AUGUST 26, 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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has removed the directions for two-week quarantines from the “After You Travel” section of its COVID-19 travel guidance on its website, reports The Washington Post. Instead, the CDC has now posted “after-travel” recommendations based on individual countries and local or state governments. A map of country-specific health information can be found on the CDC website, and includes a map of reported cases in the United States. In an email, CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Washington Post: “This updated guidance is based on risk of exposure during travel, asking travelers to think about what they did, where they were, and who they came into contact with to evaluate their risk of exposure to COVID-19.” The CDC’s updated travel guidance states that all returning travelers should social distance, wear a cloth face covering, wash their hands often and watch for symptoms. The agency still recommends travelers who visit areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases, attend large gatherings or sail on a cruise ship quarantine for 14 days and get tested for the virus. Additionally, travelers must also adhere to any restrictions in place at their destinations. This includes the states currently mandating two-week quarantines for arrivals such as Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have removed five states from their 14-day quarantine list, reports USA Today. Travelers from Arizona, Alaska, Delaware, Maryland and Montana will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, paring back the list of affected states and territories to 31, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday. The three most-populous states — California, Texas and Florida — remain on the quarantine list, while the territory of Guam was added for the first time Tuesday. Tuesday's announcement came four days after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dropped its recommendation that travelers quarantine for 14 days upon returning home from trips to high-COVID states or countries. Instead, the CDC's updated guidance defers to states and localities, telling travelers to follow whatever travel restrictions or quarantine orders are put in place by their local or state government.

Delta Air Lines has announced that they are blocking the selection of middle seats and limiting the number of travelers per flight through at least January 6, 2021. “Medical experts, including our own partners at Emory Healthcare, agree – more distance on board makes a difference,” said Bill Lentsch, Chief Customer Experience Officer. “We believe that taking care of our customers and employees and restoring confidence in the safety of air travel is more important right now than filling up every seat on a plane. We’ll continue taking a thoughtful, layered approach ensuring customers know to expect the highest standard of care as they prepare for their holiday travels.”

Through January 6, 2021, Delta will block the selection of middle seats in Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin:
  • For travelers in parties of 1-2: Middle seats will be blocked for safety
  • For travelers in parties of 3 or more: Middle seats will appear as available for booking, to allow families and travel companions to select seats together

Additionally, Delta is also continuing to ensure flights are not filled to capacity. For travel through at least October 31, 2020, travelers can expect that Delta will:
  • Limit the number of travelers on board all aircraft – with or without middle seats
  • Limit the First Class cabin to half capacity to further ensure more space between travelers (On regional jets in 1x2 configurations, First Class cabin will be capped at 67%)
  • Block one aisle of seats on aircraft without middle seats

On routes where planes begin to fill, Delta will continue to look for opportunities to upsize to a larger aircraft type or add more flights.

American Airlines will be the first airline to use a new disinfecting surface coating that kills COVID-19 for up to seven days, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), reports The Hill. The EPA issued an emergency exemption to Texas to allow the use of SurfaceWise2 by both American Airlines and Texas-based Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine. The nontoxic surface coating manufactured by Allied BioScience is said to kill pathogens within two hours of application and keep working against them for up to seven days. The coating can be applied to surfaces such as seats, tray tables and overhead bin doors. American Airlines said the product will be used along with routine cleaning. The EPA exemption only allows the use of the product at American Airlines airport facilities in Texas. The product could become widely available if Allied BioScience is able to get nonemergency approval from the agency in the coming months. “After carefully reviewing the available data and information, the agency has determined that the product helps to address the current national emergency. This product is expected to provide longer-lasting protection in public spaces, increasing consumer confidence in resuming normal air travel and other activities,” the EPA said. 

Airports Council International (ACI) World has introduced a new smartphone app that provides information to travelers regarding airport health measures, reports Airport Technology. With the gradual ease of COVID-19 travel restrictions around the world, many airports have implemented new health-related measures. The "Check & Fly" mobile application can help the airport communicate with travelers about their anticipated travel plans, help them adhere to requirements and make travel smoother and more efficient. The app complements the ACI Airport Health Accreditation program, which offers assessment of measures according to the ICAO Council Aviation Reconstruction Task Force (CART). It also complies with the joint EASA and ECDC Aviation Health Safety Protocol and the Guidelines for Healthy Passenger Experience at Airports of ACI Europe. Check & Fly was developed in collaboration with ACI’s Airport IT World Standing Committee members and is currently only available on the Apple App Store.

New York will set up COVID-19 testing sites for incoming travelers at its two largest airports as part of the latest effort to stop travelers from spreading COVID-19 to the state, reports USA Today. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the sites are slated for John F. Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA) airports, saying it will allow the state to more quickly determine whether incoming travelers have the virus at the center of a global pandemic. “We’re actually setting up testing sites at our airports. We’ll be able to do faster testing of people coming in, including hospital staff," Cuomo said Monday at a news conference on Long Island. Cuomo did not offer details on the cost for inbound travelers or what happens when someone tests positive. Nor did he say when the programs will be officially rolled out. However, the agency is already undergoing a testing program with XpresCheck that launched at JFK’s Terminal 4 at the end of June. The JFK program expanded to all travelers last week. The Port Authority opened a similar testing facility for workers at Newark Liberty International (EWR) Airport's Terminal B last week, and it plans to expand it to travelers soon as well.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has closed lanes at select ports of entry at the border with Mexico and will conduct more secondary checks to limit non-essential travel and the spread of COVID-19, reports Reuters. Non-essential travel has been restricted at the border since March, but US citizens and permanent residents can still enter the United States from Mexico. The new measures are aimed at those travelers, a CBP official said. “We need people to think twice about non-essential travel and to ask themselves if the travel is worth risking their lives and the lives of others,” El Paso CBP spokesman Roger Maier said in a written statement. CBP said it would take steps to reduce non-essential travel at more than a dozen border crossings in Texas, Arizona and California.

American Airlines has announced that it will adjust its October schedule to remove service to 15 markets as a result of low demand and the expiration of the air service requirements associated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is the first step as American continues to evaluate its network and plans for additional schedule changes in the coming weeks. The following station suspensions will be effective October 7th: Del Rio, TX; Dubuque, IA; Florence, SC; Greenville, NC; Huntington, WV; Joplin, MO; Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, MI; Lake Charles, LA; New Haven, CT; New Windsor, NY; Roswell, NM; Sioux City, IA; Springfield, IL; Stillwater, OK and Williamsport, PA. For now, these changes are only in place for the October schedule period, which runs through November 3rd. American says it will continue to re-assess plans for these and other markets as an extension of the Payroll Support Program remains under deliberation. The full, updated October schedule will be released August 29th, and American anticipates releasing its updated November schedule by late-September.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has installed acrylic barriers at security checkpoints throughout Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS), reports Airport Technology. The move was part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among airport personnel and travelers. Overall, 72 acrylic barriers were installed at places where TSA officers usually interact with travelers. It includes the travel document checkpoints and areas where the travelers prepare their luggage for X-ray screening. TSA Nevada federal security director Karen Burke said, “The recent addition of clear barriers should instill an additional layer of confidence among travelers departing Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. TSA will continue to identify and implement changes to the security checkpoint environment and security procedures to protect the health and well-being of the travelling public, our employees and the larger airport community.” In June, TSA awarded a contract for 1,230 acrylic barriers, which will be installed at 37 priority airports in the US. The installation work is expected to be completed soon.