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FEATURED STORY

Travel: Post COVID-19

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Cruise ships docked, aircraft grounded, holiday plans cancelled during the pandemic. What does the future hold for travel? Jacqui Gifford, Editor-in-Chief of Travel + Leisure magazine offers her thoughts to Anne-Marie Green and Vladimir Duthiers of CBSN.

Travelers' Thoughts

The U.S. Travel Association has been tracking data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel industry.

They’ve found that since the beginning of March, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over $138 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. travel economy. Four states witnessed losses of over 90%, and Hawaii and Washington, D.C. endured yet another week of declines exceeding 95%.

In the week ending May 2, the travel economy witnessed its first expansion in nine weeks but still registered 88% below last year’s levels (a $19.4 billion loss).

USTA note a glimmer of hope in their May 6 report that national weekly travel spending rose slightly to $2.5 billion last week as select states began easing their lockdown measures.

The Association also cites a weekly survey by Destinations Analysts that shows the vast majority of Americans (71%) miss traveling and can’t wait to get out and travel again.

Other findings in the survey:

 

  • *Most Americans are not prepared to travel by air any time soon, and just 16.5% of respondents were expecting to fly through the end of August
  •  
  • *Travelers expect travel brands to satisfy their needs, and nearly 2-in-3 travelers say that if a travel company doesn’t take health considerations seriously, they are likely to withhold future purchases.
  •  
  • *The proportion of American travelers who say they will not be traveling until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed declined this week—29.8%agree with this sentiment (down from 35.2% last week)
  •  
  • *Travelers value and expect high-tech cleaning protocols on planes and in hotel rooms in addition to other health-related products and procedures (including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, face masks, and health check for employees, as well as mobile check in)
  •  

On May 4, the U.S. travel industry submitted to the White House and governors a document containing detailed guidance for travel-related businesses to help keep their customers and employees safe as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Entitled “Travel in the New Normal,” the document describes vigorous measures the travel industry will follow to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and help to communicate across each and every step of a traveler’s journey. The goal: to allow travel to safely resume as states and municipalities relax physical distancing guidance.

The “Travel in the New Normal” guidance is focused on six main areas, with the document providing specific examples for each:

 

  1. *Travel businesses should adapt operations, modify employee practices and/or redesign public spaces to help protect employees and customers.
  2.  
  3. *Travel businesses should consider implementing touchless solutions, where practical, to limit the opportunity for virus transmission while also enabling a positive travel experience.
  4.  
  5. *Travel businesses should adopt and implement enhanced sanitation procedures specifically designed to combat the transmission of COVID-19.
  6.  
  7. *Travel businesses should promote health screening measures for employees and isolate workers with possible COVID-19 symptoms and provide health resources to customers.
  8.  
  9. *Travel businesses should establish a set of procedures aligned with CDC guidance should an employee test positive for COVID-19.
  10.  
  11. *Travel businesses should follow best practices in food and beverage service to promote health of employees and customers.
  12.  

Click here to read the “Travel in the New Normal” document in its entirety.

 

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RELATED VIDEOS

Traveler Beware

Many travelers are experiencing something of a COVID-19 shockwave when they try to cancel travel plans that were booked before the global pandemic was declared and lockdowns and travel bans put in place.

In most cases, it’s going to come down to the fine print in the Terms and Conditions of travel-related purchases, and in the fine-print of travel insurance policies.

CNBC’s Andrea Day reports on one family’s experience and what travelers need to be aware of when booking trips.

Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/

 

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Impact On Cruise Sector

On this episode of Yahoo Finance Presents, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald spoke with Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi about the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the cruise industry and the future of the company.

Get the latest news: https://yhoo.it/2fGu5Bb

 

 

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Ask The Expert

Forbes Lifestyle and E-commerce reporter Tanya Klich talks to Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, on how the Coronavirus pandemic will shape the future of travel.

Forbes ‘Ask The Expert’ is a 10-20 minute talk show streamed on Instagram Live every weekday at 12:00 PM EST.

Forbes editors will discuss the latest issues surrounding fears, myths, challenges and opportunities our world is facing from this pandemic and offer knowledgeable solutions and commentary.

There will be a variety of guests with varying areas of expertise, and our community will be given the chance to engage via Q+A towards the end of the call.

In addition to Youtube, these videos will also be distributed across Forbes’ social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

More From Forbes: https://forbes.com

 

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HEADLINES

Airlines: DOT Warning

Abled.Travel: Stock photo gof customer service reps wearing headsets and sitting side by side at computers.

If you’ve called an airline you had booked a flight on to cancel and request a refund because of coronavirus issues, but got a runaround, you’re not alone.

Refund Runaround

In a normal month, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) gets about 1,500 complaints and enquiries form airline customers.

In March and April of this year, the phones were ‘ringing off the hooks’ to the tune of over 25,000 complaints with the majority of them about airline refund policies.

Airlines and travelers have been hit hard by travel bans and lockdowns, with both finding themselves in unprecedented territory, especially when it comes to cash flow.

The regulations on ticket refunds in most countries were not designed to deal with the kind of mass cancellations produced by the current pandemic crisis, but travelers , travel advocates and even politicians are not cutting the airlines much slack, especially in the wake of billions of dollars in COVID-19 bailout money flowing their way.

So, it’s no surprise the DOT has issued a second warning to U.S. airlines in the form of an enforcement notice, that they must offer customers cash refunds when flights are canceled or significantly delayed. It also admonishes airlines not to be deceptive or unfair with any refund policy changes and says they must honor the rules that were in place when the airfare was purchased.

Many airlines have been issuing vouchers for future travel instead of cash, but the DOT  says customers have the option to trade-in a voucher for a cash refund if they are owed money back.

And U.S. lawmakers are trying to increase passenger’s rights with the introduction of a bill on Wednesday that would require airlines and travel agencies to offer full cash refunds for all tickets canceled during the coronavirus crisis, regardless of whether it was initiated by the airline or the passenger.

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, one of five Democrat Senators who co-sponsored the bill, says “Congress allocated billions of dollars to airlines to help them stay afloat during this pandemic, but the airlines continue to play games with their customers. Rebooking is impractical for many consumers, especially given the uncertain nature of the future course of the pandemic.”

Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) who introduced the bill, co-sponsored by Murphy, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — said airlines have a “moral obligation” to provide refunds to all passengers in these strange times.

“Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing, and prescriptions, not temporary credits toward future travel,” Markey said in a statement. “In light of this pressing need, and an unprecedented multi-billion dollar bailout, it’s absolutely unconscionable that the airlines won’t give consumers their money back.”

The senators estimate that airlines are holding about $10 billion dollars in travel vouchers that could be converted into cash refunds for American fliers.

The legislation apply retroactively to all tickets for travel on flights on or after March 1, meaning that even passengers who have already received a voucher would be allowed to convert that to a cash refund.

To cover the costs, Markey said airlines would be able to use government bailout money to pay for the refunds, so long as the funds weren’t specifically intended to support airline employee payroll.

 

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Hawaii: Kauai Beaches To Reopen

Abled.Travel: Photo of a beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai with cliffs in the background.

Beaches on the island known as the “Garden Island” will open Friday as part of a two-week test while following CDC guidelines which include social distancing.

Pilot Reopening

In the Hawaiian Islands, most beaches have been open for exercise only in the form of walking, running  or swimming, but not for lying in the sun.

An exception has been the island of Kauai, which will try a test reopening for two weeks. with four caveats for people to follow:

  • *Visitors to the beach should be part of the same household, and not in groups of more than 10 people.
  •  
  • *Anyone on the beach should socially distance themselves from anyone who isn’t a member of their own household, in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
  •  
  • *The sandy areas of beaches are to be closed overnight, only opening 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. Shoreline fishing or other outdoor exercises are exceptions to this restriction.
  •  
  • *All of the other restrictions within Governor David Ige’s “Safer At Home” order are to be followed.
  •  

Kauai Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said, “As we get closer to the end of the two-week pilot we will re-evaluate if we can or should continue this local rule.” The mayor also has signed an emergency rule to extend a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for incoming passengers through the end of June.

The order specifies that those traveling for health care purposes, as long as they wear appropriate protective gear and keep social distance, are exempt from the quarantine. Those traveling to perform critical infrastructure work, as identified in the Governor’s proclamation, are allowed to break quarantine only when performing those essential functions.

“We have taken temporary control over the coronavirus with our aggressive restrictions, and we feel we can begin to ease them in a responsible manner,” Kawakami said in a statement. “That said, the risk of the virus returning is most clearly associated with incoming travelers, whether residents or visitors, so we feel it is necessary to extend the mandatory quarantine.”

 

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Airlines: No Recovery Until 2025

Abled.Travel: Photo of the tail sections of aircraft parked at their respective gates at Tokyo's Narita Airport, showing the logos of Swiss International Air Lines, United Airlines, and Thai Airways International.

The International Air Transport Association says it will take five years for global air traffic to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, and quarantine measures will hurt recovery.

Higher Fares Forecast

The International Air Transport Association, (IATA), has been crunching the numbers on global air traffic forecasts and it’s not a pretty picture.

Their algorithm computes the number of passengers on airlines times the distance flown, and they forecast  that global traffic will still be approximately 10% below original estimates five years from now, and down by 33 to 40% next year from pre-pandemic levels.

IATA says traffic likely won’t return to last year’s levels until 2023.

IATA Director-General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac, the former Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM (2013-2016), also cited a study that found 59% of people surveyed wouldn’t fly while quarantine measures are kept in place for people arriving in countries such as the UK and Spain.

He said, “International travel cannot restart under such conditions”. IATA also forecast airfare increases of 43 to 54% because of social distancing requirements just for carriers to break even.

On his blog, de Juniac also supports the right of airlines to offer vouchers or delayed refunds for canceled flights. Current law requires refunds within 7 days. But de Juniac says, in these unprecedented times, the airlines need time.

“Passengers have the right to get their money. They paid for a service that cannot be delivered. And in normal circumstances, repayment would not be an issue. But these are not normal circumstances. If airlines refund the $35 billion immediately, that will be the end of many airlines. And with that an enormous number of jobs will also disappear. The simple answer is that airlines need time. And that is why I am supporting airlines (and our partners in the travel and tourism sector) in their request for governments to delay the requirement for immediate refunds. We propose vouchers that could be used for future travel or refunded once we are out of this crisis period. This would buy the industry vital time to breathe—surviving the crisis so that they are ready to fly when better days arrive.”

You can read the full post on IATA’s website.

 

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The elderly are most at risk from Coronavirus. But children are affected too. What parents should know. Public service announcement for Unicef USA over a photo of a child washing hands with soap and water. Link to Unicef site.

Cruises: Disney Cancels

Abled.Travel: Photo of the Disney Cruise Lines ship the Disney Wonder floating among ice with mountains in the background in Alaska.

Disney Cruise Lines has canceled all new departures through July 27 as the company follows guidance from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control & Prevention.

Credit Or Refund?

If you had booked a cruise with Disney that’s been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now canceled if it was scheduled before July 27, you’ll have a choice for reimbursement.

Disney Cruise Lines will be notifying guests and travel agents via email and offering the choice of a credit for a future cruise within 15 months, or a refund.

The company originally canceled cruises through the end of May, but says it is following guidance from the CDC to extend that by two months, and encourages guests to refer enquiries to their travel agents.

This affects their four ships, the Disney Dream, the Disney Fantasy, the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder.

The cancellations come as Disney World in Orlando, Florida, plans to reopen its Disney Springs restaurants and entertainment area with coronavirus safety measures in place by May 20.

The rest of Disney World’s theme parks and hotels, closed since mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have not yet been scheduled for reopening. 

 

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Theme Parks: CityWalk Orlando

Abled.Travel: Photo illustration of Universal Orlando's CityWalk shopping center.

Universal Orlando’s CityWalk shopping center is open as of May 14, while its theme park and Hollywood counterparts remain closed. But there are new rules. The latest, below.

Reopening Updates

Universal Orlando Resort’s CityWalk shopping center which is as much an attraction unto itself as the rest of the theme park, reopens, is open for business as of May 14. But on a limited basis.

And there are new safety protocols set by the U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC) which involve taking visitors’ temperatures and requiring all of them to wear face masks.

Markers and signs will lay out social distancing rulles as the center opens from 4 pm to 10 pm each day. 

Restaurants will be open, but only offering take-out from reduced menus. The Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure theme parks remain closed, as do their counterparts in Hollywood, including CityWalk Hollywood, until at least the end of May.

Over at Disney, Shanghai Disneyland reopened on Monday since closing in January, while Disney World Orlando began accepting hotel reservations for July earlier this week, sparking speculation the theme park will reopen in July.  

Disney Springs will begin a phased reopening on May 20. Here’s what to know before you go. Other areas of Walt Disney World Resort remain closed, including theme parks and Disney Resort hotels. Learn about this closure.

All of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California remains closed until further notice.

 

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Airlines: Where To Park?

Tens of thousands of aircraft have been grounded world-wide because of COVID-19. Where to park them all? And how to maintain them and keep them secure?

Boneyard Junction

 In normal times, there are about 22,000 mainline passenger aircraft in operation around the world. By mid-April, almost 14,400 of them had been grounded because of the COVID-19 pandemic – almost two-thirds of the total available.

That created an immediate logistics problem beyond the nightmare of airlines trying to cope with passenger demands for refunds of canceled flights: Where to park them all?

Sergio Fernandez, the Regional Director of Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security at IATA Europe (The International Air Transport Association), says “Airlines want to keep their aircraft as close as they can to their hub airports because they can maintain them and get them back into the air relatively quickly.”

As a result, IATA’s Airlines Magazine reports “taxiways, maintenance areas, terminal areas, and in some cases even runways, are being used at airports throughout the world.”

From Delta’s hub at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, to London Heathrow , to Schiphol in Amsterdam, Charles de Gaulle in Paris and beyond, taxiways and, in some cases runways have become parking lots for the huge aircraft.

IATA, which is the trade association for the world’s airlines has contacted transport ministers around the world requesting that airports cut parking fees to help the already financially – hurting airlines.

Once the parking problem is solved, however, maintenance and security become important and costly issues. 

The aircraft can’t sit entirely idle. As IATA explains “Cabins must be cleaned before being sealed for security, fuel tanks and oil lines drained—and perhaps replaced with other liquids—and exposed chrome surfaces including in the undercarriage have to be protected from corrosion.

And then there is weekly maintenance if the plane is grounded for one or two months: regular checks and testing of avionics, hydraulics and other operating systems, and keeping the cabin sanitized and dry. Manufacturers provide maintenance manuals on exactly what needs to be done and when.

In some cases, engines must be rotated to ease pressure on bearings, and the wheels moved to protect the tires.”

Some airlines are rotating their aircraft to keep them ‘airworthy’, while others are stepping up plans to retire their older fleets, as KLM recently did with the last of their historic Boeing 747 fleet. Those of us who’ve experienced or seen the iconic videos and photos of the airline’s blue jumbos almost skimming the beach when landing in St. Maarten will never forget them.

So, thanks to COVID-19, more aircraft will end up in aviation boneyards before their time. But we’ll all have the memories of happier times and and enjoyable travel experiences until we’re all ready for takeoff again.

 

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TRAVEL DIRECTORY

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Abled.Travel: Photo of a Ryanair passenger jet parked on an airport tarmac next to a grassy field.

25M Refunds Stuck

Passengers who booked travel on Ryanair that has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic may have to wait up to six months to receive a refund.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has told BBC News the airline is struggling to process a backlog of 25 million refunds with reduced staff. Ryanair is set to cut 3,000 jobs – 15% of its workforce – as it restructures to cope with the coronavirus crisis. It said the 3,000 posts under threat were mainly pilot and cabin crew jobs. However, O’Leary pledged: “If you want a cash refund, you will receive a cash refund.”

Litigation lawyer Jonathan Compton, a partner at law firm DMH Stallard, takes issue with the idea that ticket refunds could be delayed.

He says,”Where a flight is cancelled, the legal position is clear, the airline must provide a full refund within seven working days.”

“Regulators need to get more active here. The relevant regulator is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA must start instructing airlines to start making refunds, no ifs or buts, and it needs to do this now.

Meantime, Dutch Infrastructure minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen has told MPs in The Netherlands that she would like to see EU countries guarantee the vouchers airlines have been handing out to passengers whose flights have been cancelled.

This, Van Nieuwenhuizen admitted is why many countries, including the Netherlands, are turning a blind eye to the cash back requirement, even though the vouchers are only valid for a year and passengers could be left with nothing if the airline goes bust. “I have done this to protect the financial position of airlines,” the minister said.

Read more about her remarks and her desire to see development of a European crisis fund at DutchNews.nl.

You can read more on the situation at Ryanair at BBC News.

 

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Abled.Travel: Photo shows a "Reception" sign floating in the foreground with a blurred image of a customer checking in at a hotel front desk in the background.

No NL Hotel Refunds

Holiday travelers in many countries are getting stuck between a rock and hotels because of the C19 pandemic.

If you are stuck at home because of a government-mandated quarantine, what are your chances of getting your money back from a hotel or holiday park where you have made an advance booking?

That’s an issue travelers, consumer groups and lawyers are wrestling with the relevant legal questions in the Netherlands where some businesses are seeing 95% cancellations.

The outcome depends on who is doing the cancelling.

if a hotel or holiday park cancels your stay then you do have the right to your money back.

if the consumer is cancelling, then the terms of the booking are key.

DutchNews.nl spoke with lawyer Martijn Zwennes of Spuistraat 10 Advocaten in Amsterdam who says “If you are cancelling, then it is your own problem: the hotel is still there and it has the room. But we recommend that you do see if both parties can come up with a solution in a reasonable manner, because this is an exceptional situation.” He adds that if you made a non-changeable booking and want to claim on your travel insurance, you might also be unlucky: many travel insurance policies will not cover the coronavirus lockdown because it is such an extreme event.

Needless to say, this is making consumers very angry and frustrated.

Senay Bozias has done a great article on the challenges facing both consumers and businesses on this front.

 

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Abled.Travel: Photo of Airbus employees preparing to load boxes of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) onto a Beluga Super Transporter plane in a hangar.

PPE Airlifts

Airbus and Boeing have seen their aircraft belonging to airlines  around the world grounded and sitting idle because of travel bans in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, their own planes have been anything but idle, as they airlift urgently needed PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) between countries to supply healthcare professionals on the frontlines.

They have also repurposed some of their manufacturing units to make facemarks, headbands and visors, and some employees are even using their own equipment to 3D print components.

Airbus employees in Spain are working around the clock using over 20 3D printers in four cities to make visor frames, while workers at its Wichita, Kansas engineering site in the U.S. have pivoted from wing design to 3D print headbands for a crowdsourced protective face shield.

Boeing employees are churning out 3D printed re-usable face shields across 10 locations, as well as donating tens of thousands of face masks, goggles, gloves, safety glasses and protective bodysuits. The aerospace manufacturer has also donated three of its Dreamlifters—modified 747-400LCFs developed to carry 787 Dreamliner components—to transport the urgently needed medical supplies.

Airbus’s Beluga super transporter, a test A350-1000, A380 and A400M are part of a fleet helping to deliver supplies from China and across Europe. Since mid-March, Airbus has flown medical supplies in from China three times and distributed them from its bases in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Spain.

Both manufacturers say they are prepared to continue this support as long as it is needed.

 

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CURATED VIDEOS

Post Lockdown Forecast?

With lockdowns cautiously easy in many parts of the world, will the travel sector be able to slowly rebound from the abrupt flight groundings that followed travel bans imposed as the COVID-19 pandemic spread?

With 100 million jobs at risk, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, countries with falling infection rates are now planning to ease some of those restrictions and encourage travelers and their cash to venture abroad again.

So what’s the future of the tourism industry? Al Jazeera Presenter Bernard Smith discusses this with guests: Kimarli Fernando – Head of Sri Lanka’s National Tourism Development Authority; George Papaconstantinou – Former Greek Minister of Finance and Professor at the European University Institute School of Transnational Governance; and Virginia Messina – Managing Director of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

More news at: https://www.aljazeera.com/

 

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Packed Flights

A passenger on an Aer Lingus flight from Belfast to Heathrow has shared photos showing most passengers sitting close together.

“There was no social distancing, there was no sanitiser,” according to Sean Mallon. Aer Lingus has said it is reviewing procedures on its Belfast to London flights, following the claim it was not observing social distancing measures.

BBC News reports on the current state of the travel industry from a UK perspective.

 

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EU Travel Sector

Tourism is one of the industries that have been worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting lockdowns and travel restrictions.

It is estimated global travel will fall by up to 30 percent this year. Europe accounts for half of the world’s tourist arrivals and is facing staggering losses.

This overview from Germany’s DW News.

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