NOVEMBER 18, 2020

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 Airlines has announced that it is partnering with British Airways to launch an optional COVID-19 medical-based testing trial on select flights from cities in the United States to London Heathrow (LHR). According to American, the testing trial is a combined effort to scientifically demonstrate how COVID-19 testing can reopen international travel and remove the need for travelers to quarantine on arrival. The free tests will initially be offered to eligible travelers booked on American Airlines Flight AA50 departing Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to LHR; British Airways Flight BA114 departing New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to LHR; and British Airways Flight BA268 from Los Angeles (LAX) to LHR, beginning November 25th. The test will be expanded to American Airlines Flight AA106 from JFK to LHR, with a launch date to be communicated. Eligible travelers booked on flights that are part of the trial will be contacted by American Airlines and British Airways with instructions on how to volunteer. Each traveler participating in the trial will take three tests in conjunction with the journey. Travelers will be tested 72 hours before departure, on arrival at Heathrow and again three days after arrival. British Airways says its goal is to show that a single test 72 hours before takeoff is enough to ensure travelers aren't carrying COVID-19, allowing authorities in the UK to end the quarantine requirement.

Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye has said that the aviation industry requires approval from the UK Government for traveler testing as soon as possible, reports Airport Technology. This would provide time for the industry to prepare for the COVID-19 testing system when the ongoing second UK lockdown ends next month. The current testing on arrival system does not allow travelers to reduce the restrictive 14-day quarantine. Last month, the UK formed a task force to explore ways of implementing a COVID-19 testing regime for international travelers arriving in the country. The recommendations are expected to be submitted this month. Several industry stakeholders, including airlines, airports and global entities, have called on governments to implement a universal testing system as an alternative to quarantine measures. This is expected to help in increasing travel demand and will support the recovery of the sector.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has signed an aviation agreement with the US to ensure that air travel continues between the two countries after the end of the Brexit transition period set to start in January 2021, reports Airport Technology. The UK Government said that the new treaty will allow the UK to remain a global aviation hub, not only for travelers but also for commercial operations. The treaty is set to become legal on January 1, 2021, after both parties have completed all necessary procedures.

American Airlines is making its Five Star Service available for purchase to all travelers during the winter holiday travel period, no matter which cabin they book, reports Travel Pulse. According to the carrier, families and groups of three or more can receive the service at a 50 percent discount. American’s limited-time promotion is only available for travel between November 20th and January 10, 2021, at airports in Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington DC. The airline’s Five Star Service is a personalized airport experience that includes Flagship First Check-In, access to the Admirals Club lounge, escort to the departure gate, boarding on-demand and priority re-accommodation, curbside greeting and escort to luggage retrieval. AAdvantage members can also use miles to book Five Star Service at the discounted rate. In addition, American has reopened its Admirals Club lounges at John Wayne Airport, Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Tampa International Airport. American has now reopened 24 lounges across 20 US cities with modified food and drink service.

United Airlines has announced changes to its MileagePlus Premier program that will make it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 program year. United is reducing Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) thresholds next year and introducing first-of-its-kind promotions that help members earn status more quickly. For travelers in 2021 to reach status for 2022, United has cut the required PQF from pre-pandemic levels by a third and PQP by a quarter. For example, Silver status next year will require 8 PQF and 3,000 PQP, compared with 12 PQF and 4,000 PQP prior to the pandemic. Early next year, United will also deposit 25% of the PQP-only requirements in Premier members' accounts based on their 2021 Premier status level. United will also give members bonus PQP for their first three trips flown in 2021 through March 31st, helping their flights go further toward reaching status.

Three global airline alliances are urging governments to put into practice common guidelines for traveler testing and digital health pass technology, to help people start flying again, reports USA Today. Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam said testing could be part of an overall approach to restart international travel, by reducing reliance of quarantines aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19. New testing guidelines from the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Authority could “pave the way for a framework of trust to be established between countries,” Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh said in the joint statement on the website. Oneworld CEO Rob Gurney and SkyTeam CEO Kristin Colvile joined in the statement. The alliances — representing 58 member airlines — cited recent tests of the CommonPass digital health pass, which uses a smartphone app to securely verify that travelers have complied with health requirements, whether these be a test or a future vaccine.

Forbes has posted the top 21 places to travel to in 2021 according to Ovation Travel Group’s travel consultants. The pandemic has made Ovation’s customers more ambitious than ever, with destinations such as Maldives, Tanzania and Antarctica included on the list. Of the top 21 destinations for 2021, only seven are in the US. “During the past eight months, the travel habits of our clients have certainly changed,” says Tina Rose, managing director of Ovation. “Intrepid travelers have been grounded. But the love of travel is still deeply rooted in their DNA.” Ovation presents these recommendations for travel in 2021 in the hopes that these destinations will be accessible once the global pandemic starts to subside. Click "Read More" below to view the full list from Forbes.