Routes: Rule change...
Clear all

Routes: Rule changes for travel to U.K., Ireland, France; 5G problems for airlines linger

1 Posts
1 Users
0 Reactions
Posts: 303
Topic starter
Prominent Member
Joined: 7 years ago
pexels photo 723240

source: Jim Glab sfga

 In the latest air travel news, the United Kingdom and Ireland are making it easier for vaccinated Americans to enter their countries, while France is starting to require a COVID-19 booster for some visitors who want to get into restaurants and museums; the Federal Aviation Administration continues to clear more aircraft types from concerns about 5G interference, but Alaska Airlines and JetBlue say problems remain for some smaller aircraft; U.S. blocks dozens of flights by Chinese carriers as aviation spat continues; Hong Kong’s tough COVID-19 rules have decimated Cathay Pacific’s business; the head of an Asia-Pacific airline association calls the region’s ongoing traffic slump the group’s worst crisis ever; United Airlines simplifies Wi-Fi fees for domestic flights; Southwest cites a first-quarter bookings drop as cancellations increase due to omicron; CDC puts 15 more foreign destinations on its “do not travel” list; Spirit Airlines adds Salt Lake City to its route map and American and British Airways plan to consolidate operations at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport later this year.

Travel to the United Kingdom is getting easier for vaccinated Americans and other vaccinated foreigners. A few weeks ago, the U.K. ended its requirement that vaccinated visitors must get a negative result on a COVID-19 test before departing their home countries, and now the U.K. announced that effective Feb. 11, vaccinated visitors will no longer be required to submit to a PCR test within two days after arrival. The only thing vaccinated visitors will have to do is to fill out a passenger locator form, which is being simplified to require only their vaccine status, travel history and contact information, the government said. The U.K. is also ending the mandatory quarantine for non-vaccinated visitors, assuming they get negative results on a pre-departure COVID test and a PCR test within two days of arrival. The changes mean that “the U.K. has one of the most free-flowing borders across Europe in addition to having the most open economy and society,” according to a statement from the U.K. Department for Transport. U.S. travelers should remember that if they do fly to the U.K. (or any other foreign destination), they’ll still need to get a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 24 hours before their return flight.

Earlier this month, Ireland also eased up on entry restrictions, canceling its requirement that inbound foreign visitors who are vaccinated get a negative COVID-19 test result before departing from home. The testing rule still applies to the unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, travelers headed to France should be aware that as of this week, the French government changed the rules for its Health Activity Pass (Pass Sanitaire), which is required of anyone who wants to enter most public venues, including restaurants, bars, museums, theaters, ski lifts, trade fairs, large shopping centers and for inter-regional travel on planes, buses and trains. The former Health Activity Pass is now called a Vaccine Pass (Pass Vaccinal) — a certificate showing two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (one for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). But under the new rules, if the latest dose was received more than seven months ago, a booster is now required. And starting Feb. 15, a booster will be required if the most recent dose was more than four months ago. Americans can pick up an official Vaccine Pass at select pharmacies in Paris and around France by showing their passport and CDC vaccination card and paying a fee of no more than 36 euros.


The Federal Aviation Administration is continuing to expand its approvals of U.S. airliners that are safe to land during bad visibility at airports where their altimeters might face interference from new 5G C-band signals being deployed by Verizon and AT&T. The FAA said 90% of the U.S. commercial fleet has now been cleared to operate at such airports, including some smaller planes. Most major U.S. airports (including San Francisco International Airport) have been deemed safe for operations due to the telecom giants agreeing to scale back their 5G deployments nearby. But the FAA this week issued a rule barring certain widebodies — including 777s and 747-8s — from landing at airports where 5G interference is still possible.  On Friday, the FAA said it has reached an agreement with Verizon and AT&T on “steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service.”

Alaska Airlines this week said that although its mainline Boeing and Airbus jets are approved for low-visibility landings, “some of our regional jets have not yet been cleared at certain airports and are still subject to restrictions on landing/takeoff during low visibility conditions (such as dense fog or winter weather) that were put in place before the agreement to limit 5G. This is causing cancellations, delays and diversions.” It advised customers to check their flight’s status before heading to the airport. Early this week, Alaska canceled almost two dozen Embraer E175 fights at the state of Washington’s Paine Field operated by Horizon Air and SkyWest. That concern was echoed by JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, who said during an earnings call with Wall Street analysts this week that some of his airline’s Embraer E190s are still unable to land during limited visibility at some airports. “We can’t assume that we are completely out of the 5G woods yet,” he said, according to Skift. Emirates, which last week suspended some U.S. routes including SFO due to 5G concerns, has since resumed service on all of them.

All the fuss about 5G and airlines has been over C-band rollouts by Verizon and AT&T. But what about T-Mobile? “T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network does not use the C-band spectrum that the FAA is concerned about,” a spokesperson said, “and we don’t anticipate any limitations when we are ready to deploy it in late 2023. T-Mobile already covers 210 million people nationwide with Ultra Capacity 5G and 310 million with Extended Range 5G.”

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. warned China that it might face retaliation if it continued to order the suspension of some transpacific flights by U.S. airlines, and last week the U.S. delivered on that threat. The Transportation Department ordered a halt to 44 flights from China after the Chinese blocked more flights from the U.S. operated by American, Delta and United. China orders the temporary suspension of service when it determines that foreign airlines carried passengers into the country who later test positive for COVID. The number of flights between the U.S. and China had already been drastically reduced due to COVID-19 and a lack of demand, and to the Chinese government’s restrictions on foreign arrivals (which include a minimum 14-day quarantine upon arrival). That might seem like it would be a problem with the Beijing Winter Olympics coming up next month, but China said last week that no Olympics tickets will be available for the general public. Most U.S. athletes heading to the Winter Games aren’t flying commercial – they left the U.S. this week on a Delta A350 charter flight.

If flying into China is tough, getting into Hong Kong could be even tougher, especially because it has adopted super-strict rules for airline flight crews, requiring them to quarantine for three days even if they are vaccinated. That rule is playing havoc with airlines’ scheduling of Hong Kong flights — if they haven’t already been suspended — and it has had a huge impact on hometown carrier Cathay Pacific. During January of this year, Cathay’s total passenger capacity was down 98% from pre-pandemic 2019 levels – even worse than 2021, when Cathay’s capacity was 62% below 2019 levels. Hong Kong has banned flights from several nations it considers to be high-risk for COVID, including the U.S. and the U.K. This week, it extended that ban through Feb. 18. On a positive note, for anyone who manages to find a way into Hong Kong, the government on Feb. 5 is reducing the mandatory quarantine after arrival from 21 days to 14. 

The huge decline in air travel to and within China and Hong Kong is typical of the entire Asia-Pacific region. While travel between the U.S. and Europe started to recover in recent months as governments eased up on their COVID-related entry restrictions, the same has not been true across the Pacific, where foreign visitors are subjected to onerous entry rules including multiple testing requirements, quarantines, or even outright bans. This week, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, which includes dozens of carriers in the region, reported that in 2021 its members carried just 16.7 million international passengers – a mere 4.4% of the number in pre-pandemic 2019 – at a load factor (percentage of seats occupied) of just 32%.  AAPA Director General Subhas Menon blamed the “severely depressed” traffic levels on government travel restrictions throughout the region. “It is the worst crisis the region’s airlines have ever faced in terms of duration and depth,” he said. Late in 2021, he said, some governments began to ease up on restrictions, leading to slightly higher passenger numbers. “However, the emergence of the Omicron variant has put the brakes on recovery,” Menon said.

United Airlines’ charges for using its in-flight Wi-Fi service, which previously varied wildly depending on routing and flight length, have been simplified to a single flat fee for all domestic and short-haul international routes, according to a report in The Points Guy. The new rates are $8 per flight segment for MileagePlus members (regardless of status level) and $10 for non-members. (Last year, United started to offer free messaging on chat platforms like iMessage and WhatsApp.) Long-haul international flights will continue to have varied pricing. The Points Guy noted that before the flat fee, Wi-Fi fees for certain domestic routes like San Francisco-Newark could cost more than $40. 

The latest U.S. carrier to document the near-term negative effect of the coronavirus is Southwest Airlines, which said this week it is facing a “revenue headwind” in the first quarter due to “a softness in bookings and an increase in trip cancellations associated with the omicron variant.” That softness, combined with “lower than expected business travel demand,” will reduce the company’s operating revenues in January and February by $330 million, Southwest said. But it added that it is seeing improved booking trends for March and for spring break travel. Southwest also noted that after going through some big surges of flight cancellations late last year, “over the last two weeks we have returned to solid operational performance,” and that it expects to hire at least 8,000 new employees this year.  In other news, Southwest said it is pushing back the resumption of in-flight alcohol service until late March or early April. The only other major airline still not serving booze in the main cabin is American Airlines, which is currently due to resume that service on March 18. 

Island nations in the Caribbean continue to be targeted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the agency updates its list of Level 4 countries — places where the agency urges Americans not to travel because of high COVID risks. In its latest update this week, the CDC put 15 more destinations on its Level 4 “do not travel” list, including the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, St. Barts and the French Saint-Martin. (A week earlier, it added Bermuda, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks & Caicos to Level 4, which already included Haiti and the Dutch St. Maarten.) Also going onto the “do not travel” list this week were Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Kuwait, Mongolia, Niger, Peru, Romania, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. The CDC doesn’t have the authority to ban Americans from traveling to Level 4 nations – only to make recommendations based on public health considerations.

Spirit Airlines’ next expansion will bring it to Salt Lake City — a Delta hub — starting this spring. The low-cost carrier said that on May 26, it will launch its first flights out of SLC, including twice-daily service to Las Vegas and daily flights to Los Angeles and Orlando. Meanwhile, American Airlines plans to introduce a few new leisure routes on June 11, including weekly Saturday flights from Austin to Montego Bay, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico; and weekly service from Chicago O’Hare to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

In airport news, joint venture partners American Airlines and British Airways are targeting Dec. 1 of this year for the consolidation of their operations into AA’s Terminal 8 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. For the past two years, a $400 million expansion and improvement of T8 has been underway in preparation for the move, including the addition of five new widebody aircraft gates, a better baggage handling system, more amenities for passengers and expanded services for premium customers. That last element will include a co-branded AA/BA premium check-in area with “concierge-style service for top-tier guests,” replacing AA’s Flagship First Check-In; a new check-in space for business class travelers; and three new post-security lounges, with admission based on cabin class and loyalty program status. The most exclusive lounge, AA said, will offer a champagne bar and an a la carte dining room, while an adjacent premium lounge will feature airfield views, a wine bar, cocktail lounge, library and buffet. American’s existing Flagship Lounge and Concourse A Admirals Club “will be repurposed into a contiguous lounge for eligible business class customers,” the airline said. To accommodate construction, AA’s Flagship First check-in will close Feb. 1. All T8 lounges will stay open this year but after the project is finished, the Admirals Club on Concourse B will close.

Leave a reply

Author Name

Author Email

Title *

Preview 0 Revisions Saved