Airlines continue their battle to enforce COVID-19 mandates

International travel is still a challenge for many flyers

Airlines have risen fares significantly over the last 20 months

Kevin Dooley/ The Skyline View

Airlines have risen fares significantly over the last 20 months

Ready to walk down the aisle?

What you need to know before your trip, now that some things are “ opening up” .

With more people traveling and the country trending back to normal, I can’t stop thinking if it is safe to travel.

If we wind back to March 2020, we were unsure about what to expect with COVID-19. Countries around the world took drastic measures, including border closures in an attempt to control the virus transmission.

Air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging for travelers, the airlines, health authorities, and governments. The Public Health Emergency found that flights went down by 43% compared to 2019. Hygiene practices, mask mandates, and social distancing is said to be effective, while temperature screening is unreliable. The risk of in-flight transmission is considered to be low, estimated at one case per 27 million travelers, confirmed in-flight cases are reported. Some models exist and predict minimal risk, but don’t take into account human behavior and the variety of airline procedures.

When the Trump Administration ended the international travel ban in November 2020, the new administration opened the door to vaccinated tourist airlines, expecting to recover what they lost during the first few months of the pandemic. Tourism, hospitality, and the food industry will benefit from the end of the restrictions, and this is a relief for the families taken apart with travel restrictions.

“It’s a day that we wished would come sooner but after 604 days of not being able to travel to the U.S. we’re delighted to be back,” said British Airways CEO Sean Doyle, who was on the carrier’s first flight to the U.S. after the restrictions were lifted Monday.

This means that Canadians and other visitors flying internationally from China, India and Brazil can come into the country with their vaccinations records, (check the vaccines approved by the US beforehand), their masks and visas (for noncitizens) up to date.

However, airline unions are at their breaking point. They are experiencing shortages, overworked crews, and altercations over passenger’s refusal to follow the mask-mandate on-board. Masks mandates have been an ongoing issue for the crews. American and Southwest recently reported not having enough pilots and flight attendants. Just a month ago, Southwest had a cancellation that cost them over 75 million dollars due to bad weather conditions.

Aside from the inconveniences because of the safety precautions and mandates, the fares have been rising ridiculously, there are fewer flight options, and there’s a shortage of airport employees and on-air crew.

During this time, I have traveled several times, local and international. I have tried to take measures like wearing my mask, maintaining my 6-feet social distance, and waiting for my lane’s turn. The airlines and travelers expect this to get worse, and if we want or need to travel we will have to adapt to this new “normal” until the situation normalizes… if they ever do.

Now with more restrictions lifted for the holidays, perhaps we should be ready for what is coming. Each airline has its guidelines, each destination has its documentation, and it changes constantly. My advice is to check with your airline beforehand and to strategize if things went away.

Safe travels.