global warming. The amount of carbon dioxide that an East to West coast flight generates is around one metric ton. And that is a lot. Cutting down on the amount of times you take air travel can be a great way to reduce your own personal carbon footprint.

Earlier this year there was an event at Google Camp that centered on climate change and many high profile names were in attendance, including Barack Obama and the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry as well as environmental champion Leonardo DiCaprio. While the efforts of so many people should be applauded, there were many who thought the 114 private jets that were used to get to the $20 million event was slightly hypocritical.

Another pivotal moment in raising climate change awareness was the rise of environmentalist Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish girl who sailed around the globe to chastise the Western world for creating an environmental issue that her generation – and generations to come – will have to continue to fix. On the back of Thunberg’s successful cultural movement, the concept of flight shaming – or ‘flygskam’ – has risen.

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The Swedish word originated from an anti-flying movement started by Swedish singer Staffan Lindberg. Lindberg originally wrote an article vowing to give up flying which was also signed by five of his famous friends, including Thunberg’s mother Malena Ernman. Thunberg has taken the campaign – where they suggest people should feel ashamed for using air travel due to the massive negative impact it has on the planet – and incorporated it into her “awareness tour” around Europe.

We are not suggesting you drive each time you travel cross-country, or sail around the world to your next meeting or holiday in Europe, but you can travel more by train. However America has over 3.7 million square miles of landmass meaning there are obstacles here too. For instance, a train journey from Los Angeles to Houston is over 35 hours long and is clearly not feasible for most travelers, but by taking the train on shorter journeys you can “do your bit.”

Currently train travel is the most environmentally friendly way to get around and many passengers are “getting on board” with the idea. The Pacific Surfliner in Southern California has seen an increase in travelers with around 3 million using the train service in 2018. Getting from Hollywood to San Diego takes around three hours, roughly the same time as sitting in a car. The difference being that on a train you can do your work, move around and most importantly, reduce your carbon footprint.

Train travel is also seeing a huge resurgence in popularity in the Northeast Corridor with over 17 million journeys being taken each year.
But if train travel is not the best way for you to get around and you have to rely on your car why not opt for an electric vehicle?

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Not only are electric cars far more beneficial to the planet – each EV has zero exhaust emissions – they can also use renewable energy. By recharging your car from a supply such as a solar powered grid, you would be reducing your greenhouse emissions even further.

And if this was not enough to convince you to trade in your gas powered vehicle to an electric one how about the fact that most electric vehicles are now being made with eco-friendly materials such as bio-based or recycled materials.

Other benefits of driving an electric car are the running costs and health benefits. The cost to charge an electric car works out at roughly a third as much per mile as buying gas. They are also cheaper to maintain thanks to having fewer parts – for example, there are no exhausts systems, starter motors or fuel injection systems as well as many other parts that a conventional car would need.

And with less harmful exhaust emissions the air quality will improve, meaning better air for us to breathe.

So when you are planning your next journey ask yourself these important questions. Can I take my time getting there? Do I really need to fly? Would an electric car – bought or hired – be the better option?

And if you can utilize America’s vast train network make sure you sit back, think about how you have done your bit to help the planet, and enjoy the scenery going past. You will be amazed at what you have been missing.