“I had a caller today who insisted there was a COVID vaccine requirement to fly to Phoenix,” Duane Bannock said.
Bannock hosts a daily radio show on KSRM in Kenai. He and his wife love to travel, so we often talk about deals and destinations.
“Smart travelers get vaccinated before they fly,” I said. “But there is no vaccine or testing mandate for domestic flights.”
Bannock and I had traveled last week, and we could confirm that no vaccines or test results were required to board our Alaska Airlines flights.
In fairness to the KSRM caller, regulations change all the time. This is especially true for international travel. Right now, however, the only COVID-19 mitigation requirement is that everyone in an airport or on a plane, bus or train must wear a mask.
Before calling me, Bannock checked the CDC’s website for advice on domestic travel. In fact, the website clearly states, “Delay your trip until you are fully immunized.”
This is good advice, especially since the omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. Omicron infections have reduced airline crews, forcing them to cancel flights over the holidays. Bad weather was an undesirable multiplier, forcing many people to delay or cancel their trips. Additionally, some travelers had to extend their trip at their own expense until they could get a new seat reservation after thousands of flights were canceled.
[28,000 canceled flights later, airlines still looking for upper hand against omicron, weather]
The bad weather has calmed down, but omicron is in full bloom. Alaska Airlines canceled 10% of its schedule through January to compensate for crew members who called in sick. Additionally, on operating flights, flight attendants are reducing food and beverage service during flights to limit possible exposure to COVID-19 for passengers.
Other changes are also on the way. At the end of January, free on-site testing facilities at Alaskan airports will be closed. In Anchorage, free testing will soon be available 24 hours a day at the indoor site of the Alaska Park facility, adjacent to the Coast International Inn. In Juneau, free testing will be available at the Alaska Industrial Hardware store just around the corner from the airport.
Due to the rapid rate of omicron infections, countries are changing their entry requirements for visitors. Many cities and towns are changing their COVID-19 mitigation plans, including some communities in Alaska.
Travel to St. Paul’s Island, in the middle of the Bering Sea, is prohibited unless you fall into the “essential worker” category. All potential visitors must complete a travel form for the city and agree to a testing regimen and a five-day quarantine.
Liz Perry is the head of Travel Juneau, the local visitor bureau. While there are currently few community-wide pandemic restrictions, she said “different companies have different rules,” especially when it comes to masks. “We try to be nice to each other,” she said.
This is important since the Alaska legislature is in turmoil this week. Unlike last year, plans call for the Alaska State Capitol building to be open to visitors who agree to wear masks. Other restrictions may apply.
Alaska Airlines is offering a 20% discount code for Alaskans to fly to Juneau during the legislative session. Last week, the airline emailed each Club 49 member a unique code that can only be used once.
Travelers to Hawaii must self-quarantine for five days upon arrival. Vaccinated travelers can bypass the five-day quarantine without testing by uploading proof of vaccination to the Safe Travels Hawaii site. To avoid quarantine on arrival, unvaccinated travelers must upload negative COVID test results within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii. The test must be administered by a “trusted test and travel partner”.
On the ground in Hawaii, restaurants and bars require you to show your vaccination card (or recent negative test results) to enter. Masks are mandatory inside.
In Seattle recently, every restaurant we visited asked to see our vaccination records. Many other communities are going down a similar path, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, among others.
Even though cases are on the rise, England has eased COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated US travelers. If you have received your injections and your booster, no pre-trip testing is required. However, arriving travelers should still get tested no later than the second day of their visit. And there is no longer a need to self-isolate while waiting for test results.
Heading to Canada? It’s simple: you must be fully vaccinated, have received at least two vaccine injections.
Travelers to France from the United States must be fully vaccinated. Additionally, travelers must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within 48 hours. Tickets to Paris are on sale with Delta for as little as $585 round trip. Travel between January 28 and April 28.
Inexpensive tickets (basic economy class) are available for less than $600 round trip to many European destinations from Anchorage, including Barcelona, Rome, Athens, Madrid and Lisbon. Each country has its own COVID-related entry protocols.
If you want to fly to Amsterdam or travel anywhere in the Netherlands, you must be fully vaccinated. Additionally, travelers must present the results of a negative COVID-19 test. Additionally, travelers arriving from the United States must quarantine for 10 days. You may be eligible to be released from quarantine after five days if you test another negative.
If you are traveling to Mexico, there are no special pre-travel requirements such as tests or vaccinations.
Getting to your international destination is one thing. Returning is another. Travelers returning to the United States must have the results of a COVID-19 test taken the day before their trip. Depending on where you are and the availability of tests, this could be expensive. This is where rapid antigen testing comes in handy, as a telehealth appointment is included for verification.
I can’t blame Bannock’s caller on KSRM for thinking there’s a vaccination mandate on flights within the US. It is confusing to sift through the information to find an accurate description of the current requirements.
Both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have world maps that show entry requirements for each country.