Federal vaccine mandate could hurt holiday travel

The federal vaccine mandate deadline falls just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, leaving travel experts concerned potential staffing shortages.

PHOENIX — The federal vaccine mandate deadline is just a few weeks away and travel experts said it might have a big impact on the busy Thanksgiving travel weekend.

TSA vaccinations last at 60%

The federal deadline for workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine is Nov. 22, just a few days before Thanksgiving.

A couple of weeks ago, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN many of his workers are still needing their shots.

“About 60% of our workforce has been vaccinated,” Pekoske said. “That number needs to go up quite a bit higher over the next few weeks.”

A TSA spokesperson told 12 News in a statement the remaining 40% haven’t reported whether they’ve gotten the vaccine or not and added in the statement that they’re still anticipating a ‘vast majority’ of their employees to get vaccinated.

“TSA personnel are in jobs where they are not readily in front of computers. Many Transportation Security Officers do not have government-issued equipment to submit required information and responses to government-issued surveys,” The spokesperson said in the statement.

AFGE TSA Local 1250, the local branch of the union for TSA workers, said they also didn’t have exact figures on how many TSA workers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport were vaccinated or not.

“We got misinformation, we got fear,” Jovan Petkovic, the secretary for AFGE TSA Local 1250 said.

Petkovic said while the union has been trying to help educate members, there are many in the organization who are opposed to the mandate because of vaccine misinformation and the vaccine being politicized.

“They don’t understand what it is,” Petkovic said. “So they’re, of course, afraid of it, and they’re opposing it.”

Not getting the shot can mean a TSA worker loses their job. Petkovic said there is a process a worker goes through, including time to get into compliance before action is taken against the worker.

“We are building contingency plans for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that,” Pekoske said.

Travel industry under strain

Janet Semenova with Boutique Travel Advisors said that. in her business and travels, she’s noticing more people also visiting different states and countries.

“Even as the world is opening up, and more, more people are vaccinated and feeling more comfortable and confident traveling, there’s still a lot of logistical things that you have to consider when booking a trip,” Semenova said.

Noting, the travel industry is already under pressure and is not immune to staffing shortages affecting many workforces.

Earlier in October, Southwest Airlines made headlines after it canceled nearly 2,000 flights blaming the weather and what the airline called “external constraints.”

“We’re seeing airlines canceling flights regularly, changing schedules at the last minute, bumping people at the last minute,” Semenova said.

Ripple effects

Stathis Kefallonitis, an associate professor of Aviation Business and Passenger Intelligence at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott said he’s anticipating more people to travel for the holidays.

“About one in two Americans wants to travel and has plans to travel this holiday season,” Kefallonitis said. “This is about a 20% increase from 2020.”

Kefallonitis said however because more people are working from home, they may be able to leave a day or two earlier and may help ease congestion at airports.

But Kefallonitis said they could still face issues, with the combination of potential staffing shortages, delays, cancellations, and bad weather.

“We can still have problems, we can still have issues, mainly related to staffing, restrictions and unvaccinated employees and travelers. And this could still be a recipe for disaster,” Kefallonitis said.

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White House, Airlines Say Vaccine Mandate Won’t Impact Holiday Travel

Recent speculation about Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airline staffing shortages due to upcoming vaccine mandate deadlines would seem to be unfounded. The White House and two major U.S. carriers have just stated that they don’t foresee the Biden administration’s vaccination order for federal and federally-contracted employees causing holiday travel complications.

To clarify, the vaccine mandate for federal employees dictates that they be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22 without an approved exemption, while the deadline for employees of federal contractors is December 8.


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With the deadlines falling around the busy Thanksgiving and end-of-year travel periods, fears emerged that a substantial number of unvaccinated airline and TSA employees might cause staffing shortages just when loads of Americans are trying to travel.

But, according to Reuters, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Wednesday that, “Vaccination requirements will not impact holiday travel.” He explained, “The requirements for federal workers and contractors will not cause disruptions to government services that people depend on. Agencies have the flexibility necessary to enforce the mandate without impacting critical operations.”

Zients added, “The point here is to get people vaccinated, not to punish them. So, agencies will not be removing employees from federal service until after they’ve gone through a process of education and counseling.”

On Thursday, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly likewise asserted that the vaccination issue would not disrupt holiday travel. “We are not on a campaign here to force everybody to get vaccinated…We want our employees to know that nobody is going to lose their job on December 9 if we’re not perfectly in compliance,” he explained. He also said unequivocally, “We’re not going to fire anybody who doesn’t get vaccinated.”

On an earnings call yesterday, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that he doesn’t expect any employees to leave the company because of the vaccine mandate. “We think we’re not going to see anyone leaving American. I don’t think anyone’s going to want to leave American because either they choose not to get vaccinated or they don’t have a religious or medical (exemption),” he said.

Mature man receiving a vaccination.
Mature man receiving a vaccination. (photo via iStock/Getty Images E+/Geber86)

Parker disclosed, “We don’t anticipate any operational impact,” and said that American is “highly confident” that it will have enough staff to fly its holiday schedule as planned, even if unvaccinated workers with approved exemptions have to comply with new testing requirements.

Since “fully vaccinated” means 14 days need to have passed since receiving the final dose of a vaccine, federal employees, including TSA workers, must receive their second dose (or single dose with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) by November 8. Employees of companies that contract with the federal government, meanwhile, can receive theirs by November 24 at the latest.

The Cargo Airline Association, a trade group that represents FedEx, United Parcel Service and other cargo carriers, on Monday expressed in a letter to the White House that, “It will be virtually impossible to have 100 percent of our respective workforces vaccinated by December 8…Sliding this date into the first half of 2022 will allow association members to meet the demands of the e-commerce revolution during the holiday season.”

FedEx told Reuters yesterday that it’s “engaged with the relevant government agencies” about implementing the vaccination guidelines in a way that won’t interfere with deliveries during the bustling holiday shopping season.

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Psaki mocks ‘renowned travel expert’ Ted Cruz for blaming Southwest woes on pending vaccine mandate

WASHINGTON — The White House mocked Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday over his claim that a federal vaccine mandate that hasn’t taken effect yet caused thousands of Southwest Airlines flight cancellations this weekend.

“I know world renowned business travel and health expert Senator Ted Cruz has made that point,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, alluding to his widely ridiculed trip to Cancun as millions of Texans remained in cold homes without electricity after a winter storm.

Dallas-based Southwest has blamed bad weather on Friday for a cascade of operational problems that prompted it to cancel more than 2,000 flights. Other airlines had no such problems.

On Sunday night, Cruz pointed at the order Biden issued on Sept. 9 requiring COVID-19 vaccines at employers with more than 100 workers, and federal contractors.

“Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate a work!” he tweeted. “Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers.”

The only trouble is that Biden’s order can’t take effect until the Occupational Safety and Health Administration drafts, publishes, accepts comments on and then finalizes regulations.

The first step may take OSHA another few weeks.

Cruz aides did not respond to a request to explain the senator’s reasoning, or respond to Psaki.

Southwest said Tuesday the disruptions over the weekend were “primarily created by weather,” reiterating the explanation it had offered for days.

Both the airline and the pilots’ union have shot down rumors that the problems were related in any way to COVID-19 policies or mandates.

Conservatives have resisted vaccine mandates.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued his own order barring Texas employers from carrying out any such mandate – an effort to overrule the federal government that the White House insists will have no legal force.

“Federal law overrides state law,” Psaki said.

Southwest agrees, saying it intends to comply with Biden’s order even if that means violating Abbott’s.

“We’re reviewing all guidance issued on the vaccine and are aware of the recent Order by Gov. Abbott. According to the President’s Executive Order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” the company said.

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Fauci says vaccine mandate for domestic air travel is not expected ‘immediately’ – The Washington Post

Fauci says vaccine mandate for domestic air travel is not expected ‘immediately’  The Washington Post

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Heathrow calls for sustainable fuels mandate

The boss of Heathrow airport is urging the UK government to
“show leadership” at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) by
putting in place progressive mandates on the use of sustainable aviation fuels

Commending the recent commitment by the International Air
Transport Association (IATA) and the Airports Council International (ACI World)
for the global aviation industry to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050,
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said government policies such as mandates, a
price support mechanism and loan guarantees could help scale up the production
of SAFs in the UK.

Holland-Kaye said: “We should aim for 2019 to have been the
peak year for fossil fuel use in global aviation. The UK government can show
real leadership on decarbonising aviation at COP26 by setting a progressively
increasing mandate and a plan to use contracts for difference to accelerate the
transition to sustainable aviation fuel in the UK, which will protect the
benefits of flying for future generations.”

Part of the pledge signed by IATA and ACI World includes
increasing the use of SAFs. Individual carriers such as Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, All
Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines
have committed to using SAFs for at least 10
per cent of their total fuel consumption by 2030, while a group of corporate
travel buyers have launched the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) to
invest in SAFs.

Holland-Kaye made the comment as Heathrow reported that
passenger numbers in September remained at just under 40 per cent of
pre-pandemic levels. North American traffic was only 25 per cent of 2019
levels, while cargo carried in the hold of passenger planes was down by nearly
8 per cent.

With the majority of travel restrictions having been lifted
as of this morning and the UK government confirming it hopes to introduce
cheaper lateral flow tests for international arrivals by the end of October,
Heathrow said passengers can now “book with confidence”, putting it “back on track”
for recovery following more than 18 months of the pandemic.

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England eases travel rules, lifts quarantine mandate for 47 countries


LONDON — The British government said Thursday that it is to relax travel rules further next week, a move that will open up many long-distance holiday destinations to travelers for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic a year and half ago.

As well as dramatically whittling down the number of places from which travelers will be required to quarantine in a hotel, the government said it would recognize the vaccination programs of dozens more countries.

In its most dramatic move, it said it will be lifting the hotel quarantine requirement for arrivals to England from 47 countries, including South Africa, Mexico and Thailand. Though the announcement only relates to England, the other nations of the U.K. – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have generally followed suit.

► Travel to UK: England set to drop pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated travelers from US

After the change comes into effect on Monday, there will only be seven countries — Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela — on the so-called “red list,” which requires all passengers to enter hotel quarantine for 11 nights at a cost of 2,285 pounds ($3,100) for individual travelers.

The changes mean that anyone arriving from the 47 countries removed from the red list will be spared that requirement.

However, they will still need to take a series of coronavirus tests before and after their arrival, and go into self-isolation for ten days unless the British government recognizes a country’s vaccination status certificates and the vaccines used. It recognizes the vaccines of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as their formulations such as AstraZeneca Covishield.

Another 37 countries and territories will be added to that list from Monday, reducing entry requirements from countries like Brazil, Ghana, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.

► UK travel: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reopen to vaccinated Americans

The decision means eligible fully vaccinated adults and those under 18 entering England from these locations will in effect be treated like fully vaccinated British nationals. They will no longer have to take a pre-departure test, nor a test on the eighth day after arrival and will be spared the period of self-isolation.

With the nights drawing in earlier ahead of the school half-term break later this month, and winter fast-approaching, the changes may well give a boost to the travel industry that’s suffered perhaps more than other during the pandemic.

“With half-term and winter sun around the corner, we’re making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite, by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

► ‘Give us a date’: International travelers want to know what ‘early November’ means for US border reopening

The government also restated its ambition to allow eligible fully-vaccinated arrivals to use a lateral flow test, rather than the more expensive gold standard PCR test, by the end of the month. Travelers, it said, will be able to verify they have completed a lateral flow test by sending a photograph.

British Airways announced it will resume services and increase frequencies to a number of winter destinations removed from the red list, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.

“It finally feels like we are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel,” its chief executive Sean Doyle said. “Britain will benefit from this significant reduction in red list countries and now it’s time to turn our attention to eradicating testing for fully-vaccinated travelers to ensure we don’t lose our place on the global stage.”

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Mourão claims sustainability mandate on Expo 2020 visit | News

Brazilian vice president, Hamilton Mourão, has urged the international community to join his country in its continued push for sustainability during an official visit to Expo 2020 Dubai, citing the vast investment opportunities.

During a lecture about sustainable development in the Amazon region, delivered at the Terra – the Sustainability Pavilion, Mourão said: “I call upon international institutions, investors and leaders from the private and public sectors to meet the challenge and join us.

“Investing in the Amazon is very important.

“The sustainable development of the Amazon is a critical element in our vision for the future of our country.

“Our vison is to bring together all levels of government, the private sector and other stakeholders to ensure this.”

He said that sustainability programmes are “full of opportunities for private and public sectors to strengthen and expand.

“We are encouraged to learn that there are many public and private initiatives that are making sustainability a very profitable business in the Amazon.”

Mourão also noted his country’s good ties with the United Arab Emirates and looked ahead to a positive future between the two nations.

He added: “Since 2018, when President Bolsonaro came here to the UAE, we became strategic partners.

“UAE is a good friend, and our partnership has all the possibilities to move forward.”

He added that Bolsonaro will be in the UAE on November 15th on the occasion of the Brazilian Republic Proclamation Day, accompanied by an entourage to further push investment support for sustainability efforts.

The Bolsonaro administration has, however, been criticised by international observers for a dramatic increase in logging during the past two years.

In the first four months of the year, Amazon deforestation was up 55 per cent from a year ago to 1,202 square kilometres , according to data from INPE.

There have been concerns that Covid-19 has kept many environmental enforcers out of the field in recent months.

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Pilots warn vaccine mandate could cause holiday travel chaos

Unions say the 60-day-timeline could impact the season.

The unions representing American and Southwest airlines pilots are asking lawmakers and the White House for an exemption or an alternative to the federal mandate requiring companies with more than 100 people to get vaccinated.

Roughly 30% of American Airlines pilots are not vaccinated, according to the Allied Pilots Association, the union representing American’s 14,000 pilots. Southwest’s pilot union could not say how many of its members were unvaccinated.

“Some of APA’s members are unable to undergo vaccination for documented medical reasons, while others are reluctant to get vaccinated based upon concerns about the potential for career-ending side effects,” union president, Captain Eric Ferguson wrote in a letter to more than 15 people at the DOT, White House, and Congress.

Commercial airline pilots adhere to strict medical requirements and some pilots fear vaccine side effects like blood clots or heart problems could prevent them from maintaining a medical clearance, thus ending their careers as pilots.

The CDC reports there have been more than 200 million doses of vaccine administered already in the U.S. and serious safety problems are very uncommon.

Most side effects from COVID vaccines are mild and temporary and include things like soreness at the injection site or fatigue, headaches, chills and nausea. These side effects usually go away within a day or two.

There have been rare adverse events of blood clots — about 7 per million vaccinated women between 18 and 49 — with the J&J vaccine. Women in that age range may want to select a different vaccine.

There have been a small number of temporary heart problems associated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for young men. These reports are rare and the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks of getting COVID — which include myocarditis or pericarditis.

The union representing Southwest’s pilot’s echoed American’s request to the federal government, saying in a statement: “Our pilots have shouldered an elevated risk of illness from the start of the pandemic, including well before the vaccines became available. And we are hopeful that our contributions are recognized and accounted for as we seek approval of an alternate means of compliance and an operationally feasible implementation period.”

Both unions say the 60-day-timeline for the requirement to get vaccinated could have a significant impact on holiday travel if pilots who choose not to get vaccinated are forced off the job.

“We are also concerned that the Executive Order’s anticipated 60-day implementation period for mandatory vaccinations could result in labor shortages and create serious operational problems for American Airlines and its peers. Airlines generate a substantial portion of their annual revenue during the holiday period, with a great many travelers depending on us to get them to their destinations. Our nation’s airlines, and the traveling public, cannot afford significant service disruptions due to labor shortages,” Ferguson wrote in the letter.

Meanwhile, United Airlines says 98.5% of its employees are now vaccinated after the company mandated the shot. At least seven United employees are suing the company to avoid getting the vaccine.

Delta Air Lines will soon charge unvaccinated employees $200 more per month for health insurance. The company says at least 82% of its employees are vaccinated.

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Fauci says a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for air travel hasn’t been ‘taken off the table’

TSA agent flying during covid air travel

Tony Gutierrez/AP Photo

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday US officials could issue a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for commercial flights.

  • “The team has a lot of things on the table. Nothing has been taken off the table,” he said on “Meet the Press.”

  • The Biden administration earlier this month announced increased fines for passengers who refuse to wear face masks on flights.

  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US officials have not ruled out a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for air travelers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday.

Fauci made the comments during an appearance Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” after moderator Chuck Todd asked him about his support for mandates for travel.

“The team has a lot of things on the table. Nothing has been taken off the table,” Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden said. “That decision has not been made.”

“We have not yet gotten to the point of requiring vaccinations on domestic flights, but everything is on the table,” he added Sunday. “We consider these things literally on a daily basis. So suffice it to say, it’s still on the table right now.”

Fauci’s comments Sunday echo remarks he made last week. In a podcast interview with The Skimm, Fauci said he supported such proposals.

“I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people then you should be vaccinated,” he said.

While vaccines have not so far been required to fly in the US, airlines have required the wearing of facial coverings on commercial flights since the coronavirus pandemic began last year. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order in February requiring the wearing of face masks on all public transportation, including on commercial flights.

The Biden administration earlier in September announced it planned to double the fine for passengers who refused to wear face coverings while flying. The change came as part of the White House COVID-19 action plan, as Insider previously reported.

Passengers who refuse to comply with the mask-wearing policies previously faced fines starting at $250 and up to $1,500. The guidelines released earlier this month raised the minimum fine to $500 and the maximum fine to $3000.

“You know, the president made the decision when it comes to flying, if, if a person does not want to wear a mask or doesn’t wear a mask, they double the fining on that,” Fauci said Sunday.

Fauci’s comments Sunday come as more travelers return to the skies even as new cases tick up fueled by the highly-transmissible Delta variant, bringing air travel closer to pre-pandemic levels. The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 1.5 million passengers on Saturday – more than double the passengers it screened on the same day last year, according to TSA data.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Here’s why a vaccine mandate for international travel could be on the way

Here’s why a vaccine mandate for international travel could be on the way

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