JUNE 3, 2020

At Lawyers Travel, we remain committed to providing excellent service to our valued clients throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic. Click the links below to view our travel information and traveler health and safety resources regarding COVID-19.

As some of the world starts to open up again and as the pandemic starts to subside, law firms have responsibilities and decisions to make as it relates to the health and safety of their business travelers, while working through changes that will take us into a new world for the future of corporate travel. Please click "READ MORE" below for Lawyers Travel’s recommendations that law firms should consider as the world starts to travel again.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have extended change fee waivers through the end of June, reports Travel Weekly. Delta is allowing tickets for flights bought through June 30th to be changed without fee for travel within a year of the purchase date. In addition, the carrier is capping fares for domestic travel and travel to Canada through June 30th. For United, new tickets bought through June 30th for any travel date can be exchanged for travel within a year of the date the original ticket was issued for a ticket of equal or lesser value with no fee. When the ticket is more expensive, travelers pay only the fare difference, although travelers exchanging for fares of lesser value will not be refunded the fare difference. With this extension, all three major US carriers have extended change fee waivers through June 30th, as American Airlines had previously announced their extension last week.

The chief executives of some of the largest US hotel companies expressed support for peaceful protests in response to ongoing examples of racial injustice across America, reports Skift. “With respect to the protests, it’s very concerning that we continue to see the existence of and persistence of racism in this country and prejudice in many places around the world,” Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said during a question-and-answer session with media. “The frustration level and the outpouring of emotion is completely understandable given how long this persists and how it keeps repeating itself. So, we really need to step up and get more engaged.” Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta and BWH Hotel Group CEO David Kong joined Hoplamazian during the press conference. Both shared his sentiment with respect to the ongoing peaceful protests. “As for the protests, this is really difficult to watch. Obviously, there is no place for racism in our country and in our culture,” Nassetta said. All the leaders acknowledged the ongoing protests were an opportunity for the hotel industry, with its diverse workforce, to do more. “As companies that have a very, very diverse employee base, we really must take more affirmative steps to address the situation,” Hoplamazian said. “That’s really what this is a call to action to do.”

US protesters rallying against the killing of George Floyd and countless other black Americans are being heard around the world as demonstrators launched their own protests in countries such as Canada, Germany, Iran, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, reports NPR. Thousands from each country took to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity with the American protesters by protesting against police brutality and the injustice toward black people globally.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released an interactive map created by detailing information about travel restrictions around the world put in place amid COVID-19. IATA says the information is only provided during COVID-19 pandemic as a service to the industry, and the information is correct to the best of its knowledge at the time of publication. It is being reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis by IATA staff, given the rapidly evolving nature of the international response to COVID-19. Click the "READ MORE" button below to access IATA's interactive COVID-19 global travel map.

The US will ban mainland Chinese airlines from serving the US, beginning June 16, reports Travel Weekly. The move comes as China continues to block US carriers from resuming China service under a March 26th decision by the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) that was designed to protect China from COVID-19 spread. In an order issued Wednesday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) said that the block on Chinese airline service is necessary to restore the competitive balance between US and Chinese carriers. The move followed a May 22nd DOT order proclaiming that China’s actions violate the bilateral air service agreement between the two countries. Specifically, the order will bring an end to US flights operated by Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. Each of those carriers were already limited to providing just one flight per week to the US under the March 26th order by the Chinese government.

A recent survey conducted by Longwoods International, a tourism-focused market research consultancy, indicates that the pandemic is becoming less of a factor in Americans’ upcoming travel plans, reports Travel Pulse. In the study's twelfth week, the percentage of people who feel COVID-19 will "greatly impact" their travel plans over the next six months has dropped to 47 percent, a twenty percent drop from the 67 percent observed on April 1st. Additionally, 71 percent of respondents indicated that they have travel planned within the coming six-month period, a ratio that has remained fairly constant since the Longwoods study began in mid-March.

With some air travel demand expected to return this summer, airlines are establishing new protocols that they hope not only will minimize COVID-19 spread but also assure travelers that it is safe to return to the skies. To achieve the latter, Delta Air Lines chief customer experience officer Bill Lentsch believes airlines might at times have to go beyond the recommendations of the science and medical communities, reports Business Travel News. In an interview with BTN transportation editor Michael B. Baker, Lentsch detailed what the flying experience will be for travelers returning to the skies and why many of the policies and procedures now in place will likely endure at the carrier for a long time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the airline business, and experts believe the recovery depends in part on how fast carriers can attract travelers, reports Condé Nast Traveler. The consensus among pundits is that in the short term, airlines will have to resort to fire-sale prices to attract hesitant travelers. “There will be an enormous fare war to kick this whole thing off,” says Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, which advocates for businesses that purchase travel. “And the airlines will compete on everything they can,” he says, noting that easing typical fare restrictions and rebooking policies will encourage travelers to put their money down for a future trip. However, the timing of any cheap plane tickets will depend on a rise in demand. According to Helane Becker, senior research analyst covering airlines and aviation at Cowen and Company, a fare sale may be premature until the lockdown fully eases. “As the states start to reopen and demand starts to resume, we think airlines will offer discounts to encourage travel [...] once that occurs, we believe we will see fares go down, especially because we expect leisure travel to recover before business travel,” she says.

Airports Council International (ACI) World has released new airport industry guidelines outlining best practice examples and guidance for initial phases of restart and long term recovery, reports Transportation Today. “COVID-19 has been an unprecedented global challenge, particularly to the aviation industry, with the quick spread of the virus resulting in governments rapidly restricting travel and closing borders to limit the spread,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “This has had a drastic and detrimental effect on airports worldwide, and a variety of new measures could become a necessity at airports as the industry restarts.” The document contains key principles to implement practical, efficient and workable health-related and operational measures. “For airports, the focus is to protect the health and welfare of travelers, staff and the public, to minimize the opportunities for dissemination of disease while maintaining efficient operations,” Gittens said. The publication is envisioned as a living document with chapters added or amended as additional information becomes available.

Global airline capacity this week is up by nearly 16 percent, or about 5.7 million seats, compared with last week, with capacity up across all major regional markets except Southeast Asia and Lower South America, reports Business Travel News. According to global travel data provider OAG, about 60 airlines are resuming service this week and total global capacity stands at 36.7 million, about a third of the level of what it was this time last year. In addition, "there are indications of some growth in search and booking activity in both the Chinese domestic market and indeed Europe, and particularly Italy," according to OAG analyst John Grant.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the world’s busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic, is taking steps to improve facilities hygiene and restore traveler and employee confidence amid COVID-19, reports Travel Pulse. In the coming months, ATL will become the first airport to deploy a new, cutting-edge, hygiene-tracking technology from GP PRO, a division of Georgia-Pacific and a leading provider of advanced dispensing solutions for commercial facilities. Its soon-to-be-released KOLO Hygiene product is an innovative new feature designed to help monitor, measure and manage day-to-day performance of the airport’s heightened cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting practices. Dr. Kofi Smith, president and CEO of Atlanta Airlines Terminal Company, which provides facility management services for ATL, commented: “Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic reducing air travel to near negligible levels, we need to quickly and dramatically do even more, particularly as it relates to protecting the health and safety of our airport staff and the traveling public. We hope to use GP PRO’s smart technology to do that and, as a result, help drive our industry’s and our nation’s recovery.”

As travelers begin to fly again, airports have begun preparing for the challenge that awaits when rising traveler counts near capacity limitations put in place for social distancing, reports Travel Weekly. “If we can’t make a safe, healthy and comfortable passenger experience coming out of this, we are going to end up with a protracted downturn,” said Chris Oswald, senior vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the trade group Airports Council International -- North America. Oswald said airports are “very concerned” about the difficulties that await when they must balance social distancing with traffic. Commercial aviation industry stakeholders are looking toward a combination of physical and technological solutions, combined with an unusual level of scheduling cooperation between airports and airlines, to avoid jam-packed airports. Authorities also hope to avoid scenarios in which flyers must arrive several hours early to the airport. One key, said Oswald, will be collaborative development of seat capacity between airlines and airports, as long as that is done without running afoul of DOT rules relating to scheduling collusion.

The Netherlands-based venue sourcing and strategic meetings management platform Meetingselect has released a "distancing seating" solution in response to new COVID-19 safety regulations and practices, reports Business Travel News. Meetingselect collaborated with major hotel chains to develop the new algorithm, which calculates venues' seating-per-meeting requirements based on countries' distancing policies. In the United States, the tool also can apply state- or city-level policies, when known, but otherwise uses six feet between attendees as its distancing measurement. Venues also can adjust when changes need to be implemented, the company said. Depending on a planner's preferred meeting set-up—including U-shape, boardroom, theater or classroom—and social distancing requirements, the tool automatically will suggest venues and meeting rooms that comply. The software also can indicate the maximum capacity of a planner's desired meeting room. The feature is available immediately.