News & Views of the Week

 

 Ní neart go cur le chéile
-There is no strength without unity

This treasured Irish proverb reminds us that in times of adversity, there’s one truth to hold on to;
We are in this together.

 

 

I don't know who wrote this, but it's beautiful..

 

We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.

 

Suddenly Disney is out of magic,

Paris is no longer romantic,

New York doesn't stand up anymore,

the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty.

 

Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.

 

Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, and can't get you the oxygen you're fighting for.

 

The world continues its life and it is beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think it's sending us a message:

 

"You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters."

 

As our industry takes a pause for the time being we will place a hold on our weekly newsletter and thiis will be a spot for News in the travel world.

Once we all get through this and we will and the business returns to a sense of normalcy we will once again return to our weekly newsltter.

Our best to all of you at this time and please remain vigilant, and be safe, stay safe and stay healthy.

Bill and Fred

 

 

Agents, Customers, Congress Frustrated Over Airline Refund Policies

AIRLINES & AIRPORTS  RICH THOMASELLI  APRIL 03, 2020

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Searching for airfare.PHOTO: Agents and Congress are advocating for better refunds from airlines for trips cancelled due to the coaronavirus. (Photos via iStock / Getty Images Plus / Sinenkiy)

Tammy Levent, a Palm Harbor, Fla. travel advisor, speaks for many agents—and airline customers, and members of Congress—when she says she is frustrated.

While nearly every major domestic airline is waiving change fees to rebook flights and providing credit for future travel in the wake of the coronavirus global pandemic, that credit is usually only good for one year from the date the original flight was booked. So if a customer booked a flight in November of 2019 to travel to Positano, Italy in June—as Levent did—you have to travel before November of 2020.

And with 10 million Americans having filed for unemployment in the last three weeks, either money is tight or, well, as Levent puts it, “Who goes to Positano in the fall and winter?”

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Levent told TravelPulse.com. “I will keep working on this, but I might have to tell one of my customers he’s losing $2,800 in flights.”

Rarely do Americans travel to Europe in the fall and winter, except perhaps at Christmas time, since many tourist and seasonal businesses close down. Positano, for example, is a gorgeous, romantic seaside town on the Amalfi Coast whose peak times are between March and October.

Levent, who said part of her frustration is that policies seem to change call to call, said that agents want a uniform policy.

“We would all be happy with an extended travel credit, voucher or whatever with penalties waived,” she said. “So if they booked in November or December of 2019, and they were traveling in June of 2020, extend that option not to November 2020 but November 2021. Allow customers to try to book the same time period but in the following year, or one year from when they were supposed to travel and not one year from date of booking.”

Pleas from Levent and the industry are not falling on deaf ears. She did receive a notice from Delta saying it would try to process credits/refunds as soon as possible although it might take up to two billing cycles. And, according to the Huffington Post, carriers are facing mounting pressure to give customers cash refunds for canceled flights after Congress approved a $50 billion bailout package for the airlines.

On Wednesday, nine senators sent letters to the chief executives of 11 major airlines arguing that each company “has a moral responsibility to provide real refunds, not travel vouchers, to consumers, and to support State Department efforts to repatriate any American citizens trying to come home. It would be unacceptable to us for your company to hold onto travelers’ payments for canceled flights instead of refunding them, especially in light of the $25 billion bailout that the airline industry just received from Congress. We urge you to offer cash refunds for flight cancellations so that Americans can better weather this crisis.”

The letters were signed by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

 

 

U.S. State Department Stops Issuing Passports Amid COVID-19

IMPACTING TRAVEL  LAURIE BARATTI  APRIL 03, 2020

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US PassportPHOTO: US Passport. (photo via Pixabay/geralt)

The U.S. Department of State has scaled back its Passport Agency operations and will no longer be issuing new passports in view of the situation surrounding the still-escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel + Leisure pointed out that the release of this directive in late March coincided with the State Department’s issuance of a Level 4 travel advisory, which warns Americans to avoid all international travel and instructing those outside U.S. borders to return home immediately or risk being stranded abroad for an indefinite period of time.

The Passport Divisions’ recent policy change mentioned that those who had already applied to obtain a new passport or renew an existing one prior to March 20, 2020, will not have their orders affected. The agency said that it would honor its commitment to fulfilling those expedited-service orders placed on or before March 19 within two to three weeks, door-to-door.

Moving forward, passports will be available only to persons facing qualifying life-or-death emergencies, such as serious illnesses, injuries or deaths in their immediate family, which require them to travel outside the United States within 72 hours’ time.

Such persons will need to not only provide their passport application and supporting documents, and proof of planned international travel (e.g. reservation, ticket or itinerary), but also proof of the life-or-death circumstance. This might include documents like a death certificate, a statement from a mortuary, or a signed letter from a hospital or medical professional, and must be translated into English.

To make an appointment at a passport center in the event of a life-or-death emergency, one must call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a. m. and 5:00 p.m., or Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (EST); or call (202) 647-4000 outside of regular business hours.

No indication was given as to when the State Department would again begin accepting passport applications. As is now the case among most organizations that are attempting to respond to the continually evolving pandemic, its future plans remain up in the air. The announcement only stated, “The status of our operations may change quickly. We will update this notice as the status changes.”

For more information, visit travel.state.gov.

 

 

Mexican Officials Announce Closure of Beaches, Over 1,100 Hotels

DESTINATION & TOURISM  DONALD WOOD  APRIL 03, 2020

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Sunset at the beach. Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Mexico. (photo via ChepeNicoli / iStock / Getty Images Plus)PHOTO: Sunset at the beach. Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Mexico. (photo via ChepeNicoli / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Mexican officials announced Thursday that all beaches have been closed after beach tourism was deemed a nonessential activity as the country attempts to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Mexico News Daily, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell revealed every beach in the country would remain closed until at least April 30 after the federal government declared a national emergency.

“The order has been given,” Lopez-Gatell said in a statement. “It obliges state and municipal authorities to take coherent measures and suspend tourist activity on beaches, be it international or local tourism.”

In addition to the beach closures, the Mexican Hotel and Motel Association (AMHM) announced more than 1,100 hotels across Mexico have temporarily closed due to travel restrictions associated with the viral outbreak.

Of the closures, the AMHM said 645 of the hotels were run by small and medium-sized businesses rather than large chains. Cancun and Mexico City have seen the highest number of closures.

Around 460 hotels in Baja California Sur will be forced to close on April 6, while more than 500 hotels in Sinaloa are temporarily shuttering in the coming days. Occupancy levels across Mexico have dropped drastically since travel restrictions were implemented.

While the closures hurt the tourism industry, the National Tourism Business Council said Mexican authorities have spoken to hotel owners and CEOs about possibly providing beds for coronavirus patients if the country’s health system becomes overwhelmed.

Last week, the United States Ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, asked tourists and citizens still in the country to consider returning to the U.S. as the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact the world.

 

 

United Airlines Provides Free Flights to Medical Volunteers

AIRLINES & AIRPORTS  UNITED AIRLINES  MACKENZIE CULLEN  APRIL 03, 2020

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United Airlines flight arriving in ChicagoPHOTO: United Airlines flight arriving at airport. (photo via gk-6mt/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus)

United Airlines has partnered with the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City in order to provide free roundtrip flights for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals working to treat patients with coronavirus.

"Our healthcare workers are heroes, and they need reinforcements," said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "This generous partnership with United Airlines will ensure medical professionals from across the country can come to New York City to help us in our hour of need."

New York has become the focal point of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., specifically in New York City, which has more than 50,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Hospital staff quickly found themselves overwhelmed due to overcrowding. Several notable landmarks have been converted into makeshift hospitals throughout the city.

United is also working with local government agencies and non-profit partners to provide New York hospitals with much-needed qualified medical professionals. The airline is closely collaborating with a network of professional medical volunteer organizations to help enlist volunteers and bring them to locations where they are needed the most.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is one of those extraordinary times that demonstrates how we come together as a profession to provide desperately needed assistance and care," said Society of Critical Care Medicine President, Lewis J Kaplan, M.D., FCCM.

United has joined many brands across the nation to help support front-line responders by providing them free or reduced services.

Several hotels and lodging brands are offering free or subsidized housing for medical workers and front-line responders, while local and national restaurants are providing these workers with free food or large discounts.

 

 

Trump considers selective ban on domestic flying

By Robert Silk 

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Apr 02, 2020

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Trump considers selective ban on domestic flying

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The White House is contemplating a ban on commercial domestic flying to Covid-19 hotspots.

Answering questions at his Wednesday press briefing, President Donald Trump said particular consideration is being given to banning flights that go from one city with a major outbreak to another.

“I am looking where flights are going into hotspots. Some of those flights I didn’t like from the beginning,” Trump said. “But closing up every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very rough decision.”

Trump wasn’t specific about the markets he is considering, but any list of major hotspots would almost surely include the New York/New Jersey area. Detroit, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Seattle are other markets with major Covid-19 outbreaks. 

Trump said a reason for his hesitance to shut the industry down entirely is that restarting operations would be a challenge for carriers. But he said the White House is weighing the balance between keeping the industry afloat and risking further virus spread.

“That is a calculation that we’re looking at right now. We’re looking at it very strongly,” he said.

 

 

Worldwide airline capacity down 77%

By Robert Silk 

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Apr 02, 2020

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Forward Keys shows that Dutch carrier KLM had the most seats scheduled to be in service this week.

Forward Keys shows that Dutch carrier KLM had the most seats scheduled to be in service this week.

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Airline capacity worldwide is down 77% year over year for the first week of April, according to a ForwardKeys analysis. 

Carriers are scheduled to fly just 10 million seats between March 30 and April 5, down from 44.2 million a year ago. 

 

Eamonn Brennan@eurocontrolDG

 

 

 

#COVID19 – snapshot of what the traffic looked like this Sunday, 29 March, compared to Sunday 31 March 2019 across the @eurocontrol area. @Transport_EU @IATA @A4Europe @ECACceac @ACI_EUROPE @CANSOEurope @eraaorg

 

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Scheduling data analyzed by ForwardKeys shows that Dutch carrier KLM had the most seats scheduled to be in service this week among the world’s airlines with 800,000. Delta was slated to fly the most seats among U.S. carriers, followed by American. 

Many airlines still expect deeper cuts in the weeks ahead.