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 September's Top 5 (most clicked by Ovation clients) e-newsletter stories.
1. AMERICAN, DELTA AND UNITED PERMANENTLY ELIMINATE DOMESTIC CHANGE FEES
American, Delta and United have all announced that they are permanently getting rid of change fees on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for domestic travel, effective immediately. The new policies do not cover any of the three airlines' basic economy tickets. While all three airlines have said the elimination of change fees includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, American's change also covers flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Please see below for details of each airline's new policies.
Effective immediately, American will eliminate all change fees for First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Main Cabin tickets for all domestic and short-haul international flights (Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands). Basic Economy tickets are excluded from the new policy.
Starting October 1, 2020, all American Airlines customers will have the ability to stand by on flights on the same day as their original departure for the same destination at no charge. This flexibility extends to domestic and international travel, regardless of the ticket purchased.
In addition, American is also providing customers additional flexibility by extending its offer to waive change fees for customers booking tickets for any new travel purchased by December 31, 2020. This offer applies to tickets that meet the following criteria:
- Any First, Business, Premium Economy, Main Cabin or Basic Economy ticket purchased on or before December 31, 2020, for future travel will not incur change fees prior to travel. Customers must pay any fare difference, if applicable, and fare rules may apply depending on the ticket.
- All AAdvantage® award tickets are included in this offer.
- Customers are allowed to change their origin and destination cities as part of this offer.
Delta Air Lines
Effective immediately, Delta's elimination of change fees includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in Delta’s First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, with the exception of Basic Economy tickets.
Additionally, Delta will extend its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year and will extend its expiration on travel credits through December 2022 for tickets booked before April 17, 2020.
For more details, please visit https://news.delta.com/building-its-demonstrated-commitment-flexibility-customers-delta-eliminates-change-fees.
United Airlines has eliminated change fees for tickets purchased on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. There is no limit to the number of changes made per flight, but customers must still pay any fare difference. Basic Economy tickets are excluded, as changes to those tickets have never been allowed except during COVID-19 or within 24 hours of ticket purchase. International flights, which carry higher change fees, are also excluded. The change fees on international flights vary by destination.
United also said it would extend its waiver for new tickets issued through December 31, 2020, permitting unlimited changes with no fee. The change will apply to all ticket types purchased after March 3, 2020, and is valid for domestic and international travel. For previously booked tickets, original change fees will apply.
Additionally, beginning January 1, 2021, any United customer can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service, while MileagePlus Premier members can confirm a seat on a different flight on the same day with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket if a seat in the same ticket fare class is available.
For more details, please visit https://hub.united.com/2020-08-30-united-airlines-permanently-eliminates-change-fees-2647406401.html.
2. FACE COVERINGS ON FLIGHTS "CRITICALLY IMPORTANT" TO PREVENT COVID-19 SPREAD, HARVARD STUDY FINDS
A new report from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that without a vaccine, the use of face coverings is “one of the most pragmatic and effective options” for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in an aircraft – as long as every single traveler is masked up, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. “Universal use is key,” the report said. “A recent modeling study suggests that the universal use of surgical masks in the setting of ventilation rates of aircraft may reduce infection risk from respiratory particles to less than 1 percent.” (Surgical masks are those lightweight, papery pale blue ones with horizontal pleats, commonly handed out by airlines and stores to customers who didn’t bring their own). The researchers note that earlier research conducted before the airlines adopted universal face covering policies estimated an infection risk of 3.69%, although they note that some individuals may have picked up the virus before or after their flight. "The use of face masks is critically important throughout the air travel process, from entering the airport for departure to leaving the destination airport, because it diminishes the release of infectious particles into the environment,” the report said.
One state was added to the Tri-State Travel Advisory that requires travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days, while two states have been removed this week, reports ABC 7 New York. Colorado now meets the metrics for the quarantine, which applies to any person arriving from an area with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or an area with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average. Meanwhile, Arizona and Virginia were removed, leaving 32 states and two territories. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut update the quarantine list every Tuesday, as states are added and removed based on the average daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
On Tuesday, September 8th, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reopened Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers to the public. The reopening plans were developed in consultation with CBP health and safety experts and include measures to minimize the risk of exposing travelers and CBP personnel to COVID-19. As of September 8th, conditionally approved Global Entry applicants are able to complete in-person interviews at most Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers in the United States. These applicants must schedule enrollment center interviews in advance by logging into their account on the Trusted Traveler Programs website. Interview availability will vary by location. Due to the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel at US land borders, NEXUS and US-Canada FAST interviews at US and Canadian enrollment centers will remain suspended until further notice. SENTRI and FAST-South enrollments on the southern border may also be limited.
Additionally, CBP has introduced new measures at enrollment centers to promote social distancing and protect the health and safety of travelers. CBP personnel at enrollment centers are now required to wear agency-approved masks when interacting with the public. All applicants and visitors at enrollment centers are required to wear face masks consistent with CDC recommendations and state and local mandates. In addition to the new face mask requirements, applicants who visit enrollment centers may observe:
- Staggered or reduced appointment availability
- The elimination of sign-in sheets and certain other touch points
- Limited seating in waiting areas
- More frequent disinfection of the service counters
- Plexiglass barriers and/or facial shields at service counters
- Other measures to promote social distancing
Specific health and safety measures may vary among enrollment centers based upon the physical layout of the facility and other considerations. CBP says that it will continue to require all Trusted Traveler Programs applicants submit fingerprints during their interview to complete the enrollment process.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ended health screenings for arriving international travelers, reports Travel Weekly. The screenings, which were put into effect during the early months of COVID-19, had routed arriving travelers from the UK; Ireland and most of the EU; Brazil and China to 15 designated US airports. The CDC ended the screenings on Monday, September 14th. The US continues to prohibit most entry from the UK, most continental European nations, China, Brazil, Ireland and Iran, although exceptions are in place for permanent residents and US citizens. "We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening or only mild symptoms," the CDC said in a press release. "Transmission of the virus may occur from passengers who have no symptoms or who have not yet developed symptoms of infection." The CDC said it will replace the screenings with a variety of mitigation strategies, including health education for travelers, robust illness response at airports and voluntary electronic collection of traveler information.