By Shana Singh
Boston University News Service
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted across many states, thousands of families are expected to travel over February vacation week, anticipated to be the busiest since the pandemic began.
The Transportation Security Administration reported 8.4 million people were screened over President’s Day weekend, which is double the quantity of passengers from last year. Airports nationwide have not seen numbers this high since Thanksgiving, but have not returned to pre-pandemic levels yet.
Rebecca Chan, a mother of a pre-teen and a teenager, booked a trip to San Francisco to visit friends and relatives. She describes her family as “bi-coastal,” since they lived in California for over 20 years before moving to Boston for a job opportunity. They visit, when possible, to stay connected.
“My youngest daughter has found it a harder transition and feels a sense of loss associated with our move, so we are lucky to be able to return during school vacation times,” said Chan.
Some working parents like Chan use their vacation days to be with their children, since they are still scheduled to work. For them, the break allows for trips to far-off destinations which may not be possible on a regular weekend.
Even those who do not have children may decide to travel this week, utilizing off-season prices and vacancies in hotel rooms. Others may feel more comfortable traveling as Omicron cases drop and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted across the country.
Anthony Ishak, a clinical pharmacist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is traveling to Costa Rica and California in search of warmer weather. This is the second year he has traveled during vacation week.
“Work is a bit slower this week and I knew the dates far enough ahead to shop for a cheap vacation in a COVID-safe destination,” said Ishak.
“Overall, we have been encouraged by consumer travel demands and we are expecting pretty typical load factors,” said a spokesperson from Southwest Airlines about passenger totals. “The Southwest team is prepared to deliver our warm hospitality as we welcome customers onboard.”
Many destinations require travel by air, which comes at a time of recent passenger disruptions. These disruptions have made headlines since the pandemic started, and peaked during 2021.
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian has repeatedly petitioned the Department of Justice to prosecute unruly passengers and asked for a “no fly” list to address this concern. Bastian said this will “prevent future incidents and serve as a strong symbol of the consequences for not complying with crew member instructions on a commercial aircraft,” as previously reported by Reuters.
According to data from the Federal Aviation Administration, there have been 394 reports of unruly passenger behavior as of Feb. 15, 2022. For the week ending Jan. 30, 2022, there were approximately six incidents for every 10K flights. These numbers are fewer than those in 2021.
Brookline resident Keely Chisholm, 26, spent the weekend attending an anime convention in Washington, D.C. Chisholm traveled from Logan Airport and did not encounter any issues.
“I’ve been on a plane three times since the pandemic and each trip was mostly uneventful,” wrote Chisholm in an email. “No one on my flights ever made a scene about having to wear masks, and if a flight attendant had to remind someone to pull theirs up, they did so without complaint.”