Categories
Cruises

CDC Issues New Guidelines for Cruise Lines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines for cruise lines in the time of coronavirus (COVID-19), recommending that cruise travelers with no or mild symptoms disembark as quickly and safely as possible at U.S. ports of entry.

As of April 4, CDC says that cruise lines must be responsible for transporting passengers directly to their homes via chartered or private transportation as commercial flights and public transportation can’t be used.

For disembarking cruise ship passengers who feel well, CDC recommends requesting a face mask or cloth face covering from their cruise line and keeping their face covered from the time they leave their cabin to the time they arrive home. “To the extent possible, do not remove the face covering until you get to your final destination,” CDC said.

“CDC realizes that it might be confusing for travelers when recommendations change during the COVID-19 pandemic response. The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and globally is constantly changing. We will continue to evaluate and update our recommendations for returning cruise ship travelers as the situation evolves,” the agency said.

According to CDC, cruise lines are responsible for transporting all ill or infected patients and communicating with the CDC Quarantine Station along with state and local health departments as well as arranging chartered or private transportation that can be properly sanitized for disembarking travelers.

Cruise companies are also advised to provide procedural/surgical masks, cloth face coverings or non-medical masks such as a bandanna to all passengers and crew and have them wear it during disembarkation; transport to and during flights and during ground transportation to their final destination.

“This will, unfortunately, result in further delays in disembarkation and onward travel for many guests as we work through this complex, challenging and unfortunate situation,” Princess Cruises said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We express continued gratitude to our guests for their patience and understanding as we work to adapt to these new requirements.”

Cruise lines around the world have extended temporary suspensions of operations into May amid unprecedented travel restrictions and slumping demand. Nonetheless, some unfortunate passengers remain stranded at sea as local governments turn them away.

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Categories
Travel

Spirit Airlines suspends New York-area flights following CDC warning



a small yellow plane sitting on a runway at an airport

Spirit Airlines will be the first mainland U.S. carrier to suspend flights completely to the New York area as it heeds a warning against traveling to the populous region by public health officials amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The South Florida-based carrier will end service to five airports in three states: Hartford (BDL) in Connecticut; Newark Liberty (EWR) in New Jersey; and New York LaGuardia (LGA), Niagara Falls (IAG) and Plattsburgh (PBG) in New York starting Wednesday, April 1. The move follows the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) advisory against non-essential travel to the three states.

Spirit hopes to resume flights to the New York area on May 4, spokesperson Field Sutton said Monday.

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The ultra low-cost carrier has the distinction of being the first mainland U.S. carrier to end all flights to New York. Hawaiian Airlines suspended its daily flight to New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) on March 29, according to Cirium schedules.

The move comes as U.S. air travel slowly grinds to a halt as officials work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Spirit plans to cut capacity by at least a quarter in April and May, while larger carriers including Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are suspending the majority of their schedules.

The five airports that Spirit is suspending flights to represented roughly 10% of the airline’s system capacity in 2019, Cirium schedules show.

New York is currently the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. The state had 42% of the country’s 140,904 confirmed cases at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, according to the CDC.

Spirit was pushing to expand in the New York area prior to the pandemic. Last November, the airline filed a suit asking a court to review the Department of Transportation’s decision to sunset 16 landing and takeoff rights previously held by Southwest Airlines at Newark airport. It wanted the rights available to other carriers to counter United’s dominance of the New York-area airport.

U.S. carriers are parking hundreds of jets across the country as the crisis drives demand to record lows. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported that only 180,002 travelers were screened on March 29, or just 7% of the number screened the same day a year ago.

Demand has sunk so low that airlines are reportedly ready to ask regulators to allow them to consolidate flights in order to fill planes, CNBC reported on March 29.

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

SPONSORED: While travel is limited right now due to COVID-19, you need your everyday purchases to give you flexible, forever useful cash. In general, TPG gives preference to transferable points and using your points to travel, but on some days, cash is king.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Related video: United Airlines slashing U.S. and international flights amidst coronavirus crisis [via USA TODAY]


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Categories
Destinations

New Study Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Destination Organizations

MMGY Travel Intelligence, in partnership with Destinations International Foundation, has released a new study that shows the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak on North American destination organizations.

Key findings show that organizations expect coronavirus will have an extreme impact on their business over the next six months. The majority of organizations have canceled events and postponed marketing and sales efforts.

These were the first results released from the ongoing study, which is a series of bi-weekly surveys of North American destination professionals that track how this sector has been affected by COVID-19 and what shifts organizations are making.

The first findings show that over the course of two weeks, the pandemic dramatically changed the sector’s outlook, operations and marketing spending.

During the first wave of the survey, which was conducted in early March, less than 20 percent of destination organizations reported reducing or postponing marketing spend and a similar amount reported restricting domestic travel for employees.

Now, in the second wave of the survey two weeks later, 80 percent of destination organizations surveyed have reduced or postponed sales and marketing spend. Sixty percent have asked employees to work from home.

The percentage of destinations reporting coronavirus-related postponements and/or cancellations of conferences, meetings or events surged from under 40 percent in Wave I to almost 100 percent in Wave II.

“Destination organizations not only serve as representatives for the broader travel industry but as stewards of their communities,” said Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer for the Destinations International Foundation. “This study allows us to support these organizations by creating a tool that shares up-to-date detail on how their peers are managing through this ever-changing process.”

Destination organizations have shifted gears over the last two weeks and are now mostly fielding inquiries about coronavirus-related questions.

The number of respondents receiving 20 or more COVID-19-related inquiries a day rose from 4 percent in the first wave of the survey to 30 percent in the second wave. People are calling to primarily ask about event cancellations and attraction closings, as well as business-related functions such as conferences, conventions and business meetings.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation for our industry, and it’s important for destinations to make decisions based on facts and hard data as they begin to prepare recovery strategies,” said Craig Compagnone, chief operating officer for MMGY Global. “While there is no precedent for this situation, we know that travel has spiked following previous crises, and data will help influence how destinations keep travelers and communities informed until travel restrictions are eased and bookings return.”

The survey also asked destination organizations if they had planned for a situation such as a pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents stated that they had an emergency plan in place.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Travel

Travel in the time of coronavirus

Time was my enemy, and the legions of officials and hangers-on at the Egyptian border post knew it. To move the dial further in their favour, they also knew I had no prospect of turning back.

I was halfway through what should have been a simple 90-minute journey from Tabuk in northwest Saudi Arabia to Cairo. But the day before departure, the government in Riyadh banned all flights to and from Egypt. 

As alarm about coronavirus has surged across the world, barriers have gone up as never before over the past two weeks. The World Health Organisation regards travel bans as ineffective at best, counter-productive at worst.

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In this coronavirus cold war, though, politicians appear to think that closing frontiers gives an impression of being in control. And it also creates the odd business opportunity.

My brief trans-Israel adventure ended at the Menachem Begin frontier post beside the Gulf of Aqaba. As the Israelis processed my departure, they warned their border was functioning as a valve: the new coronavirus policy meant foreign travellers could check out but not return.

As a parting gesture, the Israelis took £30 as departure tax – a mere hors d’oeuvre to the feast of enrichment that was about to begin on the Egyptian side of the border.

By now it was 3pm. The welcoming party knew that solo travellers crossing the frontier were likely heading at least as far as Dahab, about 100 miles down the coast, if not Sharm el Sheikh (60 miles further) or even Cairo. And night falls early in the far east of Egypt. “Tip?”

The first man I encountered was wearing a mask. His task was to take my temperature. His tone of voice was less a question, more an instruction: indicating that my subsequent progress depended on money changing hands. I negotiated him down from 20 shekels (£4) to five.

Next step: the Egyptian visa fee, because I was going beyond the Sinai peninsula to Cairo.

Egypt has a straightforward visa-on-arrival system. At each border there is a bank. You pay US$25 (£22) and get a visa sticker, which a frontier official sticks in your passport and cancels.

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

At Taba, though, an extra formality is interposed. A “travel agent” with a clipboard demanded I pay $35 (£30) for “visa service” before I could buy the visa sticker. Oh no I don’t, I protested. Oh yes you do, he and the passport guys chorused as they exchanged knowing grins. And no, I wasn’t getting a receipt.

I did get a receipt for the next fee: for the elaborate “border service” I had enjoyed, that would be 400 Egyptian pounds (£22). And one final morsel: five local pounds for “safety services and maintenance of devices”.

Egypt welcomes you with open arms, but only if your arms are full of money, I concluded. But things improved when I spied a dive operator from Dahab dropping off a client. He and I agreed a price of $30 (£26) for a ride down the coast.

But the border police ordered him to leave without me, then ordered me not to walk off along the road in case I could set up another ride. The only way out, they insisted, was to pay their taxi-driving friend three times as much. Not so much a welcome guest, more a walking ATM.

No country should be judged by the arrival experience, especially when it involves a succession of men as unrepresentative as they are unpleasant.

But petty officials and politicians extracting a short-term advantage from this terrible crisis should be aware that their behaviour is not cost-free. When the barriers finally come down, we travellers will remember how we were treated when they went up.

Source: Read Full Article

Categories
Travel

ALG Unveils New Agent-Responsive Policies

WHY IT RATES: Travel agents now have the tools they need to assist clients online without having to call in and wait on hold. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor

Apple Leisure Group Vacations (ALGV) has added new self-service features to allow travel advisors the freedom to process reservation changes without having to pick up the phone.

The company has updated its change and cancellation policies to provide more leniency and flexibility during these challenging times, while providing agents with enhanced rewards opportunities and travel discounts to help minimize the impact of COVID-19 on future bookings.

“Travel advisors have communicated how stressful and challenging it is to service concerned clients during this time of crisis. We are committed to acting on our partners’ feedback and have updated our change and cancellation policies to be more accommodating and easier to implement,” said Jacqueline Marks, Executive Vice President – Travel Agent Business for Apple Leisure Group Vacations.

“We’ve opened up more options for travel professionals in terms of refunds and rebooking, and have implemented intuitive technology and straightforward processes that saves valuable time for our agent partners and puts the power directly in their hands,” Marks added.

Newly introduced self-service options offer the ability to implement a broad range of changes to bookings for all ALGV destinations—including Europe. A library of quick, self-help tutorials is now available to guide agents through the process. They can sort through more than a dozen specific scenarios, watch video walk-throughs, read step-by-step directions—and ultimately, offer their clients superior service with an immediate resolution.

In order to accommodate agents who booked packages (with or without travel protection) on or before March 8, 2020, ALGV will waive all individual brand change fees for travel now through April 30, 2020. Agents must change their clients’ bookings at least 24 hours prior to departure in order to qualify for these temporary change policies.

Clients can change to any destination provided they are rebooked within 120 days and travel is completed by Dec. 31, 2020. Additional airline and hotel restrictions may apply, and clients may be required to pay any increase in vacation package cost should the price of the new booking exceed the cost of the original package.

“We are working vigorously to support our partner by pushing through streamlined technology at a rapid pace, corralling resources, and analyzing and changing policies to adapt to what’s best for travel advisors and their customers,” noted Marks.

ALGV is also unveiling some of the most competitive offers and reactionary discounts in the marketplace, featuring irresistible value to help stimulate bookings.

Additionally, travel agents will receive up to 3,000 bonus WAVES™ points for qualifying reservations made March 11 – May 31, 2020, for travel completed by Dec. 15, 2020.

The company is encouraging the purchase of Travel Protection Plus with incentives such as a limited time 1 percent bonus commission on new bookings which include the valuable add-on. This offer includes the ability to make a one-time change without incurring the 75 percent policy reactivation fee for changes made March 11 – 31, 2020.

Travel Protection Plus allows clients to change their plans or Cancel For Any Reason on top of numerous other benefits, including up to $50,000 in medical coverage and emergency care—as well as non-traditional features such as a Hurricane Travel Credit.

It also provides agents with Commission Protection up to $100 per room on reservations including scheduled air, Exclusive Nonstop Vacation Flights and land-only packages. Learn more at ALGVacations.com/TravelProtectionPlus.

Travel advisors can view the latest ALGV policy updates effective March 14 on VAX and access the Self-Help Guide to easily manage reservation changes on their own.

SOURCE: Apple Leisure Group press release.

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Categories
Travel

Harsh new United policy change irks fliers amid coronavirus fears



Slide 1 of 4: An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.
Slide 2 of 4: An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.
Slide 3 of 4: An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.
Slide 4 of 4: An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.

Harsh new United policy change irks fliers

An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.

Harsh new United policy change irks fliers

An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.

Harsh new United policy change irks fliers

An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.

Harsh new United policy change irks fliers

An eery quiet at San Francisco International Airport at 6:30 am on Monday morning, March 9.

“This should be illegal.  United is now saying if you buy a ticket but United changes it, as long as they can get you there within 25 hours of the original time it is no longer refundable.  That’s disgraceful. Contract law should shoot that down,” said frequent traveler S.H. in an email over the weekend.

What’s he talking about? Well, over the weekend, United quietly made a big change to its refund policy in light of the cuts it has been forced to make due to plummeting demand amid coronavirus fears.

Previously, if United changed, canceled or rescheduled a flight and it was unable to move passengers to another flight to their final destination within two hours of the original flight, it would offer them a full refund.

The new policy enacted over the weekend states that United will now only offer a credit for a future flight (no refund) if it can get passengers to their final destination within 2-25 hours of the originally scheduled arrival time. It will only offer a refund if it can’t find another flight within  the new 25 hour window.

So what does that mean in real terms? Let’s say you are holding a reservation to fly from San Francisco to New York-Newark departing at 8 a.m. next Wednesday. Then United makes a change to its schedule, eliminating that 8 a.m. flight. It switches you to an 11 p.m. redeye flight 15 hours later instead. If you choose not to take that flight, United will no longer give you your money back… it will only offer you a credit to use on a future flight within 15 months.

A United spokesperson told SFGATE: “We’ve made reductions to our international and domestic schedules and know many customers are impacted as a result.  Our goal is to rebook as many people as possible without interruption and right now, more than 90 percent of impacted customers are being put on a flight that is within 2 hours of their original booking. For any rebooking that goes beyond two hours, those customers can change for free or cancel altogether, and use the value of that ticket toward future travel up to 15 months from their original ticket issue date.”

United put schedule changes into effect this weekend after announcing last week it would cut its flying by up to 20 percent internationally and 11 percent domestically. Many other non-U.S. carriers have made similar cuts, but so far United is the only U.S. carrier to announce broad flight reductions.

Since it appears United imposed this onerous new refund rule as a result of coronavirus-related cuts, I asked if it would be rescinded when the crisis passes, but the spokesperson stated that she would not speculate on that.

You can read United’s refund policy here.

News of United’s new policy broke over the weekend, setting the travel blogosphere ablaze with comments about what appears to be an ill-timed move.

Brian Sumers, a writer for travel industry news website Skift, who broke the news on Twitter wrote: “How much does United want to conserve cash? Before Saturday, after a schedule change of more than two hours, United happily would refund you. The new policy is 25 hours.”

Matthew Klint, who writes the popular Live and Let’s Fly blog and tracks United closely was blunt: “That is just wrong. It is disgusting. We don’t contract for a particular aircraft or a particular seat number, but we certainly contract to travel on a particular date and time. This schedule change gives United broad power to disrupt your travel plans without recourse. United plans to apply this policy retroactively to previously booked tickets…an even shadier move.”

Over at The Cranky Flier, editor Brett Snyder was a bit more conciliatory, stating, “United created a model and realized money was going to fly out the door with this schedule change. The airline then had to try to figure out how to prevent bloodshed in this very uncertain time. Is this solution as good for customers as the old policy? No, definitely not. But the reality is that it is a mostly fair solution considering the circumstances.”

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