NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — This year, a surge in COVID-19 cases is coinciding with a very busy travel season.
On Monday, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas spoke to an executive with United Airlines about the impact on the industry and what it’s doing to keep travelers safe.
READ MORE: AAA Predicts 110 Million Americans Will Travel For Holidays, Undeterred By Soaring COVID Cases
Despite returning more slowly than its counterparts, United says its flight schedules this holiday season are just shy of pre-pandemic levels.
“Are you changing how you manage the crowds?” Cline-Thomas asked Rodney Cox, VP of operations for the airline.
“We’re working with the Port Authority and the TSA to manage the large volume,” Cox said. “Once you get on board the airplane, all of our traditional safety precautions are still in place in terms of masks, sanitizing the airplane.”
This as COVID infections surge.
That’s why Andrew Palacios came to Newark Liberty Airport‘s testing site, all the way from Staten Island, before taking off on Tuesday, despite being fully vaccinated and his domestic flight not requiring one.
“A couple people at my job have had it, so I just want to make sure. I don’t want to get stuck anywhere, especially when the holidays are coming up,” Palacios said.
After experiencing delays at other sites, Henry Samaniago of Bloomfield, New Jersey, said he is hoping to get his results in time to head to Ecuador.
READ MORE: Holiday Travel Brings Traffic Headaches; When And Where To Avoid Worst Congestion
“My flight leaves in two hours and a half. If I don’t have it, it doesn’t matter what I pay because they’re not going to give you your money back if you don’t fly,” Samaniago said.
It’s all an added consideration this holiday travel season, which is well underway.
United Airlines plans to welcome 8 million passengers system-wide through Jan. 3. As many as 50,000 of them will fly through Newark Liberty on Thursday, alone.
“If you’re traveling domestically, you ought to be here a couple of hours early. If you’re flying internationally, we’d even recommended that you try to come three hours early,” Cox said. “They’re anxious. They want to get moving. But with the crowds, we have to be patient with each other.”
Passengers said they wanted to be prepared for the usual hassles and new ones.
“I’m 300 pounds and about 6-foot-2 and I can’t choose my seat and get first class like I want to,” said Mally Brandon of Carteret, New Jersey.
“What I do is sanitize everything when I get on there and keep my mask on,” added Patty Minister of Columbus, Ohio.
Passengers and airlines are taking extra precautions to safely reach their destinations.
MORE NEWS: As Holiday Travel Picks Up Again, Lawmakers Call For COVID Restrictions For Domestic Flights
The Centers for Disease Control is only encouraging fully vaccinated passengers to travel. However, if you are unvaccinated you’re asked to get tested before and after your trip.
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