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Winter spring fare deals, Hawaii, COVID passports + more travel news

In this week’s TravelSkills on SFGATE newsletter…

With airlines desperate for cash, this year’s round of Cyber Monday fare deals, good through Thursday, are definitely worth a look, even if you are uneasy about traveling in the current pandemic-plagued environment. Why? Because deals like this won’t be around once a vaccination rolls out, quarantine restrictions dissolve, travelers release pent up demand and fares increase. Read: Fare deals flourish for winter trips to LA, Hawaii, NYC

Joshua Colby Council, 44, was boarding Delta flight 1362 to San Francisco from SLC at about 11 p.m. when he disregarded the gate agent’s order to put on a mask before he got on the aircraft, police said. Salt Lake County sheriff’s records identify him as a resident of San Francisco. Once he took his seat, other crew members, including the captain as well and a Delta manager, insisted that he wear a mask, which he consistently refused to do “for unknown reasons,” according to the police booking report. Read: San Francisco man arrested for refusing to wear a mask on Delta flight

In this week’s route news roundup, Kauai opts out of Hawaii’s pre-testing program, San Francisco International has a new “touchless” option for its parking garages, and also introduces COVID testing for Cathay Pacific; Hawaiian Airlines adds more mainland testing sites; CDC has new testing guidelines for international travel and warns against trips to Mexico; Delta finds a way around Italy’s mandatory quarantine; Air India will add a new San Francisco route; Alaska Airlines bets on the 737 Max for fleet renewal; JetBlue will still fly to London but not to Heathrow; the Delta/WestJet joint venture is scrapped; American Express reopens its Phoenix Centurion Lounge; and United gets some new gates at Denver International. Read: Routes: Kauai shuts down, New route to India, COVID updates, Mexico warning, more

As more governments turn to mandatory COVID-19 testing for travelers in place of mandatory 14-day quarantines after arrival, the world’s airlines are developing a digital health passport that will collect and standardize coronavirus-related passenger data for border crossings and could jump-start international travel once it is widely used. Eventually, the current proof of negative test results prior to travel could be supplanted by proof of vaccination. Read: Airlines’ new ‘health passport’ could revive international travel

Last week, on-airport COVID-19 facilities at both Oakland and San Francisco International Airports were sold out. There were no advance reservation slots until later in December nor was walk-up, day-of-travel testing available for the busiest week for air travel since the pandemic began in March. If you are planning on using the on-airport testing options, be sure to plan ahead and not rely on getting a walk-in appointment. Read: COVID-19 testing at SFO, Oakland airport is sold out


For the first time in more than two centuries, the people were gone. Hanauma Bay, a stunning body of water that formed within a volcanic crater, is approximately 15 minutes from Waikiki. Its natural glory makes it one of Hawaii’s top tourist attractions. Busloads of island visitors converged on the bay to glimpse its wonders. Read: How a lockdown saved Hanauma Bay, one of Hawaii’s natural treasures

Feel like getting away from it all? Hawaii has launched a campaign to attract former residents and those from elsewhere to set up remote offices with a view. They’re touting Hawaii’s paradisiacal and safety attributes: among the lowest rates per capita of COVID-19 infections in the country. The first 50 applicants approved starting last Sunday receive a free, roundtrip ticket to Honolulu. Applicants pledge to respect Hawaii’s culture and natural resources and participants must commit several hours a week to helping a local nonprofit. Read: Hawaii seeks to be seen as a remote workplace with a view

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I recently sat down virtually with Jared Kamrowski, the energetic and informed founder of one of my favorite airfare deal-finding sites and newsletters, ThriftyTraveler.com. Take a read through our lively, advice-laden conversation to learn about the airfare outlook for the holidays, spring break and next summer; “crazy good” fare deals;  how a COVID-19 vaccination will impact 2021 trips to Europe or Hawaii and lots more. Read: Expert advice on the near future of cheap travel

After years of expansion, airline growth at San Francisco International Airport hit a dry spell this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on air travel. That’ll end next month when Qatar Airways operates its first regularly scheduled flights to SFO — the only international airline to launch a new flight to SFO in 2020.  Come take a look inside the two-class A350 jet we toured in Los Angeles last week to see the double beds and private suites onboard! Read: Qatar Airways to bring ‘private living room’ suites to SFO next month

Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. Email: [email protected] Get up-to-the-minute travel news via Chris’s social feeds: Twitter: @cjmcginnis | Facebook: @TravelSkills

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