US Drops Pre-Travel Covid Testing Requirement For International Travelers

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention citing a “new phase” of the Covid pandemic in a statement confirming the rule change, lifting the requirement for international travelers to have Covid test prior to within 24 hourrs of traveling to the United States, as of Sunday, June 12th, 2022.

“Widespread uptake of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics, and the accrual of high rates of vaccine- and infection-induced immunity at the population level in the United States” have all helped lower the risk of severe disease and death, the agency said.

Many travelers in the United States and abroad have been waiting for it. The travel industry has been pushing for it. And now an end has come to the requirement for travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before entering the US. Navigating ever-shifting entry requirements across the globe has been a source of great confusion for travelers everywhere.

Here’s what we know about how the new policy will impact US arrivals:

When does the the pre-travel testing requirement be lifted?

The requirement ended on Sunday, June 12, at 12:01 a.m. ET.

That means flights departing to the US from a foreign country at or after that time no longer have to present a negative test result or documentation of recovery in the past 90 days from Covid-19.

Departures before that time will require testing.

Is the decision final?

Like many measures targeting Covid-19, the rules are subject to change.

“CDC continues to evaluate the latest science and state of the pandemic and will reassess the need for a testing requirement if the situation changes,” the agency said in a statement.

Do foreign arrivals to the US still need to be vaccinated?

Yes. The vaccination requirement for foreign arrivals has not changed.

Travelers 18 and older who are not US citizens, US nationals, legal permanent residents or immigrants must be fully vaccinated to travel to the US, with limited exceptions.

Children 17 and under are not required to be vaccinated.

What about unvaccinated Americans?

The end of the testing requirement applies to all travelers previously required to present negative test results, and vaccination requirements to enter the United States do not apply to US citizens.

What is the CDC’s recommendation for travel?

The CDC still recommends that travelers remain up to date on vaccinations and test for infection before and after travel and after any known exposure to someone with Covid-19.

The CDC also continues to recommend wearing masks in indoor public transportation settings. Masks are no longer required.

Are land border and ferry port arrivals affected by the rule change?

No. The rule change applies to air travel. Covid-19 testing has not been required for entry via a land or ferry port. Non-US travelers 18 and older must be fully vaccinated to enter the US.

According to Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst, there were good reasons to have the testing requirements at other points during the pandemic. “Having the testing requirement is not doing much, if anything, to keep the coronavirus out of the US, and instead is creating a major barrier to people who wish to travel abroad and return,” Wen said. “Of course, if people have symptoms or exposure while traveling, they need to get tested, and if they test positive, to follow CDC’s isolation guidelines.”

Why Are We Paying More To Fly?

High airfare is a global worry now. In the United States and around the world, travelers have been complaining for quite some about unusually high airfares almost on all routes. These are the times of summer vacation in schools in many parts of India, and also in courts. So, if you booked or attempted to book air tickets, you must have felt a bigger hole burning in your pocket.

Blame Covid-19: The pandemic forced the governments across the world to impose travel restrictions and opt for travel bubbles with highly regulated flight operations. Now, with the worst of Covid-19 seemingly over, restrictions are gone or in the days of force.

A travel burst: The international travel observers are saying that the demand for air travel is “off the charts” – even about 30% higher than the pre-pandemic levels. This is the pent up travel demands accumulated over the past two years. This is why internet searches show sky-high airfares for many routes.

Costlier fuel: The prices of Aviation turbine fuel (ATF) has been skyrocketing for several months, also due to the Russia-Ukraine war. ATF makes up about 40% of the operational cost for airlines. With lower ATF prices in pre-pandemic time, it formed 25-30% of the operational cost.

Fewer staff: The pandemic saw airlines reducing their fleet strength as well as the number of pilots, flight attendants, ground handlers and other aviation workers. Reports suggest that new hirings have begun but it takes time to put things in order for flight operation.

Repairing finances: Aviation sector, a capital-intensive business, runs on wafer-thin margins. Huge rush of travellers and an unusually high airfare are offering the airlines an opportunity to repair their balance sheets. This high-price situation, experts say, is likely to last a few more months globally.

Noida To Have India’s Largest Airport

Tata Projects will construct the Noida International Airport in Greater Noida. Yamuna International Airport Private Limited is a 100% subsidiary of Swiss developer Zurich Airport International AG and has been incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle to develop Noida Airport

Tata Group’s infrastructure and construction arm, Tata Projects, has bagged the contract to construct the upcoming Noida International Airport at Greater Noida’s Jewar, in Uttar Pradesh.

As part of the contract, Tata Projects will construct the terminal, runway, airside infrastructure, roads, utilities, landside facilities and other ancillary buildings at the airport, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL) said in a statement today.

Yamuna International Airport Private Limited is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Swiss developer Zurich Airport International AG and has been incorporated as a Special Purpose Vehicle to develop Noida International Airport.

In 2019, Zurich Airport International AG won the bid to develop the airport. The Uttar Pradesh government signed the concession agreement with Yamuna International Airport Private Limited on October 7, 2020, to commence the development of the Noida International Airport.

Noida International Airport will be India’s largest airport once constructed fully.

The greenfield facility, spread in 1,334 hectares, will have a single-runway operation in the first phase with a capacity to handle 12-million passengers per annum at an investment of ₹ 5,700 crore.

“YIAPL has selected Tata Projects Ltd to undertake the Engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of Noida International Airport. The company has been selected from three shortlisted teams with demonstrated experience in the design, procurement, and construction of large infrastructure projects,” the statement said.

The new airport is expected to be functional by 2024, as per the developer. With the closure of the EPC contract, the first phase of the airport is on track to be delivered within three years of the commencement of the concession period, YIAPL said.

“We are pleased to partner with Tata Projects for EPC work at Noida International Airport. With the award of this contract, our project enters the next phase, which will witness a rapid increase in the pace of construction activities on site,” said Christoph Schnellmann, Chief Executive Officer, Yamuna International Airport Private Limited.

The company, together with Tata Projects, is working to deliver a passenger terminal, runway, and other airport infrastructure with a capacity of 12 million passengers annually, by 2024, he said.

“Tata Projects will work closely with Yamuna International Airport Private Limited to deliver the airport on time. We will deploy the latest technologies in its construction, while meeting the highest standards of quality, safety, and sustainability,” said Vinayak Pai, CEO and MD-designate at Tata Projects Ltd.

Comments Tata Projects’ other major projects include the New Parliament Building, Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link, and metro rail lines across various cities, as per the statement.

With DGCA Nod, Jet Can Fly Now

Jet Airways  was granted the airline operating permit (AOP) or licence by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week, more than three years after it suspended operations in April 2019. The airline, which is expected to start operations by September, bought Air Sahara initially in April 2007 for Rs 1,450 crore though the deal fell through and was finally concluded in 2013 for Rs 2,300 crore.The DGCA has granted  Jet Airways NSE 4.98 % its air operator’s certificate (AOC), officially paving the way for the grounded airline to take to the skies once again.

The grant of the AOC was the final step in a comprehensive regulatory and compliance process involving several procedural checks for the airline’s operational readiness.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation chief Arun Kumar told PTI the AOC has been granted to the airline, which saw turbulent times before being grounded three years ago.

In its old avatar, the airline was owned by Naresh Goyal and had operated its last flight on April 17, 2019, due to financial distress. The Jalan-Kalrock Consortium is currently the promoter of Jet Airways. The airline intends to restart commercial flight operations in the July-September quarter.

With DGCA officials on board, the airline had successfully operated five proving flights on May 15 and 17. Proving flights are the last step before an airline can obtain an AOC.

In a statement, Jet Airways said with the receipt of the AOC, the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium has fulfilled all the conditions under the resolution plan approved by the National Company Law Tribunal.

“Aircraft and fleet plan, network, product and customer value proposition, loyalty program, and other details will be unveiled in a phased manner over the coming weeks,” it noted.

Additional senior management appointments will be unveiled in the next week, and hiring for operational roles will also now commence in earnest, with former Jet Airways staff getting preference wherever possible, it said.

Murari Lal Jalan, the lead member of Jalan-Kalrock Consortium, said, ”Today marks a new dawn for not just Jet Airways, but also for the Indian aviation industry.”

“We are committed to making this an extraordinary success story in Indian aviation and in Indian business,” he added.

Financial distress forced Jet Airways, which flew for more than two decades, to suspend operations on April 17, 2019 and a consortium of lenders, led by State Bank of India, filed an insolvency petition in June 2019 to recover outstanding dues worth over Rs 8,000 crore.

In October 2020, the airline’s Committee of Creditors approved the resolution plan submitted by the consortium of the UK’s Kalrock Capital and the UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan.

In June 2021, the resolution plan was approved by the NCLT.

AAHOA Celebrates the Retirement of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., with Lifetime Achievement Award

AAHOA celebrated the career of J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., as he retired as Marriott International Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board on May 6th As stated by Marriott International, “he leaves the company after 66 years of unparalleled service and leadership.” 

During AAHOACON22 last month, Mr. Marriott was presented with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to an individual whose contributions and dedication to the hotel industry have spanned their entire career.

Individuals are honored with this prestigious award because they raise up not only their own organizations, but everyone in the profession.

“Anyone could recite and recount his many achievements, innovations, and the legacy he has established over the course of his career,” said AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel. ”But, for AAHOA Members, he is defined by the courage, empathy, and strength of character he has displayed through his many leadership roles with Marriott International.”

Marriott, like AAHOA, has a rich history and a family tradition of passing down a legacy. As a young teenager, Mr. Marriott worked for his father, doing odd jobs in the business to help out. Many of AAHOA’s hoteliers and members can relate to that – many of them growing up in their parent’s hotels and working toward achieving the American Dream.

“Because of his unique and visionary contributions to the hospitality industry, on behalf of AAHOA’s more than 20,000 members, we are honored to present Mr. Marriott with the AAHOA Lifetime Achievement Award,” Patel said.

AAHOA congratulates Mr. Marriott for an incredible career that will leave a lasting impact on the industry for generations to come and also congratulates David S. Marriott for assuming the position as Marriott International’s Chairman of the Board. 

“We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Marriott under David’s leadership, and we thank Mr. Marriott for all he has done for our industry and our members,” Patel said. 

India’s First International Cruise Conference To Be Held In Mumbai

Giving a boost to both the shipping and tourism sectors, India will host the first-ever Incredible India International Cruise Conference in May, 2022 months before the commissioning of the iconic cruise terminal in Mumbai.

On May 14-15, the Mumbai Port Authority (MPA) will hold the event in India’s financial capital. Mumbai will open the first-of-its-kind iconic sea cruise terminal in July 2024.

The conference will also showcase ports on the west coast, such as Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, New Mangalore, and Lakshadweep, as well as Kolkata, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, and Andaman as cruise centers of the country.

The two-day event in Mumbai is being organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Mumbai Port Authority, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The Minister noted during a news conference in Mumbai that the Indian cruise market had the potential to develop tenfold over the next decade, owing to increased demand and disposable incomes.

According to the minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Sagarmala programme connects the ports of Chennai, Vizag, and Andaman with Goa, which attracts the most tourists.

Sarbananda Sonowal also revealed the Conference’s brochure, logo, and mascot, Captain Cruzo. During the press conference, he also launched the event website, www.iiicc2022.in. The focus of the conference will be on Developing India as a Cruise Hub.

Dr. Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Rajiv Jalota, Chairman of the Mumbai Port Authority, and Sanjay Bandopadhyay, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority of India, all spoke at the event.

Travel Mask Mandate Suspended After Judge Strikes It Down

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is no longer enforcing the federal government’s mask mandate for travel after a federal judge in Florida struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) directive, media reports here suggested.  

“The agencies are reviewing the decision and assessing potential next steps,” a Biden administration official said. “In the meantime, today’s court decision means CDC’s public transportation masking order is not in effect at this time.” 

“Therefore, TSA will not enforce its Security Directives and Emergency Amendment requiring mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs at this time,” the official said.  

The Biden administration is still encouraging travelers to wear masks on public transit in order to protect against COVID-19 in the wake of Monday’s ruling. But those who do not wear face coverings on planes and other modes of public transportation will not face consequences.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Monday that the ruling was “disappointing” and that the administration was reviewing the decision.  

The Justice Department would make any decision on litigation, she said. The administration could choose to appeal the ruling.

Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of former President Trump, voided the CDC’s mandate earlier on Monday, writing that the agency exceeded its statutory authority with the order requiring mask use on planes, trains and other forms of public transit.  

The ruling came just days after the CDC extended the mandate for 15 days through May 3. In extending the mandate, the agency said it was reviewing the impact of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.  

Delhi Airport Is World’s Third Busiest Airport

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) was the third busiest airport in the world. The information was revealed by a report based on the data provided by the UK based data provider Official Airline Guide (OAG). The organization monitors global travel data and analyses multiple aspects like busiest airports, busiest flight routes and a myriad of other travel-related data.

US airports dominated the list of busiest airports in March, claiming five of the top 10 spots.

According to a report published by the UK-based Official Airline Guide (OAG), Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is the world’s third busiest airport.

Atlanta International Airport in the United States is first on the list, followed by Dubai International Airport. According to the OAG report, Delhi’s IGIA airport has eclipsed China’s Guangzhou airport, moving up six points to take third place. Guangzhou airport in China is now the world’s fourth busiest.

Other airports on the top 10 list include Dallas Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Tokyo International (Haneda), and London Heathrow Airport.

US airports have significantly dominated the list of busiest airports, capturing five out of the top ten positions in the list for the month of March. The OAG report says, “Growth of the US airports has come at the expense of Asian presence in the Global Top 10 as some of the big global airports of 2019, such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, slide down from their 2019 positions affected by travel restrictions.”

2,210 Additional Planes Needed In India Over Next 20 Years

Reuters: -Airbus expects Indian airlines to order 2,210 planes over the next 20 years, up from a previous forecast of 1,900, it said on Thursday, citing growth in the country’s aviation sector.

With low-cost carriers making up the bulk of the Indian market, Airbus expects airlines will need 1,770 narrowbody planes to grow their fleets and replace old planes, with the remainder being widebody planes, Brent McBratney, head of airline marketing for India and South Asia, said at an air show.

India’s domestic and international air travel market is expected to grow 6.2% per year over the next 20 years, outpacing average global growth of about 3.9%, McBratney said.

While a proliferation of low-cost carriers has spurred demand for narrowbody planes in India, McBratney also expects growth in long-haul travel, which he said was a largely untapped market for Indian carriers.

Domestic air travel in India is recovering from the pandemic, helping airlines such as IndiGo, which is Airbus’ biggest customer for its A320 narrowbody planes, and Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, to boost capacity and utilisation levels.

But as crude prices hit record highs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of jet fuel has risen, which could lead to higher ticket prices and temper demand.

However, Airbus expects domestic air travel in India to reach pre-COVID levels by mid-2022, while international travel traffic is expected to recover by next year. Airbus said in November it expected a market total of 39,020 jetliner deliveries over the next 20 years, fractionally lower than the 39,213 it forecast two years earlier.

Chandrasekaran Appointed As Air India Chairman

Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran has been appointed as Air India Chairman, a group spokesperson said. The development comes as the Tata Group scouts for a new Air India CEO-MD.

Earlier this month, ex-Turkish Airlines head Mehmet Ilker Ayci, who was named as the new Air India CEO-MD, declined the position. No reason was given for Ayci’s decision.

Last month, the Tata Group-led Air India announced the appointment of Ayci as the new Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the airline. At that time, Ayci while accepting the position said he is “delighted and honoured to accept the privilege of leading an iconic airline and to join the Tata Group”. He was expected to take the charge on or before April 1.

Ayci, 51, until recently was the Chairman of Turkish Airlines and was also on its Board of Directors prior to that.

Recently, the Tata Group bought the debt ridden state-owned Air India from the Central government by placing a bid of over Rs 18,000 crore at an auction and on January 27, it took over the full control of the airlines.

India To Resume Scheduled International Flights From March 27

India will allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from March 27. “After having recognized the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to or from India from March 27, 2022,” an official communique said on Tuesday.

“The suspension of scheduled commercial international passenger services to or from India, thus, stands extended only upto 2359 hrs IST on March 26, 2022 and air bubble arrangements shall accordingly be extended to this extent only.”

Last year, the Centre had decided to allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from December 15. However, the decision was suspended after the spread of Omicron variant of Covid-19. (IANS)

A New Phase For AIR INDIA Begins As Tata Group Appoints Former Turkish Airlines Chairman Ilker Ayci As New Air India MD And CEO

The Tata Group has appointed Ilker Ayci — former Turkish Airlines Chairman — as Air India’s Managing Director and CEO effective on or before April 1. The development is in line with the Tata Group’s plans to appoint an expatriate chief to run the airline it took over from the Indian government last month.

The Air India board met on Monday last week to consider the candidature of Ayci, with Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran as a special invitee, and approved his appointment, Tata Sons said in a statement. Ayci’s appointment is subject to requisite regulatory approvals.

The announcement also comes a day after Air India asked its cabin crew to wear minimal jewellery to avoid delays at security checks and not to visit duty-free shops after clearing the immigration process as part of the airline’s efforts to improve its on-time performance.

Commenting on the appointment, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said, “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ilker to the Tata Group where he would lead Air India into the new era.”

Ilker Ayci was chairman of Turkish Airlines since 2015, and his resignation from the post was announced by the airline on January 27 this year — the same day Tatas were handed over Air India by the Centre.

During his professional career, Ayci has been an advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul, where he took part in a number of development projects in Turkey’s largest city. Erdoğan is currently the President of Turkey.

Ayci was born in Istanbul in 1971. He is 1994 alumni of Bilkent University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, according to the Tata Group statement. After a research stay on political science at the Leeds University in the UK in 1995, he completed an International Relations Master’s program at the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997.

“Tata Group made the winning bid at ₹18,000 crore to bag the airline in October last year. Of this, ₹15,300 crore is in the form of debt, while the remaining ₹2,700 crore is in cash. The cash consideration has been paid to the government.

The airline is run by Tata Sons’ wholly-owned subsidiary Talace. Out of its total debt of ₹61,562 crore, ₹46,262 crore has been transferred to Air India Assets Holding Ltd (AIAHL), a special purpose vehicle formed by the government in 2019 for holding debt and non-core assets of Air India.

Founded by Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata in 1932, the aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India in 1946, and it began flights to Europe in 1948 under the banner of Air India International. The airline was nationalised in 1953 by the nation’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Air India has a fleet of 117 wide-body and narrow-body aircraft, and AIXL a fleet of 24 narrow-body aircraft. A significant number of these are owned by the company. More than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues comes from the international market.

Tata Group Chairman Tells Air India Staff To Look Ahead On A New Journey

Tata Group Chairman, N. Chandrasekaran, has called upon Air India employees to work together to build ‘the airline our country needs’. In a communication to the employees, Chandrasekaran said: “Now is the time to look ahead.”

The communication to Air India employees came on a day when Tata Group subsidiary, Talace Private Limited, formally took over the managerial control of the airline.

“I, like many others, have enjoyed reflecting on stories from the airline’s brilliant past. My first flight was with Air India in December 1986, and I will never forget how special it felt to be onboard, or the exhilaration as we soared into the sky,” the letter read.

“Today is the beginning of a new chapter. The entire nation’s eyes are on us, waiting to see what we will achieve together. To build the airline our country needs, we need to look to the future,” it added. Notably, the purpose of the letter was to welcome the employees into the Tata Group “family”.

“Our group has its own storied past. I have learned that to preserve what is best about the past, requires constant change. It is by evolving, adapting and embracing the future that we best honour a glorious history,” Chandrasekaran said in the letter.

It added that the “golden age” of Air India lies ahead and the “journey towards it starts now”.

Indian Government has handed over the management control of Air India to Tata Group subsidiary Talace.

With this, Air India’s strategic disinvestment was complete after the Centre received a consideration of Rs 2,700 crore from the ‘Strategic Partner’ — Talace — which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.

Tata Sons subsidiary Talace, which took over the managerial control of Air India on Thursday, will get more than 140 aircraft and eight logos, among other assets such as human resources.

However, the transaction does not include non-core assets, including land and building, valued at Rs 14,718 crore, which are to be transferred to government of India’s Air India Asset Holding Limited (AIAHL).

Besides, Tatas will also not get the world-famous art collection of Air India.

Nevertheless, the group will get Air India’s 117 wide-body and narrow body aircraft apart from 24 aircraft of Air India Express. A significant number of these aircraft are owned by Air India.

It will also get to operate these aircraft on over 4,000 domestic and 1,800 international routes.

Also, eight brand logos would be transferable to the Tatas, which they have to retail for a period of five years.

As far as revenues are concerned, more than two-third of Air India’s consolidated revenues come from the international market. The airline is still the largest player from India in the international market, having a strong footprint across geographies like North America, Europe and Middle East, with attractive slots and bilateral rights.

Additionally, Air India comes with a frequent flyer programme which has more than three million members.

In terms of manpower, the conglomerate will get the total talent pool of Air India and Air India Express, which stands at over 13,000, including permanent as well as contractual employees.

Under the agreement with the Centre, no employee will be removed for one-year. In the second year, if an employee has to be removed, a VRS option will be provided.

The employees will be provided gratuity, provident fund and post-retirement medical benefits.

Financially, Tatas will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore. It had to pay Rs 2,700 crore to the Centre as the cash component.

In addition, Tatas will need to take care of the Rs 20 crore loss per day that the company suffers.

There is also a three-year business continuity clause in the agreement.

Tatas would also need to maintain 51 per cent stake in the airline for at least one-year. Besides the upfront payment, Talace will retain a debt of Rs 15,300 crore.

The transaction covered three entities – Air India, Air India Express and AI SATS. Post the formal take over, a new board was constituted which included Tata Group’s executives.  (IANS)

Air India Set To Be Handed To Tata Group

AIR INDIA will likely be handed over to the Tata Group on January 27 with the disinvestment process reaching the final stages, according to the airline’s officials. The airline’s balance sheet was finalised and shared with the Mumbai-based conglomerate on Monday, and the company is expected to review it by Wednesday, following which the transfer will be made.

On October 11, the central government had issued the Letter of Intent (LoI) to the Tata Group, confirming its willingness to transfer 100 per cent stake in the airline. At the time, the expected timeline for transfer was set for December-end. This was extended to January-end on account of various pending approvals from global regulators and finalisation of the balance sheet by the lenders and the airline’s lessors.

The closing date of the balance sheet was set at January 20.

In a communication to the airline’s employees on Monday, Air India’s Director, Finance, Vinod Hejmadi wrote: “The disinvestment of Air India is now decided to be on the 27th January, 2022. The closing balance sheet as on 20th January has to be provided today, 24th January, so that it can be reviewed by Tatas and any changes can be effected on Wednesday”.

“We have done an excellent job till now in providing all support for the disinvestment exercise. The next three days will be hectic for our department and I request all of you to give your best in these last three-four days before we get divested. We may have to work late in the night to complete the task given to us. I seek the cooperation of one and all,” he wrote.

In October, the government had announced that the Tata Group placed the winning bid for 100 per cent stake in Air India at Rs 18,000 crore, of which Rs 15,300 crore was the debt component and Rs 2,700 crore was the cash component to be paid to the government.

The final balance sheet has been prepared with approvals from the various regulators, lenders and lessors of the airline. This balance sheet, provided to the Tata Group, is expected to account for the Rs 20 crore loss being incurred by Air India on a daily basis, till the cutoff date of January 20.

The Indian Express reported Sunday, citing an RTI response, that government departments and ministries had pending payments to Air India adding up to Rs 278.49 crore till October last year. This included Rs 244.78 crore from over 700 government departments and sections as of September 2021 and Rs 33.71 crore towards VVIP flights as on July 27, 2021, as per the data.

It also included dues from the Prime Minister’s flights of Rs 7.20 crore and the President’s flight dues of Rs 6.14 crore. The airline has already begun recovering pending dues from government departments – it had recovered Rs 30.38 crore as of November 30 last year.

Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for debt-laden state-run airline Air India earlier this month. Accordingly, sources said that the two bids are being scrutinized against a reserve price set for the airline. The process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price. Reports stated, a panel of ministers accepted a proposal from bureaucrats, who recommended the conglomerate’s bid ahead of an offer from Ajay Singh, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public.

Headquartered in Bombay (Mumbai), AIR INDIA’s first ever scheduled air service was inaugurated in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata, flying mail and passengers between Karāchi, Ahmadābād, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras. By 1939 routes had been extended to Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo, Lahore, and intermediate points. After World War II, in 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, to inaugurate international services between Bombay (Mumbai) and Cairo, Geneva, and London, Air-India International Limited was formed.

In 1953 India nationalized all Indian airlines, creating two corporations—one for domestic service, called Indian Airlines Corporation (merging Air-India Limited with six lesser lines), and one for international service, Air-India International Corporation. The latter’s name was abbreviated to Air-India in 1962. In the following decades as India’s flag carrier, the airline extended its international routes to all continents except South America and Australia, and it expanded its cargo operations. To gain a competitive advantage in computerized reservation searches, the airline removed the hyphen from its name in 2005 to become Air India.1946 R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group). After World War II, regular commercial service in India went back to normal, Tata Airlines changing its name to Air India and becoming a public limited company on the 29th of July 1946.

On June 9th, 1948, Air India introduced a regular service from Bombay to London, and two years later, AIR INDIA started regular flights to Nairobi. In 1993, AIR INDIA’s first Boeing 747-400, named Konark, operated the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1996, Air India started using its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Services to Air India’s third US gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark were introduced in the year 2000.

In October 2016, AIR INDIA changed the Delhi – San Francisco route previously operated over the Atlantic Ocean to flying over the Pacific Ocean, in order to take advantage of jet stream winds and use less fuel. With the total flown distance being over 15,200 kilometres (9,400 miles), AIR INDIA operated the world’s longest non-stop regular scheduled commercial flight.

In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and Spicejet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage. The Centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt. Top sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said all formalities for the Air India disinvestment process will be completed by December 2021.

Air India Curtails US Operations Due To 5G Roll-Out

National carrier Air India will not be able to operate a number of US-bound flights on Wednesday, the airline said.

Accordingly, the airline informed passengers via it’s official Twitter handle that it will not be able to operate the Delhi-JFK-Delhi and Mumbai-EWR-Mumbai flights amongst other on Wednesday.

The deployment of 5G communications in the US has been cited as the cause for flight cancellations.

However, in another tweet the airline said that it will operate the flight to Washington DC from Delhi by AI103 on Wednesday.

As per industry insiders, the 5G network deployment might cause certain crucial flight instruments to malfunction.

“#FlyAI: Due to deployment of 5G communications in USA, our operations to USA from India stand curtailed/revised with change in aircraft type from 19th January 2022,” the airline tweeted. (IANS)

India Observes National Tourism Day

Government of India is celebrating ‘National Tourism Day’ on January 25, 2022.  This important occasion will be followed by commemoration of the 73rd Republic Day.

This year, India will cross a milestone when it completes 75 years of Independence on 15th August 2022. The landmark occasion is being celebrated as ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The series of events are receiving overwhelming participation from Indians and all people of Indian origin abroad. The grand celebration of progressive India and history of its people, culture, and achievements, commenced on 12th March 2021. Since then, began a 75 week countdown to India’s 75th Anniversary of Independence and will end post-a-year on 15th August 2023. Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi has launched a vision of activating India 2.0 fueled by the spirit of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. The ‘National Tourism Day’ needs to be seen against this backdrop.

For the celebration of the ‘National Tourism Day’, the Ministry of Tourism has been designated as the lead Ministry and Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Textiles, and Ministry of Railways will be the partnering Ministries. The Day will sensitize everyone about Government of India’s efforts to promote its Tourism potential.

The ‘Tourism Fortnight’, a special drive to promote Incredible India with a series of activities, conversations at the India Pavilion of the Expo 2020 Dubai, and a special ‘Tourism Pavilion’, in association with FICCI where various state governments took part and showcased their tourism potential are special promotion drives undertaken by the Government of India recently.

On the occasion of celebration of ‘National Tourism Day’, let us have a virtual tour of India’s select National Monuments.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Tamil Nadu:

Mahabalipuram is pre-eminently testimony to the Pallavas civilization of south-east India.The sanctuary, known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air reliefs, is one of the major centres of the cult of Siva. The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and supple mass of their modelling, spread widely (Cambodia, Annam, Java).

Founded in the 7th century by the Pallavas sovereigns south of Madras, the harbour of Mahabalipuram traded with the distant kingdoms of South-East Asia: Kambuja (Cambodia) and Shrivijaya (Malaysia, Sumatra, Java) and with the empire of Champa (Annam). But the fame of its role as a harbour has been transferred to its rock sanctuaries and Brahmin temples which were constructed or decorated at Mahabalipuram between 630 and 728.

Most of the monuments, like the rock-cut rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna’s penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple (the sleeping Mahavishnu or Chakrin at the rear part of the Shore temple complex) are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla.

Great Living Chola Temples

Tamil Nadu

The Great Chola Temples of southern India are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and the ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization in southern India. They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramidal tower).

The Cholas were the second great historic dynasty of the Tamil Nadu, the Tamil country, which was the home of the ancient Dravidian culture whose influence was so considerable in the whole of south-east Asia. The great temple of Tanjore was built in a few years, from 1003 to 1010, during the reign of the great king Rajaraja (985-1014), true founder of the Chola Empire which spread throughout the whole of southern India, part of Ceylon and the Maldive and Laccadive archipelagos. Richly endowed by the sovereign, the sanctuary, which also bears his name – it is sometimes called Rajarajesvaram – had a permanent staff of several hundred priests, 400 devadasi (sacred dancers), and 57 musicians, according to inscriptions and chronicles. The Brihadisvara’s income in gold, silver and precious stones during the Chola period has been precisely evaluated. These vast resources were efficiently managed and provided not only for the upkeep and improvement of the buildings (which was continued until the 17th century) but also for real investments to be made. The temple lent money, at rates which could sometimes reach 30%, to shipowners, village assemblies and craft guilds. Dedicated to Shiva, the Brihadisvara stands to the south-west of the historic city. A first rectangular surrounding wall, 270 m by 140 m, marks the outer boundary.

Sun Temple, Konârak

Orissa

 Konârak is an outstanding testimony to the 13th-century kingdom of Orissa. It is directly and materially linked to Brahmin beliefs, and forms the invaluable link in the history of the diffusion of the cult of Surya, which originated in Kashmir during the 8th century and finally reached the shores of eastern India.

On the eastern coast of India, south of the Mahanadi Delta, is the Brahmin temple of Kimarak (still spelled as Konârak or Konârka), one of the most famous Brahmin sanctuaries of Asia. Konârak derives its name from Konârka, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. Konârka is a combination of two words, kona (corner) and arka (Sun). It was one of the earliest centres of Sun worship in India. Built around 1250 in the reign of King Narasingha Deva (1238-64), it marks the apogee of the wave of foundations dedicated to the Sun God Surya; the entire temple was conceived as a chariot of the Sun God with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings.

The present Sun Temple was probably built by King Narashimhadev I (1238-64) of the Ganga dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple fell into disuse in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an envoy of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. Samba was afflicted by leprosy and after twelve years of penance he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built this temple.

Elephanta Caves

Maharashtra

The island of Elephanta, the glorious abode of Lord Shiva and an epitome of Hindu cave culture, consists of seven caves on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Mumbai which, with their decorated temples and the images from Hindu mythology, bear a unique testimony to a civilization that has disappeared. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly in the huge high reliefs in the main cave.

The island of Gharapuri, the ‘City of Caves’, situated about 10 km from Mumbai on the east side of the harbour, owes its name to the enormous stone elephant found there by Portuguese navigators. This elephant was cut into pieces, removed to Mumbai and somehow put together again. It is today the melancholy guardian of Victoria Gardens Zoo in Mumbai, the great metropolis of Maharashtra State and India’s second city population-wise.

The date of the famous Elephanta Caves is still very much debated and varies from the 6th century to the 8th century according to different specialists. They constitute one of the most striking collections of rock-art in India. There are two groups of caves. To the east, Stupa Hill (thus named because of a small brick Buddhist monument at the top) contains two caves, one of which is unfinished, and several cisterns. To the west, the larger group consists of five rock-cut Hindu shrines. The main cave is universally famous for its carvings to the glory of Shiva, who is exalted in various forms and act ions. The cave consists of a square plan mandapa whose sides measure about 27 m

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

Karnataka

Pattadakal represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India. An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there.

Three very closely located sites in the State of Karnataka provide a remarkable concentration of religious monuments dating from the great dynasty of the Chalukya (c. 543-757). There are the two successive capital cities – Aihole (ancient Aryapura), Badami, and Pattadakal, the ‘City of the Crown Rubies’ (Pattada Kisuvolal). The latter was, moreover, for a brief time the third capital city of the Chalukya kingdom; at the time the Pallava occupied Badami (642-55). While Aihole is traditionally considered the ‘laboratory’ of Chalukya architecture, with such monuments as the Temple of Ladkhan (c. 450) which antedate the dynasty’s political successes during the reign of King Pulakeshin I, the city of Pattadakal illustrates the apogee of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the north and south of India.

In UAE Desert, Camels Compete For Crowns In Beauty Pageant

Deep in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, the moment that camel breeders had been waiting for arrived.

Families hauled their camels through wind-carved sands. Servers poured tiny cups of Arabic coffee. Judges descended on desert lots.

A single question loomed over the grandstand: Which camels were most beautiful?

Even as the omicron variant rips through the world, legions of breeders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar traveled to the UAE’s southwestern desert this week with 40,000 of their most beautiful camels for the Al Dhafra Festival.

The five-man jury at the annual pageant insists beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Camel aesthetics are evaluated according to precise categories determined generations ago. Only female camels participate because males fight too much, authorities said.

As hundreds of woolly black camels trotted through the dusty pastures, necks and humps bobbing, one of the organizers, Mohammed al-Muhari, outlined the platonic ideal.

Necks must be long and slim, cheeks broad and hooves large, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Lips must droop. They must walk tall with graceful posture.

“It’s not so different from humans,” al-Muhari said, his robe sparkling white amid clouds of dust.

The high standards have prompted many breeders to seek an advantage, using banned Botox injections to inflate the camel’s lips, muscle relaxants to soften the face and silicone wax injections to expand the hump.

Festival spokesman Abdel Hadi Saleh declined to say how many participants had been disqualified over plastic surgery this week. All camels undergo rigorous medical exams to detect artificial touch-ups and hormones before entering Al Dhafra Festival.

Since Emirati investigators began employing X-rays and sonar systems a few years ago, Saleh said the number of cheaters has plummeted.

“We easily catch them, and they realize getting caught, it’s not worth the cost to their reputation,” he said.

A great deal is at stake. Al Dhafra Festival offers the top 10 winners in each category prizes ranging from $1,300 to $13,600. At the main Saudi contest, the most beautiful fetch $66 million. Camels change hands in deals worth millions of dirhams.

But breeders insist it’s not only about the money.

“It is a kind of our heritage and custom that the (Emirati rulers) revived,” said 27-year-old camel owner Saleh al-Minhali from Abu Dhabi. He sported designer sunglasses over his traditional headdress and Balenciaga sneakers under his kandura, or Emirati tunic.

Gone are the days when camels were integral to daily life in the federation of seven sheikhdoms, a chapter lost as oil wealth and global business transformed Dubai and Abu Dhabi into skyscraper-studded hubs with marbled malls, luxury hotels and throbbing nightclubs. Foreigners outnumber locals nearly nine to one in the country.

However, experts say Emiratis are increasingly searching for meaning in echoes of the past — Bedouin traditions that prevailed before the UAE became a nation 50 years ago.

“Younger Emiratis who have identity issues are going back to their heritage to find a sense of belonging,” said Rima Sabban, a sociologist at Zayed University in Dubai. “The society developed and modernized so fast it creates a crisis inside.”

Camels race at old-world racetracks in the Emirates, and still offer milk, meat and a historic touchstone to citizens. Festivals across the country celebrate the camel’s significance. Al Dhafra also features falcon racing, dromedary dancing and a camel milking contest.

“People in Dubai may not even think about them, but young people here care deeply about camels,” said Mahmoud Suboh, a festival coordinator from Liwa Oasis at the northern edge of the desert’s Empty Quarter. Since 2008, he has watched the fairgrounds transform from a remote desert outpost into an extravaganza that draws camel lovers from around the world.

In a sign of the contest’s exploding popularity, about a dozen young Emirati men who call themselves “camel influencers” filmed and posed with the camels on Wednesday, broadcasting live to thousands of Instagram followers.

The digital likes have proven important this year, as the coronavirus pandemic curtailed tourism to the festival and dampened the mood. Police checked that visitors had received both vaccine doses and tested negative for the virus. Authorities nagged attendees to adjust their face masks, threatening fines. There were few foreigners or other spectators strolling the site Wednesday.

Each category in the 10-day pageant is divided into two types of camels: Mahaliyat, the tan breed that originates from the UAE and Oman, and Majaheen, the darker breed from Saudi Arabia. Wednesday’s showcase focused on 5-year-old black Majaheen camels.

For hours, judges scrutinized each camel, scribbling lists of the animal’s body parts for scoring purposes. Breeders shouted to startle camels so they’d look up and show off elongated necks.

As the sun set over the sands, the winning breeders were called to accept their gleaming trophies. Down below in the dirt rings, camels were crowned with gold and silver-lined shawls.

“Until now we are the first in the category … We’ve received over 40 prizes (in various camel contests) this year alone,” beamed Mohammed Saleh bin Migrin al-Amri as he juggled four trophies from the day, including two golds.

Then he jumped into his Toyota Land Cruiser. The victory parade of honking SUVs and grunting camels faded behind the desert dunes.

Jet Air In Talks With Boeing, Airbus For $12 Billion Order

The new owners of once-bankrupt Jet Airways India are in talks with Boeing and Airbus to purchase at least 100 narrowbody jets for the carrier’s fleet in a bid to revive what used to be the biggest private airline in the South Asian nation before it collapsed under a pile of debt.

The winning bidders for Jet Airways in a state-run bankruptcy resolution process — Dubai-based, Indian-origin businessman Murari Lal Jalan and Florian Fritsch, the chairman of London-based financial advisory and alternative asset manager Kalrock Capital Management Ltd. — plan to start flights in the first three months of next year, Ankit Jalan, a representative for the consortium, said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The group will invest around 15 billion rupees ($200 million) via equity and debt in the airline over the next six months, half a year earlier than originally planned, Jalan, who is Murari Lal’s nephew, said earlier this week.

The potential revival of Jet Airways, which forced creditors to take a 95% haircut, will be the first for any airline under India’s bankruptcy laws and will intensify competition in one of the world’s most cut-throat aviation markets. Founded by ticketing agent-turned-entrepreneur Naresh Goyal after India ended a state monopoly on aviation in the early 1990s, Jet Airways became popular among fliers as an attractive alternative to Air India Ltd., offering full-service flights to cities including London and Singapore, before a bunch of low-cost airlines ushered in cheap fares for no-frills services.

“The reaction that we saw of the Jet Airways brand coming back was motivation in itself,” 37-year old Jalan, who’s leading the consortium’s airline venture, said from the old offices of Jet Airways just outside of New Delhi on Wednesday evening. “That’s exactly why Jet is coming back; to serve the loyal fan base, to serve the people who miss Jet.”

Shares of the airline rose as much as 5.6% Thursday in Mumbai, their biggest jump in more than three months.

Jet Airways — which had almost 21,000 creditors seeking claims of around $6 billion under the bankruptcy process — is reentering a notoriously tough market. Kingfisher Airlines, founded by beer tycoon Vijay Mallya, ended operations in 2012 after failing to clear its dues to banks, staff, lessors, and airports. SpiceJet almost collapsed two years later before its founders returned to gain control and revive the company. Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Group Bhd. have also set up local affiliates, but they aren’t making any money.

Jet Airways is now left with a fleet of 11 planes, including Boeing 737s and 777s, as well as Airbus A330 jets. But those aircraft are mostly old and need to be sold and replaced with newer, more fuel-efficient ones, Jalan said. A deal for the most popular model of Boeing 737 Max jets could cost more than $12 billion, although discounts are common in large orders.

Options for the plane deal includes both outright purchase and leasing, Jalan said. While Airbus is looking at possible early delivery of its most popular A320neo jets, which are already sold out for several years, Boeing may potentially relook at an old 225-plane order for 737 Max aircraft, which Jet Airways had placed before going belly up, Jalan said. A decision is expected by early next month.

“It will be at least something that covers us for the next five to six years,” Jalan said, in what is the new owners’ first interview to media since taking control of the airline. “Our plan is to be a 100-plus airline in five years, a 100-plus aircraft fleet. That is our plan. So the order has to support that.”

India still has “enough room” to accommodate more planes, particularly compared with China, which has a lot more aircraft and a comparable population, and the U.S., which has 10 times the number of aircraft versus India with just one-quarter the population, Jalan said. Jet Airways has already hired most top management for the company, Jalan said, declining to elaborate before a formal announcement.

The Jalan family, little-known in India, is based in Dubai and has businesses spanning healthcare, real estate and renewable energy primarily in Uzbekistan, Dubai and Russia, said Jalan, who was educated in both Dubai and the U.S. Murari Lal Jalan has been a so-called nonresident Indian for more than three decades, with the majority of his businesses outside India.

Jet Airways 2.0 — as it is dubbed by the new owners — will be a full-service airline, with a business class in most planes once the venture takes off. It will also offer a frequent flyer program. The airline will target the corporate market in particular, which Jet once dominated, and have connections to major metro cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, Jalan said.

“We are working on all the things that we need to do to make an airline operational — whether that’s the training infrastructure, whether that’s the IT systems, whether it’s the marketing plan — all that is being worked upon as we speak. All these things will come beautifully together in the next two or three months,” Jalan said. “This is how we are doing it, in the present tense, not in the future tense.”

U.S. COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Begun

Beginning Monday, December 6th, travelers heading to the U.S. are required to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of boarding their flight instead of three days prior.

Also, President Biden is extending the federal rule requiring passengers on planes, trains and buses to wear face masks through March 18. It was scheduled to expire in mid-January.

The Biden administration’s moves come after the White House announced a ban on travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals who have been to South Africa or seven other African countries within the previous 14 days.

That travel ban does not apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and it’s possible the ban could be lifted soon.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the restrictions “travel apartheid,” and Dr. Anthony Fauci said U.S. officials “feel very badly about the hardship that has been put on not only on South Africa but the other African countries.”

“Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that ban in a quite reasonable period of time,” Fauci said.

Here’s what travelers should know:

New testing requirements

Starting Monday, the U.S. has begun requiring all inbound international travelers to test for COVID-19 within one day of their flight to the U.S., regardless of their nationality or vaccination status.

That will replace a similar three-day requirement in effect since early November, when the administration scrapped country-specific travel bans.

“This tighter testing timetable provides an added degree of protection as scientists continue to study the omicron variant,” Biden said during a brief appearance to announce his latest measures against the virus.

Do testing requirements apply to children?

Yes, but children under 2 years old do not need to get tested. There is also an option for people who can prove they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Learn more about these requirements.

Do you have to get the test exactly 24 hours before travel?

No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s policy specifies that travelers must get tested one day before the flight’s departure, but does not say it has to be exactly 24 hours before.

“The Order uses a 1-day time frame instead of 24 hours to provide more flexibility to the air passenger and aircraft operator,” the CDC says. “By using a 1-day window, test acceptability does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test sample was taken.”

That means if your flight is at 1 p.m. on a Friday, you could board with a negative test that was taken any time on the prior Thursday, the agency explains.

Face mask rules

The Transportation Security Administration will extend the requirement to wear a mask on planes, trains, subways and other public transportation including airports and bus terminals through the winter.

Fines, which were doubled earlier this year, will remain in a range of $500 to $3,000.

The mask rule has become a flashpoint on flights, and some in the airline industry are eager to see the mandate go away. Airlines have reported more than 5,000 incidents of unruly passengers to federal authorities since the start of the year, with about three-fourths of the events involving passengers who refuse to wear a mask.

Is testing and quarantine required after arrival?

No, it is not required but the CDC recommends that all travelers get tested three to five days after travel.

Travelers are advised to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and isolate and get tested if they do develop symptoms.

It is also recommended that those who are not fully vaccinated stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if they test negative within three to five days after arrival.

Unvaccinated travelers who don’t get tested are advised to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

If the traveler has recovered from a documented coronavirus infection within the past 90 days before travel, they do not need to get a test three to five days after travel, even if they’re unvaccinated, the CDC says.

While Regulating Travel From Abroad Over Omicron Risk, India Resumes Overseas Flights

India announced that it will resume international passenger flights from mid-December with COVID-19 linked curbs for “at risk” countries, and ordered tightened screening at borders as fears over a new coronavirus variant spread globally.

India’s Health Ministry has revised guidelines mandating that all international passengers entering India have to submit 14-day travel details and upload a negative RT-PCR test report on the Air Suvidha portal before the journey, effective December 1st. The RT-PCR report to be uploaded should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to the journey.

Travelers from “countries at-risk”, including the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel, will need to take the COVID test post-arrival and wait for results at the airport, according to the guidelines. If tested negative, they have to undergo home quarantine for seven days followed by a re-test on the eighth day.

“On arrival, the passengers found to be symptomatic during screening shall be immediately isolated and taken to medical facility as per health protocol. If tested positive, their contacts shall be identified and managed as per laid down protocol,” said the updated guidelines.

Travelers from countries not considered ‘at risk’ will be allowed to leave the airport and must self-monitor their health for 14 days post arrival. A sub-section (5% of the total flight passengers) will be required to undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport.

The guidelines have also stated that children under five years of age are exempted from pre- and post-arrival testing. However, if found symptomatic on arrival or during home quarantine, they shall undergo testing and treated as per protocol.

Contacts of the suspect case are the co-passengers seated in the same row, three rows in front and three rows behind along with identified cabin crew. Also, all the community contacts of those travellers who have tested positive (during home quarantine period) would be subjected to quarantine for 14 days and tested as per government protocol.

Earlier the Central Government in a release issued following a meeting chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, said it will review “the decision on effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passengers service as per evolving global scenario while keeping a closer watch on emerging pandemic situation within the country.”

The meeting held to review the global situation in wake of Omicron virus was attendant by various domain experts including Dr. V K Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Dr. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister and senior officers from Health, Civil Aviation and other Ministries.

It has also been decided that Airport Health Officials (APHOs) and Port Health Officials (PHOs) will be sensitized for strict supervision of testing protocol at airports/ ports, added the release.

“Various preventive measures in place and those to be further strengthened were discussed besides reviewing the update of Standard Operating Procedure on testing and surveillance of incoming international passengers, especially for those countries identified ‘at risk’ category. The strengthening and intensification of genomic surveillance for variants through the INSACOG network was agreed upon with a focus on sampling and whole genome sequencing of international passengers especially from those countries where Omicron variant has been detected,’’ added the release.

At meeting the criticality of scrupulous implementation and rigorous monitoring of the three-pronged surveillance strategy of screening and testing international travelers and their contacts, routine sentinel surveillance and surge surveillance, and timely sending of RT- PCR positive samples to designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) were stressed upon along with enhanced testing and monitoring of COVID-19 hotspots.

Earlier on Saturday Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the emerging situation and India’s preparedness in terms of public health measures. The Health Ministry too has advised States/UTs regarding testing, surveillance, monitoring of hotspots, augmentation of health infrastructure, genome sequencing, and enhancing public awareness.

The federal health ministry said reports of mutations in the variant, identified as B.1.1.529, had “serious public health implications”, and asked states to adopt rigorous screening and testing for all passengers from South Africa and other “at risk” countries.

“This variant is reported to have a significantly high number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country in view of recently relaxed visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states late on Thursday.

India’s civil aviation ministry said it had decided to let airlines resume scheduled international flights from Dec. 15, lifting a nearly two-year-old ban imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The resumption of flights would be based on the coronavirus risk levels of individual countries, according to a formal government order. Some countries in Europe and Asia have rushed to tighten border controls and restrict travel nL1N2SH089 because of the new variant.

India’s foreign ministry said there was no immediate information on steps the government was taking. “This is a developing incident,” foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told a news conference.

On Friday, the UK Health Security Agency said the new variant has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based and could make existing vaccines less effective. Britain has banned flights from six African countries, and asked returning British travelers from those destinations to quarantine.

India, the world’s second-worst affected country by COVID-19, posted the smallest rise in new cases in one-and-a-half years this week, due to increased vaccinations and antibodies in a large section of its population from previous infections. Its total cases of coronavirus reached 34.56 million last week. India’s daily caseload has halved since September and it reported 10,549 new cases on Friday.

Earlier this month, India identified 10 countries “at risk” including Europe, China, South Africa, and New Zealand, among others, and has opened its borders to 99 countries overall. Indian shares fell more than 2% on Friday, in line with declines in markets across Asia as investors fled risky assets panicking over the potential impact of the new variant.

New International Airport In NOIDA Inaugurated

Noida International Greenfield Airport, also known as Delhi Noida International Airport or Jewar Airport, is proposed to be built in Jewar, Greater Noida, in Uttar Pradesh, India. The proposed airport will help relieve congestion at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) and serve the fast-developing industrial region between Delhi and Agra.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, said that the Noida International Airport will develop the tourism and agriculture sector in Uttar Pradesh and pilgrims will be able to easily travel to temples and shrines in the state. Modi added that the Noida International Airport (NIA) in Jewar, would make Uttar Pradesh  known for its ‘Uttam Suvidha and Nirantar Nivesh’.

The new airport is expected to increase demand for commercial and residential projects and hotels in the region, while also boosting the real-estate sector.

Speaking on the occasion of the foundation laying stone ceremony of Noida International Airport here, PM Modi said, “Tourism of land-locked states like Uttar Pradesh will greatly benefit from the Noida International Airport. Now, pilgrims will be able to easily travel to temples and shrines in Uttar Pradesh.”

“The agricultural potential of Western UP will witness a sharp rise and help the small farmers in exporting goods easily, efficiently and instantly,” he said.  PM Modi further said that Uttar Pradesh will now be known for its ‘Uttam Suvidha and Nirantar Nivesh’.

The airport is being developed by Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL), a 100 per cent subsidiary of the project’s Swiss concessionaire Zurich International Airport AG. Yamuna International Airport Pvt Ltd (YIAPL) is developing Noida International Airport under the PPP model in close partnership with the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Government of India.

According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the International Airport near Jewar will be developed as an Aviation Hub which is conceived to provide all the modern, efficient and hi-tech facilities.

The airport area when fully operational is expected to have Aero and Non-Aero activities along with MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) facilities. The present project envisages an area of land requirement measuring 3500 acres. In the first phase of development, only 1327 hectares of land would be developed.

Noida International Airport is strategically located, which is at a road distance of about 72 km from IGI Airport, 40 km from Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad respectively, 28 km from Greater Noida, 65 km from Gurugram and 130 km from Agra.

The projected cost of the proposed project is estimated at around Rs 15000- 20000 crore and the development of the first phase of the airport is being done at a cost of around Rs 10,050 crore. The work at the airport is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

American Airlines Resumes New York-New Delhi Direct Flight After 10 Years

American Airlines, the US aviation major announced the resumption of its non-stop New York- Delhi flights after almost a decade. American Airlines’ inaugural New York-New Delhi flight landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA)on Saturday night marking the resumption of the American carrier’s flights to the country. The flight operated by a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be run daily throughout the year.

American Airlines flight 292 took off New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport at 7.27 pm local time on November 12  and landed at IGIA on Saturday night. The carrier was supposed to start operations in October but it was deferred by a couple of weeks as the US announced the reopening of international travel on November 8.

Also, American Airlines’ Bengaluru-Seattle that was supposed to start from January 4, 2022, stands deferred to March-end as corporate travel is yet to pick up and expected to revive till then. The Airline suspended its India flights in 2012 when it terminated its Chicago-New Delhi flight which it started in 2007.

American Airlines MD (sales) Tom Lattig told Times of India, “there is a tremendous demand for travel between US and India thanks to a large diaspora and growing business ties between the two countries. People now want to fly direct instead of one-stop flights especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. We are looking at Mumbai closely. We will look at the two routes announced and then take a further call”.

With 881 aircraft, it’s the world’s largest airline by fleet size. Charles Lindbergh, who made the first solo transatlantic flight, was an airmail pilot for American Airlines, whose two airlines were commandeered by hijackers on Sept 11, 2001 to crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

The American has deputed its 304-seater Boeing 777 on the Delhi route with four cabins, 52 in business and 8 in fist. The airline recently entered into a code-sharing agreement with IndiGo for nationwide connectivity. Air India and United operate non top flights on several routes between the two countries. Delta suspended its India operations last March and is yet to revive the same. Before the pandemic, a majority of travelers took a one-stop flight via hubs in Gulf, Europe and Southeast Asia.

US Reopens Borders To Fully Vaccinated, After 20 Months

The U.S. opened its doors to international travelers on Monday after more than 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions, and some airports across the world celebrated the milestone with pomp and circumstance.

Starting Monday, November 8, 2021, fully vaccinated international travelers will be permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within three days of travel. The new policy, which was first announced last month, applies to both land borders and air travel.

The United States is largely wide open, although there are some state and local restrictions that still apply. For example, there are mask mandates in Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Washington, DC and Puerto Rico also require masks in indoor public spaces.

In some cities, including New York and San Francisco, there are vaccine requirements for indoor public spaces including restaurants, reported CNN.

Hawaii, which had some of the strictest entry requirements in the US, will now align with the new federal rules for international air travel. Although capacity restrictions in the state are easing, there are still some limits in place.

Getting vaccinated is the key requirement for the vast majority of international travellers hoping to enter the United States, reported CNN. Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement. The CDC has the full slate of air travel requirements on its website.

Travelers must meet CDC criteria for being “fully vaccinated.” Paper and digital documentation are acceptable. Airlines are responsible for gathering and verifying this information from air travelers.

Air travelers also need a negative COVID-19 test. Testing is required of all fully vaccinated air travelers ages 2 and up, regardless of nationality. Passengers are required to test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their flight’s departure for the United States.
Unvaccinated Americans and a very limited number of unvaccinated international travellers exempted from the vaccination requirement must test within one day of departing for the US.

Many airlines have mobile apps and portals on their websites where vaccination and testing information can be processed digitally, reported CNN.

Customs and Border Protection anticipates an increase in travel volumes and wait times at land and ferry crossings and is encouraging travelers to have their identification and vaccination documents ready. The agency also encourages travelers to use its CBP One app. Staffing levels will be at pre-Covid levels, according to CBP, but the agency will be balancing multiple priorities.

“Trade and travel facilitation remain a priority,” a Department of Homeland Security Q&A about the new policy says. “However, we cannot compromise national security which is our primary mission.” Digital and paper documentation is acceptable for proof of vaccination, and vaccine cards do not need to be in English.

Travelers should be prepared to attest to their vaccination status and reason for travel. They should also be prepared to show proof of being fully vaccinated if requested by a CBP officer. Covid tests are not required at land and ferry crossings. The web of rules and requirements to travel internationally right now is undeniably tangled, reported CNN.

The U.S. opened its doors to international travelers on Monday after more than 18 months of COVID-19 restrictions, and some airports across the world celebrated the milestone with pomp and circumstance.

Starting Monday, fully vaccinated international travelers will be permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within three days of travel. The new policy, which was first announced last month, applies to both land borders and air travel.

Travelers can be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, all of which are authorized in the U.S., in addition to shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US Releases Details For Safer, More Stringent International Air Travel System

As the countries around the world continue to work to protect people from COVID-19, the Biden Administration has released additional detail around implementation of the new international air travel policy requiring foreign national travelers to the United States to be fully vaccinated. This updated policy puts in place an international travel system that
is stringent, consistent across the globe, and guided by public health.

Starting on November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S., with only limited exceptions. The updated travel guidelines also include new protocols around testing. To further strengthen protections, unvaccinated travelers – whether U.S. Citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), or the small number of excepted unvaccinated foreign nationals – will now need to test within one day of departure.
Today, the Administration is releasing the following documents to implement these
requirements:

1) A Presidential Proclamation to Advance the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-19 Pandemic;

2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Orders on vaccination, testing, and contact tracing; and

3) Technical instructions to provide implementation details to the airlines and their passengers. With science and public health as our guide, the United States has developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel. The additional detail released today provides airlines and international air travelers with time to prepare for this new policy ahead of the November 8 implementation date. As previously announced, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will also be able to travel across the Northern and Southwest land borders for non-essential reasons, such as tourism, starting on November 8. Additional detail on amendments to restrictions with respect to land borders will be available in the coming days. Travelers can find full details about today’s air travel announcement on the CDC and Department of State websites. A summary is below:

The White House has outlined new rules for foreign travelers to the US, as flight restrictions lift for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020.

  • The plan to reopen the US border next month to foreign flights includes a requirement that almost all foreign visitors be vaccinated against Covid.
  • The US travel ban has grown to include dozens of countries, including the UK, much of Europe, China and India.
  • The travel industry has been asking for US President Joe Biden to lift the ban.
  • Originally imposed by Donald Trump, the ban on flights from most foreign countries was extended when Mr Biden took power in January 2021.
  • The rule bans most visitors from Brazil, China, South Africa, the UK, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, Ireland, India and Iran.

The proclamation signed by Mr Biden on Monday, October 25th says that airlines will be required to check travelers’ vaccination status before they can board departing planes.

“It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the Covid-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States,” Mr Biden’s proclamation says.

 

Fully Vaccinated Status:
• Starting on November 8, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the U.S.

Proof of Vaccination:
• For foreign nationals, proof of vaccination will be required – with very limited exceptions – to board the plane.

  • Passengers will need to show their vaccination status, and the airlines will need to:
    Match the name and date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person reflected on the proof of vaccination;
    Determine that the record was issued by an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency) in the country where the vaccine was given;
    .Review the essential information for determining if the passenger meets CDC’s definition for fully vaccinated such as vaccine product, number of vaccine doses received, date(s) of administration, site (e.g., vaccination clinic, health care facility) of vaccination.
    • The Biden Administration will work closely with the airlines to ensure that these new requirements are implemented successfully.Accepted Vaccines:
    • CDC has determined that for purposes of travel to the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listed (EUL) vaccines.
    • Individuals can be considered fully vaccinated ≥2 weeks after receipt of the last dose if they have received any single dose of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO EUL approved single-dose series (i.e., Janssen), or any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series (i.e. mixing and matching).
    • More details are available in the CDC Annex here.

    Enhanced Testing:
    • Previously, all travelers were required to produce a negative viral test result within three days of travel to the United States.
    • Both nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), such as a PCR test, and antigen tests qualify.
    • As announced in September, the new system tightens those requirements, so that unvaccinated U.S. Citizens and LPRs will need to provide a negative test taken within one day of traveling.
    • That means that all fully vaccinated U.S. Citizens and LPRs traveling to the United States should be prepared to present documentation of their vaccination status alongside their negative test result.
    • For those Americans who can show they are fully vaccinated, the same requirement currently in place will apply – they have to produce a negative test result within three days of travel.
    • For anyone traveling to the United States who cannot demonstrate proof of full vaccination, they will have to produce documentation of a negative test within one day of departure.

    Requirements for Children:

  • Children under 18 are excepted from the vaccination requirement for foreign national travelers, given both the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination, as well as the global variability in access to vaccination for older children who are eligible to be vaccinated.
    • Children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test.
    • If traveling with a fully vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults). If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day of departure.Limited Exceptions from the Vaccination Requirement:
    • There are a very limited set of exceptions from the vaccination requirement for foreign nationals. These include exceptions for children under 18, certain COVID- 19 vaccine clinical trial participants, those with medical contraindications to the vaccines, those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel), those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), and other very narrow categories.

    Contact Tracing:
    • The CDC is also issuing a Contact Tracing Order that requires all airlines flying into the United States to keep on hand – and promptly turn over to the CDC, when needed – contact information that will allow public health officials to follow up with inbound air travelers who are potentially infected or have been exposed to someone who is infected.
    • This is a critical public health measure both to prevent the introduction, transmission, and spread of new variants of COVID-19 as well as to add a critical prevention tool to address other public health threats.

AAHOA Applauds Lifting of Travel Restrictions with Canada and Mexico

America’s hoteliers applauded the Biden administration’s announcement that it will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals from Canada and Mexico to enter the United States starting in early November after a 19-month freeze. For air travel, the policy would require travelers to be fully vaccinated and to test negative for the virus. No testing will be required to enter the country by land or sea, as long as travelers meet the vaccination requirements.

AAHOA is working with the administration to promote vaccine awareness in the hospitality industry and called for new measures to restart international travel safely earlier this year. “This is a big win for our Members, families, business, and tourism industries, especially those living in Texas and in the states bordering Canada,” said AAHOA President & CEO Ken Greene. “Cross-border operations were halted at the start of the pandemic, and AAHOA pressed the administration on the financial toll the travel ban took on small businesses.”

Travel industry studies estimate that international travel spending in the U.S. fell 76% year-over-year compared to 34% for domestic travel in 2020. “Lifting the COVID-19 restrictions on foreign travelers from Mexico and Canada is a significant step in the right direction and signals yet another phase of recovery for the hotel industry,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “This decision from the Biden Administration will help return two significant sources of travel and tourism to the U.S., visitors who have historically visited by the tens of millions annually.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the nation, with Member-owned properties representing a significant part of the U.S. economy. AAHOA’s 20,000 members own 60% of the hotels in the United States and are responsible for 1.7% of the nation’s GDP. More than one million employees work at AAHOA member-owned hotels, earning $47 billion annually, and member-owned hotels support 4.2 million U.S. jobs across all sectors of the hospitality industry. AAHOA’s mission is to advance and protect the business interests of hotel owners through advocacy, industry leadership, professional development, member benefits, and community engagement.

As Australia Expects Boom In Tourism, Qantas Moves Up Flights

Qantas Airways has brought forward its plans to restart international travel from Sydney as Prime Minister Scott Morrison predicted tourists would be welcomed back to Australia this year. Vaccinated Australian permanent residents and citizens will be free to travel through Sydney from Nov. 1 without the need for hotel quarantine on their return.

Two weeks ago, Morrison said Australians, skilled migrants and students would be given priority over foreign travelers in coming to Sydney. He predicted tourists would return in 2022 or later. But while tourists would retain their low priority, Morrison now expects they will return this year. “That is very possible and very achievable before the end of the year,” Morrison said.

Sydney-based Qantas announced services to Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and Fiji had been brought forward by weeks or months. A new service to New Delhi would begin in December, the first to India in almost a decade. The 22,000 staff employed by Qantas and its budget subsidiary Jetstar would return to work in December, six months earlier than planned.

The changes are being driven by New South Wales’ rapid uptake of vaccines. By Friday, 83% of the population aged 16 and older was fully vaccinated and almost 93% had at least one dose of a vaccine. Only the national capital Canberra has a higher proportion of the population vaccinated.

Australia had one the lowest vaccination rates of any wealthy country due to supply problems and public distrust of locally manufactured AstraZeneca. It now has one of the highest due in part to supply deals done with Britain, Poland and Singapore.

Melbourne, Australia’s most populous city after Sydney, came out of 77 days of lockdown on Friday after Victoria state reached a benchmark of 70% of the target population fully vaccinated. Pandemic restrictions were eased despite Victoria recording its deadliest day of the delta variant outbreak with 16 COVID-19 deaths. There were also 2,189 new infections detected in the latest 24 hours.

“Victorians, it’s fair to say, have done a quite amazing thing. So many people going and getting vaccinated so quickly,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. “We’ve always said that lockdowns were a function of not having the vaccine that we needed but if we got vaccinated, we’d have so many more options,” he added.

Sydney, where the delta outbreak began in June, came out of lockdown last week after reaching the same 70% vaccination benchmark. New South Wales reported five COVID-19 deaths on Friday and 345 new infections.

U.S. Passport Renewals Are Taking Months

Last spring, Tera Wages was looking forward to a mid-July trip to Casa Chameleon Hotel in Costa Rica when a friend happened to mention the U.S. passport renewal process, which has been suffering delays during the pandemic. Wages panicked, realizing she hadn’t checked the expiration date on her own passport. “You could have sucked the air out of the room in that moment,” she says.

Sure enough, both Wages’s and her partner’s passports had expired during the pandemic. Wages immediately sent them off to USPS, four weeks before they were set to depart—exactly the time the U.S. Department of State said passport renewals were estimated to take back in the spring. But mere days prior to scheduled travel, the Alabama-based couple was still passport-less, despite herculean efforts to secure an in-person agency appointment through a case worker assigned to them by Congressman Mo Brooks’s office.

“Ultimately we realized our case worker was not able to make anything happen,” Wages says. “We’d spent hours refreshing the page to get appointments, and nothing was becoming available. We decided there was no way [we could still go on the trip].”

Situations like Wages’s are common right now, with many Americans being forced to cancel international trips due to expired passports, and a long and frustrating renewal process. Though travel agents have always recommended giving the government a few months to process a U.S. passport renewal, the timeline is now much more complicated. Processing times are currently up to three times longer for both routine and expedited passport renewal services compared to before the pandemic.

Due to a huge influx of requests as the world reopens, travelers who need to renew (either in person or via mail) will have to allow extra time to do so. The best advice? Check your passport expiration date now—whether you have a trip planned or are just dreaming of one—and don’t forget many international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your planned return date to the United States.

We tapped travel experts to answer common questions about U.S. passport renewal right now. Read on for the advice, including what to do if you have an upcoming trip.

How long are passport renewals taking right now?

“We’ve seen varying timelines, but generally the passport renewal process can take anywhere from four to 18 weeks via mail, with in-person meetings even harder to come by,” says John Spence, USA president for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn. The government’s passport renewal website says travelers should be prepared to wait up to 18 weeks from the day their mailed-in passport reaches a processing facility.

Any travelers who can provide proof of necessary urgent travel, such as life-or-death emergencies, or can show that their trip is within 72 hours, though, are given the chance to score an in-person appointment, Spence says. “However, we wouldn’t count on this unless it’s a last resort,” he adds.

If you are able to get an in-person appointment at one of the government’s 26 passport agencies or centers in the country, a passport agent will review your application and potentially issue a passport on the spot, if you’re eligible for one. Or, the agent may ask you to return at a specific time to receive it, depending on the agency, their workload, and the date of anticipated travel.

Appointments at these centers have been so scarce, however, and in such high demand, that some who’ve been able to secure one have taken to selling them illegally to other travelers. Wages says that in researching how to get appointments online in their attempt to continue with their Costa Rica trip, they discovered users on Reddit who would post appointments for sale—starting around $200—as soon as someone canceled or more spots opened up.

In a briefing on July 14, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt addressed the situation, condemning this behavior. “We are aware of the issues and we are working to prevent them,” she said. “The Department of State does not charge a fee to solely book an emergency appointment at one of our agencies or centers, so if anyone receives a request for payment for scheduling a U.S. passport appointment, that should be considered fraudulent.”

As a result, on July 21 the Department of State temporarily disabled the online appointment booking system for urgent travel service. No timeframe was specified as to when online booking for appointments will open back up. In the meantime, you must call to make an appointment (though Traveler editors have been unable to get through in recent days, with the call dropping off after the initial menu).

Note that the above measure only applies to the 26 passport agencies in the country, and not the many passport acceptance centers—found in libraries, post offices, and local government offices—which continue to take online appointments. Wait times at passport acceptance centers are aligned with mail-in timelines, meaning the process can take up to 18 weeks once you’ve had your appointment and your passport has reached the federal government. Find a passport acceptance center near you here.

What to do if you need a passport, fast

If not being able to renew your passport could mean cancellation of a major trip, it makes sense you might consider extreme measures to score an appointment—even if that means paying for one. However, Spence says he’d never recommend illegally purchasing an appointment. “Although it’s tedious, we always advise going through the official application and renewal process through your local passport agency,” he says.

One creative way to potentially move quickly through the official channels? Contact your local representative, including the office of your U.S. senator or congressional representative, and ask for help getting an appointment, says Bahar Schmidt, founder and CEO of high-end travel resale marketplace Eluxit. She says that a client set to travel to Mexico realized last minute that their passport was expired. With travel in two days and no luck booking an appointment with the Department of State, they contacted their government representative and were able to get assistance—and continue with their planned trip, fresh passport in hand.

“I would probably recommend that route,” Schmidt says.”Reaching out to anyone who may [be able to] help in a crisis is worth a try.” Every district is different, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right person to call; more than likely, though, it will be your U.S. congressional representative who might be able to help in the eleventh hour. That said, it’s not a guarantee that lawmakers in either the House or Senate will be able to assist in a timely manner, as Wages experienced with her caseworker.

Of course, if you’re in panic mode and willing to throw money at the problem, there are always third-party passport services you can pay to handle your renewal. Throughout the summer, many passport application and renewal services—some of which traditionally advertise 24-hour turnarounds—have posted notices to customers that they cannot guarantee rapid renewals, though some are advertising wait times shorter than the government’s. RushMyPassport is a service Traveler staffers have used for a guaranteed 4-week return time, for $189. Another, GenVisa, says they will be able to offer passport renewals within 7 to 10 business days beginning in early August for $370.

What about the government’s expedited service?

During COVID, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. However, expedited service resumed in September 2020. You can pay an additional $60 to receive your passport renewal faster; however, the turnaround time is also delayed and may take up to 12 weeks.

What should I expect if I renew by mail?

Mailing your passport without knowing when it may be returned is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it, you should be able to track your application status through this page. Enter your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.

Always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal, says Spence. “If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.”

If the worst happens and you can’t get a passport in time, you can always book a domestic trip instead. Wages, who is still passport-less, ended up booking a weekend getaway to The Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach with her husband. Though she says the experience was a “10 out of 10,” it was still a consolation to the international vacation they didn’t get to take. Still, Wages acknowledges it could have been worse. “We’re fortunate our [travel] was not an emergency and that we have the privilege to be able to reschedule and plan again,” she says. “But for people who don’t have that ability, it would be really tough.”

U.S. To Allow Vaccinated International Travelers From Nov. 8th

After a nearly 19-month pause, the U.S. has announced that fully vaccinated international travelers will be able to enter the country as of November 8. This follows a Wednesday announcement from the White House, saying the U.S. would open its land borders and ferry ports of entry from Canada and Mexico for non-essential purposes—but only to those who have completed their approved vaccination doses.

That means travelers looking to enter the country, whether it’s to reunite with family and friends or as a tourist, will be able to do so again for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The policy will start November 8, “in alignment with the new international air travel system,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement, referring to the newly announced date given by the White House for when all international plane passengers coming into the U.S. will need to be vaccinated.

The reopening of the Canadian and Mexican land borders will happen in two steps. First, international travelers with non-essential business will be able to enter starting November 8 by showing documentation that they are fully inoculated with an approved vaccine, while those who haven’t been vaccinated still won’t be able to enter the country for non-essential reasons. Then, in the second phase starting in January 2022, even those who do have essential travel purposes—like students, truckers, and health care workers—will also need to have proof of full vaccination to cross the borders.

“These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of [COVID-19] and will create a consistent, stringent protocol for all foreign nationals traveling into the United States whether by land or air,” a senior administration official told reporters, according to CNN.

While international travelers coming in by plane will also need to show a negative COVID test in addition to being fully vaccinated, those crossing the borders by land will only need proof of vaccination, The New York Times explained. Any of the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization will be accepted, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, and Sinopharm. The procedure for those who received doses of different vaccines —which was commonplace in Canada—is still being determined, according to the Associated Press.

Since both the northern and southern borders were sealed off in March 2020, the timeline for reopening had been continually pushed back, most recently in 30-day increments, with the latest one in effect until October 21. But the reciprocal policy hadn’t been the same, as Canada reopened to American travelers August 9, while Mexico never shut down its border.

The reopening news is being lauded by the travel industry, with many expecting the relaxed restrictions to rev up leisure tourism. “U.S. Travel has long called for the safe reopening of our borders, and we welcome the Biden administration’s announcement of a set date to welcome back vaccinated international travelers,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement on Friday. In a previous statement, Dow noted that the closed borders have meant losses of about $700 million per month to the U.S. economy, totaling an estimated $250 billion in lost export income and likely more than a million lost jobs in the U.S.

The news is especially welcome at border cities, where restrictions have had a serious impact on their bottom line for the last 19 months. “Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy,” Mayorkas said. “We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Those steps have been slowly coming, as news of the November welcoming of vaccinated air passengers first was limited to those in the U.K. and European Union, but started to become more general as a White House senior administration official said in September, “We’ll be moving to a consistent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States,” explaining that “strict protocols” would be put into place in early November “requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling here be fully vaccinated.”

As of now, vaccination requirements for domestic travel aren’t on the books, though they have been talked about. President Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN Sunday: “It’s always discussable, we always wind up discussing it, but right now I don’t see that immediately.”

India To Lift Ban On Tourists

In a move aimed at boosting the economy through tourism, the government has decided to lift the Covid barrier for international travelers by resuming the grant of tourist visas. The Ministry of Affairs will start granting fresh tourist visas to foreigners coming to India from November 15. For those coming on chartered flights, visas would be granted starting October 15.

The move comes a year and a half after grant of tourist visas was suspended in the wake of Covid pandemic. The ministry said in a statement that the decision was taken following consultations with stakeholders like the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Tourism and state governments.

“MHA had been receiving representations from several State Governments as well as various stakeholders in the tourism sector to start Tourist Visas also, to allow foreign tourists to come to India. After deliberations we have decided to ease travel restrictions,” a senior Home Ministry official said. The official said states have been asked to follow Covid protocols laid down by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the tourists, the carriers bringing them into the country and other stakeholders must also stick to the guidelines.

Grant of all visas to foreigners had been suspended in the wake of the pandemic last year. After considering the evolving situation, the government had allowed foreigners to avail any kind of visa other than tourist visa for entry and stay in India. India has said the country’s Covid-19 graph was plateauing even though about 20,000 fresh cases were being reported every day. It said the challenge of Covid-19 was not over yet and warned people not to let their guard down during the festive season

New Travel Rules In UK From October 11. What Changes For Indians?

Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain on the red list of the UK. Apart from India, vaccinated travelers from Brazil, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey are now exempt from quarantine.

The United Kingdom is easing its travel restrictions starting from October 11 allowing travellers from more countries to enter the UK. Indians were already allowed to travel to the UK but what changes from October 11 is that those who are vaccinated with both doses of Covishield will not require to undergo 10-day mandatory quarantine in the UK.

Here is all you need to know:

If you are fully vaccinated then before travelling to the UK, you will have to book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19 test which is to be taken after your arrival. The passengers will also have to complete a passenger locator form 48 hours before arriving in England.

You will be considered fully vaccinated if you had taken the second dose of the vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in Englan. The day you had your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days, the government advisory said.

The UK government has accepted Covishield and India’s vaccine certificate. “India will be added to this list of countries and territories with approved proof of vaccination 4am Monday 11 October. If you arrive in England before that date you must follow the rules for people who are not fully vaccinated. If you arrive after that, you can use a vaccine certificate to prove your vaccination status,” the UK advisory said.

Only 7 countries on UK red list now In the latest revision of the travel rules, UK now has only seven countries on the red list which means people from these countries can’t travel to the UK. Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain on the red list.

Apart from India, vaccinated travellers from Brazil, Hong Kong, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey will be treated the same as returning fully-vaccinated UK residents so long as they have not visited a red-list country in the 10 days before arriving in England, it said.

Tata Group Is Frontrunner To Acquire Air India

The new owners of Air India will be decided in the next few days as the financial bids for India’s flag carrier, AIR INDIA are being scrutinized. The Tata Group, which was the original founders of the now largest air carrier in India, is one of the bidders, and is said to be the frontrunner to get hold of the carrier.

Tata Group and SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh in his private capacity had bid for debt-laden state-run airline Air India earlier this month. Accordingly, sources said that the two bids are being scrutinized against a reserve price set for the airline. The process will not go ahead if the bids come in short of the reserve price. Reports stated, a panel of ministers accepted a proposal from bureaucrats, who recommended the conglomerate’s bid ahead of an offer from Ajay Singh, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the decision isn’t yet public.

On the official front, DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey on Friday tweeted: “Media reports indicating approval of financial bids by Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect. Media will be informed of the Government decision as and when it is taken.” The tweet comes after a media report indicated that the Centre has selected a winning bid.

Furthermore, sources said that at present senior government officials are conducting separate meetings with the two bidders regarding other aspects of the sale such as the indemnity clause and carry over debt levels of the airline. More or less, the final decision can be made within the next few days by the AISAM (Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism).

The AISAM headed by Home Minister Amit Shah is an empowered GoM, which has the authority to take the final call on the matter, without the need of a Cabinet approval. The AISAM is scheduled to meet after all its members are back in the country.

After the announcement of the winning bid is made, the process of a complete handover is expected to take place within three-four months time. The Centre on September 15 had received multiple financial bids for divestment of Air India. The government has of late taken several steps to fast-track the much-delayed privatization of the national carrier.

Recently, the Centre decided to waive taxes on the transfer of assets from the national carrier to Air India Assets Holding Ltd, a special purpose vehicle (SPV). During the Budget speech for FY22, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that all the proposed privatization process would be completed by the end of the fiscal, including the much-delayed strategic disinvestment of Air India.

This is the second attempt of the current Central government to divest its stake in the airline. In the pre-pandemic era, the airline, on a standalone basis, operated over 50 domestic and more than 40 international destinations. Besides, it operated over 120 aircraft prior to the Covid pandemic. During that period, the airline had over 9,000 permanent and 4,000 contractual employees.

Headquartered in Bombay (Mumbai), AIR INDIA’s first ever scheduled air service was inaugurated in 1932 by J.R.D. Tata, flying mail and passengers between Karāchi, Ahmadābād, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras. By 1939 routes had been extended to Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo, Lahore, and intermediate points. After World War II, in 1946, Tata Airlines was converted into a public company and renamed Air-India Limited. Two years later, to inaugurate international services between Bombay (Mumbai) and Cairo, Geneva, and London, Air-India International Limited was formed.

In 1953 India nationalized all Indian airlines, creating two corporations—one for domestic service, called Indian Airlines Corporation (merging Air-India Limited with six lesser lines), and one for international service, Air-India International Corporation. The latter’s name was abbreviated to Air-India in 1962. In the following decades as India’s flag carrier, the airline extended its international routes to all continents except South America and Australia, and it expanded its cargo operations. To gain a competitive advantage in computerized reservation searches, the airline removed the hyphen from its name in 2005 to become Air India.1946 R. D. Tata founded Tata Airlines in 1932 as a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group). After World War II, regular commercial service in India went back to normal, Tata Airlines changing its name to Air India and becoming a public limited company on the 29th of July 1946.

On June 9th, 1948, Air India introduced a regular service from Bombay to London, and two years later, AIR INDIA started regular flights to Nairobi. In 1993, AIR INDIA’s first Boeing 747-400, named Konark, operated the first non-stop flight between New York City and Delhi. In 1996, Air India started using its second US gateway at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Services to Air India’s third US gateway at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark were introduced in the year 2000.

In October 2016, AIR INDIA changed the Delhi – San Francisco route previously operated over the Atlantic Ocean to flying over the Pacific Ocean, in order to take advantage of jet stream winds and use less fuel. With the total flown distance being over 15,200 kilometres (9,400 miles), AIR INDIA operated the world’s longest non-stop regular scheduled commercial flight.

In December 2020, the government had invited expression of interest for the divestment of Air India. Four bidders had entered the race to take over the beleaguered airline, but Tata Group and Spicejet CEO Ajay Singh were the only ones to make it to the final stage. The Centre had made an unsuccessful attempt to sell the ailing airline earlier in March 2018. However, its expression of interest to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India had no takers at that juncture due to concerns regarding the airline’s burgeoning debt. Top sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said all formalities for the Air India disinvestment process will be completed by December 2021.

Travel In India Returns To Near Normal

India’s taking off! Domestic air travel demand was on a steady rise globally until August when concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus reversed the trend in countries such as China, US, Japan, Australia and Brazil. However, in India, buoyed by vaccination drives and a drop in Covid cases, domestic traffic demand has continued its steady month-on-month climb since June, per recent data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airlines’ trade body.

In India, the climb recommenced in June after a huge drop in April-May during the second Covid wave, which made India’s domestic air travel demand take the deepest plunge worldwide. Domestic air travel demand (measured in revenue passenger kilometres: number of kilometres flown by all passengers) was the lowest in May. It fell 71% as compared to the pre-Covid month of May 2019, showed IATA data. Only Japan with a 68.5% drop in demand as compared to May 2019 came close. But India caught up in August: its domestic travel demand rose to almost half of that in pre-Covid August 2019. It had been down 60% in July.

In August, domestic passenger traffic at Mumbai airport touched 1.4 million, which is what the airport had handled in March, the month air travel demand began its sharp drop due to the second wave, showed Airports Authority of India data.

In April, domestic passenger traffic at Mumbai was down to 0.9 million and in May, fell further to 0.4 million, before the trend reversed in June and domestic traffic increased to 0.6 million. Similarly, Delhi airport’s domestic passenger traffic had peaked in March with 2.9 million passengers and the airport inched close to that number in August with 2.6 million.

India, UAE Working On Speedy Normalization Of Air Services

India and the UAE will aim to ensure speedy normalization of air transport operations between the two countries. Accordingly, the need for normalisation of air transportation, was discussed at the ninth meeting of the ‘UAE-India High Level Joint Task Force on Investments’ held in Dubai on Saturday.

“Given the importance of air transport in facilitating bilateral ties and people-to-people connections, both sides agreed that their respective civil aviation authorities should continue to work together on a priority basis, for their mutual benefit, to ensure the speedy normalisation of air transport operations between the two countries,” the Ministry of Commerce & Industry said .

Saturday’s meeting was co-chaired by Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Member of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles.

The Joint Task Force was established in 2013 as a key forum for promoting economic ties between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India, which were further strengthened by the signing of the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement’ between the two countries in January 2017. Besides, the meeting reviewed the progress of ongoing discussions for the ‘India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement’. “In this regard, both sides appreciated the efforts made to expedite discussions towards a well-balanced agreement that will considerably deepen bilateral economic ties and benefit the economies of both countries.”

According to the statement, participants also considered the ongoing efforts to amend the UAE and India’s longstanding ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty’ and noted the importance of concluding the negotiation process as soon as possible. “At the meeting, discussions were also held on exploring mutually beneficial methods and incentives to facilitate further investment from UAE sovereign investment entities in key priority sectors in India. The positive steps made by the Indian government in this context were noted and both sides agreed to continue to focus on ways of providing tax incentives to certain UAE sovereign investment entities.”

“The importance of active involvement from the UAE Special Desk within Invest India, the National Investment Promotion Agency of India, in expediting the resolution of both legacy issues and current difficulties experienced by UAE companies and banks in India was discussed.” (IANS)

India Orders 10-Day Quarantine For Visitors From UK

In a massive diplomatic response to the Boris Johnson administration’s vaccine racism, India has mandated that British nationals arriving in India from UK will have to undergo mandatory quarantine at home or in the destination address for 10 days after the arrival, sources said.

From October 4, irrespective of their vaccination status, all UK nationals landing in India, will have to undertake a pre-departure COVID-19 RT-PCR test within 72 hours before travel, Covid test on arrival at the airport, and a final test 8 days after arrival. The move is being seen as retaliation against the UK government’s decision to impose a similar quarantine for Indian travelers vaccinated with Covishield, which is a WHO approved vaccine.

The new rules, issued by the health ministry, makes it mandatory for all travellers from the UK to submit a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report, not older than 72 hours before date of departure. Not only that, it makes a Covid-19 test mandatory on arrival at the airport and 8 days after arrival, at the expense of the traveler.

The new rules mandate that while Indians returning home as well as NRIs and PIOs can quarantine at their homes, those who have no place to stay will have to quarantine in hotels at their own expense, which could prove to be an expensive affair. It’s similar to the policy travelers from India need to follow when visiting other countries.

India’s action comes even as both countries have been in talks, with New Delhi impressing upon the British authorities to recognize India’s vaccine certification — which is still pending more than 10 days after the culmination of technical discussions held to resolve the matter. Earlier, the UK had refused to recognize Covishield as an approved vaccine, despite it being biologically similar to AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria.

According to an initial travel advisory by the Boris Johnson government, people travelling to the UK from India and a few other countries will be considered ‘unvaccinated’ even if they are fully vaccinated. The primary advisory also did not recognise Covishield, which is a formulation of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. After criticism, the Serum Institute of India produced a vaccine was recognised by the Uk. However, Indians are still made to undergo mandatory quarantine upon their arrival irrespective of their vaccination status.

India’s response to UK’s Vaccine rules: Key Highlights

  • New regulations will come into force on October 4
  • All British citizens will have to take the pre-departure COVID test within 72 hours before travel
  • COVID-19 test on arrival at the airport
  • RT-PCR test on the day of arrival
  • Mandatory quarantine at home or in the destination address for 10 days after arrival in India
  • RT-PCR test 8 days after arrival

Kerala’s Travel Restrictions

Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that the state will have new mandatory quarantine stipulations for international travelers from Monday, on the basis of Union Health Ministry guidelines.

Travellers from UK will have to undergo ten-day quarantine at home or destination address, according to the new guidelines. Passengers from South Africa, Brazil, and Europe will have to undergo a seven-day quarantine mandatorily on arrival.

The Minister, in a statement, said that all international travellers irrespective of their vaccination status will have to take RT-PCR tests on reaching the airports in the state.

Travelers from other countries will have to undergo self-monitoring for 14 days if they test negative in RT- PCR test. Samples of passengers from countries like Botswana, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, European nations, of the Middle East, Bangladesh, China, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe will be sent for virus mutation tests.

The Centre had ordered 10-day mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving from the UK, after it imposed such quarantine measure for Indian visitors.

George also said that three RT- PCR tests are required for an international passenger to the state – One prior to 72 hours of the journey, the second on arrival at an airport in the state, and the third eight days after arriving in the state.

U.S. Allows Vaccinated Travelers from the E.U. and U.K

After nearly 18 months of barring almost all travelers who are foreign nationals from entering the country, U.S. travel restrictions are being rolled back. The U.S. said Sept. 20 it will ease airline restrictions this fall on travel to the country for people who have vaccination proof and a negative COVID-19 test, replacing a hodgepodge of rules that had kept out many non-citizens and irritated allies in Europe and beyond where virus cases are far lower. The changes, to take effect in November, will allow families and others who have been separated by the travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for long-awaited reunifications and allow foreigners with work permits to get back to their jobs in the U.S.

As per reports, fully vaccinated travelers from E.U. countries and the U.K. will be allowed to enter the U.S. by November, according to the Financial Times. The new travel policy also reportedly allows U.S. entry for travelers who are part of clinical trials for vaccines not yet approved in the U.K., the Times report says—a rule that would render about 40,000 additional people eligible for travel to the U.S.  The new E.U. and U.K. travel policies are expected to be part of larger sweeping changes to the travel bans that have disallowed most foreign national visitors to the U.S., with few exceptions made for the immediate families of American citizens, green card holders, and other select exemptions.

“In early November, we’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully vaccinated,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing on Monday. The U.S. travel restrictions were first imposed by former President Donald Trump in early 2020 as the coronavirus took hold in the country.

Two months after it green lit Americans for travel, the European Union has reverted its recommendation amid rising coronavirus cases. The decision to reopen U.S. borders to foreign visitors was applauded across the travel industry as a milestone on the path to restoring pre-pandemic operations. “This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.

U.S. airlines—one of the sectors hardest hit by the international travel restrictions—are “eager to safely reunite the countless families, friends, and colleagues who have not seen each other in nearly two years, if not longer,” Nicholas E. Calio, president of lobbying group Airlines for America, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks a positive step in our nation’s recovery, and we look forward to working with the Administration over the coming weeks to implement this new global system.”

Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told NBC News that the vaccine requirement will eventually apply to all foreign nationals entering the U.S., who will also need to be tested for the virus three days before departing for the U.S. and show a negative test result upon arrival. Unvaccinated Americans will need to test one day before departure and be tested again upon arrival, the report says. Currently there are no plans for a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel, but according to NBC, Zients said nothing is off the table.  Last week, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S., made a similar comment about a potential vaccine requirement for domestic air travel. “It’s on the table,” he said in a podcast interview. “We haven’t decided yet.”

What’s UK’s New Covid-19 Travel Rules Mean For A Flyer From India?

The UK has changed its Covid-19 travel rules, placing Indians who are vaccinated with Covishield in the category of ‘unvaccinated’. While it has relaxed the rules for those vaccinated with two doses Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the same version of the vaccine being manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute of India has been kept out of the list.

What are the UK’s current travel rules?

The UK currently has a system that designates countries in ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ list. If a person has been in a ‘red list’ country in the 10 days before arrival in the UK, she has to quarantine for 10 days in a quarantine hotel; and take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 or after day 8 of quarantining. Even fully vaccinated people have to follow these rules: The penalty is up to £10,000 for violation of quarantine rules, and £5,000 for arriving without a prior negative test.

India features in the ‘amber list’.

If a person has been in an ‘amber list’ country in the 10 days before arrival in England, she has to take a Covid-19 test in the three days before travelling to England. If a traveler arrives without proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure, the fine is £500. After arrival, the traveler has to take a Covid-19 test on day 2. The prior test is necessary for fully vaccinated travelers, too — but they are exempt from quarantine if they have taken the full course of an ‘authorized’ vaccine. ‘Authorized’ includes two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine (traveler must have the final dose at least 14 days before arrival in England), or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If the traveller from the amber list is not fully vaccinated with the authorized vaccine, she has to quarantine on arrival at home or in the place where she is staying; take a test on or before day 2 of arrival; and take another test on or after day 8. If the traveler tests positive for Covid-19, she and the household must quarantine for 10 days from the day of the test. If tests on the traveller’s samples detect a ‘variant of concern’, all her contacts too will be asked to take a test. Travellers from ‘green list’ countries too need to take a test Covid-19 test three days before the trip to England; and book a day-2 test after arrival in England. There is blanket exemption from quarantine for the green list, unless the test result is positive on day 2.

What about travelers from India?

The list of authorized vaccines recognizes the full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua, and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan – and even mixing of two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna). Although, India’s vaccination drive predominantly uses Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, India has been kept out of the list.

What does excluding Covishield mean?

This effectively means that Indians administered with Covishield, the same vaccine as the UK’s AstraZeneca, have to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test in the 3 days before travelling to England; book and pay for day-2 and day-8 tests to be taken in England; and quarantine at home for 10 days. The traveller can end the quarantine early, if she can pay for a private Covid-19 test through a ‘test to release’ scheme. For instance, if she arrives in England on a Monday, Tuesday will be her first full day of quarantine, and she can opt for a second test not earlier than the fifth day, which will be Saturday. If the result for the day-5 test is negative, she can stop quarantine, but she will still need to take the compulsory day-8 test.

What happens hereafter, then?

Government sources said they are invoking the reciprocity principle. They said a ‘note verbale’ has been sent to the UK Embassy, where they have said UK citizens will also be subject to 10 days’ quarantine. Government sources also told The Indian Express that the UK decision is not related to the addition of Serum Institute of India as an alternative manufacturing site on the ‘Vaxzevria’ licence granted to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Senior Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh Monday spoke out against the UK government’s decision to consider people vaccinated in India, Africa, South America and several other countries as unvaccinated, and make them go through a 10-day quarantine. Tharoor, Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha MP, has pulled put of a debate at Cambridge Union and withdrawn from the events for the launch of the UK edition of his book “The Battle of Belonging”. Quoting a thread of tweets by UK news analyst Alex Macheras, Tharoor wrote: “Because of this I have pulled out of a debate at the @cambridgeunion & out of launch events for the UK edition of my book #TheBattleOfBelonging (published there as #TheStruggleForIndiasSoul). It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine. The Brits are reviewing!”

Rajya Sabha Congress MP Jairam Ramesh too termed the country’s new travel policy “absolutely bizarre”. Quoting the same thread, he wrote: “Absolutely bizarre considering Covishield was originally developed in the UK and The Serum Institute, Pune has supplied to that country too! This smacks of racism.” India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has raised with the UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss her country’s rules that require vaccinated Indian travellers to be quarantined and urged an early resolution of the issue. “Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest,” he tweeted after meeting Truss in New York on Monday as he began holding bilateral meetings with leaders from around the world.

Immigration Overhaul Won’t Be Part of the $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

The Senate’s wonk-in-chief has once again shown who’s really in charge as lawmakers try to push $3.5 trillion in spending through an arcane budget rule. On Sunday, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough foiled Democrats’ efforts to include long-sought changes to immigration laws in the enormous spending package winding its way through Congress. Democrats have been moving forward with plans to tuck a sweeping immigration overhaul into the package and pass it along partisan lines with only Democratic votes . But MacDonough stepped in with a polite but pointed piece of advice to lawmakers: This is too big of a change to take advantage of the budget trick known as reconciliation; the bill being considered, she wrote, carries “tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.”

In other words, she said, lawmakers cannot squeeze giving eight million immigrants a pathway to legal citizenship into a legislative loophole that allows lawmakers to conduct budget revisions without a super-majority 60 votes. In the most routine of times, the rule is a way for staff to reconcile Senate and House edits of the budget without re-running the entire legislative tape from the beginning.  This year, it’s already been used to shepherd a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package. Now, Democrats were looking to use the same loophole to insert into a $3.5 trillion follow-on provisions that would have opened the door for legal status to immigrants who came to the country illegally as children, those who were granted entry for humanitarian reasons, farmworkers and other essential workers like those in hospitals, nursing homes and grocery stores.

The setback was not unexpected. “I always knew this would be a long process,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, the Senate’s highest-ranking Latino who has been advocating for the package of immigration changes. “I and my Democratic colleagues intend to continue working until we get to yes with the Parliamentarian.” The budget trickery Democrats are planning to use has very specific rules, including a requirement that the tool be employed only to deal with federal spending and revenue. Those limits have thwarted earlier efforts to slip things into budget bills: earlier this year, Democrats were not allowed to tack an increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour onto the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, and in 2017 Republicans’ were unable to use a tax-cuts package to end a ban on churches playing politics while keeping their tax-exempt status. Democrats had considered trying to use the process to advance a voting-rights bill, but ultimately saw that as unlikely to win MacDonough’s approval.

MacDonough has been persuaded to change her mind before. Last year, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden—the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee—argued that part of Sen. Josh Hawley’s proposal to leave the World Trade Organization was inappropriate for a vote because it had not gone through their panel. MacDonough initially sided with Hawley but two weeks later changed her ruling. But that’s very much the exception and far from the norm.

MacDonough has already handed Senate Democrats a big win, issuing an advisory earlier this year that they could reopen a budget bill to fold in a package to spend $1.9 trillion along party lines to ease pandemic woes. In the past, lawmakers were given one chance per budget year to send things into law with just 51 votes, but MacDonough said they could treat themselves to multiple bites of the legislative apple if they treated the add-ons as amendments to the budget. Absent that, they’d have to wait until the new budget year opens on Oct. 1.

As the presiding officer of the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris can, of course, overrule the Parliamentarian. The last time it was done was in 1975, when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller presided over a change in the number of votes to end a filibuster from 66 to 60 in a fully-staffed Senate. Democrats could also fire MacDonough, and there’s more-recent precedent for this. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott did so in 2001 to pass the Bush-era tax cuts through the loophole now in question.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain says the Biden team isn’t looking at those options, though it’s worth noting that President Gerald Ford didn’t know Rockefeller was going to go rogue on the rostrum. There is nothing that gives Biden or his deputies any power over what Harris does in her twin role as the Senate’s chief. But it’s tough to imagine Harris unilaterally going against the norms of a body where she served as a Senator for four years and where Biden served for 36.

Absent any drastic action, Democrats’ immigration reforms face an uncertain future. In 2013 , the Senate passed a massive and comprehensive immigration bill with 14 Republicans supporting it. But of those original 14, just five remain in the Senate: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. In fact, those last two helped write the bill and—in a sign of how the Republican Party has changed in recent years—Rubio had to distance himself from it during his 2016 race for the White House, calling it a mistake.

That bill never had a chance at a vote in the then-Republican controlled House, and that was before President Donald Trump made immigrant-bashing a central plank to both of his White House runs. Any hope of passing changes to the nation’s immigration laws with Republican votes now is almost zero. Trump may be gone, and this weekend’s rally in support of the insurrection he inspired may have been a failure, but the mark he leaves on this country is not fading any time soon.

UAE Lifts Travel Restrictions For Indians

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said that it is lifting restrictions from September 12 on entry for residents who have been fully vaccinated with a shot approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). It said that residents from India can fly into the UAE from September 12.  It has also allowed residents from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Namibia, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Africa, Nigeria and Afghanistan as well to fly into the UAE from September 12.

It also includes residents who stayed abroad for over six months, according to the NCEMA. “Those who are fully vaccinated with any WHO-approved vaccines and who have been staying in one of the countries in the suspended list for more than six months since the suspension decision was issued for each country, can come to the country under a new entry permit and rectify their status after entry,” the NCEMA said in a statement.

The passengers will be required to follow certain procedures to enter the UAE again:

— Apply via the website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) and complete the vaccination application in order to get the necessary approval. They must present the approved vaccination certificate before their departure to the UAE.

— Provide a negative PCR test result, taken within 48 hours before their departure at an approved lab that has a QR code.

— Take a Rapid PCR test before boarding and another PCR test on the fourth and eight day of arrival while complying with all precautionary measures in place.

Dubai is due to open the Expo 2020 World Fair on October 1, for which it has been preparing for almost a decade, after a year-long delay due to the pandemic. The nation which is a regional business and tourism hub is relying on Expo 2020 World Fair to give its economy a boost.

The organizers said they expected that the remaining flight restrictions imposed by the government will be lifted in time for Expo 2020. The UAE’s National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority on Twitter however said that approval needs to be sought from the government and various PCR tests will be conducted before entering the country. The NCEMA said that children under 16 years old are exempt from these procedures. All other previously announced precautionary measures for unvaccinated people coming from the above-mentioned countries remain in place, it added.

India Bans International Flights Until September End

Commercial international flights have remained suspended since March 23, 2020, to check the spread of the Covid-19 infection. International commercial flights will remain suspended till September 30 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre said on Sunday. Indian aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), extends the ban on scheduled international flights to and from the country until September 30, 2021.  “In partial modification of circular dated 26-06-2020, the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 30 September 2021,” stated the order issued by the DGCA on August 29, 2021.

The restriction does not apply to international cargo operations. Exceptions are also made to international flights under travel bubble agreements or flights approved by the DGCA. India currently has travel bubble agreements with 28 countries, the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry website indicates. The DGCA also said that scheduled international flights might be allowed on selected routes on a case-to-case basis. Commercial international flights have remained suspended since March 23, 2020, to check the spread of the Covid-19 infection. The Indian government had initially imposed international travel restrictions in March 2020, which have since been prolonged by almost 18 months Special international flights were also operating under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ since May 2020 to bring home thousands of Indian nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The restrictions were later eased for certain countries with which India has had an air bubble arrangement during the past year. The air bubble pact between the two countries allows the operation of special international flights by the national carrier between their territories. India was considering lifting the restrictions on international commercial flights on August 31. However, the ban was extended as a threat of a third wave of infections looms large. This comes on a day when India reported 45,083 new cases and 460 deaths in the last 24 hours. The active cases have also increased to over 3.6 lakh.

India To Launch Mega Tourism Event In Leh

To promote Ladakh as a tourist destination with focus on adventure and culture, a three-day tourism event — ‘Ladakh: New Start, New Goals — will commence from Thursday in Leh, the Union Tourism Ministry said last week. The Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh, Radha Krishna Mathur, and Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, G. Kishan Reddy, will address the event being organised from August 26-28. Reddy will virtually address the event, which will also be attended by Ladakh MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal.

The objective of the event is to promote Ladakh as a tourist destination with focus on aspects of adventure, culture and responsible tourism. The event aims to provide indigenous product knowledge to the industry stakeholders and also a platform to local stakeholders for interaction with the tour operators from the rest of the country. The three-day event will include activities like exhibition, panel discussions, B2B meetings, technical tours and cultural evenings to showcase the tourism facilities and products of Ladakh.

During the event, ‘A Tourism Vision for Ladakh’ document would be unveiled which focuses on the overall development of the region. The document envisions promoting tourism in the backdrop of sustainable ecological practices, building on local materials and human resources. The Ministry of Tourism is organizing the three-day event in collaboration with Ladakh’s department of tourism and the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI).

In a statement, the ministry said, “Domestic tourism plays an important role in the overall development of the tourism sector in India. The ministry undertakes various promotional activities for the promotion of domestic tourism and these activities are primarily aimed at increasing awareness about tourism destinations and products, promoting domestic tourism with focus on priority areas like the Northeast, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. “The ministry has been promoting Ladakh in domestic as well as international markets through various campaigns and initiatives such as ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ wherein a dedicated webinar on Ladakh was conducted. Promotion of Ladakh is also undertaken through the ‘Incredible India’ website, social media platforms of the ministry etc.”

In Ladakh, Airbnb & SEWA Hosts Will Offer A Unique And Immersive Experience

Airbnb will train Self Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) members on home sharing, hospitality, quality standards and responsible hosting practices under the ‘Hum Sab Ek’ (We are One) initiative, while fostering digital inclusion and enabling these women Hosts to connect with a global community of travelers. Together they represent 1.5 million self-employed women living mostly in India’s rural areas, and have now extended their partnership to onboard SEWA members from Ladakh as hosts on the Airbnb platform. This partnership will expand livelihood opportunities for women in rural Ladakh and form part of broader efforts to rebuild tourism in a way that delivers positive outcomes for communities.

Ladakh is well-known as a pristine and unique hub for culture and ecotourism. SEWA hosts in Ladakh will offer a unique and immersive experience in the ancient village of Phayang in Leh Ladakh. These hosts will also be leading the way on energy efficiency and responsible resource use through accommodations with amenities such as newly installed solar lights. Women make up a significant portion of Airbnb’s Host community in India. As of August 11 this year, new women Hosts in India with one listing have earned almost Rs 30 million since the start of the pandemic and women make up almost 30 per cent of our entire Indian Host community. Through home sharing, women hosts are able to significantly augment their earnings and some women entrepreneurs have embraced being home hosts full-time.

This extended collaboration was announced at a seminar titled ‘Ladakh: New Start, New Goals’ organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Rupinder Brar, Additional Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said: “The Airbnb-SEWA partnership is an excellent example of how the benefits of tourism can better serve communities and help rebuild tourism across the country, especially in Ladakh. The region is a significant draw for domestic and international tourists, and these partnerships enable not only a wealth of tourism experiences, but economically empower communities with the help of platforms such as Airbnb.”

Hosts on Airbnb to secure their financial independence and bring valuable tourism dollars into their communities. As part of our broader efforts to help rebuild tourism for the benefit of local communities, we aim to work together with these micro-entrepreneurs to promote sustainable and responsible travel and stays that contribute to resilient local economies and support jobs. Airbnb will continue to work closely with these women Hosts through training and best-practice sharing,” said Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager — Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“‘Hum Sab Ek’ is our rural innovation. We have worked together with Airbnb to create meaningful livelihood opportunities for our women members. Gandhiji’s Oceanic Circle perspective advocates helping each other rather than competing with each other. Together with Airbnb, our goal is to build a strong community of SEWA hosts who can learn from one another, constantly improve hosting standards, and together create a more welcoming environment for Indian women in hospitality,” said Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA.

Dubai To Allow Indian Expats With Expired Residence Visa To Return

In a move that brings relief to thousands of Indian expats, Dubai announced it will allow them to come back even if their residence visas have expired. Also allowed to return were residence visa holders from Pakistan, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. Anyone holding an expired Dubai residence visa now has time to return until November 10. A large number of Indian expats had flown back to the country earlier this year when the second wave of Covid-19 was rampant, and were then unable to return to the UAE as the flights were suspended.

Fly Dubai, the low-cost carrier operating from the emirates, posted on its website: “The GDRFA has extended the expiry date of Dubai-issued UAE resident visas for nationals of India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda who are stranded outside of the UAE. “This applies to Dubai-issued UAE resident visas which have expired or will expire between April 20, 2021 and November 9, 2021 inclusive.”

However, the airline said that the expiry will not be extended for holders of Dubai-issued visas who have stayed outside of the UAE for more than six months, if they left before October 20, 2020. It was unclear at the moment if the same offer applied to residence visas issued by Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, or other emirates.

The move was later confirmed by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) to Gulf News. In a statement, the GDRFA said: “The procedure will be done according to certain conditions and procedures including that the beneficiaries must be outside the country since the expiry date of residency between April 20, 2021 and November 8, 2021. GDRFA-Dubai will extend the residency visas until November 9.” Once the expats return with expired visa enter the country, the system will give them a 30-day grace period from the date of entry to change their status and renew their visas. (IANS) Boom! United Airlines Just Bought 15 Supersonic Jets That Fly on ‘Sustainable’ Fuel .The airline plans to buy the Overture jets from Boom Supersonic to make its fleet faster and more sustainable.

United Airlines Plans To Purchase 15 Supersonic Overture Jets From Boom Supersonic

The US airline is the first to announce plans to go supersonic, reviving dreams from the late 1960s when British Airways and Air France offered transatlantic flights aboard the Concorde. Only 20 were built during the aircraft’s 24-year operational life. The Overture, which would seat between 65 and 88 passengers, would cut flight time in half over a conventional commercial airliner, with a top speed of Mach 1.7, or 1,304 mph. A flight from New York to London would take just 3.5 hours, according to Boom, and Los Angeles to Sydney would be about eight hours. Unlike the Concorde, which was neither fuel-efficient nor quiet, the Overture will be designed to be “net-carbon zero,” and will cut emissions, according to Boom, by running on sustainable aviation fuel. The first aircraft is slated to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and carry its first passengers by 2029.

“United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable to include supersonic planes,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience.” The announcement is not the first of an intended partnership between a supersonic firm and a large aviation company.

Both Flexjet and NetJets announced that they planned to buy business jets from Aerion. The Reno-based company had the fastest, most ambitious rollout of its AS2, while also planning to break ground on a new research and production campus near Orlando sometime this year. Last week, it abruptly said it was shutting down because it couldn’t secure long-term funding. Boom seems to be farther along in its development stages than its former competitor. It rolled out a third-scale demonstrator aircraft, the XB1, last year. Boom CEO Blake Scholl recently told a Congressional panel that it plans to fly it for the first time by the end of 2021 or in early 2022.

Overture will be designed with in-seat entertainment screens, large personal space and contactless technology. “At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations,” said Scholl in announcing the deal. United also has the option to buy 35 more Overtures. Scholl recently said that the Overture represents the first dramatic speed gains in new aircraft since the Concorde. “We see ourselves as picking up where Concorde left off, and fixing the most important things which are economic and environmental sustainability,” he told CNN recently, adding: “Either we fail or we change the world.”

U.S. Eases Travel Advisory For India To Second-Lowest Level

The U.S. State Department Aug. 16 eased its travel advisories for India, taking it to its second-lowest level, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the South Asian nation now has a “moderate level of COVID-19.” “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a level 2 travel health notice for India due to COVID-19, indicating a moderate level of COVID-19 in the country. Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers,” the State Department said in a statement.

It also urged American citizens not to travel to Jammu and Kashmir, except for the eastern Ladakh region and its capital of Leh, due to terrorism and civil unrest. They have also been advised not to travel within the India-Pakistan border due to the potential for armed conflict. “Terrorist attacks and violent civil unrest are possible in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Avoid all travel to this state (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh),” it said, adding, “India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border.” In April, the U.S. issued a level 4 travel health notice for India as the country was reeling under the second wave of COVID-19.

Vinay Patel Takes Charge As AAHOA Chairman

Virginia hotelier Vinay Patel is the new Chair of AAHOA’s Board of  Directors. Patel became chair at the conclusion of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show , which was the first major convention in Dallas since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The  convention was held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. “Serving America’s hotel owners as the AAHOA Chair is an honor, and I look forward to working  with AAHOA’s nearly 20,000 members on the road to recovery,” Patel said. “Industry estimates continue to project a full recovery some time in late 2023 or 2024.

Coming together as an industry is  paramount to economic recovery, especially as new variants threaten to inhibit the reopening of America. I am confident that AAHOA’s enhanced advocacy and education efforts as well as the  implementation of our new strategic plan will help our industry get back on track.” Patel plans to focus on elevating the association’s advocacy and engagement at the state and local  level including coordinating political education efforts with the American Hospitality Alliance.

“We  must be united in our advocacy efforts, especially as we engage with local governments,” Patel said.  “I am also committed to broadening our outreach to lawmakers who have not necessarily engaged on  the issues we champion. Building a broad coalition that supports small businesses and their  employees will help draw more attention to why issues such as 1031 like-kind exchanges and the  Save Hotel Jobs Act are so important to rebuilding our economy with new, good-paying jobs.”

In his inaugural address, Patel highlighted the importance of the industry’s collective efforts to keep  the lights on during the pandemic as well as the necessity of remaining optimistic about the recovery  and efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. “We are in uncharted territory as a country as we  emerge from this crisis. In a way, we are all letting our eyes adjust to the sunlight after spending  more than a year in the darkness. It will be challenging. It will be frustrating. But AAHOA is here to  help guide us as we rebuild, reinvest, and recover.”

Patel joined AAHOA in 1993 and has served on its board since 2014. AAHOA members elected him  as Secretary in 2018. He is the President of Fairbrook Hotels which owns and operates eleven  properties including IHG, Hilton, Radisson, Choice, and Wyndham brands. Patel also serves on the  Board of Directors for the Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association and is the president of the  Herndon Hospitality Association. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vinay prior to joining AAHOA, and he truly embodies the  characteristics, qualities, and values that make a great Chairman,” AAHOA Interim President & CEO  Ken Greene said. “I have seen him in action as a property owner and as Vice Chair of AAHOA, and I  couldn’t be more excited to work with him now as the Chair. As we continue to lead AAHOA into its  next chapter, I am certain his leadership, commitment, and enthusiasm will play a pivotal role in  AAHOA’s future success.”

Miraj S. Patel, MBA, CHO, CHIA of Houston, Texas, is the new  AAHOA Secretary. Patel is the President of the Houston-based Wayside Investment Group. AAHOA members also elected the following twelve members to the Board of Directors:

Female Director Western Division: Tejal N. Patel, CHIA, CHO
Gulf Regional Director: Vimal Patel
Mid Atlantic Regional Director: Mahendra (MZ) Patel
Mid South Regional Director: Harikrishna (HK) Patel
North Pacific Regional Director: KP Patel
Northeast Regional Director: Sunil (Sunny) Patel CHO, CHIA
South Carolina Regional Director: Fenil Desai
South Central Texas Regional Director: Kiran (Kevin) Patel
Southeast Texas Regional Director: Ailesh Mulji
Southwest Regional Director: Dharmesh Ahir
South Pacific Regional Director: Mike Riverside CHA, CHO
Upper Midwest Regional Director: Mehul (Mike) Patel

“Congratulations to our new AAHOA Secretary and all of our newly elected board members. It
is encouraging to see so many members volunteering to serve America’s hotel owners. I look
forward to working with new AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel, the board officers, our board of
directors, and the entire AAHOA team as we assist the hospitality industry on the road to
recovery. AAHOA’s value and resources have never been more apparent as we work tirelessly to
reopen our economy and ensure that our communities are prepared to welcome back guests as
the nation starts to travel again,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene.

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60  percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million  employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a  proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Indian-Americans Own 60 Percent Of Hotel Industry In U.S.

Accounting for 34,260 hotels across the United States, Indian Americans owned hotels account for 60 percent of all hotels in the U.S., according to a new study conducted by Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) in partnership with Oxford Economics, a global leader in forecasting and quantitative analysis. The study analyzed the share of U.S. hotels and rooms owned by the members of AAHOA, which is predominantly made up of Indian-origin hoteliers, hotel operations, hotel guest ancillary spending, capital investment, and indirect and induced impacts supported by AAHOA hotels in other parts of the U.S. economy.

In all Indian Americans own and operate 3.1 million guestrooms, and 2.2 million direct impact jobs. The study’s topline results were presented to AAHOA Members during the general session on the first day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas on August 3rd.

“The findings laid out in this new study are a testament to the strength and influence of AAHOA Members and serve as yet another reminder of hotel owners’ vital economic contributions to communities across the nation,” said AAHOA Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “Guests at AAHOA hotels spend billions of dollars in local economies. AAHOA Members employ as many workers as FedEx and Home Depot – combined, and the 1.1 million employees who work at AAHOA Member hotels earn $47 billion annually. AAHOA Members are the heart and soul of the hospitality industry and will continue to play an essential role in our nation’s economic recovery.”

The study shows that AAHOA supports a total economic impact of: $680.6 billion of business sales (representing revenue plus sales and lodging taxes); 4.2 million jobs with $214.6 billion of wages, salaries and other compensation; $368.4 billion contributed to U.S. GDP; and, $96.8 billion of federal, state and local taxes.

With the ownership of the majority hotel industry, the economic impact and industry influence of AAHOA’s nearly 20,000 Members, is very impressive. “This study gives us the clearest picture to date about the scale, reach, and economic impact that AAHOA Members have in the United States,” said AAHOA Chairman Biran Patel. “It is remarkable how far AAHOA Members have come since the association’s founding in 1989 when a small group of hoteliers banded together to fight discrimination. That commitment to helping hoteliers grow their businesses and realize the American Dream is reflected in the impressive numbers revealed today. We are proud of what our Members have accomplished and remain committed to being the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners.”

A comprehensive report will soon be made available on the AAHOA website. AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

On the third day of the 2021 AAHOA Convention & Trade Show, the association recognized achievement and excellence in the hospitality industry with its annual awards. Winners received their awards on the main stage during the general session. The 2020 award winners are:

  • AAHOA Award of Excellence: Nanda Patel
  • Cecil B. Day Community Service Award: Mitesh Jivan
  • IAHA Independent Hotel of the Year: Hotel Lexen
  • Outreach Award for Philanthropy: Masudur Khan
  • Outstanding Women Hotelier of the Year: Priti Patel
  • Outstanding Young Professional of the Year: Saajan Patel
  • Political Forum Award for Advocacy: Bijal Patel

“Each year, AAHOA recognizes and honors hoteliers who go above and beyond in service to the hospitality industry,” said Immediate Past Chairman Biran Patel. “During such a challenging year, these individuals made significant contributions to the industry and to AAHOA. We are all honored to highlight their service and commitment to excellence.”

“These awards recognize the best of the best. Following an extremely difficult year for AAHOA Members and the entire industry, these award recipients demonstrate their commitment to excellence in the hospitality industry, regardless of the landscape,” said Interim President & CEO Ken Greene. “Their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed, and it is through their leadership, grit, and determinations that the industry continues to thrive.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA Members own 60 percent of hotels in the United States. “With billions of dollars in property assets and over one million employees, AAHOA Members are core economic contributors in virtually every community,” the organization said, adding, “AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.”

CDC Adds 16 Destinations To ‘Very High’ Covid-19 Travel Risk List

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added 16 destinations to its “very high” Covid-19 risk level on Monday, August 2nd including Greece, Ireland and the US Virgin Islands.

According to the CDC, a risk designation of “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” means people should avoid travel to these locations. Those who must travel should be fully vaccinated first.

In its overarching guidance, the CDC recommends against all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency says.

Destinations that fall into the “very high” risk category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days, according to CDC parameters.

The Caribbean during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Direct travel of noncitizens from Ireland and Greece to the United States has been suspended since January 25, 2021, under an executive order limiting travel from multiple countries. The White House recently said those restrictions would remain in place amid surging cases from the Delta variant

The following 16 destinations moved to the CDC’s “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High” category on August 2: Andorra, Curaçao, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Libya, Malta, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin and US Virgin Islands.

The new list is in addition to several others, including India placed on the list to avoid to travel. On India, CDC suggests,“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to India. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to India. Because of the current situation in India, all travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

You can look up the CDC’s risk level of any destination on its travel recommendations page.

U.S. Passport Renewals Are Taking Months: If Your Us Passport Expires Within The Next Year, You Need To Get Moving

Last spring, Tera Wages was looking forward to a mid-July trip to Casa Chameleon Hotel in Costa Rica when a friend happened to mention the U.S. passport renewal process, which has been suffering delays during the pandemic. Wages panicked, realizing she hadn’t checked the expiration date on her own passport. “You could have sucked the air out of the room in that moment,” she says.

Sure enough, both Wages’s and her partner’s passports had expired during the pandemic. Wages immediately sent them off to USPS, four weeks before they were set to depart—exactly the time the U.S. Department of State said passport renewals were estimated to take back in the spring. But mere days prior to scheduled travel, the Alabama-based couple was still passport-less, despite herculean efforts to secure an in-person agency appointment through a case worker assigned to them by Congressman Mo Brooks’s office.

“Ultimately we realized our case worker was not able to make anything happen,” Wages says. “We’d spent hours refreshing the page to get appointments, and nothing was becoming available. We decided there was no way [we could still go on the trip].”

Situations like Wages’s are common right now, with many Americans being forced to cancel international trips due to expired passports, and a long and frustrating renewal process. Though travel agents have always recommended giving the government a few months to process a U.S. passport renewal, the timeline is now much more complicated. Processing times are currently up to three times longer for both routine and expedited passport renewal services compared to before the pandemic.

Due to a huge influx of requests as the world reopens, travelers who need to renew (either in person or via mail) will have to allow extra time to do so. The best advice? Check your passport expiration date now—whether you have a trip planned or are just dreaming of one—and don’t forget many international destinations require your passport to be valid for six months from your planned return date to the United States.

We tapped travel experts to answer common questions about U.S. passport renewal right now. Read on for the advice, including what to do if you have an upcoming trip.

How long are passport renewals taking right now?

“We’ve seen varying timelines, but generally the passport renewal process can take anywhere from four to 18 weeks via mail, with in-person meetings even harder to come by,” says John Spence, USA president for luxury tour operator Scott Dunn. The government’s passport renewal website says travelers should be prepared to wait up to 18 weeks from the day their mailed-in passport reaches a processing facility.

Any travelers who can provide proof of necessary urgent travel, such as life-or-death emergencies, or can show that their trip is within 72 hours, though, are given the chance to score an in-person appointment, Spence says. “However, we wouldn’t count on this unless it’s a last resort,” he adds.

If you are able to get an in-person appointment at one of the government’s 26 passport agencies or centers in the country, a passport agent will review your application and potentially issue a passport on the spot, if you’re eligible for one. Or, the agent may ask you to return at a specific time to receive it, depending on the agency, their workload, and the date of anticipated travel.

Appointments at these centers have been so scarce, however, and in such high demand, that some who’ve been able to secure one have taken to selling them illegally to other travelers. Wages says that in researching how to get appointments online in their attempt to continue with their Costa Rica trip, they discovered users on Reddit who would post appointments for sale—starting around $200—as soon as someone canceled or more spots opened up.

In a briefing on July 14, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Rachel Arndt addressed the situation, condemning this behavior. “We are aware of the issues and we are working to prevent them,” she said. “The Department of State does not charge a fee to solely book an emergency appointment at one of our agencies or centers, so if anyone receives a request for payment for scheduling a U.S. passport appointment, that should be considered fraudulent.”

As a result, on July 21 the Department of State temporarily disabled the online appointment booking system for urgent travel service. No timeframe was specified as to when online booking for appointments will open back up. In the meantime, you must call to make an appointment (though Traveler editors have been unable to get through in recent days, with the call dropping off after the initial menu).

Note that the above measure only applies to the 26 passport agencies in the country, and not the many passport acceptance centers—found in libraries, post offices, and local government offices—which continue to take online appointments. Wait times at passport acceptance centers are aligned with mail-in timelines, meaning the process can take up to 18 weeks once you’ve had your appointment and your passport has reached the federal government. Find a passport acceptance center near you here.

What to do if you need a passport, fast

If not being able to renew your passport could mean cancellation of a major trip, it makes sense you might consider extreme measures to score an appointment—even if that means paying for one. However, Spence says he’d never recommend illegally purchasing an appointment. “Although it’s tedious, we always advise going through the official application and renewal process through your local passport agency,” he says.

One creative way to potentially move quickly through the official channels? Contact your local representative, including the office of your U.S. senator or congressional representative, and ask for help getting an appointment, says Bahar Schmidt, founder and CEO of high-end travel resale marketplace Eluxit. She says that a client set to travel to Mexico realized last minute that their passport was expired. With travel in two days and no luck booking an appointment with the Department of State, they contacted their government representative and were able to get assistance—and continue with their planned trip, fresh passport in hand.

“I would probably recommend that route,” Schmidt says.”Reaching out to anyone who may [be able to] help in a crisis is worth a try.” Every district is different, so you’ll need to do some research to find the right person to call; more than likely, though, it will be your U.S. congressional representative who might be able to help in the eleventh hour. That said, it’s not a guarantee that lawmakers in either the House or Senate will be able to assist in a timely manner, as Wages experienced with her caseworker.

Of course, if you’re in panic mode and willing to throw money at the problem, there are always third-party passport services you can pay to handle your renewal. Throughout the summer, many passport application and renewal services—some of which traditionally advertise 24-hour turnarounds—have posted notices to customers that they cannot guarantee rapid renewals, though some are advertising wait times shorter than the government’s. RushMyPassport is a service Traveler staffers have used for a guaranteed 4-week return time, for $189. Another, GenVisa, says they will be able to offer passport renewals within 7 to 10 business days beginning in early August for $370.

What about the government’s expedited service?

During COVID, the government temporarily suspended expedited passport processing for customers applying at acceptance facilities or renewing passports via mail. However, expedited service resumed in September 2020. You can pay an additional $60 to receive your passport renewal faster; however, the turnaround time is also delayed and may take up to 12 weeks.

What should I expect if I renew by mail?

Mailing your passport without knowing when it may be returned is daunting. But within seven to 10 business days of mailing it, you should be able to track your application status through this page. Enter your last name, date of birth, last four digits of your social security number, and a security code.

Always take a photo of your passport before sending it in for renewal, says Spence. “If your passport happens to get lost in the mail, you at least have a copy to refer to, and this will save you additional time and effort to renew it.”

If the worst happens and you can’t get a passport in time, you can always book a domestic trip instead. Wages, who is still passport-less, ended up booking a weekend getaway to The Goodtime Hotel in Miami Beach with her husband. Though she says the experience was a “10 out of 10,” it was still a consolation to the international vacation they didn’t get to take. Still, Wages acknowledges it could have been worse. “We’re fortunate our [travel] was not an emergency and that we have the privilege to be able to reschedule and plan again,” she says. “But for people who don’t have that ability, it would be really tough.”

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date. We’re reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find our latest coronavirus coverage here, or visit our complete guide to COVID-19 and travel.

US To Continue Travel Restrictions As Covid Spreads

The United States served notice this week that it will keep existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant. It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the U.S. and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

The United States said it would maintain restrictions on international travel into the country, sidestepping European pressure, pointing to a surge of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant at home and abroad. “We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now. “Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

The rising cases also are causing the administration to take a closer look at policies on wearing masks. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require its health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. And over the weekend, U.S. health officials acknowledged they’re considering changing the federal government’s recommendations on wearing masks. The delta variant is a mutated coronavirus that spreads more easily than other versions. It was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world. Last week, U.S. health officials said the variant accounts for an estimated 83% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, and noted a 32% increase in COVID hospitalizations from the previous week.

The rise in cases has prompted some state and local officials to reinstate masking guidance, even for vaccinated Americans.The White House follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance released in May, which states those who are unvaccinated don’t have to wear masks indoors. They’ve thus far made no changes to Biden’s public events, and the president is still traveling the country and participating in events unmasked.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s State of the Union this Sunday that recommending that the vaccinated wear masks is “under active consideration” by the government’s leading public health officials. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, describing himself as “very frustrated.” The surge in the delta variant poses a major political challenge for Biden, who called it a “great day” for Americans when the CDC released its relaxed masking guidance in May and on July 4 declared that “the virus is on the run and America is coming back.” He’s spent the past few months shifting his focus from dire warnings to Americans to get vaccinated to public events pitching his infrastructure, education and jobs proposals, which are currently in the middle of fevered negotiations on Capitol Hill.

The administration has touted strong economic growth as fears about the pandemic waned, states relaxed their coronavirus restrictions and their economies opened back up. But the surging delta variant risks undermining that economic progress and drawing Biden’s attention away from his domestic agenda and Democratic Party priorities like gun, voting and policing reforms, back to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic. It could also highlight one of the administration’s greatest struggles thus far: The sluggish vaccination rate nationwide. As of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received one vaccination shot, according to the CDC — still slightly below the 70% goal Biden had set for July 4. Sixty percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

When asked Monday if he had confidence he could get unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, Biden said, “we have to,” but ignored a follow-up question on how. And prior to the VA’s announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki skirted questions from reporters on why the administration hadn’t yet issued its own vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, deferring to the CDC for guidance and hospitals and healthcare associations on the ultimate decision.

Psaki acknowledged that the administration runs the risk of undermining its vaccination goals by further politicizing an already fraught issue if the president becomes the face of vaccine mandates. “The president certainly recognizes that he is not always the right voice to every community about the benefits of getting vaccinated, which is why we have invested as much as we have in local voices and empowering local trusted voices,” she said. Still, it’s clear the administration is taking steps to address the continued impact of the pandemic. Biden announced Monday that those Americans dealing with so-called “long COVID” — sometimes debilitating side effects caused by the illness that last for months after the initial infection — would have access to disability protections under federal law.

“These conditions can sometimes, sometimes, rise to the level of a disability,” he said, adding they’d have accommodations in schools and workplaces “so they can live their lives in dignity and get the support they need.”And the CDC advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there. Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell. But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation, has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

Maldives’ Tourist Arrivals This Year Surpass 2020

The Maldives has received more tourist arrivals between January and July 2021 than that for the whole year of 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism released last week. Tourism Ministry data showed that the Maldives received 559,000 tourists as of July 17, 2021, the same number of tourists it received for the whole of 2020, reports Xinhua news agency. Minister of Tourism Abdulla Mausoom was quoted by state-owned PSM News as saying that the government was targeting 1.3 million tourist arrivals by the end of the year.

Mausoom said that the Maldives is currently receiving an average of 5,000 tourists per day and 23 per cent of arrivals are from neighbouring South Asian countries. Tourist arrivals to the Maldives declined significantly in 2020 due to border closures amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Maldives must maintain an average of 4000 daily arrivals throughout the year or experience a significant influx of tourists during holiday periods in order to reach the set target of 1.5 million tourists in 2021.

At present, 148 resorts and 364 guesthouses are known to be fully operational in Maldives.Maldives reopened borders to all nationalities from 15th July 2020. All visitors are granted a 30-day free on-arrival visa with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country.

While there is no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival, tourists traveling to Maldives are required to complete an online health declaration form and provide a negative PCR test result taken at least 96 hours prior to their departure. The negative PCR test result must be attached while completing Traveler Health Declaration form, which has to be submitted online via IMUGA (www.imuga.immigration.gov.mv), by all arriving passengers before arrival (but not exceeding 24 hours before arrival time).

Canada To Open Its Borders To USA On August 9th

The long wait will soon be over for foreigners who have been banned from entering Canada for nearly 16 months.  Beginning August 9, fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents of the United States currently residing in the US will be permitted to enter Canada.Non-essential travel into Canada has been banned since March 2020, something the Canadian government said was necessary to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. International travelers may also be allowed to enter Canada beginning September 7, provided the “COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable,” the Canadian government said in a statement Monday.

Entry to Canada will continue to be prohibited for all foreign travelers who are not fully vaccinated.  All fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents must have received the full series of a vaccine — or combination of vaccines — accepted by the Canadian government at least 14 days prior to entering Canada, according to the statement. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Other vaccines, including those from China or Russia, will not be recognized by Canada. Officials say they are continuing to “look into it” and will announce policy changes accordingly.

Travelers must provide proof they have been vaccinated. In a significant concession, unvaccinated minors younger than 12 entering Canada with vaccinated parents or guardians will not have to quarantine for 14 days. In another change to policy, fully vaccinated travelers will not need a post-arrival test unless they have been randomly selected at the port of entry to complete a Covid-19 molecular test. All travelers coming into Canada, regardless of vaccine status, will need a negative PCR or molecular test within 72 hours of requesting entry.The White House declined to commit to reopening its northern border to Canadians, though.

“We are continuing to review our travel restrictions and any decisions about reopening travel will by guided by our public health and medical experts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “We take this incredibly seriously, but we look and are guided by our own medical experts. I wouldn’t look at it through a reciprocal intention,” Psaki said. The United States has set up working groups with allies in the United Kingdom and the European Union on reopening travel, but the results of those discussions haven’t been clear. The EU lifted travel restrictions for US citizens last month.

In COVID-19 Travel Advisory for India, US Asks Americans to ‘Reconsider Travel’

The United States has improved the travel advisory for India, upgrading from Level 4 category to Level 3 which urges citizens to reconsider travel. The Level 4 category means no travel. “Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s specific recommendations for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers,” the advisory by the U.S. State Department said.

The State Department advisory comes after the CDC issued a Level 3 ‘Travel Health Notice’ for India due to COVID-19. The CDC suggests that people reconsider travel to destinations that are classified as Level 3, and that if people travel there, they should make sure they are fully vaccinated before they go. The updated advisory further asked its citizens to “exercise increased caution due to crime and terrorism.”

In April, the U.S. issued a Level 4 travel health notice for India as the country was reeling under the second wave of COVID-19. In related news from Ottawa, Canada, the Canadian government, in a statement July 19, announced it would open its borders for international travel from Sept. 7, 2021. The government intends to open Canada’s borders to any fully vaccinated travelers who have completed the full course of vaccination with a Government of Canada-accepted vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet specific entry requirements, the Canadian government said in a statement.

“Subject to limited exceptions, all travelers must use ArriveCAN (app or web portal) to submit their travel information. If they are eligible to enter Canada and meet specific criteria, fully vaccinated travelers will not have to quarantine upon arrival in Canada.” In the first step, starting Aug. 9, 2021, the government has planned to allow entry to American citizens and permanent residents who are currently residing in the United States and have been fully vaccinated. This strategy will allow the government to continue monitoring variants of concern in Canada and vaccine effectiveness. Using these layers of protection, the Government of Canada can monitor the COVID-19 situation in the country, respond quickly to threats, and guide decisions on restricting international travel, the statement said. (ANI)

Neha Parikh Is CEO Of Waze

Neha Parikh, the former president of Hotwire and a board member of Carvana, has been named CEO of Waze, the app that leads millions on the road tyo reach their destinations. Parikh replaces Noam Bardin, who stepped down as CEO of the Google-owned navigation service last November after leading the company for 12 years.Neha Parikh, a former president of the travel website Hotwire, comes with a broad experience in the travel and navigation-based industry. Parikh was previously a board member of Carvana, an Israeli online car retailer and stepped down as the CEO of the company after 12 years.

She has also worked as the board member of Tailwind Acquisition Corp. and worked in several positions for nine years at Hotels.com which is a subsidiary of Hotwire and became the youngest and first female president of the company. Parikh started her career in 2000 as a Management Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is a multinational professional services network of firms. After working at the company for a year, she worked in several other positions like a business analyst, marketing manager, and demand and growth strategy consultant.

At Hotels.com, which is a subsidiary of Expedia Group, Parikh started as a Product Manager and in her nine-year career in the company, she achieved the position of Senior Vice President. Before starting her career in the field of business and management, Parikh completed her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin and her Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University.

After Parikh was announced as the CEO of Waze, a spokesperson of the company said that as she leads into the future, Parikh will remain hyper-focused on the passionate community of the company, their beloved brand, and the best-in-class products. About joining the company, Parikh said in a statement that she is thrilled to align with a company that puts its customers first as relentless customer focus has been central to her career.

A month before joining Waze as a CEO Parikh shared a post on her Linkedin account announcing that she would be joining the company in a month. Talking about Waze in her post, Parikh said that anyone who knows her well knows that she is a fan of the company as it is about helping other people.

“As Neha leads Waze into the future, she will remain hyper-focused on our passionate community, beloved brand, and best-in-class products,” a spokesperson for the company said. A month before assuming her new role at Waze in June, Parikh shared a post on her LinkedIn account that detailed her inclination for the brand. “Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a (vocal!) Waze superfan both because it 100 percent helps me outsmart traffic but also because at its core, Waze is about people helping other people,” she wrote.

The San Francisco, Calif.-based executive is a veteran of the online hospitality brand Expedia, and has served in a variety of positions at two of the corporation’s subsidiaries: Hotels.com and as Hotwire’s youngest and first female president, according to PTI. Waze, according to the agency, currently has over 140 million active monthly users in more than 185 countries who drive more than 40 billion kilometers every month. The app can give out directions in 56 different languages and employs over 500 people, a significant number of which are based out of Israel.

Parikh first started with Expedia Group in 2008 with Hotels.com, where her responsibilities and expertise spanned product development, customer relationship marketing, pricing and strategy, culminating in her role as senior vice president of global brands for Hotels.com before assuming the role of president of Hotwire in 2017. In addition, Parikh has held marketing and product development roles at Dade Behring (a Siemens healthcare company) and worked as a management consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, LLP. Parikh was also appointed to the board of Carvana, the online car marketplace, in April 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

As Travel Returns To Normal, United Airlines To Buy 270 New Planes

United Airlines is placing a jumbo-sized order of narrow-body aircraft. The company is purchasing 270 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.Last year, U.S. airlines were fighting to survive. Struggling in the depths of the pandemic, they received an infusion of cash and cheap loans from the U.S. government and, between aid packages, furloughed tens of thousands of workers. Business and international flights are still down from pre-pandemic levels, but domestic leisure travel, the kind where single-aisle planes dominate, is roaring back. United is planning for growth and ready to spend billions to get there, though it did not mention a specific price tag on Tuesday.

“It’s a plan that’s a nose-to-tail plan for the future,” United’s Andrew Nocella told reporters on Monday. “And it’s something we’ve actually been working on for many, many years.” The company says this is the biggest jet purchase placed by a U.S. airline in the past decade. (In 2011, American Airlines purchased 460 planes in one fell swoop.) And factoring in the new planes that United had already ordered, the company will get 500 new jets over the next few years. They’re intended to replace some older planes and expand the total size of the fleet, allowing for more daily departures. In addition to adding new planes, United will also be retrofitting every narrow-body plane in its directly operated fleet, a process that will take several years. The retrofits will put more premium seats per aircraft, as well as add seatback entertainment on all seat backs and improve carry-on bag storage.

“It’s really making the gate-checked bags a thing of the past,” promised United’s Toby Enqvist in a call with reporters on Monday. “We’re going to have space for each and every customer’s [carry-on bags] … even on a full flight.” The order will include 200 Boeing planes from the 737 Max series (which returned to service six months ago after nearly two years grounded over a deadly software flaw) as well as 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft. United, perhaps anticipating criticism for planning big investments so soon after requiring taxpayer aid, heavily emphasized the potential positive ripple effects on the U.S. economy from placing this order. The company argued that the purchase will directly create 25,000 new unionized United jobs, while indirectly supporting many more jobs at manufacturers, airports and travel destinations. And the company was adamant that air travel, even the still-depressed international and business travel, would come roaring back.

Richard Aboulafia, an aviation industry analyst with the Teal Group, notes that these kinds of bulk airplane orders aren’t exactly written in stone. Airlines can place a big order but then shift exactly when the planes get delivered (and actually paid for), based on how business is going. “We’re talking about the last of these planes being delivered, if things are great, four or five years hence,” he says. “If they’re not so great, six or seven years hence. If they’re terrible, how about never — does never work for you?” And he noted that now is a reasonable time to place these orders. Borrowing money is cheap, fuel prices are rising, and new planes are more fuel efficient than their predecessors.

Canada Extends Border Restrictions To July 21

The Canadian government has announced that the Canada-US border agreement on travel restrictions will be extended for another month to July 21. “In coordination with the US, we are extending restrictions on non-essential international travel and with the US until July 21st, 2021,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in a tweet on Friday.
Blair also said the government is planning measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents, and others who are currently permitted to enter the country and will provide further details on June 21.

The new extension comes a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers met to discuss the possibility of opening the land border between the two countries, which has been closed for non-essential travel since March 2020. The restrictions, which do not cover trade or travel by air, has been extended several times. he current restrictions were to expire on June 21.

Trudeau said on June 13 he had spoken with US President Joe Biden about how to lift the restrictions, but added that no breakthrough has been achieved. The Trudeau government closed its borders to non-essential travellers in March 2020. Since then, it has adjusted the rules to require Covid-19 testing before and after arrival, as well as a period of mandatory quarantine. Canada also limited international flights to just four airports in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. In the fall of 2020, Canada expanded the list of travellers who were exempt from travel restrictions.

International students going to a Designated Learning Institution with a Covid-19 readiness plan were allowed to come to Canada to study. The exemptions also included extended family members, as well as travelers coming to Canada for compassionate reasons such as a funeral. In February 2021, Canada also added the mandatory hotel quarantine on incoming international travelers. New airport arrivals were to go immediately to wait for the results of a Covid-19 test at a government-approved hotel at their own expense.

 

Europe Lifts Ban On US Travelers

The European Union is officially recommending that the 27-member bloc lift restrictions on US travelers, a long-anticipated move that will allow a return to near-normal travel with the continent for the first time since the pandemic began, according to diplomats.The European diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement planned for Friday. EU ambassadors decided Wednesday to approve a proposal to add the United States — along with Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia — to its “white list” of places where nonessential travelers are allowed in from across the bloc, sources said. Although this list is nonbinding, it seeks to harmonize travel rules across the European Union. Some European countries, including Greece, Portugal, and Spain, are already accepting vaccinated US travelers.

Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved a European Commission proposal from May 3 to loosen the criteria to determine “safe” countries and to let in fully vaccinated tourists from elsewhere.The full resumption of transatlantic travel still has one further hurdle: The United States has yet to say when it will reciprocally lift its ban on E.U. travelers, although that move is similarly expected within weeks.Inclusion on the “white list,” created in June 2020, means E.U. countries can accept travelers regardless of their vaccination status, although each individual country can set its own requirements for entry and quarantine. Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand are among the countries already on the list.

Under current restrictions, people from only seven countries, including Australia, Israel and Singapore, can enter the EU on holiday, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.   The current main criterion is that there should be no more than 25 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days. The trend should be stable or decreasing and there should be a sufficient number of tests, which would need to show a minimum percentage of negative tests. Variants of concern can be taken into account.

The resumption of travel will be a major boost to tourism-dependent economies across the continent. Following a slow start to vaccine rollouts, European officials and policymakers hope that the bloc will reach herd immunity by July. So far, around 45 percent of the nearly 450 million E.U. residents have been inoculated with at least one shot, and around half of those have been fully vaccinated.Earlier this week, the E.U. Parliament also formally approved legislation to create a digital certificate system starting July 1 that would scrap quarantine requirements for people who can prove they are vaccinated or that they have recently recovered from covid-19 or tested negative for the virus.

U.S. CDC Eases Travel Recommendations On 61 Countries

(Reuters) -The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased its travel recommendations for 61 countries, including Japan from its highest “Level 4” rating that had discouraged all travel to recommending travel for fully vaccinated individuals, the agency confirmed Tuesday. The new ratings, which were not previously reported and posted on a CDC website Monday, lower 61 countries to “Level 3,” including France, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Italy. A U.S. State Department official said it was in the process of revising its travel advisory to reflect the CDC changes.The CDC said the change comes after its revised its criteria for travel health notices. The CDC said it has also revised its rating for the United States to “Level 3” from “Level 4.”

On May 24, the State Department had urged against travel to Japan, citing a new wave of coronavirus cases before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin July 23.The CDC said the new criteria for a Level 4 “avoid all travel” recommendation has changed from 100 cases per 100,000 to 500 cases per 100,000. The CDC added that many countries have lower ratings “because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled.” The CDC added it expects more countries to get lower ratings.Other countries being lowered to “Level 3” include Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Panama, Poland, Denmark and Malaysia.

Many of the countries that now have lower ratings remain on the U.S. government’s list of countries subject to severe travel restrictions — and most have been subject to the restrictions since early 2020.The United States bars nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have been in China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls within the previous 14 days.

OCI Card Holders Allowed To Visit India By Updating Their Newly Issued Passports

There are reports that OCI Card holders transiting through 3rd countries have been denied permission to board flights to India as these OCI cardholders were not carrying their old passport bearing its number in the OCI Card.

In view of the above, it is once again reiterated that it is mandatory to carry both old and new passports in case the OCI card holders are traveling on the strength of OCI card bearing old passport number in it.

  • The OCI guidelines on renewal which have been in force since 2005 are as follows:
  • OCI card is required to be re-issued each time a new passport is required by the cardholder up to the age of 20 years.
  • OCI card is required to be re-issued once and acquiring a new passport after completing 50 years of age.

The Government of India has given an extension in time till June 30th 2021 to get OCI Cards re-issued in accordance with the above guidelines. (Source: Consulate General of India, New York press release.)

The OCI card, which allows lifelong visa free travel to India with certain limitations to people of Indian-origin, was suspended by the Indian government on April 11 amidst a nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The sudden decision had created chaos and anxiety among the hundreds and thousands of Indian-origin people. A large number of them had taken to the social media platforms like Twitter to vent out their anger.The travel restrictions on those having OCI cards were subsequently relaxed, which so far has been mainly in the emergency categories, those travelling for work or minors with OCI card holders whose parents are Indian citizens.

Breeze Airways Launched With Fares From $39 One-Way

Travel is finally bouncing back following the doldrums of the Covid-19 pandemic, including with the launch of not one, but two new low-cost airlines in the U.S. Avelo Airlines started service out of its West Coast base of Hollywood Burbank Airport in Los Angeles at the end of April, and is ramping up services to nearly a dozen destinations in the western U.S. before setting its sights farther east later this year with a second base in New Haven, Connecticut.

Now, an East Coast upstart is also entering the fray. From JetBlue founder and former CEO David Neelman, Breeze Airways has put tickets on sale starting today after nearly three years in the offing. Fares start at just $39 each way – a nod to the airline’s 39 launch routes among 16 cities. Its first flights took place on May 27, 2021, between Tampa, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina; and from Charleston to Hartford, Connecticut, with more flights being added to the schedule throughout June and July.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Breeze will focus most of its operations out of four main airports: Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans. But the new carrier’s route map includes 16 cities in the Midwest, Southeast, and Eastern U.S.

The Routes

The airline’s first-ever flight was scheduled to operate on May 27—just in time for the travel rush of Memorial Day Weekend—from Charleston to Tampa, and on to Hartford, Connecticut. Additional routes will be added through July.

The upstart airline is the brainchild of David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and prolific airline creator (Breeze Airways is the fifth air carrier he’s launched; others include Brazil-based Azul and Canada’s WestJet). Neeleman’s business strategy for Breeze is to target smaller airports in cities overlooked by other carriers. “Breeze provides nonstop service between underserved routes across the U.S. at affordable fares,” he said in a statement on Friday. “A staggering 95 percent of Breeze routes currently have no airline serving them nonstop.”

Additional destinations include Providence; San Antonio; Pittsburgh; Akron; and Huntsville, Alabama, among others. This summer, the carrier’s average flight length will be about two hours.And there are already plans in the works to expand Breeze’s route network in the near future. “These 16 cities are just the beginning for Breeze,” Neeleman said. “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s air service has meant many secondary markets and smaller cities have seen a significant reduction in flights. There are so many city pairs needing nonstop service around the country, we have a further 100 cities under consideration.”

The Planes

Breeze will start with a fleet of 13 single-class Embraer E-190 and E-195 regional planes this summer. Each plane seats between 108 and 118 people and seats are in a two-by-two layout, meaning there are no dreaded middled spots. In October, the airline will start taking delivery of 60 larger, brand new Airbus A220 planes. (Breeze is scheduled to receive one of the planes per month for the next five years.) The airline says its A220s will include a premium cabin class and operate on routes longer than two hours.

The onboard experience

With his new venture, Neeleman seems to be centering the brand on the same friendly, budget-conscious ethos that put JetBlue on the map with travelers. Breeze bills itself as the U.S.’s “seriously nice” carrier, and says it will use “technology, ingenuity, and kindness to improve the travel experience.” Its fare classes range from “Nice,” “Nicer,” and “Nicest.”

“Nicest,” Breeze’s premium business class product, will debut in the fall onboard the A220 planes.  The other two fare class are bookable now. “Nicer” fares come with perks like a free checked bag, a carry-on bag, priority boarding, complimentary drink and snack, as well as extra legroom (between 33 and 39 inches of pitch, depending on the aircraft).

“Nice” is the cheapest option, which only covers a personal item—such as a purse or backpack—and a seat with between 29 and 31 inches of pitch. That amount of space is on par with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit, but fliers also have the option to upgrade to an extra legroom seat for a fee. There are extra charges to choose a seat (starting at $10), and bring a carry-on for the overhead bin or check a bag ($20 for either). Although it’s structured like a basic economy fare, it’s not as restrictive as similar products on other airlines.

All fares, including the cheapest, have flexible ticketing policies, with no change or cancellation fees. According to Breeze’s statement: “Guests can change or cancel a flight up to 15 minutes before scheduled departure without penalty. Unused funds from changes and cancellations are automatically saved in the guest’s Breeze account and do not expire for 24 months.” All flights will feature free in-flight entertainment—TV shows and games—that will stream to personal devices. The Airbus A220 planes will also have in-flight Wi-Fi.  Fares are on sale now at flybreeze.com.

If You Want Vaccine, Visit New York City As It Plans To Offer The J&J Vaccine To Tourists

Amid the imbalanced access to COVID vaccine doses, some tourist-reliant destinations that have made headway with inoculating the local population are now earmarking extra doses for arriving travelers. Places like the Maldives, certain islands in the Caribbean, New York City, and Alaska have announced such measures over the past couple of months.

Government officials of the tourism-dependent Maldives have announced plans to offer coronavirus vaccines to international visitors as an incentive to reopen travel. The South Asian nation’s tourism minister said on CNBC this week that a new Maldivian tourism campaign, dubbed ‘3V,’ for ‘Visit, Vaccinate, Vacation,’ aims to make shots available for vacationers who travel to Maldives, once all local residents have been offered a vaccine. “The main idea of tourism being open is to provide a reasonably safe tourism with minimum inconvenience,” Maldivian Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom said in an interview. “So once the country gets vaccinated, then we will move on to ‘3V’ tourism.”

The Maldives, which is known for its glamorous overwater bungalows and pristine Indian Ocean beaches, is currently open to U.S. visitors who are fully vaccinated, and unvaccinated travelers who acquire a negative coronavirus PCR test no more than three days prior to travel. Its tourism board has also set a goal of 1.5 million tourist arrivals for 2021, with about 350,000 of those visits accounted for as of mid April. Mausoom said many remote workers have relocated to the islands during the pandemic, but that the vaccination campaign is necessary for the Maldives to jumpstart its travel economy: “When we reach this year’s target [of 1.5 million], still we will have a shortfall of what the country needs.”

The logic behind these initiatives is not hard to follow: The tourism industry has been gutted by the pandemic, and locales want a safe way to restart what is a major economic engine. But the policies might give some travelers pause, as they can appear to use up doses still needed by locals or favor the more privileged who can afford to book a long-haul trip for the shot. They also can seem to facilitate the chance for wealthy travelers to skip ahead of more at-risk people around the world. So should travelers take these doses if a destination is offering them?

“I think the idea that, for example, single-dose vaccines like Johnson & Johnson, ought to be available to people when they arrive in a country, for whatever reason they’re traveling, is a very good idea,” says Chris Beyrer, a professor of public health and human rights at Johns Hopkins. “Now those people won’t be fully protected for two weeks, but it’s a simple strategy and you don’t have to wait the additional three or four weeks for a second dose.”

New York City plans to offer the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to tourists in places like Times Square and the High Line. The state has also created pop-up clinics for both residents and visitors inside subway stations and airports. But Alaska, which relies heavily on the summer cruise season, is planning to offer travelers doses of Pfizer or Moderna shots (which require two doses) at its four largest airports starting June 1.

Some say the programs are really only ideal if the visitors are from an area where vaccine access is lacking. “It depends on where people are coming from,” says Leana Wen, emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University and former health commissioner of Baltimore. “There are of course many individuals from countries that don’t have nearly enough vaccine, and if they arriving at a location that does have vaccination, absolutely they should take advantage of it. As long as the individuals who are living in these locations are first given access, I don’t see a problem with the overall concept.”

In fact, experts agree that American travelers really shouldn’t be participating in vaccine on arrival programs, since the U.S. has readily available doses its own population. “The other equity issue is you’re traveling somewhere to get a vaccine where you could be taking it away from locals who need it more,” says Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at NYU. “So you have to weigh that, too. You don’t want to take supply.” Although the majority of destinations that have offered up doses to visitors have said their local populations have adequate vaccine access, Caplan urges travelers to use scrutiny when evaluating these claims. “Vaccine politics are complex because some of these countries are run by business interests that very much depend on tourism,” he says. “I don’t always trust what they say.”

While these are concerning points, some experts say the programs—if properly executed—could help to protect residents. “That’s the other side of this, that there are so many places in the world that rely on tourism and [the] travel industry, and where the people who live there and work there who are not tourists have a right to be protected,” Beyrer says. “So do you keep tourism shut down? Or do you open it and try to do it in ways that are safe?”There are also other potential benefits for local populations. “It’s been a really challenging year and a half, and many of these places that have relied on tourism have been decimated,” Wen says. “If this is what it takes in order to get their economy back and get the standard of living back for their residents, who are we to give judgements?”

Another major concern for both epidemiologists and travelers? People who are unvaccinated boarding flights or trains to get inoculated. The CDC cleared only fully vaccinated people for widespread travel this summer. “I think you should be vaccinated before you get there,” Caplan says. “Getting vaccinated when you arrive at your tourist destination still means that you have at least a couple of weeks before you build up immunity, and you may need a second shot in some cases. I’d want to be fully vaccinated before I got to the airport, got on that plane, or got to my destination. I would not be waiting. I think that’s very unwise.”

Although it’s not ideal, Wen says that it could be possible to travel to get a vaccine. “Travel can be very safe, as long as people take the necessary precautions,” such as wearing a mask and avoiding removing it, she says. “There are ways to keep safe while traveling but they must be extremely vigilant if they are not yet vaccinated.”

Before making a decision, Wen advises each traveler to weigh the facts against their own situations. “I think there is an ethical argument one could be making that vaccine tourism leaves behind those who are financially not able to do so, and it is a real concern,” she says. “However there is also the argument of sustaining the tourism industry in countries that have been really hard hit as well. I would say that people need to make their own individual ethics judgments about whether they feel comfortable taking part in this.”

Pent-Up Demand Will Propel A Strong Season As Long As The Pandemic Continues To Subside

Newswise — With coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions easing up, the best words to describe the 2021 summer travel season outlook are “cautiously optimistic.” That’s according to University of Delaware’s Sheryl Kline, Aramark Chaired Professor of Hospitality, Sri Beldona, professor of hospitality business management, and Robert Nelson, associate professor of hospitality business management in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. 

“We believe that it will be a much more positive travel year for the Delaware Valley region, particularly the New Jersey and Delaware beaches, and also remote locations across the U.S.,” said Kline, who is also deputy dean of the Lerner College.

Over the winter, Kline and Beldona worked with the Delaware Data Innovation Lab Delaware Data Innovation Lab supported by CompassRed to develop a prototype for a hospitality sentiment tracker. This prototype tracks sentiments on travel and safety using consumer-based online review data across the State of Delaware. Early indicators showed that proprietors were taking conscious steps to be compliant with COVID-19 safety measures. Customers noticed and commented on precautionary measures these establishments put in place and expressed their comfort level in social media posts.

“While there is a pent up demand for domestic travel, the overall travel experience is going to depend on how COVID-19 guidelines continue to be observed,” Beldona said. “Through our research we have learned that consumers are hyper aware of how the travel industry reacted to the government restrictions and precautions taken to cope with this pandemic.”The term “vacci-cation” for vacations being planned after sufficient vaccinations and before office life resumes has also entered the lexicon to describe what is expected of this summer, Beldona said.

“As more people are fully vaccinated, they will become more comfortable traveling for much needed vacations and to visit family,” Kline said. “However, when they leave home, vacationers will definitely see more sanitation stations and improvements in cleaning practices. This is one legacy of the pandemic that will not go away.”

Beldona added, “There will be more cars on the road versus air travel. Beach rentals in Delaware are reporting higher occupancies than usual. It’s going to be a big summer for Airbnbs.” He also said more people will be visiting out-of-the-way places and having more family reunions. But what you won’t see will be any extra incentives or travel discounts. “Prices won’t be lowered because the demand is there,” Beldona said.

With the increased demand, there will be increased pressure on restaurants, hotels and commercial tourism operators to find employees. Anecdotally, Kline, Beldona and Nelson are seeing the demand for employment at travel destinations growing, especially at the Delaware beach areas and other more remote locations such as national parks and destination all-inclusive resorts.“Tourists are booking trips, but hotels, restaurants and other segments of the industry have no labor,” Nelson said. “Many of them depend on imported labor via J1 visas that are not available this year.”

The outlook is not quite as strong for major cities as remote, local getaways. The tourism recovery for places like New York and Chicago is predicted to progress at a much slower pace, according to Nelson.  “Major gateway cities are dependent on international travelers and business travelers, both of which are expected to recover more slowly,” Nelson said. “Also, business travel naturally slows in the summer months.” As for international travel? Trends indicate that growth in domestic travel will outperform that of international travel significantly this summer, Beldona said.  “Countries are still trying to figure out how to allow people from different countries into their cities and how long they will need to quarantine,” Kline said. “It might be best to travel domestically and to stay local.”

AIR INDIA’s 4.5 Million Customers’ Personal Data Hacked

Air India has admitted to a massive data breach that compromised the personal data of about 4.5 million passengers. The hackers were able to access 10 years’ worth of data including names, passport and credit card details from the Atlanta-based SITA Passenger Service System, Air India said in a statement on May 21.It disclosed the scale of the breach nearly three months after it was first informed by the IT provider.The breach that happened in late February had compromised the data of some major global airlines, too. SITA at that time had said that Singapore Airlines, New Zealand Air and Lufthansa were among those affected.

Air India said almost 4.5 million passengers globally were affected in the “highly sophisticated” attack but did not specify how many of them were its travelers. It said no password data was breached during the attack and that the company was investigating.The breach, confirmation of which comes two months after SITA’s Passenger Service System (PSS) was hacked, affected customers who registered between August 2011 and late February 2021, Air India said in a statement. Compromised data includes customers’ name, data of birth, contact information, passport information, frequent flyer data and credit card data, although CVV/CVC numbers weren’t included.
Password weren’t accessed by the hackers, Air India added, although it’s urging all customers to change their passwords as a precaution.

The airline said it first learned of the incident on February 25, but only learned the identities of affected passengers on March 25 and May 4.The company said it recommended in an email to its customers that they should change their account passwords as a precaution.

Air India started as a mail carrier in 1932 before gaining commercial popularity. It has been incurring losses since its 2007 merger with a state-owned domestic carrier, Indian Airlines. The debt-laden carrier is currently in the process of finding new buyers.

US Immigration Announces Continuation of International Entrepreneur Parole Program USCIS Announces Open Application Period for Citizenship and Integration Grant Program

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is accepting applications for two funding opportunities under the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program. The grant opportunities will provide up to $10 million in grants for citizenship preparation programs in communities across the country.

These competitive grant opportunities are open to organizations that prepare lawful permanent residents for naturalization and promote civic integration through increased knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics. USCIS received support from Congress through appropriations to make these funding opportunities available to communities.

“It is critical that we provide immigrants pursuing citizenship and the organizations who help support their efforts with the tools to be successful,” said Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program helps those preparing to become U.S. citizens to successfully integrate into American society. This administration recognizes that naturalization is an important milestone in the civic integration of immigrants, and we will continue to provide support for individuals hoping to establish new citizenship in our country.”

“USCIS is committed to empowering immigrants to pursue citizenship and the privileges that accompany it,” said Acting USCIS Director Tracy Renaud. “The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program equips immigrants with the tools they need to be successful throughout their journey to become new U.S. citizens and beyond. This year, USCIS is reaching out to more organizations that provide services to underserved communities to ensure that all who are eligible to apply for these grants—or to pursue naturalization—are able to do so.”

USCIS seeks to expand availability of high-quality citizenship and integration services throughout the country under the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program:

  • Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services:This opportunity will fund public or nonprofit organizations that offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to lawful permanent residents. USCIS expects to award 33 organizations up to $250,000 each for two years through this opportunity. Applications are due by July 16, 2021.
  • Refugee and Asylee Integration Services Program:This grant opportunity will provide extended integration services with a focus on individualized programming to former refugees and asylees to attain the skills and knowledge required for successful citizenship. It will also provide other services that foster a sense of belonging and attachment to the United States. The program has expanded eligibility to include lawful permanent residents who were admitted or entered the United States as Cuban or Haitian entrants or individuals admitted on a Special Immigrant Visa. USCIS expects to award six public or nonprofit organizations with experience in serving refugees up to $300,000 each for a period of two years through this opportunity. Applicants must design an integration support program that provides a suite of services to program beneficiaries to promote long-term civic integration and citizenship. Applications are due by July 16, 2021.

USCIS expects to announce award recipients in September 2021.Since 2009, the USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has awarded about $102 million through 473 grants to immigrant-serving organizations. These grant recipients have provided citizenship preparation services to more than 279,000 lawful permanent residents in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

To apply for these funding opportunities, visit www.grants.gov. USCIS encourages applicants to visit www.grants.gov before the application deadline to obtain registration information needed to complete the application process.

For additional information on the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program for fiscal year 2021, visit www.uscis.gov/grants or email the USCIS Office of Citizenship at [email protected].For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on TwitterInstagramYouTubeFacebook, and LinkedIn.

USCIS Temporarily Suspends Biometrics Requirement For Certain Form I-539 Applicants

Effective May 17, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend the biometrics submission requirement for certain applicants filing Form I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, and E nonimmigrant status.

In a May 13, 2021, notification (uscis.gov), the agency said it will allow adjudications for those specific categories to proceed based on biographic information and related background checks, without capturing fingerprints and a photograph.This suspension will apply through May 17, 2023, subject to affirmative extension or revocation of the suspension period by the USCIS director.

This temporary suspension will apply to applicants filing Form I-539 requesting the following:

  • Extension of stay in or change of status to H-4 nonimmigrant status;
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to L-2 nonimmigrant status;
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to E-1 nonimmigrant status;
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to E-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor)); or
  • Extension of stay in or change of status to E-3 nonimmigrant status (including those selecting E-3D).
  • This suspension will apply only to the above categories of Form I-539 applications that are either:
  • Pending as of May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice; or
  • New applications postmarked or submitted electronically on or after May 17, 2021.

However, the agency clarified that it retains discretion on a case-by-case basis to require biometrics for applicants who meet the criteria above, and any applicant may be scheduled for an application support center (ASC) appointment to submit biometrics.Nevertheless, it said that Form I-539 applicants who have already received a biometric services appointment notice should still attend their scheduled appointment.

Effective May 17, 2021, Form I-539 applicants meeting the criteria above are not required to submit the $85 biometric services fee for Form I-539 during the suspension period. USCIS will return a biometric services fee if submitted separately from the base fee. For more details visit uscis.gov/news/In another notification, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the Department of Homeland Security is withdrawing a 2018 notice of proposed rulemaking that proposed to remove the International Entrepreneur program from DHS regulations.

The International Entrepreneur (IE) parole program, first introduced in 2017, will remain a viable program for foreign entrepreneurs to create and develop start-up entities with high growth potential in the United States. The program will help to strengthen and grow our nation’s economy through increased capital spending, innovation, and job creation.

Today’s announcement is consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order 14012: “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.” The executive order requires the secretary of homeland security to “identify any agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system.”

“Immigrants in the United States have a long history of entrepreneurship, hard work, and creativity, and their contributions to this nation are incredibly valuable,” said Acting USCIS Director Tracy Renaud. “The International Entrepreneur parole program goes hand-in-hand with our nation’s spirit of welcoming entrepreneurship and USCIS encourages those who are eligible to take advantage of the program.”

The initial IE final rule was published on Jan. 17, 2017, and was scheduled to take effect on July 17, 2017. This final rule guided DHS in the use of its parole authority to grant a period of authorized stay, on a case-by-case basis, to foreign entrepreneurs who demonstrate that their stay in the United States would provide a significant public benefit through the potential for rapid business growth and job creation.

Prior to the effective date, DHS published a final rule to delay the implementation date of the IE final rule to March 14, 2018. This allowed DHS additional time to draft and seek public comments on a proposal to rescind the IE final rule. However, in December 2017, a federal court vacated the delay, requiring USCIS to begin accepting international entrepreneur parole applications consistent with the IE final rule. Since then, the program has been up and running, and USCIS continues to accept and adjudicate applications consistent with existing DHS regulations.

Under the IE program, parole may be granted to up to three entrepreneurs per start-up entity, as well as their spouses and children. Entrepreneurs granted parole are eligible to work only for their start-up business. Their spouses may apply for employment authorization in the United States, but their children are not eligible for such authorization based on this parole. Additional information on eligibility and how to apply is available on the International Entrepreneur Parole page. USCIS will plan information sessions and other outreach activities to ensure foreign entrepreneurs are aware of this opportunity and how to pursue it.

REAL ID Deadline Pushed Back To 2023 Due To Pandemic

Most U.S. fliers only think of travel documents when checking their passport is valid before an international flight. But as Real ID, a new federal law mandating which forms of identification will get passengers through airport security, takes effect, that mentality will need to shift.

New rules set strict regulations on what identification will be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at security checkpoints—even for flights within the U.S. In many cases, this means using a standard driver’s license will no longer get you onboard a plane. (The deadline for travelers to have a Real ID has been pushed back to 2023 due to COVID-19 delays.)

The deadline for Americans to obtain a REAL ID card has been pushed back once again due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security announced last week. Here’s everything you need to know to ensure you have the right up-to-date identification for your travels.

What is the new Real ID rule?

The regulation is part of a law passed by Congress in 2005, which set new federal security standards for driver’s licenses and other forms of identification used to board planes in the U.S. The new standards apply to all states and territories. After the rules go into effect, driver’s licenses and other IDs that don’t meet the new requirements will not be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration for passing through airport security checkpoints.

Even if you have a TSA PreCheck or a Clear membership, you will need a Real ID-compliant form of identification to make it past airport security. A Global Entry card is considered Real ID–compliant and will be accepted under the new rules. Children under 18 get some leeway, as TSA does not require them to present identification when traveling with a companion within the U.S. As always, on an international trip, passports or other documents may be required by the airline or other agencies.

When does the rule change happen?

The new rules will go into effect on May 3, 2023—this deadline was pushed back three years due to coronavirus concerns. That’s the date that all U.S. residents need to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or other approved identification in hand to make it past airport security.

How do I get a Real ID driver’s license?

The majority of states are now issuing driver’s licenses that are accepted under the new rules. You simply need to visit your DMV to renew or replace your old license with a Real ID version. (This usually takes more documentation—and sometimes more money—than obtaining a driver’s license did in the past, and your state’s DMV website should have a list of the required paperwork.)

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The Department of Homeland security also announced in February 2020 that individuals applying for a Real ID can now electronically submit the numerous documents required before arriving at the DMV. The move is an effort to help states and residents streamline the process to meet the May 2023 deadline. According to the U.S. Travel Association, an industry lobbying organization, “tens of millions of Americans do not yet possess REAL ID-compliant identification,” so the electronic document submission is a good step forward. The application process for a Real ID driver’s license includes showing documents such as a social security card, multiple proofs of address, and a birth certificate or passport, among others.

What other forms of identification work to board a plane under the new rules?

Valid passports or passport cards will still work to get you through security for domestic flights, and passengers will still need them to board international flights. Global Entry membership cards are also valid under the new regulations, as are various forms of military ID and other government-issued IDs. You can see a full list of accepted documents on the TSA’s website.

How do I know if my current driver’s license is acceptable under Real ID rules?

Real ID driver’s licenses are marked with a star in the top corner. (It’s worth noting one confusing state policy: Ohio. Its old licenses have a gold star, while its Real IDs have a black star.) Enhanced driver’s licenses—which are slightly different, but are issued by some states in addition to Real IDs and are also acceptable under the new rules—have a flag in the corner.

What happens if I show up at the airport without an acceptable ID under the new rules?

TSA says you will not be let through security, and you will not be able to fly. In rare occasions in the past, if a flier forgot their ID for a domestic trip, TSA might have worked with them to verify their identity in a different way—like by asking them certain questions about their personal information. But the agency says that after Real ID is implemented, those days are over. “TSA has no plans to provide an alternate verification process to confirm a traveler’s identity,” says TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. “Counting on TSA to provide that option to travelers who do not have a Real ID-compliant driver license or identification card is not a good strategy.”

U.S. Restricts Travel To & From India

The U.S Embassy in India encourages U.S. citizens who wish to depart India to take advantage of currently available commercial flights. Airlines continue to operate multiple direct flights weekly from India to the United States; additional flight options remain available via transfers in Paris, Frankfurt, and Doha.

President Joe Biden has issued a proclamation restricting entry into the United States of certain nonimmigrant travelers who have been physically present in India. These restrictions will go into effect on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 12:01 AM EDT. The full text of the proclamation is available here.

The U.S Embassy in India encourages U.S. citizens who wish to depart India to take advantage of currently available commercial flights. Airlines continue to operate multiple direct flights weekly from India to the United States; additional flight options remain available via transfers in Paris, Frankfurt, and Doha.

The policy will not apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR), or other people with these specific exceptions:

  • Any immigrant who has an unused or unexpired immigrant visa;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that the U.S. citizen or LPR child is unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or LPR, provided that both the non-U.S. citizen and the U.S. citizen or LPR sibling are unmarried and under the age of 21;
  • Any non-U.S. citizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or LPR, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any holders of nonimmigrant visas in the following categories: C-1, D, C-1/D air and sea crew, A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, E-1, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6; or
  • Students who already possess a valid student (F or M) visa and who will begin their studies on or after August 1, 2021. (Note that direct travel to the United States from India with a student visa may begin no more than 30 days prior to the start date of a student’s classes.)

Visa holders with definite plans to travel who can demonstrate qualification for a National Interest Exception (NIE) may contact the U.S Embassy or  Consulate that issued their visa to request a national interest exception prior to travel. (The contact email for the Embassy in New Delhi is [email protected].) Your request must include the following information to seek an exception: last name, first name, date of birth, place of birth, country of citizenship, passport number, visa Number and category, travel dates, travel purpose, and national interest category–including a clear justification for receipt of a NIE.

Qualifying family members do not need a NIE or any pre-approval from the embassy or consulates. Travelers should bring proof of relationship when initiating travel to the United States. More details on NIEs are available here.

If you currently have a flight booked, or plans to travel to the United States but do not fall into an exception category, contact the embassy or consulate that issued your visa before departing, as you may not be allowed to travel at this time. General travel information between India and the U.S as well as information about COVID-19 within India, is available via the U.S. Embassy here.

This proclamation will remain in effect until terminated by President Biden. Thirty days after the proclamation, and then at the end of every calendar month, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra will recommend whether the president should continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.

Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice and the Department of State has issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory recommending against all travel to India. Level 4 is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. U.S. citizens who must travel to India are strongly urged to get fully vaccinated before travel and to continue to take personal health safety measures to protect themselves, including practicing social and physical distancing, cleaning hands with soap/hand sanitizer frequently, wearing masks, and avoiding crowded areas with poor ventilation.

The CDC’s broader guidance for fully vaccinated people–including information about when you should still wear masks and maintain social and physical distancing–is here; be sure to review our other vaccine availability and safety resources as well.

The U.S. told its citizens to get out of India as soon as possible as the country’s covid-19 crisis worsens at an astonishing pace.

In a Level 4 travel advisory — the highest of its kind issued by the State Department — U.S. citizens were told “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.” There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the U.S. and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.

Indian authorities and hospitals are struggling to cope with unprecedented covid infections and deaths. Official data on Thursday showed new cases rose by a staggering 379,257 over the prior 24 hours, another record, while 3,645 additional lives were lost. More than 204,800 people have died.

“U.S. citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space,” the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India said in a health alert. “U.S. citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now.” All routine U.S. citizen services and visa services at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai have been canceled.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone returning to the U.S. from overseas must have a viral Covid-19 test between three and five days after travel. Individuals who haven’t been vaccinated should also stay at home and self-quarantine for a week.

The South Asian nation now has the world’s fastest-growing caseload with 18.4 million confirmed instances. The virus has gripped India’s populace with a severity not seen in its first wave. Mass funeral pyres, lines of ambulances outside overcrowded hospitals and desperate pleas on social media for oxygen underscore how unprepared India’s federal and state governments are to tackle the latest outbreak.

The unfolding tragedy is prompting some of the world’s biggest corporations to organize aid. Amazon.com is harnessing its global logistics supply chain to airlift 100 ICU ventilator units from the U.S., and the equipment will reach India in the next two weeks. Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said he was “heartbroken” by the situation and the tech behemoth is using its voice, resources and technology to aid relief efforts and help buy oxygen concentrators.

Blackstone Group Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said his private equity firm is committing $5 million to support India’s covid relief and vaccination services to “marginalized communities.” Local companies, too, are wading in, with the philanthropic arm of India’s most valuable company — Reliance Industries Ltd., controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — pledging to create, commission and manage 100 ICU beds that will become operational mid next month.

As thousands of doctors, nurses and non-medical professionals work around-the-clock to save what patients they can, countries around the rest of the world are drawing up their bridges.

Within Asia, Hong Kong banned flights from India, as well as Pakistan and the Philippines, for 14 days from April 20. Singapore has barred long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have recently been in India from entering. Indonesia is also denying entry to people traveling from India.

Further afield, the U.K. has added India to its travel ban list, and the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have halted passenger flights from India. Canada last week banned flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days. Australia banned flights from India this week.

India Restricts Flights Until May 31st

India has extended the suspension on international commercial flight operations till May 31, 2021. However, international passenger flights under air travel bubble arrangements will continue.

“In partial modification of circular dated 26-06-2020, the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the above subject… regarding scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 31st May, 2021,” the circular issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said.

The circular said that the restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA. Passenger air services were suspended on March 25, 2020 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19. Domestic flight services, however, resumed from May 25, 2020.

Meanwhile, the US has announced that starting May 4th, on the advice of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control,  COVID-19 experts, medical experts and national security advisors — travel restrictions will come into force for India,” Vice President Kmla Harris announced last week.

Harris, who was visiting Cincinnati, said, “There is no question that it (COVID surge in India) is a great tragedy, in terms of the loss of life, and as I have said before, and I will say again, we as a country have made a commitment to the people of India to support them.”

“And we’ve made already a commitment in terms of a dollar amount that will go to PPE (personal protective equipment) and a number of other things. But it is tragic. And, you know, my prayers go to the people on the suffering, the blatant suffering that is happening,” she added. President Joe Biden’s Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the restrictions were being imposed because “of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India.”

The restrictions cover South Africa, China, Iran, Brazil, Ireland, Britain and the 29 countries belonging to the common visa zone known as the Schengen Area. US citizens and legal residents and their immediate family members are exempt from the restrictions, as also are diplomats, but they are advised to follow precautions. They are asked to test themselves for COVID-19 between three and five days after arrival.

If those who are vaccinated test positive, they have to isolate themselves for seven days. Those who are not vaccinated are asked to self-isolate for seven days, regardless of the test results. At a news conference on Friday before the restriction was announced, White House Coronavirus Response Co-ordinator Jeffrey Zientsin said, “In terms of travel from India, we remain in very close contact with our foreign counterparts and are continuously monitoring the situation.”

“Our current inbound travel precautions and mandatory testing before travel — the quarantine for unvaccinated individuals and the retesting during that quarantine period — those are all in place for all international travel and have been effective,” he added.

Travel Trends To Note As Americans Return To Travel

According to VacationRenter’s booking data, summertime rental reservations are up 125% this year over last. And as Americans resume travel, its data analysis reveals noteworthy travel trends among our customers as we look forward to summer 2021.

The US Travel Association concurs, that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans are planning to travel within the next six months. As travellers in the United States resume travel, they’re vacationing with safety (and fresh air) in mind. Here are five travel trends noted by VacationRenter:

1. Starting small

Looking at VacatonRenter’s current bookings for summer 2021, reservations for small groups — consisting of two or four people — are leading the charge by a significant margin. Even groups of six are outpacing odd-numbered bookings and larger groups. The upshot of this two-by-two trend: couples who have been isolating together seem to be traveling together.

2. Seeking private space

Overall, we’ve found that more people are seeking out accommodations and destinations with a guaranteed buffer zone from other travelers. Searches on the VacationRenter site for entire homes — as well as villas and cabins — far outpaced accommodations with shared spaces and amenities. In fact, bookings for houses and villas in March 2021 were up 160% and 200%, respectively, over the same time last year.

3. Choosing traditional and ocean-breezy destinations

While some folks may have headed for the hinterlands to isolate (or work remotely) during the height of the pandemic, there appears to be a return to traditional — yet still fresh-air-infused and outdoorsy — destinations from June through August. Destin, Florida tops the list for summertime destinations by 18%.

4. Pools and pet-friendly spaces

Pools and pets have proved to be the top filters for online summertime vacation searches in 2021. This spring, 28.1% of all travellers who booked through VacationRenter used its pool filter as they searched for their ideal summer getaway. A private pool or even a dip in an uncrowded, shared pool (given that most resorts and homeowners associations now limit pool numbers) has obvious appeal.

5. Last-minute bookings

VacationRenter saw many travelers booking within days of arrival, even to airline-accessed destinations, such as Puerto Rico — where a surprising 11% of bookings were made the day before travel.

(Courtesy:https://www.traveldailymedia.com/5-travel-trends-this-summer-as-americans-return-to-travel/?_cldee=bWluaWFqYXlAYW9sLmNvbQ%3d%3d&recipientid=contact-b027f40f0d70e911a2cb02bfc0a8017c-e858229d5bbe4fd2aeacb769a4520b11&esid=88c8086d-49ac-eb1)

New Restrictions For Travel To And From India

Once thought to be nearing ‘herd immunity’ with rapidly declining case numbers, India is now the latest hotspot experiencing a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases. This time around, the country is seeing cases linked to a “double mutant” coronavirus variant – which has been shown to be even more contagious than the initial virus. With the benefit of hindsight, countries around the world are taking swift action to cut off international travel to try and stop or at least slow the spread of this new variant. Let’s take a look at the countries now taking action, as well as what specific measures are being taken.

The UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Iran, Hong Kong and Canada have imposed restrictions on passengers arriving from India by allowing only citizens to enter their borders. With Iran and Kuwait also suspending flights from India on account of the Covid-19 surge here, a dozen countries have now imposed some form of fresh restriction on travellers from India to protect their jurisdictions from the virus spread.

Which countries have imposed restrictions?

The UK, Singapore, New Zealand, Oman, Kuwait, the UAE, Iran, Hong Kong and Canada have imposed restrictions on passengers arriving from India by allowing only citizens to enter their borders. Even passengers who have been to India in the previous 14 days or are transiting through an airport in India are not allowed to enter.

Other countries like France have imposed a strict quarantine routine for passengers arriving from India, while the US has issued an advisory asking people not to travel to India, even if fully vaccinated. Australia, on the other hand, has said that it will restrict the number of its citizens that can enter its borders from India.

Why did United Airlines cancel its flights out of Delhi?

US-based United Airlines has canceled its flights out of Delhi to destinations such as Newark, San Francisco and Chicago citing “ongoing Covid-19 travel requirement discussions with local authorities” that were impacting its ability to operate the flights. However, the airline later said that it was resuming its flights from Sunday. Also, its Mumbai flights continued to operate as per schedule.

Has the US restricted travel from India?

No, the US has not yet announced any fresh restrictions on travelers from India. But the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued a non-binding advisory asking people to not go to India even if fully vaccinated. The US State Department has echoed this advisory. It must be noted though that the US Embassy in New Delhi has cancelled in-person visa appointments and interview-waiver appointments from April 26 till May 9 in light of “current pandemic conditions”. Emergency services for American citizens will continue and consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata will continue to offer limited visa appointments.

Air India cancels UK flights from April 24 to 30

National carrier Air India has decided to cancel flights between India and the UK from April 24 to 30. The move comes after Britain recently announced travel restrictions on non-UK and non-Irish citizens.

“Passengers who were to travel between India and UK, may kindly note that in view of recent restrictions announced by UK, flts from and to UK stand cancelled from 24th to 30th April ’21. Further updates regarding rescheduling, refunds & waivers will be informed shortly.”

“Between 24th to 30th April ’21 we are in a process to schedule once a week flight to UK from Delhi & Mumbai. Information regarding the same will also be updated on our Website and Social Media Channels.”

Recently, the UK said it will impose travel restrictions on air passengers coming from India due to the fast-spreading coronavirus variant in the South Asian country.

India was added in the ‘Red List’ of countries, or those countries whose citizens cannot freely travel to the UK. Reports had quoted UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock terming the decision as a difficult but a vital one to make.

As per norms, non-UK or Irish citizens will not be allowed to enter the European country post early morning on Friday. Presently, Vistara, Air India, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways operate flights between the two countries.

Last year, India had suspended all flights to and from the UK from December 23 in the wake of the new mutant strain of novel coronavirus found in the European country. (IANS)

Emirates suspends flight services to India from April 24

Dubai-based airline Emirates will suspend flight services to India from 11.59 p.m. of April 24. “Effective 24 April 2021 Saturday, 2359 local time Dubai and for the next 10 days, Emirates flights from India to the UAE will be suspended.”

“Furthermore, passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE.”

Recently, the gulf country announced travel restriction on non-UAE citizens travelling from India. Non-UAE citizens will not be allowed entry into the country from April 25, for 10 days until May 4. The ban comes at a time when India is facing a massive surge in Covid-19 cases.

AAHOA Hires New VP of Government Affairs

ATLANTA, Ga., Apr. 19 – AAHOA, the nation’s largest hotel owners association, is pleased to welcome Dean Heyl as its new Vice President of Government Affairs. He will lead AAHOA’s Washington, D.C. office and join the association’s Executive Leadership Team.

“As hoteliers navigate the road to recovery, I am confident that Dean’s deep policy background and connections with lawmakers will enhance our advocacy efforts. Hotel owners across the country are struggling. The issues confronting them are complex, and we must continue to educate lawmakers about what they can do to help these small business owners come out on the other side of this pandemic. From labor and taxation issues to franchising and economic relief, Dean’s experience will be critical to supporting AAHOA’s ongoing advocacy efforts. His previous work with several national and international associations is an invaluable asset to our government affairs efforts. Dean is a valuable addition to our team and will help AAHOA further establish itself as the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners,” said AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton.

Heyl brings decades of experience from many sectors of the U.S. government and in the c-suites of substantial industry associations. Prior to joining AAHOA, he served as the U.S. Department of Labor’s director of the Office of Public Liaison where he reported directly to the U.S. Secretary of Labor. In this role, Dean was responsible for stakeholder outreach with an emphasis on COVID-19 issues, including PPP, as well as OSHA and Wage and Hour guidance. Dean also worked with several national and international associations as chief legal officer, federal lobbyist, executive director, and senior advisor.

Prior to his work for the Department of Labor, Heyl served as the International Franchise Association’s Chief Legal Officer, where he oversaw all federal, state and local advocacy efforts related to the franchise business model. Additionally, he worked for the Direct Selling Association as a state and federal lobbyist and before that was the Executive Director of the Coalition for Affordable Accounting. His earlier public sector experience includes serving as a senior advisor to the Idaho Attorney General and Governor. From 2008 – 2011, he was a member of the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council.

“I have been fighting for entrepreneurs for more than 20 years and look forward to doing the same for AAHOA Members. AAHOA’s bold vision statement to be the foremost resource and advocate for America’s hotel owners resonated with me,” Heyl said. “I look forward to building upon AAHOA’s excellent government affairs foundation and helping the nation’s hoteliers progress on the road to recovery.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

Boeing Forecasts Demand For Over 2,200 New Aircraft In India By 2041

Aerospace major Boeing expects demand for more than 2,200 new jets valued at nearly $320 billion over the next 20 years in India. In its annual Commercial Market Outlook (CMO), Boeing anticipates resilient long-term demand for commercial airplanes and services.

The CMO cited that Covid-19 pandemic has sharply reduced Indian air travel last year, however, the country’s domestic passenger traffic is recovering more rapidly than in most other countries and regions, recently reaching 76 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Besides, India’s passenger traffic has been predicted to outpace global growth, doubling from the pre-pandemic levels by 2030. At present, India’s passenger market is the world’s third largest. Furthermore, India’s economy is predicted to grow at 5 per cent annually through the forecast period, the highest of any emerging market.

“Many more Indians will travel by airplane for leisure and business as incomes rise tied to industrialization and an economic growth rate in South Asia that leads all emerging markets,” said David Schulte, managing director of Regional Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

“With greater demand for domestic, regional and long-haul travel, we anticipate India’s commercial fleet will grow four-fold by 2039.” As per the CMO, India’s air carriers have opportunities for growth in international markets.

Schulte noted that several airlines have started or plan to start non-stop routes between India and North America to serve a passenger preference for direct service flights.

Boeing India President Salil Gupte said: “India’s burgeoning manufacturing and services business means the region is uniquely positioned to become a major aerospace hub.”

“We remain committed to partnering across India to develop the nation’s aerospace ecosystem, as continued investment in the civil aviation infrastructure and talent will enable sustained growth.” (IANS)

Indian Railways Completes Arch Closure Of Chenab Bridge, World’s Highest Rail Bridge

The construction of the arch of the world’s highest railway bridge that soars 359 metres above the bed of the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir was completed last week, with the Northern Railways zone of Indian Railways terming the achievement a milestone.
The 1.3-kilometre-long bridge aims to boost connectivity to the Kashmir Valley and it is being constructed at a cost of ₹1,486 crore as part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL) project.

In a statement, the Railway Ministry said that this was one of the most difficult parts of the bridge over the Chenab and this achievement is a major leap towards the completion of the 111-km-long winding stretch from Katra to Banihal.

“It is arguably the biggest civil engineering challenge faced by any railway project in India in recent history. The 5.6-metre last piece of metal was fitted at the highest point today and joined the two arms of the arch that currently stretch towards each other from both the banks of the river,” the statement said. This completed the shape of the arch that will then loom over the treacherous Chenab, flowing some 359 meters below.

“After completion of the arch work, removal of the stay cables, filling of the concrete in the arch rib, erection of the steel trestle, launching of the viaduct and track laying work will be taken up,” the statement said.

The completion of the historic arch work was also seen by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Railway Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma and General Manager, Northern Railway, Ashutosh Gangal, through video conferencing.
“This bridge is 1,315 metres long and the highest railway bridge in the world being 359 metres above the river bed level. It will be 35 meters higher than the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris,” the Ministry said.

As US Plans Vaccine Passports, ACLU Warns Of Privacy Breach

The US administration is working to establish a set of standards for people to prove they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19. An administration official said last week that the White House is working with government agencies, tech companies and non-profit organizations to plan and coordinate the effort, which is likely weeks away from being finalized. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, there will be no centralized universal federal vaccinations database.

The effort has gained momentum amid President Biden’s pledge that the nation will start to regain normalcy this summer and with a growing number of companies — from cruise lines to sports teams — saying they will require proof of vaccination before opening their doors again.

The administration’s initiative has been driven largely by arms of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort. The White House this month took on a bigger role coordinating government agencies involved in the work, led by coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, with a goal of announcing updates in coming days, said one official.

Some sectors, like the travel industry, are calling for a uniform system to verify Covid-19 vaccinations. Although the Biden administration previously said the federal government should not be involved in efforts to create such a system, they are now working to do just that.

The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass. Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports, developers have said.

Other countries are racing ahead with their own passport plans, with the European Union pledging to release digital certificates that would allow for summer travel.

 Meanwhile, The American Civil Liberties Union says plans to roll out a standardized vaccine passport must account for social inequalities and privacy rights. Anything short is a “nonstarter.” ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley warns “there’s a lot that can go wrong.” “Any proposal for vaccine credentials must be primarily paper-based, decentralized, and protect privacy,” he said in an article published on the organization’s website Wednesday.

Several organizations and tech companies have already started developing smartphone apps and other digital systems to store and verify vaccination information. The idea is to make it quick and easy for individuals wishing to board flights or attend events to verify their vaccination status.

Stanley said any system that is exclusively digital would alienate individuals and communities without access to mobile devices or knowledge how to use them, such as senior and low-income people, or those with disabilities. “There are a lot of people who don’t have cellphones, especially some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Stanley told CNN. “Over 40% of people over 65 do not have smart phones, so any system must have a paper-based functionality or it’s a nonstarter.”

The ACLU recommends a system that’s primarily paper-based, but with a digital option, so that no one is left out.  “We don’t want people who can’t afford to have cellphones to be excluded from societal benefits,” Stanley said. “We want people to be able to go to concerts or private events even if they don’t own a cellphone.” Any passport system that tracks and records users’ whereabouts and actions is a bad idea, Stanley said.

Tired Of Lockdowns, UK To Treat Covid Like Seasonal Flu

Lockdowns will likely become a thing of the past once England emerges from restrictions in June, Professor Chris Whitty has said, as he suggested Britain will treat coronavirus like the flu in the future. England’s chief medical officer said the UK would have to learn to live with the virus, noting that up to 25,000 people can die in a bad flu year without the figure hitting the headlines. “It is clear we are going to have to manage it, at some point, rather like we manage the flu. Here is a seasonal, very dangerous disease that kills thousands of people and society has chosen a particular way round it,” he said.

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, said the government would only be forced to “pull the alarm cord” if a dangerous new strain suddenly started to spread, but that it was “not realistic” to think Covid variants could be kept out of the country. Whitty said the government’s ambition was to shrink Covid deaths to the lowest level possible, but warned that society would not tolerate sweeping restrictions to prevent similar numbers of deaths to those from seasonal flu.

“We need to work out some balance which actually keeps it at a low level, minimises deaths as best we can, but in a way that the population tolerates, through medical countermeasures like vaccines and in due course drugs, which mean you can minimise mortality while not maximising the economic and social impacts on our fellow citizens.”

Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated that his roadmap for leaving lockdown will provide a “cautious but irreversible” path to “reclaiming our freedoms”. The rapid rollout of the UK’s largest vaccination programme has begun to bear fruit in pushing down infections, hospitalisations and deaths from coronavirus.

Daily Covid cases in the UK have plummeted in recent months from a record 81,570 on 29 December to 4,479 in the past 24 hours. Deaths and hospitalisations have also fallen dramatically, with the number of patients currently in hospital with Covid at just 10 per cent the level of the peak of the second wave. Today was the 18th day in a row that the UK has recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the double digits, marking a dramatic drop from 19 January when 1,362 Covid fatalities were reported in a single day.

India Now Holds World Record For Fastest Road Construction

Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Friday that India holds the world record for fastest road construction. “We made three world records in March. India now holds world record for fastest road construction. We made it to Guinness World Records by building a 2.5 km 4-lane concrete road within 24 hours. We also built 1-lane 25-km bitumen Solapur-Bijapur road within 24 hours,” the minister said, reported ANI.

In February, Patel Infrastructure Limited, an contractor of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) created a world record by laying the highest quantity of concrete on a four-lane highway in 24 hours. The record was set for laying of Pavement Quality Concrete (PQC) for a four-lane highway of 2,580 meters length within 24 hours. Starting at 8 am on 1 February, 2021, they finished the job, totalling 2,580 meters X 4 lanes i.e. approximately 10.32 lane kilometres by 8 am next morning. With a width of 18.75 meters, as much an area as 48,711 square meters of concrete was laid for the expressway in 24 hours. The highest quantity of concrete laid in 24 hours – 14,613 cubic meter was achieved. It was part of the greenfield Delhi-Vadodara-Mumbai 8-lane Expressway project.

Another NHAI contractor completed single lane of the four-lane stretch of 25.54 km being developed between Solapur-Vijapur (NH 52) in 18 hours. Hyderabad-based construction company IJM India carried out the construction work, according to media reports. “About 500 contractual workers worked hard for the project,” Gadkari said earlier.

The ministry of road transport and highways has constructed 13,394 km of highways in fiscal year 2020-21. Gadkari said that the pace of highways construction in the country has touched a record 37 km per day in financial year 2020-21.

“Tremendous progress has been achieved in building national highways across the country… These achievements are unprecedented and have no parallel in any other country in the world,” the minister mentioned. The achievement was remarkable as it was achieved despite constraints posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, he further added.

“Cumulative cost of ongoing project works has increased by 54 per cent at the end of the financial year 2020-21, compared to the financial year 2019-20 (as on March 31),” the minister said.

OCI Cardholders Should Carry Both Old and New Passports, Though Not Required

Indian Americans have welcomed the Indian government’s recent announcement on Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders not needing to carry their old passports while traveling to India. On March 29, the Indian consulate in San Francisco circulated a press release that carried two announcements about the OCI card.

“The timeline for re-issuance of OCI cards in respect of OCI card holders, who may be required to get their OCI card re-issued, has been extended till 31 December 2021,” read the first announcement.  Earlier it was until June 31, 2021.

The second announcement was: “Henceforth, the OCI card holders traveling on the strength of their existing OCI card bearing old passport number are not required to carry their old passport. However, carrying of the new passport is mandatory along with the OCI card.”

Recently, there has been some confusion circulating among Indian Americans with regards to travel to India.

As per media reports, OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) cardholders transiting through third countries have been denied permission to board flights to India as those OCI cardholders were not carrying their old passport bearing its number on the OCI card.

The article said that it was mandatory to carry both the old and new passports in case the OCI cardholders are traveling on the strength of the OCI card bearing the old passport number in it.

On March 26, the Consulate General of India’s office in San Francisco issued a press release, which stated the following: “Henceforth, the OCI card holders traveling on the strength of their existing OCI card bearing old passport number are not required to carry their old passport. However, carrying of new passport is mandatory along with the OCI card.”

Even though the Indian Ministry of External Affairs would be informing immigration officers around the world about this new regulation, there was still a slight chance that some officer in some country who was not up to speed on this new regulation, could create a problem.

Based on this, it would be wise to carry both passports to avoid any such situation when traveling to India. On the matter of re-issuance of the OCI card, the guidelines for the renewal are as follows:

  • OCI card is required to be re-issued each time a new passport is required by the cardholder up to the age of 20 years. This is requested due to the changes in appearance of the cardholder during their growth years.
  • Between the ages of 20 and 50, no re-issuance of the OCI card is required by the cardholder at the time of renewal of passport.
  • However, when the cardholder reaches the age of 50, the OCI card needs to be re-issued just once at the time of renewing the cardholder’s passport.

In order to further ease the travel of OCI cardholders to India, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that the timeline for re-issuance of OCI cards in respect of OCI cardholders who may be required to get their OCI card re-issued, has been extended till Dec. 31, 2021. The previous deadline was June 30, 2021.

Fully Vaccinated Americans Can Travel

Americans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can safely travel at home and abroad, as long as they take basic precautions like wearing masks, federal health officials announced on Friday, a long-awaited change from the dire government warnings that have kept many millions home for the past year.

In announcing the change at a White House news conference, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stressed that they preferred that people avoid travel. But they said growing evidence of the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines — which have been given to more than 100 million Americans — suggested that inoculated people could do so “at low risk to themselves.”
The shift in the C.D.C.’s official stance comes at a moment of both hope and peril in the pandemic. The pace of vaccinations has been rapidly accelerating across the country, and the number of deaths has been declining.

Yet cases are increasing significantly in many states as new variants of the coronavirus spread through the country. Just last Monday, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, warned of a potential fourth wave if states and cities continued to loosen public health restrictions, telling reporters that she had feelings of “impending doom.”

Updated Information for Travelers
Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19. However, international travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants.
CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

If you are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine:You should continue to follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely and get tested 3-5 days after travel.
You do NOT need to get tested before leaving United States unless your destination requires it.
You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
International Travel Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
If you don’t meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.
If you have a condition or are taking medication that weakens your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions.


Before you travel
oMake sure you understand and follow all airline and destination requirements related to travel, testing, or quarantine, which may differ from U.S. requirements. If you do not follow your destination’s requirements, you may be denied entry and required to return to the United States.
oCheck the current COVID-19 situation in your destination.
While you are traveling:
oWear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

oAvoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
oWash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
Before you arrive in the United States:
oAll air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.
After travel:
oGet tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel.
oSelf-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
oFollow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

U.S. Tourism Sets Sights on a Hopeful 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, severely affecting businesses across various industries. While some were able to survive with a shift to online sales and services, not every sector was as fortunate.

One of the most affected industries was tourism, and in the past year, it has struggled to bounce back from a dismal 2020, which saw a massive decline in tourist arrivals in and out of America. However, tourism in the U.S. may be on the rise again sooner than previously thought.

Tourism in Pandemic-Stricken America

Limitations on travel have severely affected our pandemic-stricken country. The statistics are astounding, surpassing even the impact on the travel industry after 9/11, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). As a result, tourism across the country is affected across different levels and state lines.

Popular destinations like California and New York have polarized projections. While California is expected to recover more quickly than the rest of the country thanks to strong fiscal relief and the waning pandemic, tourism in New York paints a very different picture. Highly anticipated events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop saw a significant reduction in spectators, leading to a glum outlook. This leaves many wondering when pre-pandemic levels will be restored.

Las Vegas is another major tourist spot that was not spared from the effects of COVID-19, susceptible to the same sudden drop in visitors between 2019 and 2020. Fortunately, things are starting to look up for the city and its hotels a year after the pandemic gripped the country. As the number of COVID-19 cases drops and more people are vaccinated, fewer restrictions address much of the pent-up demand. Casino floors and restaurants can now operate at 50% capacity as large gatherings capped at half the limit can also take place.

The newfound attraction to Las Vegas is not only due to the confidence in lower COVID-19 cases and its respective recovery. It also helps that there’s a diverse range of tourist attractions here, to begin with, as highlighted by this list of things to do in Sin City by Poker.org. The Strip is home to resorts like the Aria, Bellagio, and the Venetian – all iconic destinations in their own right. You’ll also find well-loved restaurants like Peppermill that are absolutely worth the visit. Exploring Vegas goes beyond the city lights as tourists can also take in the majestic views of Red Rock Canyon. These attractions are just some of the highlights that visitors can enjoy when in Nevada as the COVID-19 outlook continues to look even more promising in the coming months.

As some tourist hotspots like Vegas boast a positive path to recovery, others are still very much clouded in uncertainty. States such as Florida and equally sunny Hawaii fall somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Hawaiians opposing the return of tourists while others seek to encourage more movement in tourism.

What’s Next for Tourism in the U.S.?

  • The varying states of progress in these tourist hotspots illustrate how the fight against COVID-19 still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to the tourism industry. However, there is one fact present in all these examples: Progress is well underway. The Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 100 million peoplein the first quarter provides much needed support for local businesses, especially smaller-sized enterprises. Whether you’re a local hotel hoping for guests or a restaurant that needs diners, there is a silver lining yet to be reached akin to Vegas’ impressive and optimistic trajectory.SAG top honours for ‘Chicago 7’ sets up intriguing Oscar raceThe Trial Of The Chicago 7 — Aaron Sorkin’s 1969 courtroom drama for Netflix — was judged the year’s best performance by a motion picture cast at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards for film and television on Sunday. Starring the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Frank Langella and Mark Rylance, it marked the first time a film from any streaming service won the guild’s ensemble award.
  • The win now strengthens the film’s case for the Oscars (April 25). This even as modern recession-era movie Nomadlandgrabbed many of the pre-Oscar awards, including the Golden Globes.
  • The SAG awards though remain a key predictor of Oscar glory, where actors form the largest voting bloc. FYI: Last year, South Korea’s Parasitebegan its historic charge to the Best Picture Oscar by winning SAG’s top prize.
  • Also:For the first time in SAG awards’ 27-year history, all four of the winning film actors were people of colour. The late Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis picked up the best actor and best actress awards, respectively, for jazz period film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
  • And while Daniel Kaluuya won best supporting actor for portraying Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, South Korea’s Yuh-jung Youn won best supporting actress for Minari, an immigrant tale set in 1980s Arkansas.

Ship Stuck In Egypt’s Suez Canal Rescued, Reopening Waterway Trade

The colossal cargo ship that became stuck on the banks of Egypt’s Suez Canal last week, blocking traffic through the crucial waterway, was finally freed from the shoreline by engineers on Monday afternoon.

The so-called Ever Given, a 224,000-ton, 1,300-foot-long container ship registered in Panama, was “successfully refloated” and its course straightened at around 3 p.m. local time, after engineers spent days trying to pull the fully laden vessel with tugboats, according to statements from Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority and stakeholders.

Some 30,000 cubic-meters of sand was dredged to help dislodge the Ever Given, along with the deployment of 11 harbor tugs and two seagoing tugs. The Suez Canal was no longer jammed as the massive vessel was towed to a location outside the channel for further inspection, according to Boskalis Westminster, the parent company of the Dutch salvage firm hired to extract the ship.

“I’m extremely proud of the outstanding job done by the team on site as well as the many SMIT Salvage and Boskalis colleagues back home to complete this challenging operation under the watchful eye of the world,” Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis Westminster, said in a statement Monday. “The time pressure to complete this operation was evident and unprecedented.”

The Ever Given “will be repositioned to the Great Bitter Lake,” located halfway between the northern and southern ends of the Suez Canal, “for an inspection of its seaworthiness,” according to Evergreen Marine Corp., the Taiwanese firm that is leasing the chartered vessel.
“The outcome of that inspection will determine whether the ship can resume its scheduled service,” Evergreen Marine Corp. said in a statement Monday. “Once the inspection is finalized, decisions will be made regarding arrangements for cargo currently on board.”

Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie was expected to announce the resumption of navigation through the canal on Monday evening.
The Ever Given, which is almost the size of the Empire State Building, was on its way from China to the Netherlands when it ran aground last Tuesday morning near the southern end of the 120-mile-long artificial waterway that slices through Egypt’s northeast corner. The Suez Canal Authority said a sandstorm and high winds had caused poor navigation and low visibility.

Shipping traffic came to a complete halt while the vessel remained stuck sideways across the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade routes that provides the shortest maritime link for goods traveling from Asia to Europe by connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the Japanese company that owns the Ever Given, said in a statement last Thursday that it was working with local authorities in the North African country to resolve the situation, which was proving “extremely difficult.”

“We sincerely apologize for causing a great deal of worry to ships in the Suez Canal and those planning to go through the canal,” the company added. As the blockage neared the one-week mark, there were growing concerns over how it could impact the global economy and supply chains. About 12% of the world’s trade volume passes through the Suez Canal, including approximately 1.9 billion barrels of oil per day.

Travel’s Dramatic Losses in 2020

The decline in travel due to COVID-19 has devastated our economy and torn at the very fabric of our society. Our economy suffered shocking impact—nearly $500 billion in lost travel spending, resulting in $64 billion in missed federal, state, and local tax revenue since the beginning of March.
Around the world, international arrivals are estimated to have dropped to 381 million in 2020, down from 1.461 billion in 2019 — a 74 percent decline. In countries whose economies are heavily reliant on tourism, the precipitous drop in visitors was, and remains, devastating.
According to recent figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the decline in international travel in 2020 resulted in an estimated loss of $1.3 trillion in global export revenues. As the agency notes, this figure is more than 11 times the loss that occurred in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis.
Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for one out of every 10 jobs around the world. In many places, though, travel plays an even greater role in the local economy.
Consider the Maldives, where in recent years international tourism has accounted for around two-thirds of the country’s G.D.P., when considering direct and indirect contributions.
As lockdowns fell into place worldwide, international arrivals in the Maldives plunged; from April through September of 2020, they were down 97 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Throughout all of 2020, arrivals were down by more than 67 percent compared with 2019. (Arrival numbers slowly improved after the country reopened in July; the government, eager to promote tourism and mitigate losses, lured travelers with marketing campaigns and even courted influencers with paid junkets.)
This Fact Sheet provides key travel data, which showcases the dramatic losses suffered by the travel industry in 2020.
For more details, read: https://www.ustravel.org/research/fact-sheet-travels-dramatic-losses-2020

India’s Golden Chariot Luxury Train Resumes From Bengaluru

The Golden Chariot luxury train to tourist destinations and heritage sites across south India resumed from Bengaluru after a four year break, an official said on Sunday.

“The 6-coach luxury train chugged off from Yesvantpur station in the city with South Western Railway General Manager A.K. Singh flagging it off,” Bengaluru Divisional Manager A.K. Verma told IANS.

In its first-round trip, christened ‘the Pride of Karnataka’, the train will cover Bandipur national park, Mysuru, Halebidu, Chikkamagaluru as well as Goa in 6 days and 7 nights.

The week-long journey also takes passengers to Unesco world heritage sites of Badami caves, Pattadakal temples and Hampi palace ruins in the state’s northwest region before returning to Bengaluru.

“Though the train has capacity to carry 48 passengers in single and double cabins in 6 coaches, about 30 of them are travelling in this trip, occupying single and double cabins,” said Verma.

In its second-round trip, christened ‘Jewels of South India’ from March 21, the train will chug through Mysuru to Mahabalipuram, Thanjavur and Chettinad in Tamil Nadu and Kochi in Kerala, including its backwaters in 3 nights and 4 days.

The ticket fare for deluxe cabin is Rs 3,20,130 for 2 persons and Rs 2,40,100 for a single passenger.

The package includes onboard meals, transport for sightseeing, entrance fee to all tourist sites covered in the trip and charge of guides.

Launched originally by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in partnership with the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) in 2008, the former took over the operations of the train in 2020.

“The train offers travellers an opportunity to experience the historical, architectural and scenic beauty of South India in the comfort of luxurious amenities and international service standards,” said the IRCTC in a statement.

The renovated and refurbished luxury coaches boast of complimentary WiFi and OTT streaming onboard, choice of Indian and international cuisine, and wines.

The service includes cultural shows by artistes onboard.

Each of the 6 coaches are named after dynasties that ruled south India over the centuries.

Each coach has 4 cabins with a mix of 30 twin beds and 13 doubles beds. One cabin has been designed for specially-abled.

Two restaurants — Ruchi and Nalapaka — serve delicious meals while ‘Madira’ bar serves choicest of beers, spirits and wines.

Arogya, the spa-cum-fitness center offers traditional Ayurvedic therapies with modern workout machines. (IANS)

Blackstone, Starwood Capital Team Up in $6 Billion Purchase of Extended Stay

Blackstone Group Inc. and Starwood Capital Group have agreed to acquire hotel owner and operator Extended Stay America Inc. for $6 billion, a bet that a rare bright spot for the lodging industry during Covid-19 can shine brighter as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic.

The companies provided details of the deal, which real-estate executives say is the largest sale in the hotel sector during the Covid-19 period earlier this week.

As bookings plunged across the U.S. hotel industry over the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Extended Stay, which specializes in economy temporary housing for healthcare professionals, proved stronger than its peers.

Private equity company Blackstone’s and investment firm Starwood’s cash offer of $19.50 per share represents a premium of 15.1% to Extended Stay’s share closing price on Friday.

Shares of Extended Stay, which owns and operates 650 hotels in the United States, rose more than 17% before the opening bell.

“Extended Stay has demonstrated resilience over the past year despite persistent challenges due to government lockdowns and travel restrictions,” said Barry Sternlicht, chief executive officer of Starwood Capital.

“We are excited about the company’s growth opportunity as restrictions ease.”

Extended Stay’s stock has more than doubled in the past 12 months, outperforming its larger peers Marriott and Hilton which gained between 60% and 65%.

Extended Stay is a midprice hotel chain that focuses on lodging for guests interested in staying for weeks or longer, offering kitchen facilities and more space than a typical hotel room. During the pandemic, its rooms and suites attracted essential workers, healthcare professionals and others who needed to travel.

That business helped Extended Stay achieve a 74% occupancy rate last year, Blackstone said. The average occupancy rate across all U.S. hotels was 44%, according to hotel data-tracking firm STR.

Will COVID-19 Vaccine Passports Be The Next Must For All Travelers?

In a move welcomed by many of Europe’s traumatized travel destinations, the European Union’s leadership is considering a digital health pass that would allow E.U. citizens who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to travel for work or tourism.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, tweeted that the goal of such a “Digital Green Pass” is to provide “proof that a person has been vaccinated; results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet; [and] info on COVID-19 recovery” enabling residents to move safely within the E.U. and abroad.

Israel, which has successfully vaccinated 39% of its population, has already implemented a similar program, called a “green pass” that allows the vaccinated access to gyms, concerts and restaurants, while Denmark has already announced its own plans to introduce a digital health passport.

There are also several private-sector and non-government digital health passports already being rolled out, including the IATA Travel Pass, which was developed by the International Air Transport Association for travellers. Another getting significant traction is CommonPass, developed by The Commons Project Foundation, a non-profit that builds digital data platforms for public good, which will be used by Jet Blue, Lufthansa and United in coming weeks. The organization is also in talks with hotels, concert venues and sports leagues in the United States.

The idea is not without controversy, particularly among human rights activists, data protection advocates and countries with limited access to vaccines. Nonetheless, vaccine passports, if implemented well, offer one of the fastest routes to controlling the coronavirus while shoring up economies devasted by COVID-induced restrictions. Should the rest of the world catch up?

Where would vaccine passports be used?

The tourism industry is the most eager to put them into practice. Airlines such as Qantas are already demanding proof of vaccination or recovery for international flights; so too are certain cruise lines. Spain and Greece, whose tourism-dependent economies desperately need a robust summer travel season, are considering opening up travel corridors with the U.K. and Israel, respectively, to citizens who can prove their vaccination status.

There are applications beyond travel as well: Universities could open up with confidence knowing that their students are vaccinated, employers could start hiring again, movie theaters and concert venues could once again open their doors.

How would vaccine passports work?

Typically, they will entail an app that users can show officials to prove their status. The CommonPass app notifies users of entry rules, such as a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test, then helps verify that they have met the requirements, either by connecting with the relevant clinic, health authority or pharmacy that provided the service, or by having the consumer download test results or vaccination information to their phone. The data itself is not stored on the user’s phone; instead the app generates a QR code that can be scanned just like a digital boarding pass, confirming that the customer has met the requirements. Customers without smart phones can print out the confirmation codes instead.

Unlike country- or industry-specific digital health apps, CommonPass does not set the rules. It allows gatekeepers to set their own parameters, whether they are specific test providers, authorized vaccination clinics or recovery criteria, and provides the platform to ensure they are met. “Ultimately, what we’re really building is a common trust network,” says CEO Paul Meyer — an internationally recognized registry of verified health organizations, so that a country or venue can be confident that their specific needs are met.

I have a paper that says I am vaccinated. Shouldn’t that be enough proof?

It’s true that countries in Africa and Asia have long demanded proof of vaccination against yellow fever and other diseases from visitors. But the “yellow card’ used for verification is easy to forge and hard to replace (getting an additional vaccine is often easier than getting a new card, even if it’s not medically advised).

Having these kinds of vaccine “cards” for COVID-19 would be even more complicated. With great demand and limited supplies of vaccines, the potential for fraud is high. So too is the possibility of confusion: there are multiple vaccines currently in use globally, with more in the pipeline. And people who have already had the virus may, in the future, need different vaccine requirements.

Juggling those multiple criteria would present a major challenge for immigration officials, airline check-in counters and other doorkeepers. Governments may want travel and commerce to resume as quickly as possible, says Meyer. But their first obligation is to the health and safety of their populations. “If everyone’s wandering around with pieces of paper in random languages about some test they allegedly got on the other side of the planet, it’s hard to make the decision to open up,” he says. “What a universally recognized health pass achieves is confidence that the person who wants to come into my country is the same person who actually got that vaccine. I know what kind of vaccine it was, and how long ago. I know what kind of test was given, and that was it from a reputable lab instead of some fly by night clinic that happened to have a printer.”

How long will it take before vaccine passports are widespread?

A couple of months at least. European nations like Spain and Greece are hoping to have systems set up in time for the summer travel season, but it will take time to get all the regulations in place.

The bigger problem in the E.U. is access to vaccines. The United States says it will have enough vaccines for its entire population by end of May, and the United Kingdom anticipates that all over-50s will be vaccinated by that time. But, due to the slow rollout of vaccines on the continent, it won’t be until September that E.U. citizens will be in a similar position, long after the peak holiday season. This summer could resemble something out of an E. M. Forster novel, with vaccine-rich Americans and Brits taking over southern Europe’s holiday hotspots, while locals are forced to stay at home.

That disparity could actually lead to an increase in cases, says Francisco Femenia-Serra, a tourism specialist at Nebrija University’s Social Sciences School in Madrid. While vaccines stave off severe COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals, it is not yet clear if they can prevent transmission. “We will have tourists who are protected by the vaccine, and that is important, but what about local communities? If our tourism and hospitality industry workers are not protected it could be another disaster.”

Isn’t it unfair to require vaccine passports when not everyone can get one, or wants to get one?

That’s the argument of countries like France and Germany, and organizations such as the World Health Organization, who say that health passes tied to vaccinations will increase inequality until everyone has an opportunity to get vaccinated. The U.K’s Equality and Human Rights Commission says vaccine requirements for travel or access to venues could lead to “unlawful discrimination.” Belgium’s acting foreign minister, Sophie Wilmès, tweeted that while the idea of a standardized European vaccine verification system was a good one, there should be “no question of linking vaccination to the freedom of movement around Europe. Respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalised.”

The proposed health passes will likely increase inequality, says Anthony Dworkin, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, but they will still be vital for economies reeling from lockdowns and travel restrictions: “Some element of unfairness is the price we will have to pay for a kind of partial reopening.”

Ok, I’m fully vaccinated, I downloaded the app, and I’ve booked my tickets. Can I throw away my mask?

Nope. Even with health passports in hand, social distancing measures will still have to stay in place for a long while yet. Not everyone can or will get the vaccine, and the risk of new variants looms large. Until vaccines are universally available, that means even holiday hotspots will have to ensure that venues are well-ventilated, patrons wear masks, and everyone keeps washing their hands.

“A vaccine passport alone won’t bring us back to normal,” says Femenia-Serra. “It’s just one small step towards healing the economic devastation [in the tourism sector]. A passport or a negative test shouldn’t be an excuse to do whatever I want. Once I get to wherever I am going, I still need to behave in the right way. Because if we don’t, there is another disaster waiting for us after the summer is over.”

Tata, Spicejet now in the fray for Air India

Tata Group and private airline Spicejet remain in the fray for buying Air India as all the other bids have been rejected, according to sources close to the development.

Bids by others have been rejected after the evaluation of the expressions of interest (EoI) where multiple bids were received.

The transaction advisors have been in touch with the interested bidders regarding several queries and the qualified bidders will be intimated only after the government is satisfied with the responses from the bidders.

Apart from Tata Sons and Spicejet, Tata Sons and the New York-based Interups Inc backed by strategic NRI investors from the US and Europe are said to be the interested bidders for the national carrier.

DIPAM Secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey had earlier said that the government has received multiple expressions of interest for the strategic disinvestment of Air India.

The process has been divided into two stages. In stage one, expressions of interest have been submitted by the interested bidders and they will be shortlisted based on the eligibility criteria and other terms mentioned in the Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM).

In stage two, the shortlisted interested bidders will be provided with a request for proposal (RFP) and thereafter there will be a transparent bidding process.

A group of 209 employees of Air India had also put in a bid. Essar and Pavan Ruia of Dunlop and Falcon Tyres had also put in bids for Air India.

After several years of heavy financial losses and complaints of poor quality services by passengers, AIR INDIA, the national carrier is likely to return to its original owners, the Tata Group of Companies. Tata Group, who has been in the aviation sector for a long time, has expressed a keen interest in taking over Air India for quite some time now. .

The Tata group has already begun due diligence and is likely to put in a formal bid soon, close to the deadline.  Air India Express, a low-cost subsidiary of the airline and the Air India’s real estate assets; a part of the airline will also be on sale.

Tata sons holds a 51% stake in AirAsia India. Tata Group also has a joint venture in the airline business by the name Vistara.  Thereafter, if the Tata bid is deemed accepted, the 90 day period for handover shall commence and end by November 30 or at the most, by December 31. So, one possible scenario is for Tata to take control of Air India by January 1, 2021.

While the other bidders are not known yet, globally, airlines are under severe stress due to the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant disruption on air travel and tourism. Tata is widely believed to emerge as the sole bidder for Air India and the salt to software conglomerate is likely to place a bid before August 31, the last date for bids for Air India, which the government has repeatedly said it will not be extended. According to reports, the Tata group has already begun due diligence and is likely to put in a formal bid soon.

On the ensuing structure for the airline business, there is speculation that Tata is planning to merge its existing stake in AirAsia with Air India into a single entity. Air India has been passing through a critical financial condition from much before the Covid-19 onslaught. The crippling effect of the pandemic, especially in the aviation sector, has further brought its finances to a precarious position. Recently, its pilots and other employees are on the warpath as Air India has laid off employees and started a Leave Without Pay (LWP) scheme.

From Tata Airlines and Air India to Vistara and AirAsia India, the Tata group has been an important part of the growing aviation sector in India. From Tata Air Lines and the long-since nationalised Air India to strategic joint ventures with AirAsia Berhad and Singapore Airlines (SIA) for AirAsia India and Vistara, respectively, Tata has been present in the aviation sector. The two joint venture airlines operate independently with their respective business models – low-cost (AirAsia) and full-service (Vistara).

 

Air-India began operating in 1932 as Tata Airlines, named after J. R. D. Tata, its founder. The line carried mail and passengers between the Indian cities of Ahmadabad, Bombay, Bellary, and Madras, and Karachi, Pakistan. Within a few years Tata Airlines’ routes included the Indian cities of Trivandrum, Delhi, Colombo (in Sri Lanka), Lahore, and other locations in between.

In 1946, at the conclusion of World War II, the airline became a public company and was renamed Air-India Limited. In just two years, with the government having a 49 percent share in the company, the airline was flying further outside of India, with regular flights to Cairo, Geneva, and London. The line’s name changed again to reflect its new scope of operations, becoming Air-India International Limited. Now, after several decades, the ownership is likely to return to the Tata Group, who had started the airline, now known as AIR INDIA.

India Issues New Guidelines For International Arrivals

The Government of India has refreshed its guidelines for international arrival in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with a specific focus on those arriving from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.

 

Which international passengers are these new guidelines applicable to?

 

These new Standard Operating Procedures are applicable for all incoming international travelers coming in from the UK, Brazil or South Africa transiting through flights originating from the UK, Europe and Middle East. The broader categorization for these locations has been done because there are no direct flights between India, and Brazil and South Africa; and most of the passengers arriving from these countries arrive through transiting flights from Europe or Middle East.

 

What are the guidelines for international passengers arriving from these places?

 

In addition to the usual procedures of filing out a self-declaration form and submitting it on the Air Suvidha portal at http://www.newdelhiairport.in, those arriving on flights from the UK, Europe and the Middle East will have to get an RT-PCR test done prior to their flight and will be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at the Indian port of entry. If the outcome of these tests at the airport is negative, the passengers have to undergo home quarantine for seven days and then get re-tested. If they again test negative, they must self-monitor their health for another seven days. However, in case they test positive at any stage after arrival, they will be put in isolation and the treatment protocols will be applicable.

 

What do passengers needs to keep in mind?

 

For passengers taking onward flights to smaller airports after arriving at one of the international hubs in India like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, etc it will be mandatory to declare their final destination while filling out the self-declaration form prior to taking the flight. Upon arrival at the port of entry, like all other passengers in this category, they will have to go through the mandatory self-paid confirmatory molecular tests, and will be allowed on their connecting flights only if they test negative. Therefore, the government has recommended that for all those taking connecting flights within India, there should be a gap of at least 6-8 hours between the two flights. For example, if someone taking a flight from Johannesburg to Ranchi via Dubai and Delhi, there should be at least 6-8 hours of time between the flight arriving into Delhi from Dubai and the one departing from Delhi to Ranchi.

 

How will passengers arriving from Brazil, the UK and South Africa be identified?

 

The government has asked airlines to identify the international travellers arriving from or transiting through United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa (during past 14 days) and segregate them in-flight or while disembarking to facilitate the authorities to follow the due protocol in respect of these travellers. The immigration officers of these airports will also ensure identification of travellers from their passports, who originated or transited from the UK, Brazil and South Africa during past 14 days.

 

What about other international passengers?

 

For other passengers not falling in this category, the rules remain the same and they will be subject to the existing exemptions and quarantine norms upon arrival. However, all those who came in contact of travelers arriving from UK, South Africa and Brazil who test positive (either at the airport or subsequently during home quarantine period), shall be subjected to institutional quarantine in separate quarantine centers and would be tested on the seventh day (or earlier if develop symptoms). These will supersede all guidelines issued since August 2, 2020.

 

“This Standard Operating Procedure shall be valid w.e.f. 22nd February 2021 (23.59 Hrs IST) till further orders,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a statement on Wednesday.

The guideines have been divided in three sections based on the origin of travel.

All international travellers except those coming through flights originating from United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East will be required to submit a self-declaration form on the online ‘Air Suvidha’ portal before the scheduled travel.

 

They would also need to upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.

 

“Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise,” the guidelines said.

According to the guidelines, all international travellers coming or transiting through flights originating from the United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East have to additionally submit a Self-Declaration Form (SDF) for Covid on the online ‘Air Suvidha’ portal before the scheduled travel and will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days.

 

“While filling SDF, apart from providing all other information required in the SDF, passengers need to select: Whether they plan to disembark at the arrival airport or take further flights to reach their final destination in India.”

 

“Based on this selection, the receipt of SDF will display ‘T’ (Transit) in easily readable and bigger font than other text. The passengers will need to display this receipt to the state authority or government officials at the airport for segregation.”

 

As per the guidelines, travelers from the UK, Brazil and South Africa taking connecting flights from the international airport they land at will have to give a sample at designated area and exit the airport only after confirmation of negative test report which may take 6-8 hours.

 

“Those transit travelers from UK, Brazil and South Africa who are found negative on testing at the airport shall be allowed to take their connecting flights and would be advised quarantine at home for 7 days and regularly followed up by the concerned state or district IDSP. These travelers shall be tested after 7 days and if negative, released from quarantine, and continue to monitor their health for a further 7 days.” (IANS)

Florida Hoteliers Play Offense Against Human Trafficking

As Tampa prepares to host the Super Bowl this weekend, Florida hoteliers remain committed to keeping human trafficking out of their hotels and their communities. Every year, thousands of football fans converge on the event’s host city in the runup to the game. Unfortunately, sex traffickers who exploit the most vulnerable in our society are all too eager to bring their illicit enterprise to the party. That is why hotel owners are going on offense to protect their guests, their employees, and trafficking victims by completing AAHOA’s Human Trafficking Awareness Trainings (HTAT). These trainings play a crucial role in empowering hoteliers and their employees to identify and respond to trafficking situations. Owners are keeping their guard up against traffickers even though the number of fans and attendees at this year’s Super Bowl will be significantly lower than in years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The sheer number of people at high-profile events like the Super Bowl are an attractive draw to human traffickers. These criminals prize anonymity and seek out low-profile locations to exploit their victims. That is why it is so important for hoteliers and their teams to understand what trafficking looks like and know how to respond if they see something amiss,” said AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton. “To date, thousands of hotel employees and owners across the country have completed AAHOA HTAT, and our recent training blitz across Florida could not have come at a better time.”

In December, AAHOA held the HTAT Florida Compliance Series to ensure its members in the sunshine state satisfied Florida’s human trafficking awareness training requirement that went into effect on Jan. 1. The Series, held in ten cities throughout the state, offered AAHOA members and their employees a free developed in partnership with Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST). Successful completion of the training, BEST Inhospitable to Human Trafficking Training sponsored by AAHOA, brings hotels into compliance with the mandate.

“Unfortunately, instances of trafficking are on the rise as criminals exploit people struggling with the multitude of hardships the pandemic imposes on our communities,” said Staton. “Hoteliers must remain vigilant, and AAHOA is proud to give them the tools they need to protect their guests and employees and, potentially, save lives.”

AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in the world. The nearly 20,000 AAHOA members represent almost one in every two hotels in the United States. With billions of dollars in property assets and hundreds of thousands of employees, AAHOA members are core economic contributors in virtually every community. AAHOA is a proud defender of free enterprise and the foremost current-day example of realizing the American dream.

(Picture: Palm Beach Post)

Countries That Are Welcoming US Tourists Back

Once one of the world’s most powerful travel documents, the might of the US passport has been diminished during the pandemic. With US Covid-19 cases now beyond the 26 million mark, some nations continue to view American vacationers warily.

The current global pandemic has many Americans rethinking the way they travel. Road trips and camping vacations have grown in popularity, as many Americans have discovered the country has more than its fair share of stunning natural landscapes, from the Grand Canyon to Acadia National Park. Some people have even created memorable vacations in their backyards.

However, if you’re itching to leave the U.S., there are several countries around the world that will accept you (and your negative coronavirus test results), though some specific restrictions will apply. If you decide to travel, be sure to evaluate the risks and understand the safest ways to travel. You should also look out for yourself and others by taking necessary safety precautions and investing in one of the best face masks for travel.

Note that due to the pandemic, travel guidelines are constantly changing; you’ll want to check your destination’s official tourism website periodically before your trip. And, consider purchasing travel insurance, so you don’t lose money if your U.S. passport is no longer accepted at the last minute.

Below are the countries that currently accept travelers from the United States. If you decide to travel, you’ll also want to check with the State Department for information on returning from your visit as there are some restrictions in place, including specific airports you must transit through and quarantine rules in some cases. As of Jan. 26, the CDC requires all passengers traveling to the U.S. from a foreign country (including American citizens) to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their flight. (Note: All mentions of coronavirus tests refer to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test unless otherwise stated. This information was accurate at the time of publication and will be updated as additional information becomes available.)

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether travel to international destinations is a good idea. There are obvious health risks. Nations might change rules at any time. You may have to follow stricter curfews and mask mandates than Americans are used to. Violations could involve hefty fines and even jail time. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US State Department provide Covid-19 risk assessments by country.

Also, keep this in mind: All air passengers age 2 and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test that’s no more than 72 hours old to enter the United States. That includes US citizens returning from trips to other countries. Be sure to get information on testing sites in your destination for your return trip before you go. US embassies report some places are having trouble returning test results within the 72-hour window.

A current list of nations one can from USA is available at: https://travel.usnews.com/features/where-can-americans-travel-right-now

(Picture: LoveExloring)

Airlines Are Making it Easier for Travelers to Submit COVID-19 Tests

One of the most comprehensive COVID-19 travel regulations is now in effect, nearly a year into the pandemic. All travelers—including citizens—entering the U.S. need a negative COVID test in order to board a flight from an international destination. The screening must be a viral test taken within three days of departure, according to the protocols put in place by the CDC.

Airlines are responsible for verifying the medical documentation, and in some cases denying boarding to those without proper test results. As a result, carriers have adapted a slew of new technologies to streamline the new process.

United Airlines, for instance, launched a “Travel-Ready Center” on Monday. Available through United’s app and website, the new online hub is a “one-stop shop where customers can review their specific COVID-19 travel requirements for upcoming travel, find local testing options in select markets, and upload any testing or vaccination records,” the airline says. 

When a passenger uploads their test records to the Travel-Ready Center, United employees verify them electronically. After a passenger is deemed “travel-ready,” they are allowed to check in for their flight. Passengers who upload test results can be cleared for check-in and receive a mobile boarding pass all before arriving at the airport.

Later in February, United plans to launch a test-booking feature that would allow its passengers to make an appointment at one of more than 15,000 testing sites around the world. If the passenger tests negative and is able to travel based on the new protocols, the test provider will directly alert United.

Delta has similarly launched an online tool to help its passengers find acceptable testing centers around the world. Additionally, Delta is waiving change fees on international flights booked on or before January 12 (the day the new requirements were announced) if the ticket was originally scheduled for travel through February 16. 

The fee waiver is presumably so customers have more time to schedule a test before departure, but getting a test might be less time consuming than travelers think, thanks to some flexibility in the CDC requirements. “A new feature is the inclusion of rapid testing into the mix, so it doesn’t necessarily mean it only has to be a PCR test,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on the airline’s recent earnings call. “And with the growth of antigen testing, the quality of antigen testing that’s out there, and the supplies in place, you literally could get some of these tests done within a 10-minute interval shortly before you return.”

American Airlines has also expanded a partnership with health passport app VeriFly: Passengers on all of American’s international flights can now download the app, choose their destination, and see their travel requirements. After uploading their COVID-19 test documents to the app, VeriFly will confirm the date and type of test, and send a QR code once approved for gate agents to scan.

Other airlines in the U.S. and around the world have been taking similar steps, even before the new CDC testing guidelines were announced. In December, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss, United, and Virgin Atlantic began to roll out the CommonPass app—which makes test results easy to read, similar to VeriFly—on certain routes from New York, Boston, London, and Hong Kong. Other international carriers, including heavy hitters like Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad, have signed on for customers to use a similar app: IATA Travel Pass.

The majority of airlines’ new online tools have capabilities for passengers to upload their vaccination status as well, which some experts have predicted could become the next travel requirement in order to board international flights. 

(Picture: Marketwatch) 

AIR INDIA Starts Non-Stop Flight From Chicago To Hyderabad

Now passengers traveling on Air India can fly direct to Hyderabad from Chicago’s O’hare Airport. The first-ever nonstop flight service between Chicago and Hyderabad launched on Jan 13. The new route is welcomed by passengers traveling from across the US to destinations in Southern and Central India.

“It’s very fortunate that the Indian Government arranged a direct flight from the US to Hyderabad. I came especially to Chicago to take this flight,” said Vijaya Mandeila who traveled from Houston to Chicago O’hare airport to take the maiden flight with his wife and two children.

Mandeila was among the first 238 passengers to board a full flight operated by the state-of-the-art Boeing 777-200LR aircraft offering eight first-class and 35 business class seats on Jan 13. Mandeila says that while he flies to India only once in two years, the new direct flight is very convenient. “The first port of entry will be Hyderabad, and all customs checks and luggage will directly go through Hyderabad instead of Delhi. It saves us time, especially when traveling with family and young children,” Mandeila said.

Air India’s direct flights from Chicago to Hyderabad will operate every Wednesday leaving Chicago at 2130 hrs. (local time) to arrive in Hyderabad at 0040 hrs with domestic connections to Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Kolkata, Bangalore. The return flight from Hyderabad to Chicago will operate weekly every Friday, departing from Hyderabad at 1250 hrs. and arrive in Chicago at 1805 hrs. (local time) on the same day.

Consul General Amit Kumar Commences Launch Ceremonies

The official launch of the first direct Air India flight from Chicago to Hyderabad commenced with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Consul General Amit Kumar at Chicago O’hare Airport on Jan 13. Amber Achilles Ritter, deputy commissioner Chicago Dept of Aviation; Benjamin Sipiora, O’Hare terminal manager for the City of Chicago; Chris Diaferio, executive director of The Chicago Airlines Terminal Consortium (CATCO), also participated in the ceremonies.

Hyderabad is the capital of southern India’s Telangana state, a significant center for India’s tech industry and a cultural melting pot with more than four dominant languages, including Urdu, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.

Consul General Kumar stated that the new route builds connectivity between the US and India, facilitating commerce, trade, tourism and promoting people to people exchanges. Consul General Kumar took the opportunity to commend Air India for its support during the Vande Bharat Mission’s initial phases. “More than 45,000 people have traveled from Chicago as part of Vande Bharat Mission flights in over 160 flights last year. The Government has reached out to our citizens stranded across the world to facilitate a repatriation and outbound international travel of more than 47.2 lakh people under Vande Bharat Mission so far,” Kumar said in remarks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan 13.

Chicago to Hyderabad Direct Flight Receives Tremendous Community Response

Chris Diaferio, executive director of The Chicago Airlines Terminal Consortium (CATCO), which maintains and services the city-owned equipment that Air India uses, said he was delighted with the expansion and the ongoing commitment and partnership with Air India. “We are thrilled. We love Air India. We love that they continue to support their community with better options for travel. Air India has been here from the very start and is now adding more service, especially when there are continued challenges for the airline industry. We could not be more delighted,” Diaferio said.

Consul General Kumar also congratulated Air India and the team in Chicago headed by Vikash Shahal, airport manager and Sampath Jayasekar, senior sales assistant, on the expansion of Air India’s services in the USA. “We have received a tremendous response for this flight. It is very encouraging to see the amount of enthusiasm. We thank our passengers,” said Shahal. Sampath Jayasekar, senior sales assistant who is originally from Hyderabad, said that he felt proud that his native state of Hyderabad now has a direct flight to the US. “Our flight today is completely sold out, including first-class, business class and economy. We are getting an excellent response from the community. People from Andhra are especially excited about the new route. The nonstop flights to Hyderabad are full for the next three weeks,” Jayasekar said.

Passengers were offered a small token and special meals to commemorate the flight. Air India has also resumed offering full hot meals on board. A small group of community members participated in the launch’s diya lighting ceremony, followed by Ganesh aarti sung by Shreya Addanki. Mythri Addanki, Miss Telugu Universe 2020, was among the prominent youth who joined the launch event. “This is a momentous occasion and a big first step in how we are connecting Indians in the US and back home. I am Hyderabadi. I know we have a huge community here in Chicago and across the US. It’s a great way to make sure we are connected to our home, especially during Covid-19, when family is more important than ever,” said Addanki.

Sunil Shah, a prominent community leader and president of the Federation of India Associations (FIA) who attended the event, stated, “It’s an exciting moment for Chicago and Air India. I think so many people from Hyderabad will benefit from this flight. One more nonstop flight from Chicago will assist business travelers and people traveling back home.”

Neil Khot, Chicago area community leader said that while a nonstop flight from Chicago to Hyderabad is a big feather in the cap and will facilitate India’s economic and technological expansion between India and the US, he looks forward to Air India’s first direct flight to Mumbai.

CDC To Require All Air Travelers To US To Show Negative Coronavirus Test

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday it will require a negative Covid-19 test from all air passengers entering the United States — a move it says may help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Air passengers will be required to get a viral test within three days before their flight to the United States departs, and to provide written documentation of their lab results, or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19, the agency said in a statement to CNN.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is expected to sign the order on Tuesday and it will go into effect on January 26. “Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants,” the CDC said in a statement. “With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.” 


If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must not allow the passenger to board, the CDC said. “Testing does not eliminate all risk, but when combined with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier, and more responsible by reducing spread on planes, in airports, and at destinations,” Redfield said in the statement.

The new variant of coronavirus, which appears to be more transmissible, has already been found in at least 10 states in samples dating back to mid-December. An airline industry group has expressed support for the new measure.

“[We are] writing to express our support for a [CDC] proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States,” the industry group Airlines for America wrote to Vice President Mike Pence on January 4.

The new rule is similar to one put in place last month for passengers from the UK to the US, which requires that passengers have a negative test within three days of boarding their flight. For the UK requirement that went through last month, airlines can be subject to criminal penalties if they fail to comply, and passengers can be subject to criminal penalties if they willfully give false or misleading information.

The earlier requirement for UK travelers was a response to a new coronavirus variant that was identified in the UK. While the variant appears to spread more easily, there’s no evidence that it’s any more deadly or causes more severe disease, according to CDC.

At least 72 cases of a variant first identified in the UK have been found in 10 US states, according to data posted Monday by the CDC. That includes at least 32 cases in California, 22 cases in Florida, five cases in Minnesota, four cases in New York, three cases in Colorado, two cases in Connecticut, and one case each in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.

The variant has been identified in dozens of countries worldwide.

Indians In UAE No Longer Need To Register With Embassy To Fly Back To Country

Air India Express announced that Indians in the UAE will no longer be needed to register with the Indian Embassy for travelling back to the nation.

Air India Express, on October 12, announced that Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will no longer be needed to register with the Indian Embassy for travelling back to the nation. As part of the Air Bubble agreement between the two countries, the airline said that passengers travelling from UAE to India can book flights directly with Air India Express. 

Phase 7 of Vande Bharat Mission 

Last week, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had said that the Vande Bharat Mission of the central government has brought back nearly 20 lakh employable Indians to the country from foreign shores. The Ministry of External Affairs had also informed that under the phase seven of the Vande Bharat Mission, which has been operational since October 1, 873 international flights have been scheduled from 25 countries to be operated during the course of October 2020. 

MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said that the Phase 7 mission include flights from among the 14 countries with which India has a bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangement in place. He added that the air bubble agreement has been working satisfactorily. Further, Srivastava also said that the flights in phase 7 include Air India and Air India Express flights, private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings. 

(Picture Courtesy: Onmanorama)

Emirates Launches a Premium Economy Cabin

As the air travel industry attempts to find its footing after the holiday travel rush, Dubai-based airline Emirates has announced a welcome bit of good news: Its much-anticipated premium economy cabin has officially launched.

“While others cut back, Emirates is working hard to restore the products and services that we’ve had to suspend or adjust due to pandemic precautions, and introduce new offerings and enhancements,” Emirates CEO Tim Clark said in a statement.

The new premium economy cabin is located at the front of the double-decker plane’s main deck—or first level—and has 56 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. Each seat has 40 inches of pitch and is 19.5 inches wide. (Seats in its regular economy class have 32 to 34 inches of pitch and are 18 inches wide).

According to the carrier, Emirates premium economy seats emulate design elements found on its beloved business-class product. The new seats feature “cream-colored anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing,” an airline release said. Each seat also has a six-way adjustable headrest, calf rests, footrests, and an in-flight entertainment screen measuring 13.3 inches wide.

“Our First, Business and Economy experiences reset industry standards when they were introduced, and we are confident that our Premium Economy will also make its mark as a distinct premium offering,” Clark said.

The airline received its first Airbus A380 fitted with the new cabin class at the end of December. Five additional A380s with premium economy seats will be delivered throughout 2021 and 2022, in addition to being installed on a handful of the airline’s forthcoming Boeing 777X jets that will join Emirates’ all wide-body fleet in 2023. The carrier is also considering retrofitting its current A380 planes with the new premium cabin.

For now, Emirates premium economy seats on the single A380 will only be offered as a complimentary upgrade to certain customers “until we have a viable number of seats in our inventory,” Clark said. The airline has yet to announce which routes the new plane will fly, but Clark noted that the aircraft will be scheduled “on various routes so that our customers can experience our latest offering in all classes.” No additional service elements were announced, so the new cabin will likely have the same service standards as regular economy.

Other additions on board the new A380 include upgrades and refreshes to Emirates’ three other cabin classes, including wider and taller doors on the first-class suites; revamped flexible leather headrests in economy; refreshed design trims and modern fittings in the jet’s famous first-class shower spa; and a new color scheme for its business- and first-class bar lounge.

Both the shower spa and bar area have reopened to passengers as of October—with some COVID-19 safety tweaks, like drinks to-go from the bar to avoid congregation—after going on pause earlier in the pandemic.

To celebrate the premium economy cabin’s launch and entice bookings in the new year, Emirates is also having a fare sale, bookable through January 18 for travel through the end of May. Round-trip fares in economy between the U.S. and Africa start at $699, $909 to East and South East Asia, and $798 to Dubai; business-class fares start at $3,119 to the Middle East and $3,499 to Africa.

The carrier is allowing fee-free changes for up to two years after the original booking date on all trips for travel on or before June 30, 2021, as long as changes are to the same destination or within the same region in the same travel class. To find fares that are part of the sale, visit Emirates’ booking page.

(Courtesy: Travel & Leisure)

A Flight Of Firsts

Four of Air India’s most experienced women pilots took off from San Francisco (SFO) on  January 11th, (India time) for Bengaluru to operate the first-ever scheduled service between south India and the US. It is also the first time that an all-women cockpit crew of an Indian carrier flew over the North Pole.

“This will be the longest commercial flight in the world to be operated by Air India or any other airline in India…The total flight time on this route will be of more than 17 hours depending on the wind speed on that particular day,” Air India said in a statement. The direct distance between the two cities at opposite ends of the world is 13,993 km, with a time zone change of around 13.5 hours, an Air India official said. 

The four record-setting pilots operating the almost 18-hour AI 176 that was scheduled to reach Bengaluru (BLR) early morning today are captains Zoya Aggarwal, Papagari Thanmai, Akansha Sonaware and Shivani Manhas. They are flying a Boeing 777 200 (long range or LR) VT-ALG that is named ‘Kerala’. The SFO airport wore the Indian flag colours to celebrate this occasion. 

Bengaluru-SFO shortest flight distance is over 14,000 km, about 1,000 km more than Delhi-SFO. Very often airlines take longer routes to get tail winds and avoid headwinds. Kerala, for instance, took the longer Pacific route from Delhi to SFO on Wednesday with the same set of four pilots. The inaugural to Bengaluru came back via over the North Pole — getting tail winds on both sectors.

“Air India’s woman power flies high around the world,” Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri said on Twitter. “All women cockpit crew consisting of Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani Manhas will operate the historic inaugural flight between Bengaluru & San Francisco,” Mr. Puri said.

Flight AI176 will depart from San Francisco in the U.S. at 8.30 p.m. (local time) on Saturday, and land at the Kempegowda International Airport at 3.45 a.m. (local time) on Monday. “Captain Zoya Aggarwal is an accomplished pilot with a flying experience of more than 8000 hrs and command experience in a B-777 aircraft of more than 10 years and more than 2500 flying hours,” the national carrier said.

The flight will operate with a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft VT ALG with a seating capacity of 238 seats, including eight First Class, 35 Business Class, 195 Economy class configuration, besides four cockpit and 12 cabin crew, Air India said. 

Almost fully booked

The first ever direct flight between the two tech hubs is almost fully booked — 225 out of 238 seats — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over air travel. 

The flight, which has long been in the pipeline, will be the first direct non-stop flight between the west coast of the United States and southern India. Given the significant population of south Indians in San Francisco, home to the Silicon Valley, a direct flight has been a long-pending demand. 

The biweekly flight will take off to San Francisco from Bengaluru on Mondays and Thursdays, and leave San Francisco for Bengaluru on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Risks Of Flying in Covid Times

In the past, research into outbreaks on airplanes focused on flights that took place last spring, when planes were full, passengers mostly didn’t wear masks and preventive measures weren’t broadly understood. A new study, however, examined a more recent outbreak on a flight that put numerous containment measures in place — and the results were not great for travellers.

In September, an outbreak occurred aboard a flight from Dubai to Auckland, New Zealand. The 86 passengers onboard went into a mandatory 14-day quarantine in New Zealand, and seven eventually tested positive. Researchers at the New Zealand Ministry of Health found that at least four were infected on the flight.

The aircraft, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a capacity of nearly 400 passengers, was only 25% full and the four people infected in flight were seated within four rows of one another during the 18-hour trip.

The in-flight outbreak occurred when additional precautions were in place and passengers were more cautious. But researchers still identified a number of holes. Two of the four people infected on the plane said they didn’t wear masks on the flight. The airline also did not require passengers to wear masks in the lobby before boarding or be tested preflight.

Previous studies on the risk of infection during air travel are mixed (airplane filtration systems are thought to help, even when a passenger is infected), but the latest research suggests that airlines need to tighten precautions even more to avert in-flight outbreaks.

(Picture Courtesy: NPR)

IATA Travel Pass To Be Introduced

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it is in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders. IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.
Governments are beginning to use testing as a means of limiting the risks of COVID-19 importation when reopening their borders to travelers without quarantine measures. IATA Travel Pass will manage and verify the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories, and travelers.
IATA is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travelers, and the information flow infrastructure needed to enable this must support:
Governments with the means to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting the test certificates.
Airlines with the ability to provide accurate information to their passengers on test requirements and verify that a passenger meets the requirements for travel.
Laboratories with the means to issue digital certificates to passengers that will be recognized by governments, and;
Travelers with accurate information on test requirements, where they can get tested or vaccinated, and the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities.
“Today, borders are double locked. Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share, and verify test data matched with traveler identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of the IATA Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months also to meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
IATA Travel Pass incorporates four open-sourced and interoperable modules which can be combined for an end-to-end solution:
Global registry of health requirements – enables passengers to find accurate travel information, testing, and eventually, vaccine requirements for their journey.
Global registry of testing/vaccination centers – enables passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location, which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
Lab App – enables authorized labs and test centers to share test and vaccination certificates with passengers securely.
Contactless Travel App – enables passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport,’ (2) receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and (3) share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. Travelers can also use this app to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout their journey, improving the travel experience.
IATA and International Airlines Group (IAG) have been working together in the development of this solution. They will undertake a trial to demonstrate that this platform, combined with COVID-19 testing, can reopen international travel and replace quarantine.
The airline industry demands a cost-effective, global, and modular solution to safely restart travel. IATA Travel Pass is based on industry standards, and IATA’s proven experience in managing information flows around complex travel requirements.
IATA’s Timatic is used by most airlines to manage compliance with passport and visa regulations and will be the base for the global registry and verification of health requirements.
IATA’s One ID initiative was endorsed by a resolution at its 75th Annual General Meeting in 2019 to facilitate travel processes with a single identity token securely. It is the base for the IATA Contactless Travel App for identity verification that will also manage the test and vaccination certificates.
“Our main priority is to get people traveling again safely in the immediate term that means giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements. And that will eventually develop into a vaccine program. The IATA Travel Pass is a solution for both. And we have built it using a modular approach based on open source standards to facilitate interoperability. It can be used in combination with other providers or as a standalone end-to-end solution. The most important thing is that it is responsive to industry’s needs while enabling a competitive market,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo, and Security.
The first cross-border IATA Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year, and the launch is slated for quarter one 2021.

Now A Vaccine Passport To Travel Abroad

Now that coronavirus vaccines are starting to roll out in the US and abroad, many people may be dreaming of the day when they can travel, shop and go to the movies again. But in order to do those activities, you may eventually need something in addition to the vaccine: a vaccine passport application.
Several companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries.
The Common Trust Network, an initiative by Geneva-based nonprofit The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, has partnered with several airlines including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as hundreds of health systems across the United States and the government of Aruba.
The CommonPass app created by the group allows users to upload medical data such as a Covid-19 test result or, eventually, a proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, generating a health certificate or pass in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information. For travel, the app lists health pass requirements at the points of departure and arrival based on your itinerary.
“You can be tested every time you cross a border. You cannot be vaccinated every time you cross a border,” Thomas Crampton, chief marketing and communications officer for The Commons Project, told CNN Business. He stressed the need for a simple and easily transferable set of credentials, or a “digital yellow card,” referring to the paper document generally issued as proof of vaccination.
Large tech firms are also getting in on the act. IBM (IBM) developed its own app, called Digital Health Pass, which allows companies and venues to customize indicators they would require for entry including coronavirus tests, temperature checks and vaccination records. Credentials corresponding to those indicators are then stored in a mobile wallet.
IBM’s Digital Health Pass app creates an online vaccine credential that can be stored in a mobile wallet. In an effort to address one challenge around returning to normalcy after vaccines are distributed widely, developers may now have to confront other challenges, ranging from privacy issues to representing the varied effectiveness of different vaccines. But the most pressing challenge may simply be avoiding the disjointed implementation and mixed success of tech’s previous attempt to address the public health crisis: contact tracing apps.
Early on in the pandemic, Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) set aside their smartphone rivalry to jointly develop a Bluetooth-based system to notify users if they’d been exposed to someone with Covid-19. Many countries and state governments around the world also developed and used their own apps.
“I think where exposure notification ran into some challenges was more of the piecemeal implementation choices, lack of federal leadership … where each state had to go it alone and so each state had to figure it out independently,” said Jenny Wanger, who leads the exposure notification initiatives for Linux Foundation Public Health, a tech-focused organization helping public health authorities around the world combat Covid-19.
To encourage better coordination this time, The Linux Foundation has partnered with the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative, a collective of more than 300 people representing dozens of organizations across five continents and is also working with IBM and CommonPass to help develop a set of universal standards for vaccine credential apps.
“If we’re successful, you should be able to say: I’ve got a vaccine certificate on my phone that I got when I was vaccinated in one country, with a whole set of its own kind of health management practices… that I use to get on a plane to an entirely different country and then I presented in that new country a vaccination credential so I could go to that concert that was happening indoors for which attendance was limited to those who have demonstrated that they’ve had the vaccine,” said Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Linux Foundation.
“It should be interoperable in the same way that email is interoperable, the same way that the web is interoperable,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a situation where there’s some moving parts that get us closer to that, but I think there’s a sincere commitment from everybody in the industry.”
Part of ensuring wide usage for vaccine passports is accounting for the large subset of the global population that still doesn’t use or have access to smartphones. A few companies within the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative are also developing a smart card that strikes a middle ground between the traditional paper vaccine certificates and an online version that’s easier to store and reproduce.
“For us it’s [about] how that digital credential can be stored, can be presented, not only through smartphones but also in other ways for those people who don’t have access to stable internet and also who don’t own smartphones,” said Lucy Yang, co-lead of the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative. “We’re looking into it, and there are companies who are doing really promising work.
\CommonPass has partnered with several airlines to start rolling out its health credential app on select international flights. Once they build a vaccine passport, companies will need to make sure people are comfortable using it. That means confronting concerns about the handling of private medical information.
CommonPass, IBM and the Linux Foundation have all stressed privacy as central to their initiatives. IBM says it allows users to control and consent to the use of their health data and allows them to choose the level of detail they want to provide to authorities.
“Trust and transparency remain paramount when developing a platform like a digital health passport, or any solution that handles sensitive personal information,” the company said in a blog post. “Putting privacy first is an important priority for managing and analyzing data in response to these complex times.”
With vaccines manufactured by multiple companies across several countries in varying stages of development, there are a lot of variables that passport makers will need to account for.
“A point of entry — whether that’s a border, whether that’s a venue — is going to want to know, did you get the Pfizer vaccine, did you get the Russian vaccine, did you get the Chinese vaccine, so they can make a decision accordingly,” said Crampton. The variance can be wide: the vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, for example, has an efficacy of 86% against Covid-19, while the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna each have an efficacy of around 95%.
It’s also unclear how effective the vaccines are in stopping the transmission of the virus, says Dr. Julie Parsonnet, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford University. So while a vaccine passport app will show that you’ve received the shot, it may not be a guarantee that you safely attend an event or get on a flight.
“We still don’t know if vaccinated people can transmit infection or not,” she told CNN Business. “Until that is clarified, we won’t know whether ‘passports’ will be effective.”
Still, Behlendorf anticipates that the rollout and adoption of vaccine passports will happen rather quickly once everything falls into place and expects a variety of apps that can work with each other to be “widely available” within the first half of 2021. “Rest assured, the nerds are on it,” he said.

Air India To Begin Flights From Bengaluru To San Francisco Starting Jan 2021

India’s national carrier Air India is set to connect Bengaluru and San Francisco via a non-stop flight from 2021, the Kempegowda International Airport. As of January 11, 2021, Air India will launch 2x weekly flights between Bangalore and San Francisco, as follows: AI175 Bangalore to San Francisco departing 2:30PM arriving 5:00PM
AI176 San Francisco to Bangalore departing 8:30PM arriving 2:30AM (+2 days)

The US-bound flight will operate Mondays and Thursdays and will take 16hr, while the India-bound flight will operate Tuesdays and Saturdays and will take 16hr30min. The Boeing 777-200LR that will be used for this route features three cabins, including first class, business class, and economy.

“This would be the first non-stop flight between Bengaluru and the United States, connecting the world’s two tech hubs — the original Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley of India.

“The first non-stop flight between Bengaluru and San Francisco is a significant milestone for BLR Airport and will transform it as the new gateway to India. This will tremendously help passengers, enabling faster and easier access to cities on the West Coast of the United States.”

As per the statement, the new non-stop service is expected to meet the demand of corporate customers for travel to San Fracisco and adjoining areas in the US.

“Air India plans to operate a 238-seater Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft, to serve the largest unserved international origin/ destination (O/D) market for BLR Airport. Bengaluru and San Francisco are ranked first and second, respectively, among the world’s top 45 digitally advanced cities.”

“The new route sets two records — it would be Air India’s longest route at 14,000+ km (8,698 miles) and longest flight to and from India (over 16 hours). The national carrier has opened ticket booking from November 25.”