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COVID Testing Requirements Keep Holiday Travelers Stalled at SFO

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KPIX) -- Travelers trying to get out of San Francisco International Airport Sunday faced more challenges related to COVID-19 as the holiday weekend came to an end: cancellations by airlines and limited testing availability.

"My flight out tomorrow is at 6 a.m. and this will be closed until 8 a.m.," said Jordan Simon, standing in line to get a COVID test at SFO. "I think it's a terrible line, I think it's a terrible line for sure. From up there it says if you're here, it's a three-hour wait. So this is like a five-hour line."

Simon showed up the day before his flight to southeast Asia because he wasn't sure he could get a test before his flight on Monday. The airport offers walk-up testing in the international terminal but warned some people in the afternoon they would be unable to take a test before day's end.

"It's stressful, absolutely stressful. We're just trying to take it as it comes and that's all you can do," said Sandra Brown, who planned to travel to Vancouver, Canada with her family on Sunday. "We've already had to re-book once today because our flight was canceled so I don't know what the availability would be to re-book for tomorrow because it's just a cascading backup of delays."

Testing requirements affected the entire family at the airport, even those young enough to avoid the requirement waited while their relatives tried to get their COVID-19 result.

"I waiting for my mother to get COVID testing and so is my father and sister and it's pretty harsh waiting for three hours long," said Adhi Esturi. "I really want to go to France but sometimes I don't think it's worth it."

Others traveling to international destinations Sunday said they tried to get a test in advance only to learn their result was not valid and needed another test at the airport.

Passengers waiting for the chance to get tested said they were already prepared for their trip to be delayed again if they did not get through in time. It was not worth it for some of these passengers. For others it was the price they had to pay to be with family this holiday season.

"I will have to re-book, I assume, I don't know. We'll have to figure it out," Sandra Brown told KPIX.

Over at the domestic terminals, it was a lot quieter without many lines. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights on Sunday across the country, once again impacting travelers around Christmas as the Omicron variant forced employees to miss shifts. Short-staffed flights kept planes from taking off on time for multiple days last week. There were only a handful of cancellations listed at SFO on Sunday.

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