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TSA Extends Face Mask Requirements Through September




The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) yesterday shared that it is extending its requirement for travelers to wear face masks across its United States network until September 13th. As a result, passengers must wear masks on commercial aircraft, and across the group’s network of airports, buses, and rail systems.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport American Airlines A320
Passengers in the US will still be required to wear masks. Photo: Getty Images

A national requirement

US president Joe Biden signed an executive order on January 20th, making it mandatory to wear face masks while traveling interstate on public transportation by air, land or sea.

TSA then shared that it would issue fines for those that don’t adopt masks at airport security checkpoints and throughout its network. It began to suggest fines from $250 for the first offense, and after that, repeat offenders would have to pay up to $1,500. These fines are set to continue under the extension.

Darby LaJoye, the senior official performing the duties of the TSA administrator spoke about this week’s update. Ultimately, officials state that in the present climate, masks and vaccines will go hand in hand in the fight against coronavirus.

“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” LaJoye shared in a statement.

“Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.”


TSA Mask Notification
The current TSA mask requirement began on February 1st and was set to end on May 11th, but this has now been extended. Photo: TSA

Across the industry

Mask wearing has been a policy for major airlines across the US since the rise of the pandemic. However, there wasn’t an official government mandate until the turn of this year. There have been several inflight incidents surrounding masks. Flights have been forced to divert and over 2,500 passengers had been banned by airlines due to non-compliance up until January.

Conflict surrounding masks are still ongoing. Just this week, Alaska Airlines banned Senator Lora Reinbold after videos were shown on social media of her disputing with staff about the operator’s mask policy.


American Airlines Mask
There are still exceptions for passengers under the age of two and travelers with certain disabilities. Photo: Getty Images

Overall, penalties for non-compliance can be heavy. In March, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a $14,500 civil penalty against a JetBlue passenger for allegedly interfering with crew members who instructed the passenger to adopt a mask and stop consuming alcohol that he carried onto the aircraft.

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The challenge continues

Those in the US that are vaccinated are no longer required to to wear masks outside if they’re walking, running, hiking or biking. However, they must still adopt one if attending crowded outdoor events such as parades and sporting events.

New virus cases are relatively low in the US at the moment. However, the pandemic has shown that things can change rapidly, and the situation is still significantly difficult in several areas around the world. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that mask requirements are still in place for public travel.

What are your thoughts about TSA’s mask requirement? Do you feel that this is a good move? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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Live: Queensland shuts to 7 NSW LGAs, more border closures expected



NEW RUNWAY @ BNE OPENS - VH-YFW - 1272020 737800 (Craig Murray)
A Virgin Australia 737-800 becomes the first commercial flight out of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, VH-YFW on 12/7/2020 (Craig Murray)

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced her state’s border will shut to seven additional New South Wales local government areas, as the Bondi cluster grew by 16 cases overnight.

The new rules, which come into effect as of 1:00am on Thursday, include travellers from Sydney City, Bayside, Woollahra, Canada Bay, Inner West and Randwick, along with the previously-declared hotspot of Waverley Council.

It comes as NSW braces itself for more states to strengthening their entry requirements or close their borders after Premier Gladys Berejiklian introduced some of the strictest COVID restrictions since the initial lockdown last year. Late on Tuesday, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton Sutton declared seven Sydney local government areas red zones, effectively banning them from entering, joining similar action from the NT.

Sydney’s Bondi cluster now stands at a total of 31 cases.

Those who have visited a COVID-19 hotspot in the last 14 days will be refused entry to Queensland, or otherwise require an exemption to enter the state.

Meanwhile, returning Queenslanders who have been in a hotspot will be required to under go mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.


Palaszczuk said the decision to shut the border to thousands of Sydneysiders was made over “serious concerns” surrounding the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, which is currently spreading in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

‘We can’t afford to have this variant out,” she said.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young again warned Queenslanders against travelling to Greater Sydney or Wollongong during the upcoming school holiday period.

“At the start of this pandemic, I spoke about 15 minutes of close contact being a concern – now it looks like it’s five or 10 seconds,” Dr Young said.

“​​​​​We’re seeing very fleeting contact leading to transmission… the risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago.”

On Tuesday night, Victoria said those entering from seven municipalities of NSW would be sent into hotel quarantine if they didn’t have a permit. The NT also declared the Woollahra and Waverley LGAs Covid-19 hotspots, meaning visitors from there will need to go into quarantine for 14 days from Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, New Zealand announced it will pause the trans-Tasman bubble to NSW for the second time on Tuesday night for three days.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that while the risk to health remains low, there were still “several unknowns” that led to the country taking a “precautionary approach”.

The news comes just one day after both Queensland and South Australia announced they would open their borders to Greater Melbourne ahead of the school holidays after Victoria on Tuesday recorded its sixth consecutive day with one or fewer local COVID cases.

Despite it being just 10 days since the state last reported an ‘unlinked’ case of community transmission, Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Sunshine State will lift its border restrictions on greater Melbourne from 1am on Friday.

“That is great news for people there,” Premier Palaszczuk said, “I know there are a lot of people that would have had their holidays booked to Queensland.”

The news marks a quiet end to Queensland’s previous contentious policy that specified it would only ease border restrictions following 28 days of no unlinked cases via community transmission.

The 28-day policy previously caused strife between Premier Palaszczuk and her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian, during Sydney’s second wave of infections.

Victoria has seen just 10 days since its last unlinked case of community transmission, which health authorities believe likely occurred in a shared facility within a low-rise townhouse and apartment complex in the City of Melbourne.

Meanwhile, South Australia has also announced it will ease border restrictions on travellers from greater Melbourne from 12:01am on Friday, however will still require those travelling from the Victorian capital to undergo a COVID-19 test after entering SA and isolate until they receive a negative result.

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Another FAA Smackdown: More Fines For Misbehaving Passengers



The United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has just proposed another round of fines for poorly behaved airline passengers. Eight new airline passengers are in the regulator’s sights, with proposed fines ranging from US$9,000 to $22,000.

The FAA has just announced another round of proposed fines following more bad passenger behavior. Photo” Don Wilson/Sea-Tac Airport

The second round of FAA fines in a week

Only a week ago, the FAA shamed four passengers with $43,800 in fines relating to misconduct that occurred in February. As part of its campaign to crack down on bad inflight behavior, on Tuesday the FAA added to the growing rollcall. The regulator says the latest offenses range from assaulting flight crew, drinking alcohol brought aboard the plane, and refusing to wear facemasks.

In one of the latest cases, a Southwest Airlines passenger flying to Albuquerque (ABQ) on February 22 repeatedly refused to wear a face mask before boarding and after boarding, causing the aircraft to return to the gate. A Southwest Airlines supervisor then boarded the flight to escort the male passenger off the flight. He threw his mask at the supervisor, hit him on the jaw, and continued to refuse the wear the face mask. Police subsequently intervened. The FAA wants to fine the man $21,000.

In another instance, a passenger on a SkyWest Airlines flight from Phoenix (PHX) to Hermosillo (HMO) became agitated when the plane returned to Phoenix due to bad weather. The passenger began hitting the ceiling of the aircraft. When a flight attendant intervened, the passenger demanded crew names and employee numbers. He also began filming a female flight attendant, forcing her to switch workstations. Other passengers were put on standby to assist if the passenger’s behavior deteriorated further. It did, but not until the flight landed. The passenger then struck a neighboring passenger. Police were called. The FAA wants to fine this gentleman $19,000.

In one example of bad behavior, a creepy Skywest passenger began filming a female flight attendant. Photo: Skywest Airlines

Female Endeavor Airlines passenger faces a $14,000 fine

Simple Flying searched the list of the eight latest miscreants for a badly behaved female passenger in the interests of equal opportunity. But only one female passenger made the list of FAA shame. On an Endeavor Airlines flight to Portland (PWM), a female passenger was also not abiding by face mask rules. Further, while the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign was illuminated, she unbuckled and stood up. The pilots alerted the police, who met the plane on arrival. The FAA wants to fine this lady $14,000.

The FAA doesn’t name passengers they propose fining. But the regulator says it is adopting a zero-tolerance position on bad inflight behavior or failure to obey crew instructions. So far this year, the FAA has proposed $563,800 in fines against unruly passengers. They say they’ve received around 3,100 reports of unruly behavior from airlines. Around 75% of the reports relate to facemasks.

A coalition of ten airline industry groups is calling for tougher action against bad inflight behavior. Photo: Don Wilson/Sea-Tac Airport

Airline industry groups call for criminal prosecutions

A group of ten organizations, ranging from Airlines for America to pilot and flight attendant unions, have written to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for criminal instead of civil prosecutions.

In the letter dated June 21, the signatories ask Garland to do more to deter the more “egregious” types of inflight misbehavior.

“The federal government should send a strong and consistent message through criminal enforcement that compliance with federal law and upholding aviation safety are of paramount importance,” the letter says.

The group argues the US Government already has the power to do this. Section 46504 of Title 49 of the US Code prohibits the assault or intimidation of a flight crewmember or flight attendant that interferes with the performance of a crewmember’s duties or lessens the ability of the crewmember to perform those duties. With a maximum penalty of 20 years already in place, the letter suggests a few criminal prosecutions might focus attention on the issue. And no more hiding behind the FAA’s veil of anonymity.

“Making these prosecutions public will put a spotlight on the serious consequences when breaking the law and will act as an effective deterrent against future onboard disruptions.”

What do you think? Would the threat of criminal prosecutions and jail time rein in the spate of bad passenger behavior? Post a comment and let us know.

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Icelandair Is Coming To Baltimore Using A Boeing 737 MAX



There is some very good news for passengers flying out of Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) in Maryland. Starting in 2022, Icelandair will fly a Boeing 737 MAX 8 to the airport from its hub at Keflavík International Airport (KEF) in Reykjavík, Iceland. This new service comes as BWI sees travelers return and flexes its muscles as a major airport in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. metro area.

Icelandair 737 MAX
Icelandair is coming to BWI from May 2022. Photo: Boeing

Icelandair is coming to BWI

Starting on May 13th, 2022, Icelandair will launch flights between BWI and KEF. Utilizing a Boeing 737 MAX 8, flights will run four times per week.

Flights are scheduled to depart BWI at 20:30 and arrive in KEF the next morning at 06:25. This flight is blocked at five hours and 55 minutes. Flights to Maryland depart KEF at 17:10 and arrive at BWI at 19:30. This flight is blocked at six hours and 20 minutes. All times are local.

The route spans just over 2,700 miles (~4400 km). Rendering created at Great Circle Mapper

Icelandair will fly to BWI’s Concourse E. This is where the airport handles international arrivals. Icelandair will be the only carrier flying nonstop between Baltimore and Iceland. The route will start just in time for the busy summer travel season.

Governor Larry Hogan stated the following on the new link:

“As Maryland continues to recover from the global pandemic, we welcome new opportunities for international tourism and trade. This additional service connecting Maryland to Iceland – and beyond – is a positive sign for the economy here and abroad.”

Icelandair MAX
Icelandair will be the only airline flying from BWI to KEF. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, Bogi Nils Bogason, CEO of Icelandair, stated the following:

“Iceland is now open to all vaccinated U.S. passengers, and Europe is beginning to open their borders, as well. We are pleased to return to Baltimore/Washington International Airport with nonstop flights to Iceland and beyond. Our return shows the promising future of air travel and our commitment to better serve the Baltimore-Washington area. We look forward to offering travelers more options when traveling to Europe and welcoming BWI aboard again.”

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About the aircraft

Icelandair flies both the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9. The MAX 8 will run flights to Baltimore and is outfitted with room for 160 passengers onboard.

Icelandair MAx
Icelandair will fly a Boeing 737 MAX 8 to Baltimore. Photo: BWI Airport

At the front of the plane, there are 16 recliner-style business class seats. This cabin is branded as “Saga Premium” and is outfitted in a 2-2 configuration. Behind this are 144 economy class seats in a 3-3 configuration.

Icelandair advertises a seat pitch of 40″ in business class, with 20.5″ wide seats. In economy, Icelandair’s MAX 8s have 31-32″ of pitch, and seats are 17.2″ wide. This is pretty standard for narrowbody aircraft.

The good news for passengers is that Icelandair offers on-demand seatback entertainment at every seat. Passengers will also find power in the form of outlets and USB ports onboard to charge their devices before landing.

The route

This is not the first time Icelandair has served Baltimore to Reykjavik. The airline previously served the airport in 2018 and ended operations in early 2019 during the less busy winter travel season. Given the MAX grounding that hit in March 2019, ahead of the busy summer season, it is not terribly surprising that Icelandair could not bring the route back. With the MAX back in the air and travel coming back, it is clear that Icelandair sees potential at BWI.

Icelandair 757
Icelandair has previously flown to Baltimore, including using a Boeing 757, but now it will come to the airport with a fuel-efficient 737 MAX. Photo: BWI Airport

Icelandair will be able to target Baltimore-area passengers who want to visit Iceland and those who are also looking for a connection onward to Europe. The flight is timed for passengers to be able to catch those connections.

About BWI

Baltimore has had nonstop flights to Europe in the past. British Airways previously operated nonstop from BWI to London-Heathrow (LHR). That flight is currently scheduled to resume in August, though it may be pushed back if the UK does not open.

To Frankfurt (FRA), passengers could previously catch a Condor flight. The airline has not yet indicated when it will return to BWI.

In the Washington D.C.-area, international passengers looking for nonstop options generally turn to Washington-Dulles (IAD). A major hub for United Airlines and many carriers’ preferred airport for serving the Washington D.C. area, BWI sometimes gets overshadowed by Dulles when it comes to international service.

Boeing 737 MAX 8
Between Iceland-bound Marylanders and connecting passengers, this flight should do well for Icelandair. Photo: Boeing

However, BWI is far more convenient for travelers originating in Baltimore than Dulles. The airport also has a history of sustaining long-haul flights, as evidenced by both British Airways and Condor offering services to Europe.

Icelandair does service Dulles and continues to keep Dulles on its schedule, even with BWI service. The airline can likely sustain two services to the Washington D.C. metro area, especially given that it is not adding a lot of capacity with four weekly flights.

Nevertheless, this is good news for travelers returning to the sky. Passenger counts are hitting new highs at BWI as people plan their vacations again and are ready to see the world. Icelandair is hoping to tap into that demand with summer 2022 flying.

At present, Iceland is open for customers who are fully vaccinated or else have proof of a previous COVID-19 infection. Until July 1st, passengers will also have to undergo a test on arrival to KEF. By 2022, more of those travel restrictions are expected to ease.

Are you going to fly Icelandair nonstop between BWI and KEF? Let us know in the comments!

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Emirates’ Airbus A380 Returns To Sydney



Once a dime a dozen at Sydney Airport, an Emirates A380 made a now unusual appearance in Sydney on Tuesday. EK414 is now normally operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, but an Airbus A380-800 was substituted on this flight out of Dubai.

Emirates sent an A380 to Sydney on Saturday. Photo: Emirates

Emirates first A380 flight to Sydney this year

According to flight-tracking website, an Emirates A380-800 registered as A6-EOM departed Dubai (DXB) at 02:27 local time on Tuesday, operating EK414. After 13 and a half hours in the air, the plane touched down in Sydney (SYD) at 21:54 local time on the same day.

After 24 hours on the ground, A6-EOM is due to push back in Sydney at 21:10 local time on Wednesday evening. The Airbus A380 is due to arrive back in Dubai at 05:20 local time on Thursday.

Back in the giddy pre-travel downturn days, Emirates was a big operator at SYD. The airport was one of five Australian airports the airline serviced, often several times a day. Allowing for some seasonal tinkering around the edges, Emirates typically ran four services a day to Sydney, including a couple of A380 services.


Emirates ends A380 flights to Sydney in 2020

The good times came to an abrupt halt last year. Most of Emirates’ A380s were parked. The airline’s global network was trimmed, and frequencies culled. Cities like Sydney saw their A380s swapped out for Boeing 777s. Before everyone stopped flying, SYD was something of an A380 hotspot, with several operators sending their A380s in.

Simple Flying reported Emirates sending an A380 to Sydney last November. We wondered why, later discovering it was a special flight carrying Australian and Indian cricketers. But until last weekend, that appears to be the last time Emirates has sent an A380 to Sydney. data suggests until Saturday’s flight, no EK414 or EK416 services to Sydney this year have been operated by an A380. No A380s have operated return EK415 or EK417 services back to Dubai this year.

Emirates has kept a number of A380s in the air throughout the travel downturn. Photo: Emirates

The Emirates A380 makes a comeback – but not yet in Sydney

Last week, Simple Flying reported the Emirates superjumbo was making somewhat of a comeback. The Dubai-based airline planned to fly 30 of its A380s this northern summer. According to Emirates, the big planes will wing their way to cities in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. But the only city the Emirates A380 is slated to fly to in the Asia-Pacific region was Guangzhou.

Over the last year, Emirates has kept a handful of A380s in the air. Doing so had a dual purpose. There were a few routes where demand remained relatively strong, and bulging cargo holds made flying A380s worthwhile. But there’s also a matter of keeping crews certified and maintaining their minimum hours.

Most A380 operators have small fleets and could walk away from the plane – as several airlines have. But Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the A380, with 119 in its fleet. Walking away from the A380 was never an option in Dubai. Retaining the capability to fly the planes when demand normalizes means flight crews need to stay flight-ready. Keeping some A380s in the air assists this.

Even with strict caps on the numbers of passengers allowed into Australia, there are several reasons why Emirates sent an A380 to Sydney on the weekend. But one scenario we can rule out is a full planeload of passengers

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