The discovery of the Omigron variant comes at a subtle moment for an aviation industry that is beginning to see a resurgence.
The question is whether the new corona virus variant will deter travelers, just as the Delta variant did this summer.
Many countries, including the United States, have banned people from coming to South Africa and a few neighboring countries. Morocco has banned all flights arriving for two weeks, the Philippines has banned arrivals from South Africa and several European countries, and Israel has closed its borders to all foreign visitors for 14 days.
International travel recovery is slower than it was in the United States. President Biden’s decision this month to ease long-term restrictions on foreign travelers promised to trigger that resurgence. It is not yet clear how the Omicron variation will affect travel demand, but as travel barriers grow and concerns about diversity continue to spread, hopes for accelerated international regeneration will once again crumble.
Only two US carriers, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, fly from South Africa. Both have said they do not yet plan to adjust their schedule in response to the administration’s ban coming into effect on Monday, which does not apply to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Delta operates three weekly flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg. United operates five flights a week between Newark and Johannesburg, and it has not changed its plan to resume flights between Newark and Cape Town on Wednesday. None of the countries that have announced new travel restrictions are major sources of trade for U.S. carriers.
No major American airline has announced significant changes in practices due to variation. All travelers flying to the United States must provide evidence of a negative corona virus test, and non-citizens must be fully vaccinated.
In the United States, air travel has almost recovered, although many businesses are wary of sending employees on work trips. According to the Traffic Safety Administration, the number of people screened at airport security checkpoints last week was only 10 percent lower than the same week in 2019. The industry has successfully dealt with passenger attraction, with the exception of several days of disruption in some airlines in recent months.