SEPTEMBER 23, 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.

A new report from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that without a vaccine, the use of face coverings is “one of the most pragmatic and effective options” for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in an aircraft – as long as every single traveler is masked up, reports The San Francisco Chronicle. “Universal use is key,” the report said. “A recent modeling study suggests that the universal use of surgical masks in the setting of ventilation rates of aircraft may reduce infection risk from respiratory particles to less than 1 percent.” (Surgical masks are those lightweight, papery pale blue ones with horizontal pleats, commonly handed out by airlines and stores to customers who didn’t bring their own). The researchers note that earlier research conducted before the airlines adopted universal face covering policies estimated an infection risk of 3.69%, although they note that some individuals may have picked up the virus before or after their flight. "The use of face masks is critically important throughout the air travel process, from entering the airport for departure to leaving the destination airport, because it diminishes the release of infectious particles into the environment,” the report said.

Five states were added to the tri-state travel advisory Tuesday morning, raising the number of states and territories on the quarantine list to thirty-five, reports USA Today. Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island and Wyoming were the latest states to make the list, having surpassed 10 average daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. All but Wyoming had previously been on the list but fell off when they dipped below the threshold. Minnesota and Nevada were two of six states removed from last week's quarantine list before being re-added this week; California, Hawaii, Maryland and Ohio were the other four removed last week. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut update the quarantine list every Tuesday, as states are added and removed based on the average daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Travelers from the listed 35 states and territories will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, unless they are performing essential work or passing through during travel for less than 24 hours. Click "Read More" below to view the current full list.

Boeing has teamed up with Florida-based Healthe Inc. to develop a new ultraviolet (UV) wand as part of its Confident Travel Initiative (CTI) to support the health and safety of travelers and crew amid the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Travel Pulse. The wand uses 222-nanometer UVC light, which research finds effectively inactivates pathogens. The new technology is expected to be available for airlines in late fall. Resembling a carry-on suitcase, the easy-to-transport device allows airlines to pass UV light over high-touch surfaces, quickly sanitizing everywhere the light reaches. The new UV wand was found to be particularly effective in compact spaces and is capable of sanitizing a flight deck in fewer than 15 minutes.

Delta Air Lines has announced that it is extending benefits for some Delta Sky Club Memberships, Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Members and more. “From extended loyalty benefits to improving award travel, customers now have even more flexibility for upcoming trips and more time to enjoy benefits when they’re ready to travel again,” said Sandeep Dube, Senior Vice President – Customer Engagement and Loyalty, and CEO of Delta Vacations. “We are dedicated to ensuring customers’ health and safety during travel above all else, and these changes show how we are continuing to find new ways to be there for them as the pandemic continues.” The following extensions will happen automatically in the coming weeks, with no action needed from members. Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Members will see select benefits extended through the end of next year:
  • Delta SkyMiles Gold Card Members who earn a $100 Delta flight credit will have the expiration date for that credit extended to December 31, 2021.  
  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Reserve Card Members with unused Companion Certificates will receive an additional extension to book and travel using the Companion Certificate by December 31, 2021. 
  • Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card Members with unused Delta Sky Club guest passes will have expiration dates for those passes extended to December 31, 2021. 

These extensions are for eligible Card Members with benefits issued January 1 – November 30, 2020. Delta Sky Club Memberships (that were active as of March 1, 2020) will be extended again for Members to enjoy through June 30, 2021. Diamond and Platinum Medallion Members who selected Upgrade Certificates, Delta Sky Club Memberships, Delta Sky Club Guest Passes or Delta Travel Vouchers or gave Medallion Status through Delta’s exclusive Choice Benefits for the 2020 Medallion Year will get to select new Choice Benefits starting on February 1, 2021 (the start of the 2021 Medallion Year) or as they earn Medallion Status (like they normally would). Additionally, SkyMiles Select Members will receive an additional six-month extension to the benefits, including any unused drink vouchers.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for COVID-19 testing for all international travelers before flights, reports Airport Technology. The association, which represents around 290 airlines, plans to get the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and health authorities to implement the system. A rapid, accurate and scalable pre-flight COVID-19 test regime is intended as an alternative to the mandatory quarantine rules, which significantly dampen air travel demand. IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said, “The key to restoring the freedom of mobility across borders is systematic COVID-19 testing of all travelers before departure."

Amtrak has announced its Buy One Get One Free sale on all Acela and Northeast Regional (NER) trains throughout the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Travelers can receive the deal by booking between September 21st through September 30th for travel from Thursday, September 24 through Saturday, December 12, 2020. Exchanges and full refunds are available upon request through September 30, 2020. Amtrak’s new, enhanced safety initiatives will continue to be in effect for travelers and employees on trains and at stations. Amtrak's safety initiatives include the following:
  • Face coverings: Amtrak requires that all travelers and employees wear a face mask or covering that fully covers the entire mouth and nose while onboard and in stations. Amtrak reserves the right to remove a traveler or ban them from future travel in the event of noncompliance with Amtrak’s face covering policy.
  • Limiting bookings: Amtrak is limiting bookings on most trains to allow for more physical distancing in seating areas. Individuals traveling alone may use the seat next to them for personal belongings, while friends and family members will easily find seats together.
  • Air Quality: All trains are equipped with onboard filtration systems with a fresh air exchange rate every 4-5 minutes.
  • Physical distancing: Signage has been displayed at the busiest stations to indicate safe distances in high traffic areas. In addition, protective plastic barriers have been installed at customer counters at the busiest stations.

The United States and Canada have extended border restrictions until October 21st, reports Reuters. The US has similar restrictions on the border with Mexico and these will also now be in effect until October 21st as well, said Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “We continue to work with our Canadian and Mexican partners to slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said in a tweet. The land border restrictions aimed at controlling COVID-19 were first announced in March and have been renewed monthly. According to the DHS, the temporary restriction includes all non-essential travel across borders. “Non-essential” travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. The restriction does not apply to entry into the United States from Canada via air, rail or sea travel at this time, but does apply to commuter rail and ferry travel. Sources in Washington and Ottawa have said the measures on the joint border would most likely have to be rolled over until at least the end of November due to COVID-19.

Several Caribbean destinations are beginning to reopen borders to international travelers and adjust internal health and safety protocols as they seek to restart critical tourism activity following the COVID-19 outbreak, reports Travel Pulse. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) will reopen its borders to international travelers beginning December 1st, premier and minister of finance Andrew A. Fahie said Monday, under a phased plan launched earlier, designed to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Fahie said the territory will “reopen in the safest way possible using science and technology as a guide,” he did not outline details of health and safety protocols the territory will require of international visitors. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Sint Maarten this past week relaxed entry requirements, widening the window during which proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test must be submitted from three to five days. The dual-nation territory also reopened the border between the Dutch and French sides of the island, which had been closed to visitors since September 1st.