The state of New York is unwinding quarantine requirements for domestic travelers. From April 1, domestic travelers entering New York will no longer need to quarantine. The relaxation of the rules comes as the COVID-19 vaccination program continues to roll out and infection rates across New York state decline.
Quarantine rule lifted as domestic air traffic at New York’s airports continues to suffer
To date, arrivals into New York state from non-neighboring states must quarantine for three days after arrival. Included in the quarantine regime are several COVID-19 tests. New York state health authorities continue to recommend quarantining after arrival, but from April it will no longer be mandatory for domestic arrivals.
“As we work to build our vaccination infrastructure even further and get more shots in arms, we’re making significant progress in winning the footrace between the infection rate and the vaccination rate, allowing us to open new sectors of our economy and start our transition to a new normal in a post-pandemic world,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement.
“As part of that transition, quarantine for domestic travelers is no longer required, but it is still being advised as an added precaution.”
The policy shift cannot come quickly enough for New York’s Port Authority, operators of John F Kennedy, Newark, LaGuardia, and Stewart Airports. Their most recent published data runs to November 30, 2020. In the 12 months to November 30, domestic flights to the Port Authority’s airports fell 50% to 467,731. Domestic passenger numbers across the same period fell 61.7% to 34,113,445. The Port Authority lost about US$3 billion in revenue last year because of the travel downturn.
Nobody really knows when this will end, say’s United’s CEO
In terms of capacity, the United States domestic airline market remains the world’s second-biggest according to the most recent OAG data. But capacity is down 43% on this time last year. United States-based airlines are also operating substantially lower capacities than just a couple of months ago.
In February, Southwest Airlines operated 14% fewer flights than it did in January. American Airlines reduced its flights by 9.4% in February, Delta Air Lines cut its flights by 9.6%, and United Airlines trimmed services by 6.5%.
“Nobody, including us, has a crystal ball on how soon this will be over,” says United’s CEO Scott Kirby. “Whether the demand inflection point happens this spring, summer, or even the fall, we know that the recovery is coming.”
In the 12 months to November 30, United Airlines was the biggest user of the Port Authority’s Airports, with a domestic market share of 28.6%. Hot on its heels was Delta Air Lines, with a 26.8% market share. In the third spot was JetBlue (16%), followed by American Airlines (15.8%), Spirit Airlines (4.8%), Southwest Airlines (3.3%), Alaska Airlines (2.5%), and Frontier Airlines (1.6%).
Not quite business as usual for travelers to New York
The relaxation in quarantine requirements may see United States-based airlines ramp up their domestic services into New York. That will boost passenger traffic and revenue at the Port Authority’s airports. But it’s not quite business as usual.
Bypassing quarantine requirements apply only to domestic travelers, not international travelers. Further, New York’s health authorities still require self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after arrival. The health authorities still require everyone in New York to practice social distancing, good hygiene, and adhere to mask-wearing rules.
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