June 2, 2023


Just Do Travel

Travel agent seeing impact of omicron COVID-19 variant

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — Thanksgiving week was the busiest week at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport since the pandemic began. According to an RDU spokesperson, 246,000 passengers flew through the airport from Monday to Sunday. That’s compared to 103,000 last year. But what’s not clear is how the new omicron COVID-19 variant will impact upcoming travel.


What You Need To Know

The omicron COVID-19 variant was first identified days ago in South Africa

New travel restrictions from South Africa and several other nations began Monday

The variant has already been detected in Britain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Australia and Hong Kong


Andrew Sawyer, a travel consultant for Wilcox Travel, says 60% to 70% of his clients travel for humanitarian reasons, and he’s already having to rework trips.

“A lot of my clients are traveling for humanitarian or missionaries or doing work for good,” Sawyer said. “I helped a family a couple of weeks ago do a trip to a very remote part of India to complete an adoption that they were doing, humanitarian work all over the world.”

After working for several years at RDU, Sawyer is no stranger to rolling with the punches that the pandemic has presented.

“It’s another part of figuring out the pieces,” Sawyer said. “How do we travel safely? How do we accomplish the travel goals that people have? How do we work within the frameworks that are there to keep people safe?”

He learned about the omicron COVID-19 variant on Thanksgiving day.

“The impacts when we came back to the office this morning after a holiday weekend were there. We had trips that had to cancel. We had some folks that were working over the weekend to rebook and reroute people from countries where travel bans have already been re-enacted,” Sawyer said.

Trying to keep tabs on changing regulations for hundreds of countries is complicated to say the least.

“We’ve also had some folks that have had to reroute their trips around certain trips in southern Africa. We’ve also had people that have had to reroute how they get home,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer says it’s more important than ever to read the fine print before you book and check for fees for either re-arranging or cancelling trips.

“Planning trips right now is more complicated than it was pre-pandemic so you really have to do your homework,” Sawyer said. “You need to understand the risk and reward for the trip that you are getting ready to book. You want to look for what the penalties are. So you want to look for how you can make changes, not just are they charging for changes but how do you make the changes?”

“There are a lot of ways you can book travel, but travel agents have the ability to work with you and do things so that you are not sitting on hold for four hours with a different company or that you find yourself lost,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer says if you’re traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to find the U.S. Embassy website for the place you’re traveling to. That site will give you easy to understand travel guidelines when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions.