At Ovation, we remain committed to providing excellent service to our valued clients throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Click the link below to view our travel resources guide which includes traveler health & safety information, interactive risk maps, client communications, travel management best practices, webinar recordings and more regarding COVID-19.
Ovation's weekly client e-newsletter, the Informed Traveler, keeps readers updated on travel industry news and trends.
Following is a recap of March's Top 5 (most clicked by Ovation clients) e-newsletter stories.
1. DIGITAL VACCINE PASSPORT COULD PLAY KEY ROLE IN RESTARTING TRAVEL
As COVID-19 vaccinations increase and travelers begin to feel more confident about flying again, industry groups and governments are developing measures to safely bring back travel to pre-pandemic levels. One solution to ensure safety and compliance for travel is the use of a digital vaccine passport. A digital vaccine passport is digital documentation proving that travelers have met proper COVID-19 requirements before they travel. Digital vaccine passports may include verification that a traveler has recovered from COVID-19, tested negative or is vaccinated, and would streamline the process for travelers to provide such proof should governments require documentation. The passports would be used as standardized validation at airports, country borders and other access points where rules and restrictions are in place.
While a digital vaccine passport could be essential to restarting the travel industry, there are several challenges to overcome. At the moment, there are a handful of different passport technologies currently in development. These versions are being worked on by airlines, industry groups, nonprofits and technology companies. While all of these passports aim to provide some sort of verification for travelers, no unified standards have yet been set in place. Collaboration between all parties working on digital documentation will be key to the success of a digital vaccine passport. Several governments have also been involved in efforts to provide guidance for digital vaccine passports. President Biden issued an executive order directing agencies to assess the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccinations to vaccine cards, also known as "international certificates of vaccination or prophylaxis," and producing a digital version. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) recently proposed a "Digital Green Certificate to facilitate the safe free movement of citizens within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic," according to US News & World Report.
Additionally, concerns about security and equity will need to be addressed. It is critical that personal information is safe, secure, reliable and accessible. At the same time, many travelers around the world may not have easy access to digital passports. Should a digital vaccine passport be put into place for international travel, it would put countries that have less access to vaccines at a disadvantage. There will need to be standardization and availability of additional forms of verification when a digital passport might not be accessible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made travel more complex, but a digital vaccine passport could be a key resource for businesses and individual travelers to safely return to travel. Click "Read More" below for more information about digital vaccine passports published by US News & World Report.
2. TSA SCREENS OVER 1 MILLION TRAVELERS FOR 20TH CONSECUTIVE DAY
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Tuesday that it had surpassed one million screened travelers for 20 days in a row, reports Travel Pulse. According to the TSA’s official website, 1,059,759 travelers passed through security checkpoints at airports across the US on Tuesday, up from the just 146,348 travelers screened on the same day in 2020. Tuesday’s total is still down from 2,026,256 people passing through TSA checkpoints on the same day in 2019. TSA officials said the milestone is “easily the most prolonged travel rebound during the pandemic.” TSA officials previously revealed they had screened 1,543,136 travelers on Monday, 1,373,259 on Sunday and 1,477,841 on Saturday.
3. DELTA TO LIFT BLOCK ON MIDDLE SEATS STARTING MAY 1; EXTEND ALL 2021 NEW TICKETS AND EXPIRING TRAVEL CREDITS THROUGH 2022
Delta Air Lines has announced that it is making more seats available beginning May 1, as the carrier plans on lifting its block on the purchase of middle seats. “During the past year, we transformed our service to ensure [travelers'] health, safety, convenience and comfort during their travels. Now, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and confidence in travel rising, we’re ready to help customers reclaim their lives,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “While Delta’s decision to block middle seats has given many customers a reason to choose Delta over the past year, the signature hospitality of our employees and the experiences they deliver to customers every day have also deepened their trust in our airline... The relationships we’ve built, together with the knowledge that nearly 65 percent of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, are what’s giving us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft, while also introducing new services, products and rewards to support the journey.”
Additionally, Delta is extending the validity of all tickets expiring in 2021 and all tickets purchased in 2021 to expire December 31, 2022. The carrier is also extending its existing change fee waiver for all Basic Economy tickets purchased through April 30, 2021, as well as all tickets that originate outside of North America. Delta has already made changes to permanently remove change fees for premium and Main Cabin tickets for travel originating in North America.
4. US TRAVEL GROUPS PUSH WHITE HOUSE FOR TIMELINE TO RESTART GLOBAL TRAVEL
The US Travel Association (USTA), alongside 26 organizations from the tourism and aviation side, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the US Tour Operators Association, has urged the Biden administration to implement “a risk-based, data-driven roadmap” to lift all remaining international entry bans into the US, reports Skift. Citing recent public health progress, including rapidly advancing US vaccinations and drops in case numbers and hospitalizations, US travel groups requested a full tourism reopening for inbound international visitors by July 4. This would allow visitors from Brazil, China, Europe’s Schengen area, Iran, Ireland, South Africa and the UK to enter the US either with COVID-19 test results or vaccination. According to the USTA, international travel to the US dropped by 81 percent in 2020, amounting to a $146 billion loss for the US economy, plus 1.1 million jobs that could be lost if travel isn’t fully reopened. By allowing inbound travel by July 4, 2021, the tourism group said to the White House that the US would be looking at a $30 billion recovery, as well as 225,000 jobs restored. Based on this data, the travel groups support exempting vaccinated travelers from testing requirements, doing away with quarantines for tested travelers — including an update to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to reflect this change — and developing “uniform Federal principles for COVID-19 health credentials” to verify COVID-19 test results and vaccinations.
5. NEW YORK STATE ANNOUNCES NEW COVID-19 TRAVEL GUIDELINES FOR FULLY VACCINATED TRAVELERS
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that domestic travelers to New York State who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will no longer be required to quarantine or "test out" of quarantine upon arrival in the 90 days following their full vaccination. Beyond the 90 days, travelers would still have to quarantine and test out. This is a relaxation to the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory which required travelers from noncontiguous states and territories to quarantine for ten days upon arrival, or obtain two negative tests within the time period provided in the travel advisory. Governor Cuomo also stated that international travelers arriving in New York must continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel and quarantine guidance, whether or not they are vaccinated. Currently, the CDC requires that all international travelers produce a negative COVID-19 test within three days prior to departure, and recommends that all travelers quarantine for at least ten days upon arrival in the United States, or seven days if they test negative 3-5 days after arrival. New York State requires international travelers from CDC Level 2 or higher countries quarantine for ten days or produce two negative tests.