Hawaiian Airlines rolls out new health precautions

Hawaiian Airlines has implemented new health guidelines for passengers as it continues to address concerns related to the spread of Covid-19. 

Starting May 8, passengers must wear a face covering that “effectively covers the mouth and nose” from the time they check in at the airport until they deplane at their destination, according to a statement from the company. Additionally, the airline is reconfiguring check-in and boarding to allow for greater distance between passengers. 

Hawaiian Airlines airport staff and flight attendants had previously been directed to wear face masks, and last month the carrier began electrostatic spraying of cabins to aid in disinfection.

“Taking care of our guests and employees has always been our primary focus, and these new health measures will help us maintain a safe travel experience, from our lobbies to our cabins, as Hawaii continues to make progress in containing Covid-19,” Peter Ingram, president and CEO at Hawaiian Airlines, said in a statement.

Young children unable to keep a face covering on or guests with a medical condition or disability preventing use of a face covering will be exempted. The airline is also reorganizing boarding and deplaning procedures to decrease congestion, including having flight attendants call rows individually while having others remain seated.  

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Covid 19 coronavirus: Climate activists refuse repatriation by plane

British climate activists Rosie Watson and Mike Elm were on an international bicycle and running tour to promote their green campaign when they got stuck in Kosovo because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watson, 25, from Loweswater in northwestern England, and Elm, 32, from Edinburgh, Scotland, have been stranded in Prizren, a town in Kosovo, 85 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the capital, Pristina.

Since mid-March, Kosovo has been in a lockdown with all of its land and air border crossings shut. The virus has killed at least 22 people in the Balkan nation, which has more than 790 confirmed cases.

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Coronavirus: Air New Zealand suspends New York and key US routes indefinitely

Air New Zealand has revealed its revised global network, announcing it will not be resuming several key international routes after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Among the routes being cut will be the key service from Los Angeles Airport to Auckland NZ01 and the route between Auckland and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The airline has also decided to postpone its launch of the highly anticipated direct Auckland to New York service, which was scheduled to begin on October 29 this year.

The Airline says the route will go ahead, but will commence only once the demand for international travel and restrictions permit.

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Hawaiian Airlines offers free interisland flights for medical workers

Hawaiian Airlines is providing complimentary interisland flights for medical professionals this month to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Partnering with Hawaii’s health care providers, including Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated, The Queen’s Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, Hawaii Permanente Medical Group, Hawai’i Pacific Health and Diagnostic Laboratory Services,
the airline is working to facilitate delivering medical services to communities across the Aloha State.

“This virus has presented an unprecedented test for all of us who call Hawaii home, and we are glad to be able to support the exceptional and important work our medical providers are carrying out across our islands each day to meet our state’s health care needs and help us overcome this challenge,” Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement.

On April 4, Hawaiian began operating 16 daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu and Hilo and Kona on the Island of Hawaii, Kahului on Maui and Lihue on Kauai. The airline is also serving both Molokai and Lanai from Honolulu on Ohana by Hawaiian flights.

Additionally, Hawaiian has suspended service between Honolulu and Pago Pago on American Samoa for at least 30 days through April 23 at the request of the American Samoan government.

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Some airlines processing refunds outside ARC coronavirus

Eight airlines have informed ARC that they will manage
refunds directly and not allow them to be processed via GDSs or ARC’s
Interactive Agent Reporting (IAR) system.

The carriers are Air France, KLM, WestJet, El Al, TAP
Portugal, Air Transat, Kazakhstan-based Air Astana and Spain’s Plus Ultra
Lineas Aereas.

The changes come as refunds are far outpacing sales because
of the coronavirus pandemic. Travel advisors, said ARC, should contact the
airlines directly and follow their individual policies for refunds. 

ARC said it will update its own webpage as soon as it is
notified of any change in an airline’s refund process. The airline-owned
corporation also said that it recognizes the changes will impact the business
flow and processes of agencies, including records, back-office files and

“ARC settlement is designed to facilitate efficient sales,
exchange and refund processes between airlines and travel agencies. While we
are unable to process refunds for airlines that have made the decision to
manage these transactions directly, we are striving to make it as easy as
possible for agencies to quickly and efficiently contact airlines regarding
refunds,” the corporation’s website says. 

Columbus, Ohio-based travel agent Richard Lewis said he
worries that evolving policies by airlines will lead him to undertake
transactions that result in debit memos. 

“I can’t afford to fight a battle if I’m debited back by a
carrier,” he said. 

Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airlines for Travel
Leaders Group, said that he expects cancellation rules to continue evolving. He
added that debit memos are on the rise. 

ARC declined to comment on debit memos.

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United Airlines Reinstating Some International Flights to Help Travelers Get Home

With the rapidly dwindling number of commercial flights available to those tens of thousands of Americans who are still stranded abroad and attempting to find a way home in the face of abrupt international border closures, United Airlines is doing its best to offer some solutions.

Just days ago, in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis, the White House issued a Level-4 Travel Advisory, the State Department’s most severe restriction, encouraging U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel and advising that those currently outside the country should “arrange for immediate return”.

Aware that U.S. residents still abroad are frightened, frustrated and faced with unprecedented travel challenges, United Airlines is revising its previous announcement (released March 20), which had promised a 95-percent reduction in the carrier’s international schedule for April 2020.

In an effort to help displaced travelers get where they need to go, United will continue flying six daily operations to and from select destinations in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. While the airline’s international schedule will still be reduced by about 90-percent in April, United’s aim is to provide some additional options for those still struggling to get home.

Although a full listing of flights is available on the United Hub website, some specific routes set to continue through May 2020 include service between Newark/New York and Frankfurt, Newark/New York and London; Newark/New York and Tel Aviv; Houston and Sao Paulo; San Francisco and Sydney; and San Francisco and Tokyo-Narita.

Newly-reinstated outbound flights running through March 27 include United’s service between Newark/New York and Amsterdam; Newark/New York and Munich; Newark/New York and Brussels; Newark/New York and Sao Paulo; Washington-Dulles and London; and San Francisco and Frankfurt. Also, operating through March 29, service will connect San Francisco and Seoul.

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American Airlines parking some 450 planes coronavirus

In a message to American Airlines employees on Thursday,
president Robert Isom said the carrier has taken steps “unparalleled in our
history” to reduce capacity amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

International flying has been reduced by 75% in April and
domestic flying by 30%. Further reductions are planned for May. In all, 55,000
flights have been scrubbed from AA’s April schedule. The airline will park approximately
130 widebody jets and 320 narrowbodies.

All long-haul international flying has been grounded, except
once-daily service between London Heathrow and both Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth
plus thrice-weekly service between Dallas and Tokyo Narita. 

AA has offered voluntary leave to most employees. The
airline is also offering an early out so workers with at least 15 years at American who are ready to leave can keep their medical care at active employees’

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American Airlines Announces Changes to Admirals Club, Flagship Lounges

American Airlines announced it would make operational changes to Admirals Club lounges and Flagship Lounges at airports around the world.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the resulting decrease in demand, American has changed food and beverage procedures in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Pennsylvania and San Francisco.

The airline has been forced to temporarily close some U.S. Admirals Club locations in airports with multiple lounges due to decreased demand. Facilities in Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and London have also been temporarily closed.

American announced alcohol would no longer be served to guests at lounges in Boston, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Other facilities have instituted policies stating all food would be served as to-go items.

The carrier announced earlier this week it would cut 75 percent of its international capacity through May 6 to combat the loss of revenue from decreased customer demand due to the coronavirus.

Other airlines are also making changes, with United Airlines reducing the number of flights scheduled for next month by a total of 60 percent, including a 42-percent drop across the U.S. and Canada and an 85-percent decrease in international flights.

The U.S. Travel Association also announced Tuesday it projects an $809 billion hit on the U.S. economy and the loss of 4.6 million travel-related jobs in the country.

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United Airlines Reducing Capacity, Cutting Salaries

United Airlines is reducing capacity for April and May by 50 percent and cutting corporate officers’ salaries in half amid the global impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby shared the alarming numbers in a message to United’s nearly 100,000 employees late Sunday.

“As you know, March is typically our busiest month of the year. But this year, in just the first two weeks of March, we have welcomed more than one million fewer customers on board our aircraft than the same period last year,” the executives said. “We’re also currently projecting that revenue in March will be $1.5 billion lower than last March.”

“The bad news is that it’s getting worse. We expect both the number of customers and revenue to decline sharply in the days and weeks ahead.”

Last week, United announced that Munoz and Kirby would forgo their base salaries through June 30 following a dramatic decline in bookings.

Despite these efforts, the United brass also told employees that it anticipates the deep cuts to extend into the peak summer travel period. “We’re expecting load factors to drop into the 20-30 percent range—and that’s if things don’t get worse,” added Munoz and Kirby.

United’s decreased capacity and pay cuts are quickly becoming the new norm for the airline industry as governments impose travel bans and restrictions on the advice of medical experts.

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Airlines, Travel Industry React to Latest Travel Restrictions

It was, to say the least, an extraordinary day on Wednesday as the country continues to grapple with the spread of COVID-19.

The virus touched virtually every aspect of life in one incredible eight-hour span.

– The National Basketball Association abruptly suspended its season after the final game on Wednesday after a player from the Utah Jazz had a preliminary positive test for the coronavirus.

– New York City officials canceled the revered St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Ave, the first time in 258 years. The parade is so established it is older than the United States.

– In Chicago, there will be no pub crawl and no dyeing the Chicago River green – the city also canceled its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.

– The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced that its wildly popular men’s and women’s basketball tournaments – three weeks known as ‘March Madness’ – will still be played but no fans will be permitted inside any arena during the length of the tournament.

All of those affect travel in one way or another.

But perhaps the most startling news – and certainly the most troubling to the airline industry – came during President Trump’s address to the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night. To combat the spread of the virus in the U.S., and on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, the president has suspended travel from 26 European countries to the United States starting at midnight on Friday, March 13. The United Kingdom was not part of the banned nations.

Immediately, the reaction has been palpable.

U.S. stock futures plummeted overnight, falling more than 1,000 points or 4.6 percent. When the markets opened this morning at 9:30 EDT, the Dow Jones dropped more than 1,700 points and within six minutes the so-called “circuit breaker” implemented by the New York Stock Exchange to temporarily halt trading for 15 minutes kicked in.

Not that they have a choice, but the airlines all said they will comply with Trump’s directive.

“At this point, all I can say is that we will comply with the administration’s announcement,” United Airlines spokesman Frank Benenati told CNN.

“The safety and health of our customers and employees is always our highest priority,” said Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Elizabeth Ninomiya in a statement. “Delta has and will continue to quickly make adjustments to service, as needed, in response to government travel directive.”

American Airlines said it is in contact with government officials to further understand and comply with the directive.

The airlines are expecting a precipitous drop in business and Trump talked about making financial help available from the government along the lines of the bailout after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He did not elaborate, however.

The transatlantic routes for airlines are among the most lucrative, something Airlines For America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement. Airlines For America is the umbrella lobby group for the airline industry.

While commending Trump for his “decisive action,” Calio said “the unforeseen outbreak of the coronavirus has directly impacted the U.S. airline industry, which is critical to the U.S. and global economies. This action will hit U.S. airlines, their employees, travelers and the shipping public extremely hard. However, we respect the need to take this unprecedented action and appreciate the Administration’s commitment to facilitate travel and trade.”

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the aviation industry could lose around $63 billion if the viral infection is contained in the countries currently experiencing confirmed cases.

Ralph Hollister, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, said a travel ban now might be too little too late.

“A travel ban may be too little too late now that the virus is spreading throughout the global population,” he said. “Additionally, the disruption from this ban will cause a significant impact on the US travel sector. US travel intermediaries, hotels and airports are examples of industries that will be heavily disrupted. US airlines may be the first to feel a significant impact, due to travel between North America and Europe providing a valuable revenue stream.”

Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association said that the government must now consider equally aggressive steps to financially bolster the industry. House Democrats did introduce a multi-billion dollar bill in response to the outbreak following the president’s speech.

“Temporarily shutting off travel from Europe is going to exacerbate the already-heavy impact of coronavirus on the travel industry and the 15.7 million Americans whose jobs depend on travel,” Dow said. “We have and will continue to engage Congress and the administration on policy steps that are necessary to ensure that travel employers—83% of which are small businesses—can keep the lights on for their employees.”

According to U.S. Travel Association economists, 850,000 international visitors flying from Europe (excluding the UK) entered the United States in March of 2019, accounting for about 29% of total overseas arrivals to the U.S. These visitors spent approximately $3.4 billion in the U.S.

Trump’s decision on the 30-day ban also sent Europe into a tailspin. MotherJones reported this morning that Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport was swamped with Americans and others trying to get out of France on flights to the U.S., with one person paying $3,300 for a one-way coach set from Paris to Phoenix. And a Delta ticket agent said one person spent $20,000 online in tickets to get home to the U.S.

Needless to say, the European Union was not thrilled with Trump’s decision.

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement. “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”

According to flight tracker FlightAware, around 400 flights across the Atlantic from Europe to the United States each day.

Terry Dale, President & CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association, said while he understands and appreciates the urgency to curb the growth COVID-19 within the United States, “we were surprised and discouraged by the Administration’s announcement of the 30-day travel ban with Europe. It adds more confusion and uncertainty to our already beleaguered industry.”

In the meantime, Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California continue to hold out and have not closed the parks. In fact, Executive Chairman Bob Iger said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting this week that staying open is what the country needs.

“It’s fair to say we’re all sobered by the concern that we feel for everyone affected by this global crisis,” Iger said in prepared remarks. “These are challenging times for everyone. (But) what we’ve demonstrated over the years is that we’re incredibly resilient. If you think about the world today, what we create has never been more necessary or more important.”

In a statement, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) said it is “diligently working with policy makers in both the Trump Administration and in Congress to obtain a variety of relief options to help advisors, and the travel industry as a whole, weather this storm. We will, of course, keep ASTA members fully apprised of the latest developments in this rapidly evolving situation.”

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