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Impacting Travel

Travel leaders react to White House meeting with airlines

Travel leaders say they support all efforts to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic, except for a mandate that would require airline passengers to submit a negative COVID-19 test before flying.

The CEOs of American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue airlines met with White House officials Friday in a virtual meeting to discuss the proposal, and all of them, as well as key industry figures, say such a mandate it would do more harm than good for US carriers.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“We had a very positive and constructive conversation focused on our shared commitment to science policy as we work together to end the pandemic, restore air travel and move our nation toward recovery,” said Nick Calio, director of the Airlines trade group. for America. it said in a statement.

The meeting was arranged after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said such a testing requirement was being considered.

The Southwest Airlines pilots union said a test mandate would “decimate demand for domestic air travel, put aviation jobs at risk and create serious unintended consequences.”

US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said the high cost and low availability of testing make the national testing mandate a challenging concept to put into practice.

“Based on data from January 2021, a test requirement for domestic air travel would require a 42 percent increase in daily testing capacity across the country, a substantial use of testing resources when air travel has already demonstrated be safer than many other routine activities, “Dow. saying. “The recent implementation of a mask mandate adds another enforceable layer of health and safety protection to the travel process. Scientific studies have shown that air travel can be safe as long as everyone carefully follows best health practices: wear a mask, practice physical distancing whenever possible, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you are sick. We are also encouraging Americans to receive the COVID vaccine as soon as it is available. These are the messages that the travel industry has emphasized as part of our strong commitment to a layered approach to healthy and safe travel, and we will continue to do so. “

The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) sent a letter to the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Rochelle Walensky, asking the agency to “immediately issue guidance to the traveling public. The numerous requests from the CDC aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have created confusion, uncertainty and unpredictability, a chilling effect on future bookings and myriad other challenges for members of our travel agencies.

Jenny Cagle, owner of Elm Grove Travel in Elm Grove, Wisc., Also said she believes there is no need for a mandate.

“I am hopeful that this administration has listened to the very well articulated concerns of the travel industry and chose to navigate the pandemic without a national travel mandate.

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Impacting Travel

Airlines seek WHO support for post-vaccination travel without quarantine

Aviation and travel industry groups are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency, to back the idea that it is safe for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. fly without quarantine.

On January 27, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that WHO’s support of this principle is vital to the development and acceptance of its Travel Pass digital application for smartphones, the purpose of which is to help people resume their travels as soon as epidemiological conditions permit.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

“We can say what we want, what we do need is for the WHO to come out and say the same thing, so that it becomes a universal acceptance that once you are vaccinated you should not have to go through any of these hoops,” Vice President IATA’s senior passenger affairs officer, Nick Careen, said at a briefing.

Another crucial component of the IATA Travel Pass application is the adoption of shared global standards for vaccine certificates, an action that needs to happen much faster than current efforts are underway.

“We have been suggesting this for months,” he said. “WHO needs a fire underneath to do this sooner rather than later. Even then, there is no guarantee that all governments will adopt the standard immediately. “

The Travel Pass app is essentially ready to go and is scheduled to launch in March. Paper certificates are more susceptible to fraud than digital documentation, and there have already been several known cases of false vaccination credentials.

The WHO Emergency Committee on COVID-19 stated on January 15 that it is still unknown whether immunization also prevents the inoculated person from transmitting the virus to other people, according to Bloomberg. The agency does not recommend that countries require proof of vaccination from arriving travelers, but should instead rely on coordinated and evidence-based measures to ensure safe travel.

Since the early days of the pandemic, the travel industry and airlines have pleaded with governments and global institutions to work together to develop common standards that facilitate cross-border travel. Throughout the crisis, nations have made many abrupt changes to their travel policy, which, coupled with inconsistent protocols from one country to another, has deterred most people from traveling, which has left many companies with bleak prospects.

Careen said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized that those who are fully vaccinated should be able to travel freely; and that those who have already recovered from COVID-19 should be exempted from quarantine and testing requirements, based on the premise that it made them immune to reinfection and unable to transmit the virus.

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Travel News

Alaska Airlines reduces number of emotional support animals on flights

If you are traveling on Alaska Airlines from mid-January, do not plan to board with your support pig or miniature horse.

The airline, acting on new federal guidelines to subdue a range of sometimes exotic animals that passengers have brought on commercial planes as emotional support animals, made it simple by announcing on Tuesday that it would allow: only qualified assistance dogs. able to lie on the floor or stand on their knees.

Ray Prentice, director of customer defense for Alaska Airlines, who said it was the first major airline to publicly change its animal policy in light of updated federal guidelines, said the decision to the airline was a positive step.

“This regulatory change is good news as it will help us reduce disruption on board while continuing to accommodate our customers traveling with qualified service animals,” Prentice said in a statement.

The airline said that from January 11 it would only allow assistance dogs trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

A Dec. 2 decision by the US Department of Transportation that amended the department’s air carrier access law grants airlines the power to classify emotional support animals as pets rather than service animals. Under the decision, only dogs that meet specific training criteria are allowed as service animals for people with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other disabilities.

The new regulatory decision has been criticized by disability rights advocates, who said the restrictions would weaken protections for people with disabilities by limiting the definition of a service animal. According to official guidelines released by the Department of Transportation in 2019, common service animals include miniature dogs, cats and horses.

“While it’s no secret that we still remain a long way from a truly accessible transportation system in this country, the DOT rule will only exacerbate existing inequalities for people with disabilities participating in air travel and instead address almost exclusively to the interests of the airline. industry, ”said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in a statement this month.

Despite criticism, airlines and other players in the air travel industry, such as lobbying group Airlines for America, celebrated the recent changes, saying they would do more to reduce inappropriate animal behavior on the road. theft and help deter those who abuse the service rules. animals.

In the past, passengers have tried to travel with a variety of animals, from the most mundane to the simply unusual, such as pigs, monkeys and birds. (One failed attempt even included a peacock.)

The Americans With Disabilities Act defines miniature dogs and horses as service animals “that are individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” By law, dogs that provide emotional support only are not designated as service animals.

Alaska Airlines’ revised policy will allow a maximum of two service dogs per guest and will include psychiatric service dogs. Passengers will also be required to submit a form, developed by the Department of Transportation, confirming that a dog is a service animal and that it has received proper training and vaccinations.

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Impacting Travel

Airlines Issue Travel Waivers Ahead of East Coast Winter Storm Gail

If you plan to fly this week before the holidays, your air travel arrangements may be interrupted by Winter Storm Gail. Airlines have already started issuing broad travel waivers for passengers hoping to weather the storm by flying earlier, later, or canceling altogether.

AccuWeather called the Northeast development a “highly successful storm,” and it is forecast to be the most significant the East Coast has seen in years. Its anticipated impact areas extend from Maine to Virginia and North Carolina.

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Gail is forecast to drop more snow than all of the storms in recent winters in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston combined. The Weather Service’s snow forecast for Washington, DC, is three to four inches; for Philadelphia, eight to 12 inches; for New York City, 14 inches; and for Boston, 8 to 12 inches.

But, the heaviest snowfall is predicted to land in western Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania, which can see up to 2 feet of snow combined with gusty winds, leading to near-blizzard conditions from Wednesday through Thursday. in the morning.

According to USA Today, each airline determines which travel dates and destinations their exemptions cover, and the fine print terms will also differ by airline. They are likely to adjust in the coming days to accommodate changes in the storm’s projected track and severity.

Airplane covered in snow and ice during a winter storm.
PHOTO: Airplane covered in snow and ice during a winter storm. (Photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus / nycshooter)

Customers with non-refundable tickets will not be eligible for refunds unless the airline itself cancels their flight. But travelers (even those with basic economy tickets) can choose to cancel their trip and receive future flight credit for the amount paid for their ticket, and they won’t be stuck with nasty exchange fees when rebooking.

Ticket holders who need to change their flights this week should do so carefully, as flight options are already limited due to cuts caused by the pandemic and many passengers will be scrambling to modify their plans this week.

Here is a summary of the current exemption conditions of the major airlines:

american airlines

Travel dates: December 16-17

Traveling to / from: 37 destinations, including major cities such as Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC

Delta airlines

Travel dates: December 16-17

Traveling to / from: 19 destinations including Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Syracuse.

JetBlue Airways

Travel dates: December 16-17

Traveling to / from: 10 destinations including Baltimore, Boston, Hartford and New York.

Southwest Airlines

Travel dates: December 16-17

Traveling to / from: 12 destinations including Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC

Spirit Airlines

Travel dates: December 16-17

Traveling to / from: 12 destinations, including Hartford, Connecticut; New York LaGuardia; Newark, NJ; and Akron, Ohio.

United airlines

Travel dates: December 16-17

Traveling to / from: 21 destinations, including Albany, New York; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Baltimore; Boston; and New York.

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Impacting Travel

EU implements new traffic light system, airlines call it a failure

European Union (EU) member countries today agreed to adopt Europe’s new COVID-19 ‘traffic light’ classification system for cross-border travel. The proposal was approved during a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council, but the agreement is not binding and many of the minutiae are left up to member states to determine, Independent.ie reported.

Under the new system, countries will be individually classified as ‘green’, ‘orange’ or ‘red’ based on their test positivity rates, calculated on an average 14-day number of COVID-19 cases for each 100,000 residents. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will be tasked with publishing a weekly map that reflects the current color-coded state of member countries.

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Green = Cumulative 14-day case rate of less than 25 per 100,000 people and test positivity rates below four percent.

orange = Either: 14-day case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 people with test positivity rates of four percent or more OR, 14-day case rate of 25 to 50 cases per 100,000 with test positivity rates of less than four percent.

Red = Either: 14-day case rate of more than 50 per 100,000 with positive test rates of four percent or more OR, 14-day case rate of more than 150 per 100,000 with test rates positives of less than four percent.

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Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

In a corresponding statement, the European Commission said: “We have learned our lessons: we will not overcome the crisis by closing borders unilaterally, but by working together.” He continued: “We now ask the Member States to ensure that the necessary data is provided so that the map can be updated weekly with accurate information on the epidemiological situation in the EU and its regions.”

The Council stipulated that member countries should not restrict the free movement of EU citizens traveling to or from ‘green’ countries, but will allow them to individually determine what kind of restrictions to impose on travelers from ‘orange’ and ‘red’.

“While Member States can still decide what restrictive measures they apply, such as quarantine or testing, we ask Member States to ensure that citizens receive clear and timely information on what to do and what restrictions are in place, depending on the agreement today. Member States also agreed on mutual recognition of the tests, and we will continue to work with them to better coordinate the tests and quarantine requirements. “

Critics say the new system does little to solve the challenges posed by the patchwork of border restrictions currently in place in Europe. A joint statement issued by aviation bodies Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the Council for its “failure” to recommend coordinated testing regimes to replace the quarantines. The statement said that this “effectively means that the borders remain closed” and continues to endanger millions of travel and tourism jobs.

“The inability of the Council to go beyond superficial coordination and establish a truly harmonized and workable framework is now beyond question,” the shared statement said. Representative organizations from the airline industry also argued that the new traffic light system does not offer travelers more certainty than before, as member countries only need to publish information about the new restrictions 24 hours in advance.

While widespread calls for the adoption of coordinated rapid COVID-19 testing requirements continue and the European Commission is working on developing an EU ride-sharing testing protocol, there have been no new developments on that front.

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