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Holiday Travel and Safety: 5 Things We Know



To travel, or not to travel? That is the holiday question.

With the approach of Thanksgiving and the December holidays during a surge in coronavirus cases nationwide, the increased risks presented by travel — either contracting or spreading the virus — are challenging the industry during what is normally one of its busiest seasons.

The market research firm Destination Analysts found in a recent Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study, a weekly survey of 1,200 Americans, that only 28 percent expected to travel for the holidays, including both Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the same survey, 53 percent said they had traveled for the holidays last year.

Little is certain in travel today, other than the necessity of wearing a mask and maintaining social distance, whenever possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “strongly recommends” that masks be worn on any public conveyance, including subways, buses, taxis, ride shares and airplanes.

Here are five more things we know about holiday travel.

Last Thanksgiving, Airlines for America, the industry trade group, expected 31.6 million travelers over the 12-day holiday period. This year, the group declined to provide an estimate.

The airline business continues to be depressed, with searches for Thanksgiving flights down 60 percent year over year, according to the travel-planning site Kayak. Hopper, the airline booking app, said the average domestic round-trip ticket for Thanksgiving travel is $173, down 41 percent compared to last year. FlightAware, which tracks flight traffic, said commercial aviation remains at about half of 2019 volume. Those planes that are flying are filled to just 61 percent of capacity on average.

Still, scoring a seat without a neighbor sharing your armrest is getting harder, and travelers should prepare for more crowded planes. Southwest Airlines, which has held middle seats open during the pandemic, recently announced it would make all seats available for flights beginning Dec. 1.

“To date, demand has been so weak that blocking the middle seat hasn’t hurt us,” said Gary Kelly, the chief executive of the airline, in a recorded statement in October. He added that going into the holiday season, “the value of selling the middle seats is significant and will provide additional key revenue for us.”

Among the four largest carriers in the United States, including American, Southwest and United, that leaves only Delta Air Lines committed to leaving its middle seats open during the holidays, now through Jan. 6.

In a third-quarter earnings call, Edward H. Bastian, Delta’s chief executive, said the airline expects business in December to be about a third of what it was in December 2019.

Many medical experts credit the airlines for using HEPA filters to scrub the air of germs on planes. A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found little evidence of in-flight transmission since mask mandates were implemented in spring and rated the risk of disease transmission on planes below that of grocery shopping or eating out.

But the risks of flying are not just at cruising altitude.

“You have to take into account all the steps of travel, getting to the airport, security lines, layovers,” said Dr. Henry Wu, the director of Emory TravelWell Center and an associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine. “All of these things add to the potential exposure list.”

In addition to vigilant mask-wearing, he advises carrying hand sanitizer, choosing a window seat to avoid others passing in the aisles, wearing a face shield and avoiding eating or drinking, which requires you to lower your mask, if possible.

Outside of the plane, he added, “I want folks to internalize what is six feet, whether they’re walking to the gates or getting into elevators or on escalators.”

Increasingly, airlines are touting testing for Covid-19 as a way to reassure travelers that flying is safe.

In a pilot program running Nov. 6 to Dec. 11, United Airlines will offer free rapid testing to passengers on select flights from Newark to London, ensuring that everyone on board (except children under age 2) have tested negative before takeoff.

In October, United began offering Covid-19 testing at San Francisco International Airport to fliers bound for Hawaii, which requires negative test results in order to avoid quarantining for 14 days. American Airlines is also offering testing to Hawaii-bound travelers either in person or through an at-home kit.

Both the International Air Transport Association and Airlines for America are calling for preflight Covid-19 testing as an alternative to quarantine restrictions.

For destinations that require testing, such as Hawaii and Jamaica, the type of tests may vary along with the grace period for getting it before arrival, requiring travelers to research testing requirements carefully.

“When we can have some international agreement on the best strategy to test and when to test and which test to use, that will make the whole process easier for travelers, airlines and destinations,” said Lin H. Chen, the president of the International Society of Travel Medicine and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “Right now, we don’t have that standard.”

While roughly half of respondents with holiday travel plans told Destination Analysts that they would not undergo testing before their holiday travels, a third said they would.

“If you’re negative, that’s good news but it doesn’t mean you should relax your precautions,” Dr. Wu said. “The results could be false or you could be incubating infection. And you could get infected during the trip itself.”

Testing is one way families and friends might consider merging their bubbles for the holidays. But using them, like everything else travel-related these days, takes planning, including ensuring members of merging bubbles are following the same precautions leading up to the trip.

“You have to lower your risk, then test,” said Dr. Emily Landon, an associate professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago, who advises families to quarantine for up to 14 days before testing. “The tests are most sensitive five to eight days after exposure. And they’re not perfect. The faster they are, generally speaking, the least likely they are to be accurate.”

Molecular tests, also known as PCR tests, are considered most accurate and usually require at least a day or two to get the results, versus antigen tests, which are quick but less accurate.

Meeting at a neutral site, like a vacation home rental will decrease the chances of encountering other strangers while preserving your own bubble or your newly enlarged one. HomeToGo, a vacation rental search engine, said rental home bookings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are up 70 percent nationally compared to last year.

Bringing your own food to last during your stay is another way to minimize contact with strangers. Where possible, experts recommend dining outdoors, or even dividing up an outdoor patio into areas assigned to each family bubble. The C.D.C.’s recommendations for holiday gatherings include keeping them small, socially distant, short and outside or well-ventilated.

When it comes to lodging, hotels are considered a safer option than staying at the home of a friend or relative. In addition to enhanced cleaning, hotels are relatively deserted. Across the country, average hotel occupancy is about half, with rates just shy of $100 a night, according to the hotel analysts STR, Inc.

From strict statewide policies in New York and Connecticut to local restrictions in Chicago, many destinations require visitors or returning residents to quarantine. The C.D.C. recommends checking state, territorial, tribal and local health websites for current restrictions.

Many of the quarantine mandates rely on self-monitoring. But breaking a quarantine order in New York can cost up to $10,000 in fines or up to 15 days in prison. As of Nov. 4, most out-of-state travelers may avoid New York’s 14-day quarantine requirement with negative Covid-19 results from a test taken within three days of arrival, a quarantine for three days after arrival, and receiving negative test results from another test taken on day four.

“You need to think about the entire trip,” said Jeremy Prout, the director of security solutions for the Americas at International SOS, a health and security services firm. “That includes the trip back, which might add a two-week quarantine.”

Be prepared for the risk of infection while traveling, which could result in a quarantine in the destination. Mr. Prout recommends travelers pack for a two-week trip, even if only a brief visit was planned.

Potential quarantines in a destination are another reason to ensure that, if you flew, your airline ticket has a flexible cancellation policy or waives change fees. Southwest does not charge fees for changing your ticket, and Delta is waiving change fees on most tickets purchased this year.

Avoid tickets like Basic Economy on United and American, which do not allow changes.

In a survey of 16,000 Americans this summer, the consulting group Deloitte Digital found road trips and short-haul regional travel were preferred by 65 percent of respondents, a number it expects may increase during the holidays.

“The advantage of driving is the environment is much more controlled,” said Emory’s Dr. Wu. “Ideally, you’re driving with your immediate family you live with. If you’re picking up folks from other households, that increases the risk someone might be infected and you’re exposed. And it’s a small, tight environment.”

This fall, the American Automobile Association said visits to its trip-mapping service TripTik has doubled since spring. Like Google Maps and other digital services, the free website allows users to enter their destination and get routing options. In addition to directions, users can elect to have hotels, restaurants, gas stations and campgrounds appear throughout the map to help you plan your stops.

The AAA service — available online or through its app to members and nonmembers — also links to a useful map of the United States, showing state, county and citywide restrictions on things like mask-wearing, gathering sizes, dining limits and quarantine requirements.

The C.D.C. recommends motorists pump gas using a sanitary wipe, sanitize their hands afterward and bring their own food to avoid indoor areas.

“Journey management planning is a big thing,” Mr. Prout, of International SOS, said. “You need to have your rest stops planned, your vehicle in good order and limit the time driving at night.”

By: Elaine Glusac
Title: Holiday Travel and Safety: 5 Things We Know
Sourced From:
Published Date: Tue, 03 Nov 2020 10:00:14 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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