Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Still Flying Every Day Despite COVID-19

The latest data released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows a significant fall in passengers using flights in the U.S. since President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over coronavirus on March 13—but also that hundreds of thousands of people are still flying.

a group of people standing next to luggage: This file photo shows travelers at the international terminal of the O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on March 15, 2020.

Daily passenger numbers collated by the TSA show that the number of travelers dropped by more than 80 percent—in excess of 1.3 million people—between March 13, when the emergency was declared, and March 23.

The numbers are striking when compared with the same dates last year. From March 13 to March 23 this year, the number of fliers is 63 percent lower than in the same period in 2019.

On every day but one since March 13, the number of airborne travelers has decreased—in some cases by as much as 275,000 people day-on-day. The daily number of travelers has not risen above 2 million since March 8, while last year the number did not fall below 2 million on any March day detailed in the available TSA figures.

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TSA allowing large bottles of hand sanitizer

TSA has nearly quadrupled the size of hand sanitizer
containers it will allow onto aircraft due to the Covid-19 virus.

Passengers can pass through airport screening areas with
hand sanitizer dispensers of up to 12 ounces until further notice. All other
liquids, gels and aerosols continue to be capped at the agency’s standard
3.4-ounce limit. 

Containers larger than 3.4 ounces will need to be screened
separately, adding time to the screening, TSA cautions.

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AmaWaterways Delays Start of Europe Season to April 26, 2020

AmaWaterways has joined numerous other companies in delaying the start of its 2020 European sailing season until April 26. The company also is suspending Mekong River cruises starting March 23.

“With the latest travel warnings and restrictions imposed by the U.S., Canadian and U.K. governments, we must continue to be vigilant in protecting the health of those onboard our ships,” said Rudi Schreiner, president and co-founder of AmaWaterways. “This is not an easy decision, as we know how much our guests were looking forward to their vacations, but we must follow all precautionary measures put in place by governing authorities.”

AmaWaterways has updated its cancellation policy. Guests booked on a cruise that is being canceled can receive a future cruise credit equal to 115 percent of the value of services purchased or can get a full refund. The cruise credit is applicable to all Europe or Mekong River cruise sailings before Dec. 31, 2022.

Additionally, the company said it will fully protect the commission of travel advisors whose clients opt for a cruise credit, as well as pay an additional 10 percent commission on the value of the future booking. Plus, the company will pay full commission on the fare difference, if applicable.

“We understand the immediate implications that these unavoidable travel cancellations are having on our valued travel advisors, who have been the foundation of our family-owned and operated business,” Schreiner said. “We recognize the important role they play in encouraging our guests to rebook. Therefore, paying commission now on the canceled arrangements and again on the future bookings seems very much the right thing to do.”

AmaWaterways executives will conduct a special webinar on March 13 at 10:30 a.m. PST/1:30 p.m. EST. Webinar sign-up is available on the Travel Agent Portal on AmaWaterways’ website. It will be recorded and available for viewing on-demand.

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CBP Officer Accused of Smuggling 40 Pounds of Cocaine

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer has been charged with smuggling close to 40 pounds of cocaine inside of his carry-on luggage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport earlier this year.

Forty-year-old Ivan Van Beverhoudt—who was stationed in the U.S. Virgin Islands and tasked with inspecting flights to prevent the importation of controlled substances—pleaded not guilty on Monday to federal charges relating to the importation of cocaine, possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Van Beverhoudt was traveling from St. Thomas to Baltimore with a stop in Atlanta on January 10 when CBP officers with a K-9 handler and dog began inspecting passengers exiting his flight. The dog alerted officers to Van Beverhoudt’s two carry-on bags and he was escorted to an interview room where he claimed he was on his way to see a doctor in Baltimore.

Inside of the bags, officers discovered a combined 16 packages containing a substance that field-tested positive for cocaine and weighed a total of 17.8 kilograms or 39.2 pounds.

Van Beverhoudt was carrying his U.S. Government-issued weapon at the time, permitting him to bypass normal airport screening as a law enforcement officer “flying while armed.”

“This officer allegedly abused his office to engage in criminal conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak in a statement accompanying a news release from the US Attorney’s Office in Atlanta on Tuesday. “Federal law enforcement officers take an oath to uphold the law. When an officer violates that oath, he or she will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Last year, a Colombian man was arrested at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport after attempting to smuggle 35 pounds of liquid cocaine valued at over $400,000 inside of shampoo bottles contained in his checked luggage.

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Truck Demolishes One of Easter Island’s Sacred Moai Statues

A privately-owned pickup truck has destroyed one of Easter Island’s world-famous archeological treasures, the imposing and mysterious Moai statues. The vehicle, reportedly belonging to a Chilean man, slammed into the ancient stone monument on the morning of March 1, 2020, reported Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio.

Local authorities reportedly believe the collision to have been the result of a brake failure that sent the truck sliding downhill and into the Moai and the platform upon which it stood. No one was inside the truck when it crashed.

Although the destruction is assumed to have proceeded from an accident, the truck’s owner was promptly arrested and charged with damaging a national monument.

In a statement to CNN, Camilo Rapu, president of the Mau Henua community—which is responsible for the care and preservation of the island’s archaeological and historical sites, including the Moai—said, “The damage is incalculable.”

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed island’s mayor, Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa, is reportedly calling for stronger regulations to prevent vehicles from operating in such close proximity to any of the nearly 1000 carved Moai monoliths on the island.

Rapu said that he plans to make an urgent appeal, “to lawmakers and authorities in order to review the legal framework that protects the historical and cultural heritage of native peoples. Let’s not wait for more damage to occur…”

The Moai are not only important historically and archaeologically, but also hold spiritual value for the Rapa Nui, Easter Island’s original inhabitants. “The Moai are sacred structures of religious value for the Rapa Nui people,” Rapu declared. “Furthermore, [the damage of the Moai] is an offense to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archaeology.”

Carved between the 13th and 16th centuries out of basalt rock from an extinct volcano, the purpose of the Moai largely remains a mystery, although it’s supposed that they represent ancestral figures. The Polynesian island, a Chilean territory, is one of the world’s most remote inhabited places, being over 2,000 miles away from mainland Chile, and continues to fascinate archeologists and historians.

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