At Ovation, we remain committed to providing excellent service to our valued clients throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Click the link below to view our travel resources guide which includes traveler health & safety information, interactive risk maps, client communications, travel management best practices, webinar recordings and more regarding COVID-19.

American, Delta and United have all announced that they are permanently getting rid of change fees on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for domestic travel, effective immediately. The new policies do not cover any of the three airlines' basic economy tickets. While all three airlines have said the elimination of change fees includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands, American's change also covers flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Please see below for details of each airline's new policies.

American Airlines
Effective immediately, American will eliminate all change fees for First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Main Cabin tickets for all domestic and short-haul international flights (Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands). Basic Economy tickets are excluded from the new policy.

Starting October 1, 2020, all American Airlines customers will have the ability to stand by on flights on the same day as their original departure for the same destination at no charge. This flexibility extends to domestic and international travel, regardless of the ticket purchased.

In addition, American is also providing customers additional flexibility by extending its offer to waive change fees for customers booking tickets for any new travel purchased by December 31, 2020. This offer applies to tickets that meet the following criteria:
  • Any First, Business, Premium Economy, Main Cabin or Basic Economy ticket purchased on or before December 31, 2020, for future travel will not incur change fees prior to travel. Customers must pay any fare difference, if applicable, and fare rules may apply depending on the ticket.
  • All AAdvantage® award tickets are included in this offer.
  • Customers are allowed to change their origin and destination cities as part of this offer.

Delta Air Lines
Effective immediately, Delta's elimination of change fees includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in Delta’s First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, with the exception of Basic Economy tickets.

Additionally, Delta will extend its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year and will extend its expiration on travel credits through December 2022 for tickets booked before April 17, 2020.

United Airlines
United Airlines has eliminated change fees for tickets purchased on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. There is no limit to the number of changes made per flight, but customers must still pay any fare difference. Basic Economy tickets are excluded, as changes to those tickets have never been allowed except during COVID-19 or within 24 hours of ticket purchase. International flights, which carry higher change fees, are also excluded. The change fees on international flights vary by destination.

United also said it would extend its waiver for new tickets issued through December 31, 2020, permitting unlimited changes with no fee. The change will apply to all ticket types purchased after March 3, 2020, and is valid for domestic and international travel. For previously booked tickets, original change fees will apply.

Additionally, beginning January 1, 2021, any United customer can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service, while MileagePlus Premier members can confirm a seat on a different flight on the same day with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket if a seat in the same ticket fare class is available.

Alaska Airlines is the latest US carrier to eliminate change fees long-term, but unlike American, Delta and United, Alaska is getting rid of its $125 fee for all international flights as well as on its domestic network, reports Travel Weekly. As with those carriers, however, the fee will still apply to Alaska’s basic economy product. “COVID-19 has taught us that flexibility in travel is key,” chief commercial officer Andrew Harrison said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “As we evolve our approach to travel to include more than 100 safety actions, it's important to give our guests flexibility when they book by eliminating change fees.” Alaska’s international network is modest, having featured just more than a dozen locations in Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica before the pandemic. American too has ended most change fees on short-haul international travel, but it is continuing them for its transoceanic network as well as for South American flights. Alaska didn’t say how long customers who decide not to travel have to use their travel credit. Changes remain free on basic economy tickets purchased through December 31st due to COVID-19.

Longwoods International’s Wave-19 Travel Sentiment Study regarding travel sentiment among US travelers revealed an encouraging trend, reports Travel Pulse. Heading into the 2020 Labor Day weekend, 49 percent of those surveyed said that they feel confident about venturing outside of their communities—a 10 percent jump from the number of respondents who said the same two weeks ago and the highest level of such sentiment reported since early May. The number of travelers who have travel plans scheduled within the next six months is now up to 69 percent—a 5 percent uptick from two weeks ago. The Wave-19 Travel Sentiment Study was conducted on August 26, 2020, among a randomly-selected national sample of 1,000 adults, ages 18 and over. Selection quotas were applied in keeping with Census targets for age, gender and region, making the survey as representative of the overall US population as possible.

As Labor Day approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers should be aware of the different travel restrictions set in place throughout the country, reports Travel Pulse. Several states have identified specific areas of the country from which travelers are subject to restrictions, while others have imposed none at all. States not currently imposing restrictions on out-of-state travelers include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Other states across the nation continue to enforce individual requirements for entry. As of September 1, 2020, these include: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, DC. Click "READ MORE" below for a comprehensive list of state-specific travel restrictions currently in place across the US.

Delta Air Lines is adding in-flight hand sanitizing stations, reports USA Today. The Purell dispensers, up to five per flight depending on the size of the plane, will be located near the bathrooms, the airline announced last week. Delta said it is the first US airline to add them to its planes. The airline is also adding sanitizer stations near the boarding doors in airports. Delta already has signs inside the bathrooms on more than 130 planes reminding travelers to wash their hands and plans to add them to the rest of its fleet. It calls the hand sanitizer an extra layer of protection in addition to washing hands with soap and water, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) top recommendation.

Abbott Laboratories announced on August 26th that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card rapid test for the detection of COVID-19, reports Travel Pulse. The point-of-care, rapid test, which is highly portable and can be run outside the laboratory system, produces results in just 15 minutes and costs only $5. Roughly the size of a credit card, BinaxNOW tests are self-contained and require no special equipment in order to process samples or read test results, although they still must be administered by a medical professional. As with traditional COVID-19 tests, a nasal swab is required to obtain a sample from the patient for testing. Unlike PCR tests, which must be submitted to a lab for processing and the results of which take several days to be reported, BinaxNOW detects antigens (proteins found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus), instead of the virus itself. While there aren’t currently enough rapid tests to make them widely accessible to travelers or to test everyone passing through US airports, just the notion that a more readily-available, reliable, cheaper and faster testing option is becoming a reality caused airline stocks to shoot upward last week, according to One Mile at a Time.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has piloted a touchless self-service technology that matches a traveler's live photo with the photo on their ID, reports Airport Technology. After matching the live photo of travelers with the image on their ID, flight information for travelers gets confirmed in near-real-time. The technology was piloted at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and comes after an earlier 30-day test of the technology with a camera. The previous trial was carried out last September at McCarran International Airport (LAS) with volunteer TSA PreCheck travelers. After that pilot, TSA refined the technology along with vendor and industry experts. TSA Administrator David Pekoske said, “In light of COVID-19, advanced health and safety precautions have become a top priority and part of the new normal for TSA. As a result, we are exploring rapid testing and deployment of this touchless, self-service technology. At the conclusion of the pilot, we expect to be able to determine how positioning the new technology will allow passengers to use it themselves thereby providing a safer checkpoint experience while adding significant security benefits.”

United Airlines has begun using a sophisticated algorithm to cancel flights within seven days of departure when load factors fall too low, provided it can accommodate travelers on other flights, reports Skift. Along with considering whether travelers can be rebooked, the system takes into account variables like where flight crew is needed and whether the airplane is required at the destination for a flight later in the day. Managers can overrule it when warranted, United said. The program began August 14th, and is being used on fewer than 1 percent of flights, most often on hub-to-hub routes or from hubs to other big markets, according to the airline. United claims 77 percent of affected travelers arrived within four hours of their originally scheduled time, with one-third arriving early.

Restrictions imposed by other countries continue to steeply curtail the ability of Americans to travel abroad, while US-imposed restrictions block most incoming traffic from the EU, China and Brazil as well as incoming leisure traffic from Canada and Mexico, reports Travel Weekly. Nevertheless, more than 70 airlines, including more than 60 foreign-based carriers, offered at least some level of international service from the US in August, according to the flight data provider OAG. Overall, many of the large global carriers continue to be the foreign airlines that are doing the most flying to and from the US. Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar and Turkish Airlines are all in the top 10 in terms of seats offered this month, according to OAG.

This week, Ovation announced a new optional service, the Ovation Safety Check, an in-depth, personalized, itinerary-specific information report with monitoring on safety and quarantine requirements at travel destinations as well as health and safety protocols and guidelines for all air, rail, hotel and car booked. The Safety Check is part of Ovation’s TLC (Travel Lifetime Care). Our TLC features destination and supplier details at the time of booking, client communications with enhanced COVID-19 details and resources guide, trip alerts and traveler tracking, OTECH Risk Dashboard, Ovation’s new optional Safety Check, unused ticket tracking and refund management, as well as client webinars, checklists and best practices.