Airline industry ‘pretty nervous’ about latest COVID-19 variant

Travel

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The COVID-19 pandemic has been like Groundhog Day for many — especially those who work in or with the airline industry.

“For the airline industry as a whole, I think they’re pretty nervous (Monday) morning,” said Scott Keyes with Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Dr. Paul Cook with East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine said the recent restrictions of flights from Southern Africa are likely necessary after the discovery of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

“This is a political hot potato but until I think we get some more information I think it’s a reasonable thing to do,” Cook said.

Such flight restrictions and all that could follow are now resting on what is learned about the variant.

“There is a lot of fatigue and people get tired of listening. And with all this stuff going on on the internet, I think people are sometimes listening to the wrong information. So, it’s a real problem,” Cook said.

Medical professionals like Cook are working to get the right information out there — information that’s changing behavior as people figure out how to keep on going despite every announcement of a new variant.

“I want to make sure I’m taking precautions that I’m not being an undue risk to myself and others, but that I don’t want to live in a hole and not go out and explore and adventure,” Keyes said.

Some are still opting for overseas vacations while others are choosing U.S. destinations.

“In large part because of the medical breakthroughs that we’ve seen. Vaccinations, boosters, even anti-viral treatments, but I think if the omicron variant turns out to be very significant, I think you might see a pretty big pullback from international travel interest and, in large part, domestic travel picking up some of that slack,” Keyes said.

He added that the unforeseen part is helping drive travel decisions.

“This is why I think you’ve seen a big shift toward domestic travel interests for a lot of people — because they feel, ‘Look, I can take a trip to Montana, I can take a trip to Texas or Florida, and not have to worry about being subjected to quarantine or isolation. I can get back home if I need to.'”

Traveling in the U.S. does give people a sense of control even when the alarms bells go off that there’s a new variant.

Cook reminded people to be smart about it.

“Every time I see people saying, ‘Well, it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’re almost to the end of this. I’m concerned about that because we’re not there yet.'”

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