MAY 27, 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.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has recently implemented changes to the security screening process in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the upcoming summer travel. According to the TSA, these changes have already taken effect, with more to be implemented at airport checkpoints nationwide by mid-June. As procedure changes begin to rollout in the coming weeks, TSA said travelers should expect to:
  • Keep possession of their boarding passes. Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it. This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a traveler's boarding pass thus reducing potential for cross-contamination.
  • Separate food for X-ray screening. Travelers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA PreCheck members do not need to remove items from their bags.
  • Pack smart. Travelers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags. In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per traveler, in carry-on bags. Travelers are required to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for X-ray screening. If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, travelers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. The traveler may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.
  • Practice social distancing. Travelers should allow for social distancing to reduce direct contact between employees and travelers whenever possible without compromising security. Noticeable adjustments leading up to the security checkpoint include, increasing the distance between individuals as they enter the security checkpoint, placing visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors and staggering the use of lanes where feasible. No two airports are alike, so this could look a little different at each airport.
  • Wear facial protection. TSA officers at checkpoints are now using facial protection. Travelers are encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint as well. Please note, however, travelers may need to adjust it during the screening process. Travelers are also encouraged to remove items such as belts, and items from their pockets, like wallets, keys and phones, and put them directly into their carry-on bags instead of into the bins to reduce touch-points during the screening process.

US airlines had their busiest two days in the last two months last week, with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening more than 300,000 travelers on both Thursday and Friday, May 21st and 22nd, reports Travel Pulse. According to the TSA, this was the first time since March 23rd that more than 300,000 people traveled through US airports. Although 318,449 travelers were screened on Thursday and 348,673 on Friday, that’s still far below what air travel was just a year ago, when 2.6 million travelers were screened on both May 21st and May 22nd of 2019.

American Airlines is extending its offer to waive change fees for travelers who purchase tickets by June 30, 2020, for summer travel through September 30, 2020. This offer applies to tickets that meet the following criteria:
  • Any ticket purchased on or before June 30, 2020, for travel through September 30, 2020, will not incur change fees prior to travel. Travelers must pay any fare difference, if applicable, at time of ticketing of the new fare. Fare rules may apply depending on the ticket
  • All AAdvantage® award tickets are included
  • Travelers are allowed to change their origin and destination cities
  • Travel must be completed by December 31, 2021

Additionally, American will continue to limit the number of travelers on each aircraft. American Customer Service agents may also reassign seats to create more space between travelers or to accommodate families who need to be seated together. Once boarding is complete, travelers can move to another seat within their ticketed cabin subject to availability.

Delta Air Lines is the first major US airline to announce it will start restoring some of its international flights beginning in June. The airline has stated that it has chosen some of its highest demand flights to be placed back into service as restrictions from COVID-19 begin to be lifted. The airline announced that it would resume the flights in June to key locations in Canada, Mexico and Latin America, as well as several weekly flights to Frankfurt, Lagos, London, Paris, Tel Aviv and more. Delta will also restore service to Seoul, South Korea. The airline further stated that additional flights would continue to reopen as demand increases during the summer travel season. The carrier has not stated which flights will be the next to open, only that it will follow demand.

United Airlines has begun allowing travelers on full or nearly full flights to rebook or claim a travel credit if they prefer not to sit on a crowded plane, reports Business Travel News. Now through June 30th, United will contact travelers booked on fuller flights about 24 hours prior to departure and give them the option to change their plans. Travelers also will be able to change planes at the gate so long as more than 70 percent of travelers have checked in. According to United, they will also add capacity on routes should they regularly run with higher load factors. The carrier also announced that is has begun providing sanitizing wipes onboard for travelers who want them. Additionally, it is piloting new touchless kiosks for baggage tag printing in Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando airports.

In coordination with state partners at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), beginning June 1st, Amtrak is fully restoring Pennsylvanian service (New York – Philadelphia – Pittsburgh) frequencies, and Keystone Service (New York – Philadelphia – Harrisburg) trains will begin operating again on a modified schedule in response to anticipated increased demand. Modified Keystone Service will include nine weekday roundtrips and six roundtrips on weekends. Keystone Service will temporarily operate between Philadelphia and Harrisburg only, with no service between New York and Philadelphia. Pennsylvanian service will include one daily roundtrip operating normally between New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. All trains will be reserved to allow for physical distancing. Amtrak is also restoring Acela service on the Northeast Corridor on a modified schedule beginning June 1st. Modified service will include the restoration of three weekday Acela roundtrips. Northeast Regional frequencies will also be increased from 8 to 10 roundtrips.

The president has issued a proclamation suspending entry into the US for any individual who has been in Brazil within 14 days immediately preceding their attempt to enter the US, reports CNN. The proclamation reads in part, "I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States." The proclamation is aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 coming into the US from Brazil, the country with the second most cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

McCarran International Airport (LAS) is now providing disinfecting wipes, face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer via brand new vending machines, reports Forbes. “It’s not unthinkable that someone will show up at the airport and has left behind one of these items that’s almost essential now to air travel,” Christine Crews, a McCarran International Airport spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The hand sanitizers cost from $4.25 to $6.50. A 10-pack of wipes is $5.25. The four-pack of gloves is $4.50. A cloth reusable mask (in adult and child sizes) is $14.50, while the N95 disposable mask is $8.25.

Airports Council International (ACI) World and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have asked governments to ensure that the measures to support the aviation industry amid COVID-19 are consistent across the world and are reinforced by scientific evidence, reports Airport Technology. The organizations have issued a paper titled "Safely Restarting Aviation – ACI and IATA Joint Approach," which outlines the plan for resuming operations in the aviation industry. The paper refers to a "layered approach of measures" to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in all stages of the traveler's journey. ACI and IATA believe these measures must be consistent throughout the world’s airports and should be reviewed, improved and modified to ensure a smooth recovery.

Air Canada will add service over the next several months, including routes to several US destinations, reports Business Travel News. Last week, the carrier began to resume service to the US, with service to six destinations, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, San Francisco and Washington Dulles. Air Canada has tentative plans to add more US service on June 22nd. Additionally, Air Canada recently announced its new sanitization protocols as it increases capacity.