A heatwave in the Pacific Northwest and some other parts of the country is adding another challenge to air travel as we head into a holiday weekend.
As a result, some airlines, including American Airlines and United Airlines, are offering fee-free travel waivers. And Alaska Airlines has put a ban on pets traveling as cargo to and from more than a dozen cities until at least after the July 4th weekend.
Here are some of the details, and useful links to policies as of Monday evening, June 28:
And while Alaska Airlines isn’t offering change fee waivers as of Monday evening, it is pre-canceling some flights.
“While we never want to let our guests down, only a small fraction of our flights have been pre-canceled and we are doing our best to re-accommodate those guests,” the airline said on its website, “
And, because of the heat, through July 7, Alaska Airlines is not accepting animals for travel in the baggage departments to or from most of the affected airports listed above. Ticketed pets are still permitted to travel in the cabin with their owners.
Waivers offered by American and United Airlines
American Airlines’ change fee waiver offer is in effect for ticketed travelers through June 29 for trips to, through, or from the cities below. The airlines’ website notes that this information was current as of June 25, 2021, so if record-breaking heat continues in these areas, the waiver could be updated or extended. Check the website for details.
[This is a slightly different version of the story we prepared for NBC News]
As the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations is ramping up, so is consumer confidence — and with it, a surge in travel bookings.
“Many travelers are feeling optimistic that they will be able to vacation abroad this year. Many people are already actively planning their next big trip; even for trips more than four months out,” said Shibani Walia, senior research analyst at Tripadvisor.
With a comprehensive vaccine schedule and pent-up demand for leaving home, vacation planning and bookings are on the rise for late 2021, 2022, and beyond.
Spirit Airlines announced Thursday it would start training new pilots and flight attendants as of next month, in preparation for a spike in leisure travel.
“We just got our first shot. So maybe we could plan a trip this summer or later this year,” says Vicky Stein of New York. “I’d love to visit my son in Vancouver, B.C. But that depends on the regulations in Canada. At this point, I’d be happy to go to Vermont.”
A recent Tripadvisor survey found that 80 percent of U.S. consumers planned to take at least one overnight domestic leisure trip in 2021. Just over one-third of respondents planning at least three domestic trips this year. Popular destinations such as Orlando are already seeing a hopeful booking rebound.
“The region expects 2021 spring break travel to mirror the Christmas and New Year holidays, when occupancy reached 50 percent,” said Daryl Cronk, senior director of market research for Visit Orlando. “This would be a significant improvement over last year’s 12 percent, one of the lowest points of the year.”
Tripadvisor’s survey also found a strong interest in international travel planning. Nearly half (47%) of all respondents said they are planning to travel internationally in 2021.
Already, the majority of hotel clicks for trips taking place from May onwards are to international destinations, Tripadvisor noted. “This is an early signal that travelers are feeling increasingly confident they will be able to travel abroad in 2021, at least in the back half of the year.”
Italy, France, Japan, Australia, and Greece are at the top of most travelers’ lists, said Misty Belles, managing director at Virtuoso travel network, citing customer planning.
Cruises may make a comeback
Travelers are also eyeing cruises, a good sign for the many cruise lines that had to abandon entire sailing seasons.
“We’re seeing growing confidence from cruisers as vaccines begin to be distributed,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic. “Both because they see it as a step in the right direction for the return of travel, and because they’ll feel most comfortable sailing knowing that they and their fellow passengers have been vaccinated.”
Many cruisers are making their bookings further out.
“Our 136-day 2021-2022 Viking World Cruise sold out more than a year in advance,” says Richard Marnell, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Viking. “And we have had such strong demand for our new Mississippi River cruises that we opened additional dates for sale in 2023 sooner than expected.”
Rich and Suzi McClear of Sitka, Alaska, whose 2020 Holland America Line world cruise was cut short due to the pandemic, are anxious to go back to sea. “We’re rebooked for a 2022 world cruise. We’re also booked for the 2023 world cruise, which we view as an insurance policy in case the 2022 cruise does not go,” they said in an email.
Should you book a trip too?
Most travel companies now have flexible and more generous booking and cancellation policies, and prices are historically low. So, it can be a good time to book future trips.
Airfares, for example, are 20 percent lower compared to last year, said Adit Damodaran, economist for travel app Hopper. “Domestic airfare prices are expected to rise in mid-to-late March and gradually return to 2019 levels over the course of the year. And it is not too early to book for 2022, especially if you’re booking with trip protection or flexible booking options.
Dreaming about travel? Us too. But how will our journeys be changed by the pandemic?
(This is a slightly different version of a story we prepared for NBC News.)
Sanitizing stations, “stand here, not there” floor stickers, and cotton swabs up the nose were not part of the travel experience before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as travelers edge their way back into airports and hotels and onto airplanes, cruise ships, and ski slopes, they will be dealing will all that – and more.
But for how long? We asked some industry experts to tell us which new travel trends, technologies, and protocols they think will stick around.
Who will travel and what will they expect?
“Businesses are connecting with their customers virtually and leisure travelers are discovering the joys of staying local,” says Chekitan Dev, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College of Business. “Many business travelers will lower their number of trips, and leisure travelers will shift from ‘hyper-global’ to ‘hyper-local’ travel for the foreseeable future.”
For well into 2021 travelers will be expected or required to wear masks and observe physical distancing. And airlines, airports, hotels, and cruise lines will be expected to continue making health, safety, and cleanliness a priority.
“People will look at a dirty rental car or bus or airport or airline cabin or hotel room and wonder, ‘Uh oh, am I putting myself at risk?’ says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group. “Travelers will continue to hold travel brands’ feet to the fire to keep their facilities clean.”
Once we move past this pandemic “we’re going to have amnesia about some of this and likely go back doing many of the same things we used to do before,” says Devin Liddell, futures and design strategist with Seattle-based Teague global design consultancy.
Theme parks, museums, and other attractions will reopen, and Liddell says the best operators will retain systems put in place to orchestrate the flow of people. For example, “ski resorts that require reservations will likely create a better experience for everyone on the lift lines,” he says.
Hotels will likely maintain flexible cancellation policies and keep in place the intensive protocols for cleaning guest rooms and public spaces.
But instead of housekeeping only upon request or not at all during a stay, “elective housekeeping will be more about providing guests with an easy ‘opt-out’ of housekeeping services,” says Bjorn Hanson, adjunct Professor at New York University’s Tisch Center of Hospitality.
Most major cruise lines are maintaining – and extending – the voluntary suspensions of sailings until sometime in 2021.
When sailings resume there will be changes onboard.
“The buffet will move away from the more traditional self-serve approach toward a more crew-served style – something that lines have already said will likely be a more permanent change,” said Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic. And “changes to muster drills could also stick around beyond the pandemic. Rather than mass events that put all passengers in small spaces at once, we’ll continue to see this more self-driven.”
At airports, “the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of countless new technologies and protocols to keep people healthy and safe and streamline the entire air travel experience,” says Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International-North America.
“Many of these changes will outlast COVID-19,” he adds.
Those technologies and protocols include sanitizing robots, restrooms that alert maintenance crews when cleaning is needed, contactless check-in, bag check and credential authentication, and the increased ability to order and pay for food or duty-free items from a mobile device and receive a contactless delivery anywhere inside the airport.
The current pandemic will change future airports as well.
“We plan to implement many public health procedures into the design of our new terminal building,” scheduled to open in 2023 said Christina Cassotis, CEO at Pittsburgh International Airport, “It will be the first post-pandemic terminal to open in the country that will be designed with these issues in mind.”
Materials in airports are going to change, too, says Luis Vidal, president and founding partner at Luis Vidal + Architects. “The use of new photocatalytic devices based on antibacterial, antiviral, and ‘autocleaning’ material, such as titanium dioxide, silver or copper, in high-use areas will become the norm.”
Airlines will maintain stringent cleaning and sanitizing protocols. Generous rebooking and cancelation policies may stretch out for a while. But most airlines will soon stop blocking middle seats.
Coming back soon: the full range of in-flight services, especially at the front of the plane.
“The traveling public is not happy with the bare bones on-board experience right now,” says Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research. “They understand the need for limits, but people are saying they won’t accept paying for a premium experience and getting something that is subpar.”
Vaccines, Travel Corridors, and insurance
As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, it may become a ‘must-have’ for travelers.
The new normal for global travel may also include digital health passports displaying a traveler’s vaccine or negative test status and, by spring, travel corridors (also known as travel bubbles) that allow travel between countries with low COVID-19 infection rates, says Fiona Ashley, VP Product & Solution Marketing SAP Concur.
While there are some great fare deals being offered right now, as demand returns, so will higher prices. And going forward, travelers will likely need to factor in the added costs of COVID-19 tests and travel insurance.
“Travel insurance may become a non-negotiable as destinations continue to require medical insurance, and travel suppliers tighten their refund policies,” said Megan Moncrief Chief Marketing Officer of travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth
“The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of the global travel industry. I think travelers will be more cautious about investing in expensive trips without insurance.”
On a ‘normal’ Friday, we might be packing up a bag and heading to the airport to fly somewhere.
But these days, we’re following the advice to stay close to home.
Instead, we’re entertaining ourselves by looking through some of the great airline advertising posters in the premium edition of Airline Visual Identity 1945 – 1975 by M.C. Hühne( Callisto Publishers).
We don’t own the book (it retails for $650), but we did get some of the images from the book to share.