DECEMBER 23, 2020

At Ovation, we remain committed to providing excellent service to our valued clients throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Click the link below to view our travel resources guide which includes traveler health & safety information, interactive risk maps, client communications, travel management best practices, webinar recordings and more regarding COVID-19.

On Friday, December 18th, the weekend before Christmas, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) scanned 1,066,757 travelers at airport checkpoints, reports Forbes. That’s only the fifth time that volumes at airport checkpoints have surpassed 1 million travelers and the third highest volume on record since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Saturday saw volumes reach over 1 million once again, as TSA screened 1,073,563 people. TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said last weekend was the first instance since March that traveler screenings have exceeded one million on two consecutive days. Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year at airports, with daily traveler volumes only surpassed by Thanksgiving traffic. 2020 already seems to be following in the same tack as other years. Over the Thanksgiving break, four days saw traveler traffic surpass 1 million travelers. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the highest traveler volume seen post-COVID-19 was reached as 1,176,091 travelers passed through airports.

American Airlines has announced that it is further expanding its acceptance of the VeriFLY app, a mobile health wallet that guides travelers to understand, track and verify their COVID-19 testing and documentation requirements. As of December 22nd, travelers flying on American’s flights from Miami International Airport (MIA) to destinations in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras can use VeriFLY to help ensure they are meeting the government-required entry guidelines and access an expedited check-in lane. Additionally, any American Airlines passenger traveling to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will be able to use LetsGetChecked for their required, preflight COVID-19 test.

US health officials say they do not yet see a need to halt flights from the United Kingdom, even as a growing number of other countries ban British travelers amid the spread of a new variant of coronavirus in London and elsewhere, reports USA Today. Canada and dozens of other counties announced new restrictions on UK travelers after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the coronavirus variant is spreading in London and surrounding areas. The US' assistant secretary for health, Admiral Brett Giroir, said in a CNN interview that he’d spoken about the matter with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, but that the agency had made no recommendation to stop travel from the UK. Giroir did indicate that US officials were closely monitoring the situation and would alter course if needed. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’ top infectious disease expert, said that, based on the current information, he’d oppose implementing new travel restrictions on the UK. He said that America should, "without a doubt keep an eye on it," but needn’t panic." Follow it carefully, but don't overreact to it," he advised.

Delta and joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic will require all travelers flying to the US from the UK to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure, reports Travel Weekly. In addition, British Airways began requiring pre-departure testing on flights from the UK to New York. The moves came at the behest of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who asked the carriers to institute such rules due to the emergence of a new strain of the virus in the UK. In statements, Delta and Virgin Atlantic said their new testing requirement will take effect on December 24th. All travelers arriving from the UK to the US will be required to take a PCR or LAMP molecular test within 72 hours of the flight. The less accurate rapid antigen tests will not be accepted. The airlines said they will contact travelers to provide more information on testing requirements and recommended test suppliers. British Airways will also require a PCR or LAMP test within 72 hours of departure. The testing requirement will apply only to its London-JFK service. United and American, which are currently the two other airlines serving the US from the UK, said they aren't instituting a testing requirement for travelers from the country, at least for now. Neither carrier is serving New York state from London, though United does count London to nearby Newark among four current UK routes.

The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine will be a "significant factor" in more than 6 in 10 organizations' decisions to resume business travel, reports Business Travel News. According to a new survey of travel managers and procurement professionals by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), about 61 percent of the 353 respondents polled online between December 7-14 by GBTA indicated vaccine availability would be a "significant factor" in that decision-making process, while another 23 percent called it a "moderate factor." Only 2 percent of respondents thought vaccines wouldn't be a factor, while the rest didn't know. Meanwhile, 39 percent of travel buyer respondents said their organizations had started to plan to hold or to attend meetings in 2021.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has sped up technology deployments since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as it moves to reduce literal touch points at airport screening stations, reports Travel Weekly. The effort has been undertaken to benefit the traveling public but also TSA staffers themselves. The technology deployments have centered around 3-D screening systems and automated ID authentication. The former diminishes the likelihood that traveler carry-on bags will have to be manually checked, the agency said, which in turn reduces interactions between agents and travelers. The latter can reduce touch points between travelers and agents at the document check stand. Between the start of the pandemic and December 4th, TSA deployment of automated ID authentication units increased from 552 systems at 52 locations to 834 systems at 115 locations. University of Illinois computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson, whose research has included the foundational analysis of what became the TSA PreCheck program, said that "more use of biometrics by TSA is crucial going forward in order to protect flyers, reduce terminal crowding and reduce touch points."