Travel News for 5/16/2021
Today's Contents

United CEO Explains Why He Thinks There Will Be More Travel Going Forward

United Airlines CEO has an optimistic outlook for the airline. After aggressively managing 2020, Scott Kirby was pleased to report last week that United expected its core cash burn to be positive in March and, assuming booking trends continue, positive moving forward. As many consider pent-up demand leading to a summer surge with questions about what will come after, Mr. Kirby explained he thinks there will be more travel in a post-crisis world.„¥
Why Mr. Kirby thinks there will be more travel moving forward

Speaking at the 2021 J.P. Morgan Industrials Conference, Mr. Kirby stated the following:
¡§I think that there¡¦s going to be more travel going forward just period. It¡¦s not just pent-up demand¡Kretail spend has been up, but durables are way, way up, and things like travel and leisure are down 70%. I think all that durable expense that would have been happening in 2022, 2023, 2024 ¡V you¡¦ve already bought a new washing machine, you don¡¦t have to buy another one, people already bought a new car, did a home repair ¡V that money that got spent was pull forward. It is going to mean a lot more available to spend in ¡¦22, ¡¦23, ¡¦24 for leisure demand.¡¨

While 2020 was a rough year for the travel industry, not all industries were battered. Much of the spending was concentrated around bigger items. Per CNBC, existing-home sales in the US in 2020 hit levels not seen in over 10 years. Along with home-buying, other retail segments saw a bump in revenue. Home Depot, a home improvement retailer in the US, saw sales for the fiscal year 2020 increase nearly 20% compared to the fiscal year of 2019.
„¥
Non-airline factors that affect consumer spend
To an extent, airlines compete with several other industries for dollars from consumers. However, some of that spending is outside of an airline¡¦s control. While airlines can try to price themselves competitively against other carriers, passengers have to choose to spend on travel over other items like a washing machine or a car.„¥
Not to mention, after a passenger chooses to travel somewhere, there are added costs like dining and lodging that may be priced higher than a consumer is willing to spend. For example, even if there are airfares at rock-bottom prices to destinations like Hawaii or Jackson Hole, customers may choose not to book if lodging expenses, dining expenses, or car rental expenses do not have the flexibility some airline tickets have or the low price that a consumer would be willing to spend.

A surge is starting to show
Spring break travel is pushing the industry toward a successful March, and an increase in future bookings has airlines hopeful for a summer surge in demand. However, it is unclear what happens after a summer surge.„¥
For much of 2020, passengers have been unable to fly to many destinations. Through the normally busy summer season, states like Hawaii and New York had entry restrictions in effect that severely deterred leisure travelers. As those states started opening up later in the year, more people did visit those destinations. Summer 2021, however, will be the first peak summer season since 2019, when these states are mostly open for leisure travel.

The lack of ability to travel in 2020 led many to speculate about pent-up demand that will come through as vaccinations roll out and people gain the confidence to fly. Moreover, as countries worldwide start to press forward with reopening for tourism, as some European countries have already indicated they are willing to do, it is expected that there will be another surge for international travel coming from pent-up demand.„¥
A summer surge is brewing and simmering, but per United¡¦s CEO, he believes that the summer surge is part of a trend for more travel in the coming few years after a year where most people essentially stayed at home or were deterred from visiting the places they wanted to visit. The real test for whether Mr. Kirby is right will come in 2022 and 2023 when international travel is expected to start coming back.


Qantas CEO: 'Governments are going to insist' on vaccines for international travelers

The CEO of an Australian airline said he thinks “governments are going to insist” on vaccines for international travelers “as a condition of entry.”
Alan Joyce of Qantas Airways Limited told the BBC that he thinks “once everybody is vaccinated,” governments are going to require that international travelers are vaccinated if they want to enter a country. He said they will no longer be permitted to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days as a way to enter.

Even if some countries decide against this policy, Joyce said he thinks airlines should enforce their own guidelines, out of their “duty of care.”
"We have a duty of care to our passengers and to our crew, to say that everybody in that aircraft needs to be safe,” Joyce said.
Joyce thinks passengers would be supportive of this change. He said 90 percent of the people he surveyed think it’s a “great idea.”
“The vast majority of our customers think this is a great idea - 90 percent of people that we've surveyed think it should be a requirement for people to be vaccinated to travel internationally,” Joyce said.
The World Health Organization, however, is not on board with such a proposal. Bernardo Mariano, the organization’s director of digital health and innovation, shot down the initiative, telling the BBC “We don’t approve the fact that a vaccinations passport should be a condition for travel.”

He added that regardless of what the public sector is in favor of, such a change would require a “unified approach from governments,” the BBC wrote.

The Hill has reached out to the Centers for Disease Control for comment.
The airline industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this month, the Airports Council International - North America released a report that found that U.S. airports need $115.4 billion in infrastructure investments over the next five year to address crucial needs, including improving the air passenger experience, increasing convenience, enhancing security, expanding competition and lowering prices for travelers.

The industry, however, has seen a partial rebound in recent weeks. On Thursday, the Transportation Security Administration reported that more than 1.4 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Wednesday, which marked the eighth consecutive day that travel volume exceeded 1 million.

The last time airport activity was this high was the week of March 15, 2020, when more than 1.5 million people passed through TSA checkpoints before lockdowns and recommendations against air travel set in.
By Mychael Schnell


It’s official: Japan won’t allow overseas visitors to attend Tokyo Olympics

It’s official: Japan won’t allow overseas visitors to attend the rescheduled 2020 Olympic Games. On March 3, Japanese newspaper Mainichi reported that the government has been planning to hold the games without accepting spectators from outside Japan. The organizers of the games confirmed that rumor today.

The New York Times reported on the press conference announcing this news. According to Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo committee, “The Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different from the past, but the essence remains the same. Athletes will put everything on the line and inspire people with their outstanding performances.”This ruling was made due to the continued concern surrounding the spread of the coronavirus and its varying strains. Officials determined that the safest bet was to just allow domestic spectators.

Although parts of Europe and the United States have seen the ramp-up of vaccination programs that offer a promising light at the end of the tunnel, the Japanese government is reportedly looking to avoid any catastrophe that would see the further delay — or cancellation — of the games.
Since the start of the year, the International Olympic Committee along with the Japanese and Tokyo governments have emphasized their intention to hold the games this year.

The 2020 Olympic Games were originally set to be held in July 2020 but were postponed in March of the same year when the pandemic first began spreading on a global level. The new dates were set for one year later, July 23–Aug. 8, 2021, for the Olympic Games and Aug. 24–Sept. 5, 2021, for the Paralympic Games.

If you’re one of the 600,000 people from outside Japan that bought tickets to attend the Olympics this year, you’ll need to start the refund process. Contact the company from which you purchased your tickets.
Emily McNutt


Transcontinental Business Class Dinner: AA VS UA

My Meal of the Week feature examines an airline meal from my travels over the years. This may be a meal from earlier in the week or it may be a meal served over a decade ago.
I’ve recently flown both United Airlines and American Airlines on a transcontinental trip from New York to Los Angeles. Which carrier offers the better meals in business class?

Transcontinental Business Class Dinner: American Airlines Vs. United Airlines
My American Airlines flight from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) featured a printed menu and four dinner choices:
Beef short rib
Asian-style chicken
Seared salmon
Spinach and ricotta rotolo pasta
Prior to dinner, a bag of pistachios and Biscoff cookies were served.
All dishes came with a burrata cheese appetizer and raspberry cheesecake tart.
I ordered salmon (with basmati rice, peas, baby carrots, and herb butter), and it was delicious and also nicely presented once the foil coverings and plastic were removed.
My wife and son ordered the chicken (with jasmine rice, Asian vegetables, snow peas, toasted sesame seeds, and a marsala shiitake sauce). I tried it and loved it.
A flight attendant also brought my son the pasta choice by mistake (rotolo with pomodoro sauce, basil pesto, and pine nuts), which I photographed before he took it back.
The food was delicious and was presented on a “real” dishes and plates with no plastic containers.


My United Airlines from Newark to Los Angeles did not include printed menus, but choices were Thai chicken or butternut squash ravioli.
On United, premium transcontinental meals include:
Mixed nuts
Packaged bread roll
Salad
Main course
Ice cream or sorbet
The Thai chicken was very tasty, with a coconut ginger sauce and spiced vegetables, though the portion size was small. I appreciated the oversized container of mixed nuts and the salad was fresh and delicious.
The butternut squash was very sweet, though a nice change from the usual cheese ravioli with red sauce.
I’m not a big sorbet fan and left the mango sorbet behind.

Winner: American Airlines
The good news is that the meals were not just decent, but tasty on both carriers. I preferred the salad on United over the burrata appetizer on American. But the main courses were heartier and tastier on American Airlines and I liked the cheesecake better than the sorbet (though I would have preferred chocolate ice cream to either). Plus, the bread on American was fresher and of better quality than on United.

CONCLUSION
Props to American and United for offering meal service on their coast-to-coast flights. Delta still only offers snack boxes and does not even offer hot coffee. You probably won’t fly an airline for its superior meal service, but American Airlines edges out United in this regard.
MATTHEW KLINT


Does United Airlines Have The Answer To Improving Flight Attendant Service?

At most U.S. airlines if a flight attendant provides great service it’s because of their own inner drive. It’s not because of any training program or incentives that the company has set up.
One of the most frustrating thing I hear from cabin crew all the time is about the small percentage of their colleagues who are slackers, who perform poorly and do as little work as possible (increasing the workload for everyone else). This is frustrating because there’s usually very little consequence. And seeing poor performers do just as well as those who provide exemplary service is demoralizing.

This isn’t strictly a union versus non-union issue. While in general Delta’s non-union flight attendants have seemed happier with their jobs and friendlier to customers than American’s, Southwest Airlines unionized flight attendants are generally more than pleasant too. Southwest does, however, manage to push out disgruntled employees, about 1/7th of 1% per year.
U.S. airlines mostly discipline for attendance, not poor service, and there’s little they can do to change this culture – or so it seems. United Airlines is actually trying something new: sharing passenger feedback from each flight directly with cabin crew.
United surveys passengers on their flight experience – satisfaction with service, whether they were thanked, whether cabin crew were visible throughout the flight, and whether they were friendly. You might think that only people who complain fill out surveys but “In 2020, United flight attendants received over 20,000 compliments.”

United is starting a test April 1 to share survey feedback with Chicago and Honolulu-based cabin crew flying certain routes
The airline will roll out surveys in-app and via seat back entertainment screens.
The question – and it’s a really interesting one – is will direct customer feedback (anonymized, after a flight) be taken constructively, causing employees to try to do better? Will positive feedback reinforce an employee’s desire to perform well? It’s still not a monetary reward. Their position in the company isn’t necessarily enhanced. But we all like positive feedback, and to do those things which garners it. And if it’s clear how to avoid negative feedback, that could shape behavior as well.

This could easily go wrong and I wonder whether United will actually censor some of the comments. Feedback provided anonymously via a keyboard can be mean-spirited and foul-mouthed. Believe me, I get some every day!

Still, in a world where U.S. airlines have few tools for encouraging good service and competing forces that demoralize crew into working as little as some of their colleagues get away with, this is an interesting experiment.
by Gary Leff


What Happened To The easyJet ecoJet?

Today, many airlines and manufacturers are pushing to make commercial air travel a more sustainable industry. However, this is an initiative that, in one form or another, dates back further than you might think. For example, 2007 saw British low-cost carrier easyJet reveal its proposed ‘ecoJet’ aircraft. But what is the story of this environmentally-friendly design?

Ambitious environmental targets
In June 2007, easyJet made waves in the field of sustainable commercial aviation when it unveiled its proposed ecoJet aircraft. According to The Guardian, the carrier was said to be in talks with the likes of Airbus, Boeing, and Rolls-Royce, as it looked to introduce an aircraft with 50% lower CO2 emissions than its existing fleet. But where does this figure come from?

The aircraft’s ‘open rotor engines alone were planned to reduce its CO2 output by a factor of 25%. The next 15% came from using a lightweight aluminum composite material on its fuel and wings. The final 10% of this impressive reduction was to come from its lower speed. Andy Harrison, easyJet’s CEO from 2005-10, was anxious to get the project going, and stated, as per The Guardian:
“It is always hard to pin down an aircraft manufacture date, but that’s the point [of the prototype]. What we are saying to them is ‘this is what we want you to build, get on with it.’ This is not Star Trek, this is not leading-edge technology. It is there, it is available. It needs putting together.”

easyJet Airbus A320 Frankfurt
Established manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing, and Rolls-Royce were involved in discussions with easyJet. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying
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Yet to reach production
At the time of its unveiling in 2007, easyJet had even implemented timescales for the launch of the ecoJet into its fleet. It had reportedly planned for the aircraft to enter service at the airline as early as 2015. The planned short turnaround was likely due to the fact that the aircraft would have been able to be developed from existing technology.

This would have saved manufacturers crucial time in developing and producing the ecoJet. As such, the eight-year turnaround may not have seemed particularly unrealistic. However, six years after its planned introduction, the aircraft is still yet to reach production. Instead, easyJet’s green efforts have taken a different direction, by adding the Airbus A320neo family to its fleet.

A familiar name
Although easyJet’s proposed ecoJet design never came to fruition, multiple other aviation companies have used its name. However, they appear to have avoided any claims of copyright infringement in each case by using different amounts and locations of capital letters. For example, the all lower-case ecojet brand refers to a five-aircraft Bolivian regional airline.

And how about in the case of capitalizing the word’s first letter? This gives its name to a Russian concept aircraft that pre-dates easyJet’s design, known as the Frigate Ecojet. However, by only capitalizing the ‘Jet’ morpheme, easyJet allowed its ecoJet design to maintain its corporate identity. As such, it probably didn’t feel too aggrieved at missing out on the capital E.

ecojet Avro RJ-85
Today, the only use of the term ecojet in commercial aviation can be found in the form of a Bolivian airline. Photo: Marcualico via Wikimedia Commons
The Frigate Ecojet was first proposed in 1991, and was initially known as the Tupolev Tu-304. The aircraft is planned to sport an ultra-widebody three-aisle fuselage. Although its designers initially intended for it to be a twinjet design, it was upgraded to four engines and renamed ‘Freejet‘ in 2017.
Jake Hardiman


Everything you need to know about California’s theme parks reopening, and the “no scream” policy

Every spring, there is a flurry of activity as families make spring break plans that include a visit to a California theme park. This spring promises to be a special one, however, as Americans who may have been socially distancing for more than a year could be looking to make up lost time.

It’s fortuitous timing then that the California state government has offered theme parks and attractions all across the Golden State to reopen as early as April 1, 2021, as long as they adhere to several guidelines laid out by leaders in Sacramento. Some parks have published dates on when this will happen. As an example, one of the first to reopen will be Six Flags Magic Mountain in North Los Angeles County, which states on its ticket page that the park will reopen on April 1.

Further down the coast is Knott’s Berry Farm, the Cedar Park-operated, farm-themed amusement park in Buena Park, which plans to reopen in May. And at the other end of the spectrum is Universal Studios Hollywood, which has not yet published a reopening date.
Opening dates aren’t all up to the theme parks. The county in which they are located must first attain red/substantial tier 2 risk status.
What parks are opening when?
Six Flags Magic Mountain Twisted Colossus rollercoaster ride
The Twisted Colossus ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain has twists, loops and turns galore. (Photo courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain)
Here’s the latest information on when you might be able to visit your favorite park once again:
SeaWorld San Diego: Already open; The park is open now as a “licensed, permitted and accredited zoo” in compliance with state safety guidelines for zoos
Six Flags Magic Mountain, North LA County: Reopening date April 1
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo: Reopening date April 1
Disneyland Park, Anaheim: Reopening date April 30
Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park: Reopening in May
Universal Studios Hollywood: Reopening date uncertain, but while regular passes are not being sold, the park is offering an alternate experience that they call Taste of Universal, a separately ticketed, limited-time event
For all parks, capacity will be limited to comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing, and advance reservations are required for guests ages 3 and up. Note that, until further notice, tickets are only available to California residents. The buyer’s location will be verified by a new reservation system that uses GPS data to track purchases.
(The system also allows for contact tracing should there be a COVID-19 outbreak tied to a park.)

And finally…

Will theme parks really ban screaming?
In spite of rumors you may have heard, Disneyland Park probably won’t ban you from screaming during Splash Mountain’s climactic plunge into the briar patch. At least, they have no plans to. The same is true for other amusement parks and attractions across California, including Neptune’s Kingdom on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where no rules explicitly prohibit you from ecstatically screaming about the chicken tenders and garlic fries you grabbed at the Barbary Coast restaurant.
Earlier this week, a now-corrected story suggested that guidelines described by the California Attractions and Parks Association (CAPA), an industry group that represents parks and attractions of all sizes across the state, could mean these businesses would enact rules that limit shouting.

What’s actually true is that, in its own report titled “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” the California State Government listed various factors that could make it harder for a business to reopen. One of those was the business’ ability to “limit activities that are known to increase virus spread (like singing, shouting and heavy breathing).”
CAPA, however, has mentioned no plans to institute a ban on shouting. Instead, they include ways to mitigate that risk, which include face-covering usage, modifications to seat loading patterns and taking advantage of the fact that on rides, guests generally face in one direction.

Bottom line
We have reason to be hopeful. Cases in Los Angeles County, the most populous in the state and home to several of the state’s high-traffic parks, have been on a downward trend since peaking in January. As of Monday, March 15, L.A. and Orange counties moved into the less-restrictive red tier within the state’s reopening plan. With the three highly effective vaccines and aggressive efforts to vaccinate the state’s most vulnerable communities (many of whom keep the state’s tourism running), it’s safe to assume we could be touring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this spring, summer or fall.
Christina Garofalo


Iceland Eliminates “Backdoor” Into Europe Concept

Iceland is opening up like a lemonade stand on a hot summer day right now, with new flights added by the minute, and even new hotels opening just in time for summer. It’s wonderful news for travelers, including Americans, who’ve been persona non-grata for what feels like eternity, but not everyone is too happy about it.
And by not everyone, I mean most European countries.
Europe is struggling to vaccinate meaningful numbers and hordes of tourists are expected to enter Iceland from the US, UK and more; on the news that the country is open to vaccinated and recovered travelers.

But before you start thinking of the travel possibilities, Iceland is quickly noting that just because you’re able to enter the European Union’s Schengen Zone via the idyllic nation known for waterfalls and Northern Lights, you won’t be allowed to carry on to the rest, unless you’re a resident.

Iceland Warns Travelers About Schengen Access
Iceland is now open once again to vaccinated tourists and/ or those who can prove recovery, almost entirely regardless of passport, and now hopes to draw visitors from all over. Greece, another top European destination favorite, made noise of similarly expected formal announcements.
In previous years, that would mean once in Iceland, a tourist could board a plane to any other ‘Schengen’ area country in Europe without need for further immigration formalities. It allowed for little joys like taking a train from Budapest to Vienna without presenting a personal travel document.

In these hardly precedented times, border free travel isn’t quite ‘the thing’ between many European countries right now, and that makes Iceland’s move to open up travel to non Schengen area visitors an interesting topic. It could, or rather could’ve created a backdoor into Europe.
With the risk of drawing visitors who hoped to use Iceland as a backdoor “in” to the EU, or ire from EU countries for allowing it to happen, Iceland has quickly updated travel guidance for all arrivals in the week.

Iceland Updates Travel Notice
As reported by Loyalty Lobby, Iceland quickly released a travel statement via Icelandair letting people know that a ‘backdoor’ move into the heart of Europe won’t be possible for non Schengen residents. Per Icelandair’s email…
Please note: Travel from Iceland to the rest of Europe is currently not permitted for non-Schengen residents.

Icelandair
What’s particularly interesting in the statement is the distinction of “residents” rather than just citizens. Even someone with an EU passport could potentially get caught out if they don’t reside in Schengen Europe, since the distinction was made so specifically.

Long story short: if you don’t live in the Schengen Zone of Europe, the aim in Iceland appears to be to make it impossible for for the country to be used as a backdoor entry system into the EU right now. This means Americans and Brits could still be ineligible for flights from Iceland to the rest of the Schengen Zone while the ban remains, but are still welcome to visit Iceland.

by GILBERT OTT


United Airlines flight diverted, man arrested after 'report of someone's ear being bit off'

A United Airlines flight headed to Miami from Newark, New Jersey, made an unexpected stop in Charleston, South Carolina, after a man on board bit another passenger, according to a report from the Charleston County Aviation Authority Police Department.
Police responded to gate A-2 at the airport when the plane landed early after a "report of someone's ear being bit off" according to the report, provided by spokesperson Spencer Pryor.

United confirmed the flight landed early due to the disturbance and referred additional question to local police.
"On Wednesday, United flight 728 from Newark to Miami diverted to Charleston, South Carolina due to a disruptive passenger on board," United said in a statement provided by Robert Einhorn, airline spokesperson. "Law enforcement officials met the aircraft upon landing."
The flight landed at 10:10 am local time and taxied to the gate, where it was met by police. On the plane, responding officers observed "the suspect," identified as John Yurkovich, from New Jersey, with his hands tied behind his back with zip ties and a belt, according to the police report.
Passengers seated in front of Yurkovich were asked to disembark and he was taken in for questioning.
One passenger, identified as "Victim #1," was seated next to Yurkovich. The passenger said Yurkovich seemed "agitated" after a trip to the bathroom, according to the report. Yurkovich asked the flight crew for water and got up to retrieve "what appeared to be pills" from a carry-on bag, the passenger said.
Then, Yurkovich, back in his seat, began to "scream and thrash around," the passenger said.
Yurkovich hit Victim #1 with a "closed fist," breaking their glasses, according to the police report. Surrounding passengers attempted to restrain Yurkovich and Victim #1 sustained another injury: a laceration to the ear.
Then, a passenger seated behind Yurkovich attempted to intervene and was struck, according to the report. That passenger told police he thought his nose might be broken. Another passenger who was seated next to Victim #1, told authorities Yurkovich punched him in the "temporal" region but was not seriously injured.
A medical doctor who was also a passenger told authorities he injected Yurkovich with Benadryl to subdue him, according to the report.
Police arrested Yurkovich a charges of "possession with intent to distribute methamphetamines" after finding 1.5 grams of "white crystal substance" in his pocket that later tested to be methamphetamines, according to police.

The FBI also has pending charges against Yurkovich, according to the report.


UK's first electric commuter flights set for take-off

The first electric powered commuter flights could soon be taking to the air in the West Country. If test flights are successful it could lead to regular hybrid-electric aircraft service.
As part of the 2ZERO project, demonstration flights will travel from Exeter Airport to Newquay Airport.
Flights will be operated firstly by a six-seat Electric EEL aircraft developed by electric aviation firm Ampaire and, in a later phase, with a 19-seat Eco Otter, hybrid-electric aircraft.

It follows a successful bid to the Future Flight Challenge by a consortium made up of Ampaire, as well as Rolls-Royce Electrical, University of Nottingham, Loganair and local airports.


CDC Won’t Release Travel Guidance for Vaccinated Americans Just Yet

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is declining to issue new guidance regarding travel for COVID-19-vaccinated Americans at this time, due to concerns over new surges that could yet be caused by travel.

"What we have seen is that we have surges after people start traveling, we saw it after July 4, we saw it after Labor Day, we saw it after the Christmas holidays," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a March 10 COVID-19 briefing in response to a question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. Walensky stated that, since 90 percent of the American population currently remains unvaccinated, the CDC will wait to release its updated guidance until "we have more protection across the communities and across the population."
Walensky declined to provide advice at this time about whether it was safe for the 10 percent of Americans who are already immunized to travel and champing at the bit, although—like everyone else—they’re presumably impatient to start traveling again.

The prospect of resuming air travel especially seems to have various groups in disagreement. The airline industry has lately been pushing back against new CDC guidelines, which say that COVID-vaccinated persons should continue to avoid travel.

In a statement this week, industry group Airlines For America (A4A) insisted that flying poses a low risk of COVID-19 transmission, due to thoroughly filtered and frequently exchanged cabin air, as well as the federally mandated wearing of masks while onboard. "We remain confident that this layered approach significantly reduces risk," A4A said.

In its first set of guidance issued for fully-vaccinated Americans, the CDC stated that fully-vaccinated people can safely:

—Visit with others who’ve also been fully-vaccinated in indoor settings without wearing masks or social distancing.

—Visit with low-risk, unvaccinated people from a single household without wearing masks or physical distancing while indoors.

—Refrain from quarantine and testing measures, even after known exposure to someone who was asymptomatic.

The CDC does, however, specify that vaccinated individuals should still continue to practice several important safety precautions, at least for now. It says they should still do things like wear masks, social distance and practice other prevention measures while out in public, when visiting unvaccinated people who are high-risk for severe COVID-19 disease and when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households; as well as continuing to avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings. They should also get tested if they begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms.


Cash Strapped PIA Fails to Pay VSS, Medical Dues

* Employees Lambast “Incompetent” Management
* Salaries of Cockpit Crew slashed by 40%Regardless of tall claims made Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Arshad Malik to revive Pakistan International Airline (PIA), there is no end to the woes of the national flag carrier. Once considered the pride of the nation, the airline has been plummeting into the deeper crisis with each passing month and has virtually been brought to a grinding halt due to the incompetence of the CEO led management. The employees of the organization are now bearing the brunt of it.

The cash strapped PIA has failed to pay retirement dues of around 2,000 employees who had opted for the Voluntarily Separation Scheme (VSS). These employees are now running from pillar to post to get their rightful dues, but so far of no avail. The PIA Management had promised to pay the dues by 31 January 2021 but even provident fund, which is kept with PIA, has not been paid. The VSS for the PIA employees was launched on Dec 7, 2020, with a validity of two weeks, but its deadline was later extended till Dec 31.

The financial hardships of the employees do not end here. Employees of the PIA approached this correspondent to narrate their ordeal. They said they have literally been stripped off their right to appropriate medical facilities for themselves and their families. Retired employees are left to die as they are being denied of treatment by PIA. Most of the hospitals on panel of PIA are not entertaining the employees on the pretext of non-payment by PIA.
Qaiser Ansari, a retired employee of PIA said that after testing positive for Covid-19, he went to a hospital on the panel of PIA in Islamabad but he was refused the treatment as his organization has stopped paying for the employees who have attracted the virus. He said since his pension is Rs 6190, he was forced to get treatment from a public sector hospital. The angry and dejected employee said there will be no resource constraint for medical treatment in case the Chief Executive Officer of PIA attracts any disease.

To add salt to injury, it has been learnt that Employees’ salaries including those of cockpit crew have further slashed by 40 percent, to hide the losses due to total Organizational failure and incompetence. Initially all rubble was put on employees for the downfall but in the absence of any unions and associations in PIA for last 2 years, the losses have been exponentially increasing. In addition, the crew has not been given the international allowance since last 2 years.

Official sources told this correspondent that the PIA management had made big claims to turn around the airline for good but the rapid fall and the disastrous consequences of incompetence and inefficiency are right in front. They held the CEO PIA Arshad Malik responsible for the current state of the airline. The incumbent management is not competent enough to make viable business plan thus a foreign firm has been hired for a hefty sum of forex to do this basic job. This explicitly shows the level of competence of this management.
They said the PIA Management is risking the lives of passengers by making pilots fly in total violation of PCAA regulations and international practices. The crew is being silenced by administrative actions, whosoever raises voice against these unsafe practices. PIA social media is painting a rosy picture in social media and fake announcements of new flights are being made every other day.
The employees of PIA urged the government to take notice of the PIA’s dire straits and appoint the true commercial aviation experts to lead this airline saying the national flag carrier cannot bear the cost of any other catastrophe in the skies.


Iceland Air Travel Disrupted After Volcanic Eruption

Following weeks of increased seismic activity, a volcanic eruption has begun disrupting travel to the North Atlantic island nation of Iceland. All flights into or out of Keflavik International Airport (KEF) were canceled on Friday following the eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, 25 miles from the capital Reykjavik.

Icelandair 767
The Fagradalsfjall eruption only closed KEF for a short time. Photo: Getty Images
Scientists first warned of a possible eruption on March 3 after seeing an uptick in seismic activity in the area. Since last weekend, the tremors kept increasing, leading experts to warn that an eruption was imminent. On Friday, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) announced that an eruption had occurred at 21:10 local time and that people should avoid the area.

It was an effusive eruption
Unlike the explosive eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 that caused air traffic havoc all over Europe due to the massive amount of volcanic ash, effusive eruptions produce a steady flow of lava. For an effusive eruption to occur, the magma must have a low, low ascent velocity (Reynolds Number), a dimensionless number in fluid dynamics. When the magma ascent rate is higher, an explosive eruption occurs, spewing ash clouds high into the sky.

The explosive Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 grounded flights all over Western Europe. Photo: Boaworm via Wikipedia
On its website, the IMO said the following:

“At the time of writing, the weather on the peninsula is wet and windy, and an orange glow can be seen in low clouds on the horizon from Reykjanesbær and Grindavík. The eruption site is in a valley, about 4.7 km inland from the southern coast of the peninsula. The coastal town of Grindavík is the closed populated region to the eruption site, located approximately 10 km to the southwest.”

It added: “There are presently no reports of ashfall, although tephra and gas emissions are to be expected.”
Icelandic police tweeted to ask for the population to stay calm and not go to the eruption site, or on Reykjanesbraut. It added that first responders need to be able to drive freely and scientists are working hard on assessments.

The situation today
Given the nature of the Fagradalsfjall eruption being effusive rather than explosive, we would not expect Keflavik International Airport to remain closed for too long. Icelandair has pretty much confirmed that KEF will be open today by issuing the following information on its website:
“A volcanic eruption started close to Fagradalsfjall, Iceland, just after 9 pm tonight. The volcanic eruption is a lava eruption and will not have a considerable impact on our Icelandair operations or Keflavík Airport, so flights for tomorrow morning are on schedule.”

The Icelandic national flag carrier added:
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make sure to keep our passengers informed if we have to make any changes to our flight schedule. The health and safety of our passengers and employees is always our priority and at the heart of every decision we make.”

Iceland is open for vaccinated visitors
So as you can see, the Fagradalsfjall eruption is nothing more than a small hiccup that should not halt flights to and from the island. This is great news for Iceland after the Icelandic government announced it was lifting COVID-19 restrictions on people who had been vaccinated.

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Iceland is open to people who have been vaccinated. Photo: Getty Images
Up until March 18, Iceland only allowed visitors from European Union countries to enter without restrictions. Now people from the United Kingdom, the United States, and other nations who can prove that they have been vaccinated will be allowed to visit.

The one stipulation, however, is that the must-have been vaccinated with a vaccination recognized by the European Medicines Agency:
Comirnaty (Pfizer)
AstraZeneca
Janssen
Moderna
China’s Sinovac and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines are, as of this time, not being recognized as proof that you have been vaccinated for the coronavirus.

Even with its seismic activity and the occasional volcanic eruption, Iceland remains an amazing country to visit.
Mark Finlay