JULY 29, 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 US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has lifted the ban on New York residents joining and renewing memberships in Trusted Traveler programs, which include the Global Entry Program, the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) Program, the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Program and NEXUS, reports Business Travel News. DHS issued the ban in February, citing the state's "Green Light Law" concerning the issuance of driver's licenses. The Green Light Law allows undocumented immigrants to apply for New York driver's licenses while protecting applicants' information from immigration enforcement agencies. That law also prohibits New York State Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing any data with federal authorities that enforce immigration law, including ICE and Customs and Border Protection, without a subpoena or court order. In April, New York amended the law. DHS said the change allows record sharing with federal immigration authorities "as necessary for an individual seeking acceptance into a Trusted Traveler program, or to facilitate vehicle imports and/or exports," leading the agency to lift its ban.

Please note, due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases across the US, all Trusted Traveler Programs enrollment centers will remain closed until at least September 8, 2020.

Amtrak has announced its expansion of Reserved Seating (formerly Seat Assignment) to Acela Business Class customers for travel beginning Monday, August 3rd, with no extra fees. Reserved seating will allow travelers to view and select their seats before traveling, including those available in the Quiet Car, and provide a snapshot of the overall crowdedness of the train. “As Amtrak delivers a new standard of travel, reserved seating is one of several new initiatives we are undertaking in support of expanded health and safety protocols,” said Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn. “By providing customers with an easier and safer boarding process that limits people moving through the trains trying to find a seat, we are able to meet customer expectations for safer travel.” Travelers will automatically be designated a seat at the time of payment and have the option to change their seat using an interactive car and seat map on the Amtrak app or Amtrak.com. As part of Amtrak’s commitment to keeping travelers safe, only window seats will be available for booking while Acela operates at a reduced capacity. Aisle and rear-facing table seats will appear as blocked, and those traveling with companions or in groups will have designated reserved seats in separate rows, but may choose to sit together while onboard.

United Airlines has announced that travelers will be required to wear a face covering in the more than 360 airports where the airline operates around the world. This includes United customer service counters and kiosks, United Club locations, United's gates and baggage claim areas. United also stated that if travelers refuse to comply, they may be refused travel and banned from flying United at least while the face covering requirement is in place. This is effective for all individuals traveling on and after July 24th regardless of when their ticket was purchased. United also will strengthen its face covering exemption policy by only excluding children under the age of two. United will inform travelers of its updated face covering policy at numerous points in the travel journey including:
  • When a traveler books a ticket
  • At check in as part of United's "Ready to Fly" checklist, which asks travelers to certify that they have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, have not exhibited symptoms and are willing to comply with United's face covering policy. Travelers who cannot or do not meet these requirements will be given the option to rebook their travel
  • New airport signage in terminal and gate areas

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at John F. Kennedy International (JFK) and LaGuardia Airports (LGA) in New York are utilizing new technology at traveler checkpoints that both verifies travelers’ identifications and confirms their flight details, in close-to-real time, reports Travel Pulse. 22 of these credential authentication technology (CAT) units are currently in operation at JFK and 18 are now in use at LGA. At checkpoints, travelers hand their ID cards to a TSA officer for insertion into the CAT unit, which scans each card and indicates whether the ID is valid or not. In some places, units are positioned to allow travelers to insert their IDs themselves. In most instances, travelers approaching the TSA travel document checking station don’t need to show their boarding passes because the CAT unit has already cleared them as prescreened for travel out of the airport on that day; although, those with ID issues or travelers under the age of 18 may be asked to present one. Additionally, it will still be necessary for travelers to check-in with their airlines in advance and to present their boarding passes to gate agents prior to boarding their flights.

Four states were added to Chicago's emergency travel order, requiring anyone visiting or returning to the city from one of now 22 states to self-quarantine for 14 days, reports NBC Chicago. According to the mayor's office, Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota and Nebraska are all being added to the order, effective Friday. States are added to the list if they have "a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average." Chicago's travel order, which began on July 6th, is assessed every Tuesday to determine if states should be added or removed from the list of locations travelers must quarantine from. Recent additions to the order include Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa. Other states included are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Delta Air Lines has announced a partnership with RB, the makers of Lysol, to drive greater confidence in travel by innovating cleaner, more hygienic experiences for travelers and employees, alike. Together, Delta and Lysol will strengthen current Delta CareStandard cleanliness efforts and work to create a gold standard across touchpoints through:
  • Breakthrough Disinfection Innovation: Delta and Lysol will work together to gather insights on travelers’ travel experiences to help inform the development of new, innovative disinfecting solutions for both the airport and onboard experience. They will also work together to identify and address ongoing germ-related travel concerns for travelers. One of the first areas of focus will be developing breakthrough airplane lavatory solutions to help kill germs and protect travelers and crew.
  • Disinfecting Protocols and Best Practices: Microbiologists and germ-kill experts from Lysol will coordinate with Delta Global Cleanliness team to develop protocols for disinfection that will help protect travelers against illness-causing bacteria and viruses in high-traffic areas where travelers are most concerned about germs including departure gates, aircraft lavatories and Delta Sky Clubs. Delta will also deploy Delta Care Carts including EPA-approved disinfection products recommended by Lysol, making it easier to disinfect large seating areas and countertops more frequently.  
  • Lysol Products: Lysol will provide products to Delta, including Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, to be used with disinfecting protocols recommended by Lysol on high-touch areas from check-in to baggage claim.  

More than a dozen US travel industry supplier and association leaders have asked federal government officials to incorporate increased COVID-19 testing in the next coronavirus legislative package to help ignite an economic revival, reports Business Travel News. According to a letter sent by the US Travel Association (USTA) to President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the travel industry leaders have outlined specific areas of need, including improving the accuracy and speed of data collection for testing and contract tracing; increasing available resources for research, development and validation of new, rapid and accurate tests; increasing access to worker testing; and updating and expanding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing guidelines. The letter also referenced a white paper produced by USTA in which it found that wider availability of testing would help to determine whether reopening is safe, help to keep employees safe and businesses open, promote safe and healthy travel, and restore consumer confidence and generate travel demand.

Airports Council International (ACI) World has rolled out an accreditation program to assess new health measures and procedures launched at airports in the wake of COVID-19, reports Airport Technology. The Airport Health Accreditation program aims to provide airports with the assessment of their safety measures with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council Aviation Restart Task Force (CART) recommendations, along with ACI Aviation Business Restart and Recovery guidelines and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol guidelines. In addition, it will allow airports to demonstrate to travelers, staff, regulators and governments that they are prioritizing health and safety in a measurable and established manner. Topics covered by the accreditation include cleaning and disinfection, physical distancing, staff protection, physical layout, traveler communications and facilities. As part of the program, airports are required to submit a completed questionnaire, along with supporting materials. ACI will also conduct a virtual evaluation to determine that health measures are being applied in accordance with ICAO CART guidelines, as well as EASA and ACI recovery guidance.