Holiday travel surges at local airports despite spike in COVID cases

Coronavirus Update New Jersey
NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Despite a surge in COVID cases, more people are traveling this year during the holiday season and airlines are urging travelers to arrive early.

Two soldiers landing at Newark Liberty International Airport say their commanding officer gave strict orders to the troops before flying home for the holidays.

"They said that we need to be using the mask, just have all the precautions that we should be doing," U.S. Army specialist Erica Robles said.

Mask use is required by law and enforced in airports and on planes. But the skies are open. United Airlines says domestic flights did not see a surge in domestic cancellations as the COVID cases increased.

"We are averaging over 4,000 flights a day and filling those airplanes up, we anticipate over 8 million people flying with United Airlines between now and the end of the holiday travel period through January 3rd," United Airlines Vice President of Operations Rodney Cox said.

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Sonia Rincon reports on the rise in COVID cases in New York City from Times Square.

Fifty thousand passengers will move through United's hub in Terminal C on Thursday alone.

The airline's VP of operations reminds travelers to arrive at least two hours early, and three hours early if you're flying out of the country.

Using the Travel Ready app to upload vaccination requirements and fill out necessary forms will also save a lot of time.

Passengers flying United out of Newark can use the bag drop shortcut installed mid-month to make check-in quicker for customers.

"We are trying to make it hassle free, we're trying to make it really easy for people to travel," Cox said.

Former New Yorkers flying home to Dallas, Robert Merrill and his wife Jenny, paid for bags and uploaded boarding passes to avoid the wait among a crowd.

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The holiday travel rush has begun just as New York set a new single-day record for positive COVID cases, two days in a row.

"It just makes it easier too when you can do it yourself, I don't like lines," Merrill's wife Jenny said.

Plus, the couple feels like they dodged a bullet attending Broadway's 'To kill a mockingbird,' which didn't get COVID cancelled Sunday night while a slew of other shows did.

With the infection rates going up, they'll stay grounded after this trip.

"The discussion was after this trip, probably not a lot of traveling for the next couple of months," Robert Merrill said.

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