Americans are preparing to spend big – again – as omicron cases subside and states across the country loosen covid restrictions.
Travel agents, hotel operators and restaurateurs say they’ve seen dramatic spikes in demand in the past week, following a drop of more than 40 percent in daily U.S. coronavirus cases and spates of warmer weather in some parts of the country. People are booking spring break trips and summer vacations. They’re splurging on Disney vacations, private tours of Hawaii and cruises to Antarctica.
Unlike earlier in the crisis, when it seemed the pandemic would end with a celebratory boom, the reality has been more uncertain and filled with fits and starts. Many say that’s given them a sense of urgency to lock in “revenge travel” during this window of relative calm before it possibly disappears again. And though the Food and Drug Administration has delayed a decision on a vaccine for children under 5, families are holding their breath and booking anyway.
Allegiant Air is expanding its network with 9 new routes to leisure destinations this spring.
The fast-growing cities of Austin and Nashville are each getting 3 new routes as people flock to the boomtowns.
The ultra-low-cost carrier will go up against industry giants like Southwest Airlines and American Airlines in Austin.
Allegiant Air announced a slew of new routes on Tuesday, focusing on popular leisure destinations across the US.
Ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant is expanding its route map with nine new routes to states like Texas, Tennessee, California, and Georgia, focusing heavily on the cities of Austin and Nashville.
“We’re thrilled to kick off 2022 with a network expansion in twelve of our markets,” Allegiant’s senior vice president of revenue and planning, Drew Wells, said in a press release. “These new routes will grow our presence in Austin, where we recently opened a base, while connecting travelers in some of the smaller cities we serve to several popular vacation destinations such as Nashville, Savannah, Roanoke and San Diego.”
Allegiant’s expansion at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport comes as major players, like American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, take a stronghold on the market. Southwest has historically dominated the airport, but other carriers have since realized the increasing demand in the fast-growing metro city that has been bolstered by tech companies, the busy service industry, festivals, and the University of Texas at Austin, according to ATXplained.
Southwest and American are the airport’s biggest operators, with both carriers announcing new routes to the Texas boomtown in 2021. As of November 2021, Southwest had 34.3% of the market share, while American had 23.4%, according to airport data. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were the only other carriers to have shares in the double digits, with 13.7% and 11.9%, respectively.
While Allegiant has lagged behind in Austin, taking just 1.7% of the market in November, it is the first airline to open a base at the historically non-hubbed airport, according to the carrier.
“Austin has been a really exciting location for Allegiant – not only do leisure travelers appreciate having convenient access to the incredible music scene, cultural and historic attractions the community has to offer, but local residents have also flocked to our affordable, nonstop flights for their travel needs,” Wells said in an April press release. “It makes perfect sense to establish a permanent base in Austin, further establishing Allegiant as a hometown airline in a city we love and where we plan to grow.”
Allegiant’s base opened in November, but its expanded presence in 2022 will bring low fares to compete with the airport’s major operators. According to the budget airline, fares to the city will start as low as $49 one-way.
In addition to Austin, Allegiant is also bringing low fares to Nashville, which was named the fastest-growing metropolitan city in Tennessee from 2010 to 2020, according to US Census data. The airline will connect the Music City to a handful of markets starting at $39 one-way.
Here’s a closer look at Allegiant’s nine new routes.
Between Austin and Sarasota, Florida
Allegiant will fly between Austin and Sarasota beginning April 14. The airline will not face any competition and fares start at $49 one-way.
Between Austin and San Diego, California
Allegiant will fly between Austin and San Diego beginning April 20. The airline will compete with Alaska and American on the route with fares starting at $49 one-way.
Several popular tourist destinations in Mexico have started requiring or recommending vaccines for indoor activities, including bars.
Starting Friday, the state of Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located, will require people to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours to enter places like bars and clubs, as well as concerts and stadiums, according to the state government. The new mandate applies to people 18 and older.
Similarly, Baja California has recommended businesses like bars and restaurants ask guests 18 and older to show proof of vaccination or a PCR test taken within five days of entering, according to the state government. However, Baja California stopped short of mandating the policy, noting showing proof of vaccination would be at the discretion of individual business owners.
The new rules come as Mexico is reporting more than 26,400 new cases each day, according to Reuters, which is tracking COVID-19 cases around the world. Cases in Mexico are currently the highest the country has ever reported.
In Mexico overall, about 58.4% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to Reuters.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently classifies Mexico as a “Level 3” destination, indicating a “high” level of COVID-19 transmission in the country. The agency recommends Americans be fully vaccinated before traveling there, but only warns unvaccinated Americans to avoid travel to the country.
Cruise lines will no longer be obliged to follow COVID guidance on ships as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which was extended and modified in October, will expire Saturday at which point the health agency’s COVID guidance for cruise ships will become voluntary, the CDC confirmed to USA TODAY Wednesday. This means cruise lines can choose whether to follow the health agency’s guidance or not.
The health agency “is transitioning to a voluntary COVID-19 risk mitigation program” the CDC said in a statement shared by spokesperson David Daigle.
The program includes guidance and recommendations for cruise ships to keep operating in a way that fosters a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and impacted communities, according to the CDC.
“Cruise ships operating in U.S. waters choosing to participate in the program on a voluntary basis agree to follow all recommendations and guidance issued by CDC as part of this program,” the CDC continued, noting the recommendations are aimed at reducing the spread of COVID.
Vessels operating in U.S. waters and sailing international itineraries that choose not to participate will be classified as “gray” on the health agency’s “Cruise Ship Color Status”website to indicate the CDC hasn’t reviewed the health and safety protocols put in place by that ship’s operator. Cruise ships that opt-out and sail only in U.S. waters will not be listed at all.
The CDC has relayed the information about the voluntary program to cruise industry members and expects cruise lines to indicate whether or not they will participate “in the coming week.”
The CDC added that more information about the voluntary program will be released Saturday, when the CSO expires.
CSO expires at the heels of CDC’s travel warning
The order, first announced in October 2020, was created by the CDC to lay out a phased approach for the safe resumption of cruising in U.S. waters.
The expiration of the CSO comes just over two weeks after the CDC issued a warningagainst cruise travel on Dec. 30 after clusters of COVID-19 cases emerged on ships departing from the U.S. and around the globe.
Cruise Lines International Association, the leading trade organization for the cruise industry, said Wednesday that the CDC’s decision to move forward with transitioning its CSO to a voluntary program recognizes that the cruise industry has upheld an “unwavering commitment” to COVID mitigation.
“Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires, prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew, exceedingly high levels of vaccination (approaching 100% compared to only 63% of the U.S. population) and 100% testing of every individual (21 times the rate of the U.S. on land),” CLIA said in a statement shared by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications for CLIA.
As airlines face pandemic-related staffing shortages, flight cancelations are ruining vacations and stranding passengers. So, what can you do to protect yourself? The only thing worse than a flight delay is a cancellation — except when it comes to getting your money back. Angie Barnett, president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland, said there are no federal regulations when it comes to reimbursing you for delays. Cancellations are a different matter, and Barnett said putting everything on a credit card is key — not only for documentation, but because your credit card company may afford you more protections. And, if you have to rebook, Barnett said to go online.
On Tuesday, Norwegian postponed sailings across 11 cruise ships.
Royal Caribbean has also paused itineraries on four ships as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
These are all the cruise ships Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have postponed.
Two major cruise lines have canceled sailings on a combined 15 ships as COVID-19 continues to spike around the world amid spread of the Omicron variant.
The majority of cruise ships sailing in the US have reported COVID-19 outbreaks in the last several weeks, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These ongoing outbreaks have barred cruise ships from docking at ports of calls, infected crew, and forced passengers to quarantine aboard ships.
Amid these disruptions, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have postponed several sailings, citing travel restrictions or the COVID-19 outbreak. Almost 250 cruises were set to sail throughout the first month of 2022, but this ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases could continue to cause further cancellations.
These are all the cruise vessels now facing cancelations:
Norwegian Cruise Line
In early January, Norwegian announced it will be canceling itineraries aboard eight ships due to “ongoing travel restrictions.” On Tuesday, the cruise giant expanded these postponements to include embarkations across 11 vessels:
Norwegian Pearl — postponed through January 17
Norwegian Dawn — postponed through January 18
Norwegian Getaway — postponed through January 19
Norwegian Escape — postponed through January 22
Norwegian Joy — postponed through January 22
Norwegian Sky — postponed through February 25
Pride of America — postponed through February 26
Norwegian Jade — postponed through March 3
Norwegian Star — postponed through March 19
Norwegian Sun — postponed through April 19
Norwegian Spirit — postponed through April 23
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
On Friday, Royal Caribbean also canceled sailings aboard four ships, citing “ongoing COVID-related circumstances”:
Vision of the Seas — postponed until March 7.
Serenade of the Seas — postponed until April 26
Jewel of the Seas sailings — postponed until February 20
An airline alliance with carriers like British Airways and Aer Lingus is launching 4 new routes in 2022.
The partnership will offer service to Finland, Germany, England, and Spain from the US.
Lufthansa is also launching two new routes with a historic flight to St. Louis in June.
Airlines are anticipating a busy summer 2022 season and carriers are preparing with new and returning routes and increased flight frequencies to popular destinations.
In a press release on Monday, British Airways revealed its “Aviation Joint Business” partnership is launching four new routes next summer, streamlining travel between the US and Europe via a combined network of flights. AJB started in 2010 between Oneworld partners British Airways, American Airlines, and Iberia, with Finnair joining in 2013 and Spain-based LEVEL joining in 2017.
Aer Lingus is the newest addition after the Department of Transportation approved its membership in December 2020, despite not being part of the Oneworld alliance, according to Simple Flying. The Irish flag carrier’s UK arm, known as Aer Lingus UK, will also operate under the partnership as an affiliate of Aer Lingus. It will connect the US to Manchester after receiving permission from the DOT in September.
Aer Lingus UK was an important addition because it adds Manchester to the alliance’s larger network, which is where the carriers lack a strong presence, according to Simple Flying. Both of the planned routes between the US and Manchester started this month, with flights to New York launching December 1, and service to Orlando beginning last Saturday.
Scores of Britons flooded the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in a desperate rush to get home after the UK temporarily banned flights from six African countries, including South Africa, amid concerns over a new COVID-19 variant identified as B.1.1.529.
Anxious-looking travellers stood in long queues at Johannesburg’s international airport on Friday, desperate to squeeze onto the last flights to countries that had just shut their doors to South Africa.
Many cut short their holidays, rushing back from safaris and vineyards when Britain announced late Thursday night that all flights from South Africa and its neighbours would be banned the following day.
A flurry of nations have since followed suit, concerned about the discovery of a new coronavirus variant with a large number of mutations fuelling an infection resurgence in South Africa.
UK citizen Toby Reid, a 24-year-old trader in London, was camping on Cape Town’s Table Mountain with his girlfriend when the ban was announced.