Amtrak is stopping daily service to hundreds of stations across the US
Amtrak has estimated that passenger numbers could plummet by 50% over the next year, and ridership has already decreased by 95% during the pandemic. Though some states have started to reopen, passengers have not yet returned.
Historic train station in Flagstaff at sunset ©Nick Fox/Shutterstock
“Due to the long-term impact of COVID-19 on ridership, Amtrak has made the decision to operate with reduced capacity,” the company said in a statement. “Our goal is to restore daily service on these routes as demand warrants, potentially by the summer of 2021.”
The downsizing comes a few months after news that Amtrak saw its largest ever number of riders in 2019 – 32.5 million passengers – and record growth on the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington, DC, to Boston, connecting through Philadelphia and New York City.
California Zephyr train at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles ©Let Go Media/Shutterstock
Amtrak relies on funding from the US government and told Congress in May that it needs almost $1.5 billion in funding to maintain “minimum service levels.” The train operator previously projected that in 2020 it would financially break even for the first time in its 50-year history.
The exact schedules are still being determined, but long-distance routes that will be reduced to a triweekly service include the California Zephyr (Chicago to San Francisco), City of New Orleans (Chicago to New Orleans), Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles), Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle) and the Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles). The Auto Train, which runs between smaller towns near Washington, DC, and Orlando, Florida, will continue to operate a daily service. Frequency will also be cut in the Northeast Corridor.
This article originally ran on our sister site, Lonely Planet.
United Airlines wants to know your health history before you can fly
United is one of the first major US airlines to introduce such measures in the wake of the pandemic. The "health self-assessment" is now part of United's check-in process and consists of a questionnaire called the 'Ready-to-Fly' checklist. All criteria must be met before the passenger can continue successfully check in, otherwise they will have to reschedule their flight. United Airlines ✔@united The next time you check in for a flight you will see a "Ready-to-fly" checklist. Based on recommendations from @ClevelandClinic, the self-assessment is one of many ways our CleanPlus program is prioritizing health and safety during travel. http://united.com/CleanPlus The Ready-to-Fly checklist includes: - A reminder you must wear a face mask while on board- A list of common COVID-19 symptoms, and a declaration that you have not experienced them in the last 14 days- You have not been denied boarding by another airline due to a medical screening in the last 14 days- You have not had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days The checklist was based on recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). It can be done online or at a check-in desk at the airport with a United Airlines agent. Frontier Airlines also requires a similar health acknowledgement from passengers, as well as temperature checks before boarding and the mandatory use of face coverings on flights. The CDC says that travel in general increases the spread of COVID-19 because social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and because "travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces." This article originally appeared on our sister site, Lonely Planet.
Alaska will require travelers to present a negative COVID-19 test
Having taken effect on 6 June, 2020, the order contains mandates such as travelers completing and showing a Traveler Declaration Form – available for download from a related website – at check-in at entry point testing sites at airports and ferry terminals and in the communities at Alaska’s Canadian border crossings. Need to travel during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are some tips to help you stay safe through your journey next time you travel. "Travelers have a few options in regards to testing for COVID-19,” said Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association. According to Leonard, visitors can produce a negative molecular-based test result within 72 hours of their departure to Alaska, or produce the same result within five days of departure and then get a second test when they arrive in Alaska. They would also have to minimize their interactions until the second test results come back negative. “There's also an option to take an initial test upon arrival in the state and self-quarantine until a second test confirms a negative result, but the state gave travelers some flexibility with these choices," said Leonard. Ketchikan, Alaska © sorincolac / Getty ImagesWith accommodations, Leonard noted that visitors who do need to self-quarantine can stay in any type of lodging enabling them to stay physically separated from others. “Travelers also need to remember to check for any additional local city or borough restrictions at their destination, said Leonard. “For example, Anchorage has established additional protocols that minimize in-person interactions." More information can be found on this website.
These laid off flight attendants are retraining to fight coronavirus
It’s not secret that COVID-19 has hit the airline industry hard, causing mass layoffs all around the world. In Sweden and the United Kingdom, laid off flight attendants are using their medical emergency training to help hospitals fight the coronavirus. Heart, ambition and dedication – from our cabin crew in Norway. 💙We proudly announce our initiative to connect SAS cabin crew in Norway with the emerging needs within the healthcare sector during the corona crisis. pic.twitter.com/IIeA6CWpcH— SAS - Scandinavian Airlines (@SAS) April 6, 2020 In Sweden and the UK, flight attendants for Scandinavian Airlines, EasyJet, and Virgin Atlantic typically have first aid training, and they are using it to help perform critical support roles at hospitals that have been established specifically to treat COVID-19 patients. This means they are taking on tasks like changing bedding, making patients comfortable, and other critical support roles. In exchange for their selfless volunteering, they are being offering free meals and accommodations. In Singapore, jobless flight attendants are transitioning to new roles in communities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them are paired with law enforcement or stationed on streets to dissuade public gatherings and encourage people to learn about the virus. Others in Singapore are working in hospitals providing needed assistance to the medical community. In the United States, workers who have been laid off or furloughed and feel called to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic can find volunteer programs in their individual states, or by searching at volunteermatch.org/covid19
The US has issued strict restrictions on passport renewals and applications
The US Department of State has stopped issuing new passports due to public health measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, though there are some exceptions. Passport services in the US have been put on pause as the State Department issues strict restrictions on renewals and new passport applications. As of March 20, the State Department is only issuing passports to customers with a "qualified life-or-death emergency" who need to travel internationally within 72 hours. The measures were introduced following the global travel advisory warning US citizens against leaving the country. Citizens who qualify for an expedited "life-or-death emergency" passport must have a family emergency that requires them to travel outside of the US within 72 hours. Emergencies include serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths affecting a "parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle etc.," according to a statement from the department. Travelers must present proof of the emergency, such as a death certificate, or a signed letter from the hospital or medical professional. Documents must be written in or translated into English. Additionally, travelers must present proof of travel, such as an airline ticket or itinerary. A near-empty O'Hare Airport in Chicago ©Scott Olson/Getty ImagesThose who applied for a new passport or a renewal before March 19 will still have their application processed. Usually, the process takes between two and three weeks but the department advised that significant delays are expected for now. Routine applications or renewal requests that come after March 20 will not receive expedited service. Some passport facilities, such as post offices, clerks of court and libraries, may still be accepting in-person passport applications. Customers are advised to contact their local facility to confirm the status of operations. As of March 25, a few post offices are requiring customers to schedule an online appointment with them ahead of time. The State Department has not yet confirmed when normal passport services will resume. However, it did warn that the "status of our operations may change quickly." Meanwhile, the deadline for American citizens to obtain driver's licenses or state identification cards that are Real ID-compliant in order to travel domestically has been extended until October 1 2021. This article originally ran on our sister site, Lonely Planet.