The coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing with it a lot of fast-breaking, bad news for travelers and the travel industry.
Over the weekend, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines announced the temporary suspension of flights to Milan, Italy and United Airlines announced a temporary suspension of flights to Tokyo Narita, Osaka Singapore and Seoul.
And, because travelers are holding back on buying new plane tickets, on Sunday American Airlines announced it will join JetBlue and Alaska Airlines in offering a change fee waiver on new tickets purchased in the next two weeks.
The airline says using wipes to clean armrests and tray tables is fine, but they’re asking passengers not to use cleaning wipes on the leather seats because commercial wipes will deteriorate the top coat of leather.
“The wipe might look dirty, ” says Alaska, “but it’s actually the leather dye color that’s coming off.”
Bad news for travelers may keep coming for a while, so it was refreshing to have Saturday Night Live do this silly bit about traveling through New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
Alaska Airlines has added a “Peace of Mind’ cancellation and fee waiver policy to help travelers worried about what might happen next with the coronavirus.
The peace of mind waiver doesn’t apply to flights you may have booked months ago, only for new bookings.
But if you book a flight prior to March 12 and then decide by that date to change or cancel your trip, this might help. If you decide to cancel, Alaska is offering full travel credit for a flight up to one year from the issuance of your credit. Although fare differences when you rebook will appy.
JetBlue announced a similar program earlier in the week:
“Due to evolving coronavirus concerns, we are suspending change and cancel fees for all new flight bookings made between February 27, 2020 and March 11, 2020 for travel through June 1, 2020,” JetBlue says.
The airline notes that there are no current travel restrictions to the locations they fly. But it seems travelers have jitters and airline bookings are down everywhere. So JetBlue, Alaska and likely others shortly – will be taking action to reassure travelers and encourage them to continue getting on planes.
How are coronavirus concerns affecting your travel plans?
The sale runs through January 17 for flights between the Lower 48 and both Fairbanks and Anchorage through February 12. Discounts of up to 35% are being tied to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute’s aurora forecast.
The more intense the Northern Lights forecast; the more
flyers will save on flights.
“Everyone loves a lighter fare,” said Natalie Bowman,
Alaska Airlines’ managing director, marketing and advertising, “This is just
the start of how we’ll use dynamic data in the future to appeal to our flyers’
Here’s how it works:
Through January 17, fares will be discounted daily up to 35% depending on the Kp-index forecast during the travel time period.
Scientists use the Kp-index to help predict how visible the Northern Lights might be. Alaska will discount fares based on aurora intensity:
0 to 3 Kp = 15% off
4 to 5 Kp = 20% off
6 to 7 Kp = 25% off
8 to 9 Kp = 35% off
Want to know more about the Northen Lights before you pack up and go? The University of Fairbanks has an informative webpage on the Aurora seasons that include a real-time Aurora Tracker.
Our story about airports and airlines getting rid of single-use plastics first appeared on CNBC.
Business and leisure travelers concerned about climate
change and “flight shame” may do their part by purchasing carbon offsets and adjusting
the number of trips they take on airplanes.
Airports and airlines are trying to save the planet too with
a wide range of sustainable initiatives that include cutting down the use of
single-use plastics and making reusable water bottles essential travel amenities.
BYOB at SFO Airport
In 2019, San
Francisco International Airport (SFO), launched an ambitious Zero Waste
Concessions Program designed to significantly reduce the amount of single-use
disposable plastics used at the airport.
Noting that in 2018 nearly four million slow-to-biodegrade plastic
water bottles were sold at the airport, in August 2019 SFO became the first
airport in the nation to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles.
SFO now actively encourages each passenger to bring their
own reusable water bottle with them to the airport and get free water from one
of the hydration stations in the terminals.
Bottled sodas, teas and juices are currently exempt from the
policy. And bottled water is still being sold, but only in approved packaging made
from recyclable aluminum or glass, or in compostable packaging.
Single-use plastics banned at other airports too
Airports in a growing number of other cities in the United States, and around the world, are getting serious about sustainability projects that are good for the environment and, in some cases, the bottom line.
“Whether through their participation in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, implementation of more sustainable business practices, or even by the elimination of drinking straws and other single-use plastics, airports are taking a variety of approaches to be good neighbors in their communities,” said Scott Elmore, Vice President, Communications & Marketing for Airports Council International – North America
In February 2019, Glasgow
Airport offered all 5,300 people working in an around the airport free,
In September 2019, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
(DFW) announced a campaign to phase out all single-use plastic straws at the
In October 2019, the Airports
Authority of India (AAI) announced that at least 55 airports in the country
had banned single-use plastic items such as straws, plastic cutlery and plastic
And January 1, 2020, is the deadline for Dubai’s two airports, Dubai International Airport (DBX) – the world’s busiest airport for international travelers – and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC) to be entirely free of single-use plastics such as plastic cutlery, drinking straws, meal packaging and bags.
“Along with our partners, including
global brands such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, we are committed
to not only removing single-use plastics but in their place providing
appropriate and importantly sustainable alternatives,” said Eugene Barry, Dubai
Airport’s Executive Vice President – Commercial, in a statement.
Barry says finding
replacements for plastic bottles remains a challenge for the airports, so for
now bottle recycling efforts are being beefed up.
Going forward, a bill passed by the Atlanta City Council and waiting for the mayor’s approval is set to ban single-use plastics in the city and at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) by the end of 2020. Following the new law shouldn’t be too much of a reach: ATL’s guidelines for increased sustainability already seek to divert 90% of the airport’s total waste from landfills.
Not all airports are nixing the plastic water bottles,
In its food court, Portland
International Airport (PDX) eliminates a great deal of plastic with its Green
Plate Program that gives travelers the option of having meals served on
reusable plates with reusable utensils.
But the airport’s environmental team hasn’t pressed to impose
a ban on plastic bottles because “not every traveler chooses to tote around
what can sometimes be a very expensive refillable bottle,” said PDX spokesperson
Kama Simonds, “Further, what if
travelers to our airport were unaware of the ban? This could have unintended
consequences of either leaving folks with less hydration and/or potentially
having a sugary drink as the option, which isn’t healthy.”
Airport vendors and airlines doing their part
HMSHost, which operates dining
venues in more than 120 airports around the world, says it is on track to honor
its commitment to eliminate plastic straws in its North American operations by
the end of 2020.
The company has already eliminated plastic
cocktail stirrers and currently only provides straws on request in its casual
In September, Alaska Airlines kicked off a “FillBeforeYouFly”
initiative, asking passengers to help reduce the use of single-use plastic
bottles inflight by bringing their reusable water bottles to the airport and
filling them at airport hydrations stations before their flight.
In November, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) introduced sustainable
meal packaging that includes paper with a coating made of organic
plant-based plastic instead of oil-based plastic as well as cutlery made of
And earlier this year, Air
New Zealand removed individual plastic water bottles
from its Business Premier and Premium Economy cabins and switched to compostable plant-based coffee cups
made from paper and corn instead of plastic.
The airline is encouraging passengers to bring their
own reusable cups on board aircraft and into lounges. And, in a truly tasty
move, ANZ is running a test program to serve coffee and ice-cream in edible,
vanilla-flavored cups made by New Zealand-based twiice.
Alaska Airlines snowflake plane + Starbucks cup promotion
Alaska Airlines has put a snowflake-adorned plane in the air that will keep flying throughout the ski season.
And, through Sunday, November 10, the Seattle-based airline
is also partnering with Starbucks for a “red cup = early boarding” treat.
Show up for your Alaska Airlines flight with a Starbucks drink served in a red holiday cup and you’ll be invited to board the plane in the “espresso lane,” following group B.
Some airport Starbucks, including San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) are piloting compostable cups. But those airport Starbucks will be serving drinks with a red holiday sleeve and those drinks will qualify for “espresso lane” boarding as well.
And, as a bonus, on some West Coast flights, passengers will be gifted a complimentary reusable Starbucks holiday cup and $5 Starbucks gift card.