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Thanksgiving Draws Travel to a Pandemic Peak

Airport screenings were elevated this weekend, and some chose to drive rather than fly

Many would-be fliers opted to remain at home or drive. Travelers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Sunday. 

The weekend after Thanksgiving met expectations that it would be the busiest travel period in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic began, aided by clement weather and lower gas prices that encouraged some to drive rather than fly.

Almost 50 million people were expected to have made a journey during the Thanksgiving holidays, said AAA, despite tightening local clampdowns and warnings from federal health officials. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 19 recommended people not travel over Thanksgiving.

The number of travelers from Nov. 25 through Nov. 29 was down more than 10% from a record set last year, according to AAA, which includes flights and road trips of more than 50 miles. Airlines, which boosted capacity earlier in the month only to trim flying when cancellations started to climb in recent weeks, said traveler numbers were in line with their revised expectations.

Excerpt from WSJ
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United Begins Flying Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine


Carriers are positioning doses for quick distribution if vaccines are approved by regulators

The flights are one link in a vast global supply chain being assembled to tackle the logistical challenge of distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL -0.55% on Friday began operating charter flights to position doses of Pfizer Inc.’s PFE 2.90% Covid-19 vaccine for quick distribution if the shots are approved by regulators, according to people familiar with the matter.

The initial flights are one link in a global supply chain being assembled to tackle the logistical challenge of distributing Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer has been laying the groundwork to move quickly if it gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators world-wide.

Pfizer’s distribution plan also includes refrigerated storage sites at the drugmaker’s final-assembly centers in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Puurs, Belgium, and expanding storage capacity at distribution sites in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., and in Karlsruhe, Germany, in addition to dozens of cargo flights and hundreds of truck trips each day.

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Delta, Pilots Strike Deal to Save Jobs

Pilots accept lower pay to prevent over 1,700 furloughs as pandemic roils airline industry

Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots agreed to accept reduced pay in exchange for job security until 2022, as the industry continues to grapple with reduced travel demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta and the union that represents its pilots said Wednesday that the cost-cutting agreement would prevent the more than 1,700 pilot furloughs the carrier had originally planned. Under the agreement, pilots who would have been furloughed will receive pay for 30 hours a month, though they won’t have to fly. Delta would also be able to reduce pilots’ minimum guaranteed work hours by as much as 5%, which results in lower pay, and the company agreed not to carry out furloughs until Jan. 1, 2022.

“Pilots, as long-term stakeholders in our company, have stepped up to the plate once again to help Delta weather this crisis,” said First Officer Chris Riggins, a spokesman for the union that represents Delta’s pilots.

Airlines have had to shrink to match a diminished outlook for travel demand. The global airline industry is forecast to lose $38.7 billion next year even if Covid-19 vaccines and testing help reopen more borders, the International Air Transport Association said earlier this week.

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Boeing 737 MAX Cleared to Fly Again, but Covid-19 Has Sapped Demand

The U.S. on Wednesday approved Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jets for passenger flights again after dual crashes took 346 lives, issuing a set of long-anticipated safety directives and notices to airlines globally that will help resolve the plane maker’s biggest pre-pandemic crisis.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s official order to release the MAX, grounded since March 2019, came as the Chicago aerospace giant grapples with a host of new problems in the midst of the continuing health crisis.

The FAA’s mandate allows Boeing to resume delivering the jets to airlines and lets them carry passengers, pending completion of certain mandatory fixes and additional pilot training requirements spelled out in related documents also released by the agency. U.S. carriers said Wednesday that they would broadly reintroduce the MAX into their schedules starting early next year, while FAA chief Steve Dickson said he expected approvals from some foreign regulators within days.

But the pandemic has sapped demand for air travel, prompting airlines and aircraft-leasing firms to cancel about 10% of Boeing’s outstanding MAX orders this year. Boeing has said it believes hundreds more of its remaining 4,102 orders could be in jeopardy because of the financial health of some customers.

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