Southwest Airlines announces they will begin booking flights at full capacity

By Laura Brown
October 22, 2020
Southwest Jet
Courtesy Southwest Airlines
The changes go into effect on Dec. 1, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Southwest Airlines has announced that it will begin booking flights at full capacity, allowing middle seats to be booked. The airline has been leaving middle seats open since the start of the pandemic in March in order to meet social distancing requirements in the wake of COVID-19. 

“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” Southwest CEO Gary C. Kelly said during the carrier's third-quarter report.“Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning December 1, 2020.”

The decision comes after Southwest posted a third quarter net loss of $1.2 billion, with revenues down 68.2% year over year. 

Southwest says that it will alert all passengers if the flight they are scheduled to be on is full, and will continue their policy of no fees to cancel or change flights. 

You can read more about Southwest's COVID-19 response here:

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Hawaii to reopen October 15 with new Covid-19 testing requirements

Last week, Governor David Ige announced that while all visitors are still required to fill out a travel health questionnaire and have their temperatures checked upon arrival, as of October 15, they’ll have the option to show proof of pre-testing instead of having to quarantine for 14 days. Note that only negative test results from “FDA-authorized NAAT Covid-19 tests, processed by a CLIA-certified laboratory” are being accepted and these must have been completed “no earlier than 72 hours prior to their flight arrival in Hawaii.” The Hawaii State Department of Health website specifies CVS and Kaiser Permanente as trusted testing partners, though tests from other sources will be accepted if they meet required testing parameters. Ultimately it’s up to travelers to provide the proper test results to Hawaii health officials. And no, antibody tests will not be accepted. Note that anyone who is unable to show negative test results will be required to quarantine for 14 days or as long as it takes your negative test results to be reported. Testing is not available upon arrival except for travelers with symptoms or temperatures over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Those visiting before the changes go into effect on October 15 will still be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival regardless of which Hawaiian Island you fly into—Oahu, Maui, Kauai or Hawaii Island (the Big Island). As far as inter-island travel is concerned, a mandatory 14-day quarantine is still in effect, except for those who originally arrived on Oahu. It’s not yet clear if this policy will be extended beyond its September 30 end date or if things will change as a result of the October 15 reopening. How to safely visit Hawaii Things change quickly so keep an eye on the Hawaii tourism board’s Safe Travels website for updates and check the Special Alerts and Notices page to make sure your hotel will be open, as many are currently closed. As of July 31, all bars on Oahu are closed, though most restaurants have reopened as per the CDC guidelines for indoor and outdoor eating. Some attractions are open on a limited basis or may want to see proof you’ve quarantined, while others, like the Polynesian Cultural Center, are slated to reopen in 2021. Many of Hawaii’s parks, beaches and trails reopened September 10, though you’re only allowed to go to the beach solo or hike in groups of two unless you’re going with others who are members of your immediate family unit. In the spirit of safety and doing what you can to prevent the spread of Covid-19, here are some social distance activities you can do on each of the main islands. Just remember to wear your mask—over your mouth and nose—stay at least six feet away from anyone outside your group and follow the rules set by each site or attraction you’re visiting. Visit Hawaii’s historic neighborhoods The Hawaiian Islands are home to a number of historic neighborhoods that are great for a socially distanced stroll around town. Oahu: Head to Haleiwa, about an hour’s drive from Waikiki on the North Shore, to see local art galleries, watch the surfers take on some of the best waves in the world and taste local delicacies from one of the many roadside shrimp or food trucks. Kauai: Old Kapa’a Town is a charming spot about a 20-minute drive from Lihue, just above Wailua along the east coast. Grab some shave ice—Hawaii’s version of a snow cone—at Wailua Shave Ice, shop for souvenirs, learn how to play the ukulele at Kamoa Ukulele Company or grab some local grub at the Pono Market. Maui: Learn about the island’s whaling history in Lahaina, once the capital of the Hawaiian Islands and now a town on the National Registry of Historic Places. Keep an eye out for humpback whales if you’re visiting November through May when they migrate, and consider the Pacific Whale Foundation’s eco-friendly whale watching cruise for a closer look at these majestic creatures. Hawaii Island: See why Hawaiian royalty once used Kailua-Kona as their retreat. Pay a visit to Hulihe’e Palace, a museum showcasing artifacts from the days of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani. Stop by the Hilo Farmers Market to pick up some locally grown fruits, veggies and flowers or to shop for souvenirs for loved ones back home. Enjoy the great outdoors, Hawaii style Being outside in Hawaii is a real treat, whether you’re into hiking, cycling, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or horseback riding. Oahu: While iconic Diamond Head State Park is closed, other scenic spots like Waimea Bay Beach Park on the North Shore and the Waahila Ridge Trail in Manoa Valley are open to hikers who social distance. If you have your heart set on horseback riding, Gunstock Ranch in Kahuku is open, while Kualoa Ranch will reopen September 25 with temperature checks, social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing. Maui: The Valley Isle’s legendary Haleakalā National Park is partially reopened, though crater trails and visitor centers remain closed. Bike Maui offers memorable rides down Hawaii’s most impressive dormant volcano and is reopening October 15 with Covid-19 safety measures in place. All bikes, helmets and other gear will be sanitized, while guests are expected to wear masks, social distance, have their temperatures taken and answer health questions before the tour begins. Mākena Beach State Park is now open, but only if you lounge and swim with those in your immediate family group and stay at least six feet away from others. Kauai: Waimea Canyon State Park on Kauai is open, as is Poipu Beach. Feeling adventurous? Try your hand at kayaking or stand up paddle boarding along the mighty Wailua River on the eastern side of the island. Hawaii Island: Hāpuna Beach State Park is open, while Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is mostly reopened at this time, though the Thurston Lava Tube and all visitor centers remain closed until further notice. Hit the links While many of Hawaii’s 75 golf courses are still closed at the moment, some of the most popular ones have remained open, though golfers must adhere to special rules like social distancing and wearing a mask whenever they’re in clubhouses and pro shops. Among other rules specific to each golf course, rental clubs are generally not available and showers and locker rooms are closed until further notice, holes have been modified to allow for fewer touch points and golf carts are sanitized after each use. Single rider golf carts can be rented, though you’re only allowed to share if it’s with one other person from your immediate family—walking is highly encouraged as an alternative. As of this writing, Princeville Makai Golf Club and Poipu Bay on Kauai are open, as are Kapalua Bay Golf Course on Maui, Ko Olina Golf Club and Hawaii Prince Golf Club on Oahu and Mauna Kea Golf Course and Hapuna Golf Courses on Hawaii Island.


New York airports to test passengers for COVID-19

At a news conference this week, governor Andrew Cuomo said the new testing facilities will allow the state "to do faster testing of people coming in," and will be set up by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and NYC Health + Hospitals, the government organization that oversees the city's public hospitals and health clinics. "Our infection rate is low," Cuomo said. "The question is how do you keep it low? How do you make sure you're not getting infected from people coming in from other states where the infection rate is high?" New York was one of the hardest hit states in the first wave of the pandemic but in recent weeks officials have managed to rein in infections due to a careful and phased reopening of the economy and widespread testing. Now the state wants to extend some of those testing capabilities to its borders at the city's airports. Officials have not yet confirmed when the tests will be available, nor have they advised on costs and results' turnaround time, but the system is expected to be in place in the coming weeks. Those arriving in New York from high-risk areas are still required to self-isolate for two weeks and fill out a form before leaving the airport with their local contact information and the address they will be staying at while they quarantine, as New York continues to update its joint travel advisory with New Jersey and Connecticut.


Delta Airlines has banned nearly 250 passengers for not wearing masks

Delta Airlines says that it has banned nearly 250 passengers from flying with the airline for refusing to abide by its mandatory mask policy. Delta has a very strict mask policy, requiring one be worn at all points in flight and across all check-points, including check-in, TSA security and boarding lines. In an internal memo that was shared with CNN, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that "although rare, we continue to put passengers who refuse to follow the required face-covering rules on our no-fly list. As we work toward recovery, it's vital that we continue to stay focused on the drive to provide the safest, cleanest airports, aircraft and workspaces possible." If you choose to fly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC advises wearing a mask in all airport locations.


Costa Rica will open its borders to residents from six US states in September

Tourists from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut will be permitted to enter from September and must present their driver's licence as proof of residence. "We have included the license-plate requirement to minimize the likelihood that someone from a non-authorized state be allowed to enter,” tourism minister Gustavo Segura said. "We are minimizing our epidemiological risk." With wallet-friendly accommodation, adventurous activities and chilled-out beach towns where you can meet likeminded travellers, Costa Rica is the perfect destination for solo travel. Ready to go? Lonely Planet's Solo Travel Handbook is packed with practical tips and ideas for a safe, fun and fearless trip. Travelers from the permitted states will not be required to quarantine upon arrival. However, under enhanced border controls travelers must present a negative PCR COVID-19 test will be mandatory in the 48 hours before the trip. When visitors arrive, they will need to complete an online health form and purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses. Costa Rica began a staggered reopening of its tourism industry on August 1 with travelers from countries that have "controlled the spread of the coronavirus" allowed to enter, which includes visitors from Canada, New Zealand, Japan, the UK, and countries within the EU among others. The US, which accounted for 45% of all international visitors to Costa Rica last year, was not initially included in the list. La Fortuna waterfall, Costa Rica ©Pavel Tvrdy/ShutterstockBut now as the Central American country begins to throw its doors open a little wider, the Costa Rica Tourism Board says that it expects about four flights a week from New York City airports, including John F. Kennedy, Newark and La Guardia. "In these moments, [New York] is one of the states with best control of the pandemic," Segura confirmed. Segura said Costa Rica is monitoring the coronavirus situation in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, and that residents of those states may soon be allowed to visit."We are taking very gradual and carefully analyzed steps in the direction of the revitalization of tourism that is very necessary for the protection of the social progress that Costa Rica has achieved through this industry," he added.