Calling transportation systems "essential" for America's economy, the CDC strongly recommended that all passengers and workers wear masks on airplanes, ships, trains, subways and taxis, to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
The U.S. Travel Association applauded the move, with CEO Roger Dow saying, "There simply cannot be an economic and jobs recovery unless travel is able to broadly resume, and the universal embrace of mask-wearing and other hygiene measures is the thing that is going to enable that to happen.
The U.S. Travel Association applauded the move, with CEO Roger Dow saying, "There simply cannot be an economic and jobs recovery unless travel is able to broadly resume, and the universal embrace of mask-wearing and other hygiene measures is the thing that is going to enable that to happen.
"The CDC's latest message is helpful and clear and will be important for promoting a crucial understanding heading into the holiday season: Safe travel is absolutely possible as long as everyone in the travel ecosystem employs best health practices," Dow added.
The guidance says that broad and routine utilization of masks on transportation systems "will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel more safely even during this pandemic." It also says that traveling on public transportation increases a person's risk of getting and spreading Covid-19 due to people being in close contact, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces.
It also said that masks are especially important since social distancing "may be difficult if not impossible" on buses, trains and flights.
"Given how interconnected most transportation systems are across the nation and the world, local transmission can grow quickly into interstate and international transmission when infected persons travel on public conveyances without wearing a mask and with others who are not wearing masks," the CDC said.
The guidance comes as Covid-19 cases continues to surge globally and the U.S. leading the way with more than 8 million cases, according to the World Health Organization.
COURTESY OF ABCNEWS
Usually reserved for suspected terrorists, Delta Airlines has added the names of 460 people to its no-fly lists for refusing to comply with a requirement to wear masks during flights, according to a memo to employees from the company's CEO.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian revealed the number in an internal memo about breast cancer awareness month. He encouraged employees to participate in helping to raise money to fight the disease.
"Throughout the pandemic, we have focused our efforts on protecting our people, our customers and our communities," Bastian wrote in the memo sent to employees on Thursday and obtained by ABC News.
Bastian went on to cite a significant increase in COVID-19 infections across the nation, saying the continuing public health crisis "makes it as important as ever for us to be aware of the multiple layers of defense." The coronavirus has killed nearly 225,000 people and infected more than 8.5 million the United States.
"Wearing a mask is among the simplest and most effective actions we can take to reduce transmission, which is why Delta has long required them for our customers and our people," Bastian wrote. "As of this week, we’ve added 460 people to our no-fly list for refusing to comply with our mask requirement."
Bastian's memo followed several incidents in which Delta flight crews and those of other airlines experienced confrontations with people refusing to wear masks.
On Saturday, the departure of a Delta flight from Detroit to Las Vegas was delayed for 90 minutes because a passenger refused to put on a mask.
On Oct. 19, a Delta flight attendant was struck in the face by a passenger who allegedly refused to wear a mask on a flight from Miami to Atlanta, a confrontation that was recorded on cellphone video by other passengers and posted on social media.
In July, a Delta flight from Detroit to Atlanta was taxiing on a runway when a confrontation erupted over two customers who refused to wear masks, forcing the pilot to return to the gate to eject the passengers from the plane.
In September, a mother and her 2-year-old son were kicked off an American Airlines flight because the toddler refused to wear a mask.
All major U.S. airlines require any child age 2 and over to wear a mask in order to fly, but the policy has come under scrutiny as more stories of parents with small children being kicked off flights have surfaced.
In late August, a mother and her six children were kicked off a JetBlue Airways flight because her 2-year-old daughter refused to wear a mask.
In June, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, a union representing more than 50,000 members, implored the federal government to mandate that passengers wear face coverings on all flights, noting at the time that more than 350 flight attendants had contracted COVID-19 and some had died.
“Masks are essential to keep passengers, flight attendants, and frontline aviation workers safe during the Coronavirus pandemic," the union's statement said. "It is also essential to rebuild confidence in air travel. The federal government has completely abdicated its responsibility to keep the flying public and aviation workers safe during COVID-19."
ABC News' Mina Kaji and Amanda Maile contributed to this report.
A passenger on an AIDA Cruises voyage in Italy was not permitted to board the ship again after violating COVID-19 protocols during a shore excursion.
According to USA Today, an AIDA spokesperson said a passenger on the AIDAblu ship left his travel group during a shore excursion in Catania, Italy, on Tuesday, forcing the cruise line to ban him from reentry on the vessel.
Officials from AIDA helped the passenger find a flight home, but the cruise line remained rigid in its COVID-19 protocols during its first cruise voyage since the global pandemic shut down the cruise industry.
“Our highest responsibility and top priorities are compliance, environmental protection and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, crew, shoreside employees and the people and communities our ships visit,” an AIDA spokesperson said.
“All guests are made aware of this protocol before the cruise and again before their shore excursion starts,” the statement continued.
AIDA passengers are currently only allowed to participate in shore excursions organized by the cruise line. The cruise line’s parent company, Carnival, said the Tuesday incident was the first since sailing resumed under the strict protocols.
Other cruise lines resuming services have encountered issues, though, as MSC Cruises wouldn’t allow a family of four back on its ship after they left an organized tour in Naples. In Greece, TUI Cruises removed two passengers who left a group to get beer.
British Airways owner IAG warned the travel slump from the coronavirus pandemic had deepened, forcing it to axe even more of its winter flying schedule after it reported on Thursday a quarterly loss of 1.3 billion euros ($1.54 billion).
The loss was far larger than the 920 million euros forecast by analysts, as passenger numbers plunged and it struggled to even half-fill its planes, illustrating the scale of the challenge faced by IAG’s new boss, Luis Gallego, who took over in September.
As a second wave of COVID-19 infections spreads across Europe, airlines are facing a bleak winter and IAG joins Lufthansa, Ryanair and easyJet in cutting back already anaemic schedules.
IAG, which also operates Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Aer Lingus in Ireland, said that for the fourth quarter – which includes the normally busy Christmas period – it would fly no more than 30% of the capacity it flew a year earlier, lower than previous guidance of 40%.
Shares in the company dropped 3% to 97 pence at 0816 GMT. The stock has lost 78% in the year-to-date as the pandemic has crushed its business.
With less flying ahead, the group warned it no longer expected to reach breakeven in terms of net cash flow from operations in the fourth quarter, but said that liquidity was strong.
The company has raised 2.74 billion euros from shareholders via a rights issue and received the funds in early October, raising its total liquidity to 9.3 billion euros.
Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska said even with that buffer IAG needed to focus on reducing costs.
A new app could open the way to bringing back international travel. CommonPass is a digital health pass launched by the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project Foundation—a Swiss-based nonprofit organization that builds digital services for the common good—and it’s hard to find anything but the good in reopening international travel.
CommonPass is a simple solution for both travelers and border officials to bring travel back in a safe and secure way. The app keeps traveler information safely and securely, and test results can easily be shared with officials to show compliance with domestic or international entry requirements.
Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons Project, heralded the app as a “concrete tool” that can “get the world to connect again.”
The app has now successfully debuted on flights with Cathay Pacific and, most recently, United Airlines, which just trialed CommonPass on a flight from London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International Airport.
Travelers arrived at the airport, checked into their flights, went to the testing facility and scanned their CommonPass. They then scanned the barcode of the test. Negative test results were stored in the app which is then scanned and displayed during boarding.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observed the CommonPass demonstration in Newark and were pleased with its rollout.
“The COVID pandemic has brought down travel and tourism across the board," said Troy Miller, Director, Field Operations New York, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “CBP is happy to observe the efforts and be a part of the solution to build confidence in air travel and are encouraged by this CommonPass pilot.”
Passengers onboard were also comforted by the knowledge that everyone on their flight had been tested for COVID-19 and had negative results.
“This was a historic event in the sense that, as a user, I knew everyone just tested negative on my flight,” said volunteer traveler Peter Vlitas, senior vice president, airline relations for Internova.
Dr. Bradley Perkins, chief medical officer of the Commons Project and former chief strategy and innovation officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that this type of system is needed to restore traveler confidence.
“Without the ability to trust COVID-19 tests—and eventually vaccine records—across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists,” said Perkins. “With trusted individual health data, countries can implement more nuanced health screening requirements for entry.”
Gloria Guevera, president and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council, lauded the app as another way to bring travel back sooner rather than later.
“We are encouraged by the successful trial of CommonPass, and I am excited to be able to be here at London Heathrow to witness such a historic event,” Guevera said. “CommonPass, along with other critical measures such as a standardized international testing protocol, is key to reviving the seriously ailing global travel and tourism sector.”
The next steps will be to roll CommonPass out more widely within the industry.
“Following these successful trials with Cathay Pacific and United Airlines, we begin the rollout of CommonPass with more of the world’s largest airlines,” said Meyer. “In November and December, we will launch routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.”
CommonPass is not limited to air travel only. The capability can be utilized across industries to safely open up borders.
“Safe border reopening will not be possible without mutual trust and recognition between countries of testing results and vaccine records,” said Lauren Uppink Calderwood, Head of Aviation, Travel and Tourism at the World Economic Forum.
“The CommonPass framework enables this layer of trust while reducing potential fraud and ensuring the privacy of user data.”
Traveling during the holiday season will bring new challenges this year. Sure, there figure to be far fewer crowds and there is no shortage of awesome deals to be had on flights and resort stays. But the coronavirus pandemic continues to loom large, especially for those at higher risk or suffering from underlying medical conditions. Fortunately, there are several steps travelers can take to ensure safe holiday travel in 2020.
The first thing you should do when planning holiday travel is read up on the latest travel restrictions, quarantine orders and health and safety guidelines in your particular destination if there are any. Some places are requiring visitors coming from COVID-19 hotspots to self-isolate for at least 14 days upon arrival while others are asking visitors to complete health questionnaires or present a negative coronavirus test result prior to entry. Travelers, especially those at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, should avoid areas with high infection rates or at the very least exercise increased caution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of protecting yourself and your trip with travel insurance. Depending on your situation, the right policy could cover medical costs and even medical transport back home in the event that you become severely ill due to COVID-19 or any other reason. Some resort brands such as Sandals are even offering guests complimentary travel insurance for added flexibility and peace of mind.
Face masks are one of the most effective tools in the fight against COVID-19 and have become a requirement in most places, including airports, airplanes, hotel lobbies and public areas, bars and restaurants and indoor attractions. Therefore, holiday travelers must either embrace face-coverings or choose to stay home. Pack several so you can ensure a clean mask every time.
When traveling, try your best to maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others. The CDC's updated guidance defines close contact as being within six feet of someone with the virus for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a period of 24 hours.
Don't travel if you feel sick and avoid contact with friends, family members, or anyone else who isn't feeling well. You won't always be able to tell when a stranger is ill but wearing a face mask and keeping your distance is the best defense.
Do your best to avoid touching your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth. It's a tough habit to break—a recent study found that participants touched their faces an average of 23 times per hour, with 44 percent of those touches coming in contact with mucous membranes—but there are ways to stop, including keeping your hands busy with a stress ball or other gadgets and using a tissue when you need to scratch an itch.
Always be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow to cover your face to minimize the transfer of potentially harmful droplets.
The coronavirus can be spread by droplets that are sneezed or coughed out before landing on surfaces that you may come in contact with before touching your face. Obviously, avoiding every surface is impossible so be sure to pack disinfecting wipes that you can use to sanitize high touchpoints like airplane tray tables, remote controls and door handles.
The CDC recommends that travelers wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time. If you don't have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Be thorough, covering all surfaces of your hands until they feel dry.
Having a trusted travel advisor in your corner is more important than ever as they can sort through the wealth of information out there, including the latest travel restrictions and testing requirements and guide you toward the perfect trip even in these uncertain times. Reaching out to your local travel agent or finding a specialist on TravelSense.org is simple and will save you time, money and stress (there's been enough of that in 2020).
The prognosis for airlines keeps getting worse. The latest comes from the International Air Transport Association, where the organization’s latest forecast now pushes a recovery to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels off by at least a year.
IATA, the trade group representing airlines globally, does not expect the number of flyers to return to 2019 levels until at least 2024, the organization’s chief economist Brian Pearce said Tuesday. The group previously forecast a 2023 recovery.
“Ahead of any vaccine, it really does depend on how well countries manage to control the virus,” said Pearce. “That is clearly going to be an issue with the recovery. What we haven’t seen is the sort of progress that we need.”
IATA is just the latest to push back its timeline for a recovery in air travel. In recent weeks, Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks have done the same, though most anticipate that at least domestic travel could recover by around 2023.
In the U.S., the recent resurgence of COVID-19 infections particularly in states across the South and West — plus new travel restrictions — has taken a bite out of the nascent recovery. Since the beginning of July, data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows net passenger bookings — new reservations minus cancellations — holding steady at down around 80% compared to 2019 levels.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines and others have all acknowledged this and have begun to pare their schedules for August and into the fall. Even Southwest Airlines, which had planned to fly a nearly “full” schedule by year-end, now plans to be about a quarter smaller by December compared to the end of 2019.
In addition to the trajectory of the pandemic, IATA cites traveler confidence as an important driver of air travel recovery. COVID-19 has depressed both business and consumer confidence, with the added stress of economic malaise and rising unemployment dragging down the latter, Pearce said.
The U.S. unemployment rate stands at over 11%, which is historically high and above the 10% rate hit during the Great Recession.
There is some hope. Hard-hit JetBlue Airways, which flies primarily along the East Coast — a market that Cowen analyst Helane Becker has nicknamed “quarantine corridor” — expects many of the these markets to come back strong when restrictions ease and travelers return.
“When these regions stabilize, we expect they will support our recovery given the pent up demand we saw for travel,” JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty said Tuesday, speaking about the airline’s flights between the Northeast and Florida and as well as its transcontinental routes.
However, JetBlue plans to be roughly a third smaller than it was last year at the end of December, and is preparing to be a smaller airline after the pandemic.
“There is some [potential] upside but we do think that the bulk of the uncertainty, the risks are probably more on the downside over the next few years,” Pearce said about IATA’s forecast.
Visitors who test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival no longer have to quarantine.
Angela Margos was among the first passengers in San Francisco to get on a plane headed for Hawaii, where travelers who test negative for the coronavirus will no longer be required to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“Vacation, peace of mind,” said Margos, a nurse from San Carlos, California, of why she’s flying to Hawaii. “I need time to relax, unwind.”
The pre-travel testing program began Thursday and allows visitors who test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival in the islands to avoid quarantine—a measure that’s been in place for all arriving passengers for most of the year.
Officials had touted the mandatory quarantine rule as an integral part of Hawaii’s early success in keeping the coronavirus at bay. The new testing program is an effort to stem the devastating downturn the pandemic has had on Hawaii’s tourism-based economy.
Margos ran into hiccups with getting her test. She first did it at the hospital where she works, only to find out it wasn’t an approved site for United Airlines and the state of Hawaii. She then paid $105 for a drive-through test, but was later informed there was an error with that test.
Margo ultimately paid $250 for a fast-result test Thursday at the airport in San Francisco, which came back negative.
But gaps in the pre-travel testing program coupled with increasing cases of COVID-19 across the U.S. have raised questions about whether Hawaii is ready to safely welcome back vacationers.
And when local restrictions were eased before summertime holidays, community spread of the disease spiked to alarming levels, forcing a second round of stay-at-home orders for residents and closures for nonessential businesses.
Opponents of the testing program have said a single test 72 hours before arrival—especially when coupled with the option to fly without a test and still quarantine—is not enough to keep island residents safe.
Kathleen Miyashita and her husband were among those who came to Hawaii Thursday without getting tested. They said they plan to quarantine at their family’s farm on Oahu.
“We chose to do the 14-day quarantine,” Miyashita said. “We have no issues with having food being brought in. It’s like a quarantining haven in terms of having fresh fruits and vegetables at home.”
She said she and her husband were “not at all” concerned about being asymptomatic carriers of the disease. “We’ve been traveling and we just take precautions,” she said, adding that they had already done one quarantine in Hawaii about two months ago.
Hawaii’s economy is almost entirely built around tourism and local families who rely on the sector to survive need to return to work. More than 100 of Hawaii’s approximately 4,000 restaurants, bakeries, and caterers have closed permanently, and more than 50 percent predict they will not survive the coming months, officials have said.
Monica Toguchi Ryan, whose family has owned and operated the Highway Inn restaurant on Oahu for over 70 years, said the lack of tourism has been crippling.
“The restaurant and service industry has suffered so much during this pandemic,” Toguchi Ryan said. “Restaurants have not received any federal relief since the spring and are struggling to pay their expenses. Some restaurants have closed entirely, unable to pay for their rent, food supplies, and staff wages.”
Toguchi Ryan joined Democratic Governor David Ige on Wednesday to talk about a new restaurant debit card that will give some unemployed Hawaii residents $500 to spend at local restaurants over the next 60 days. The $75 million program is being funded by federal CARES Act money and is aimed at stimulating the local economy.
“When restaurants like us have more customers, we buy more from our suppliers and we reinvest the money several times over in our local economy,” Toguchi Ryan said.
Hawaii, which has about 1.4 million residents, reported 10 additional coronavirus deaths and more than 100 newly confirmed cases on Wednesday. On Oahu, home to the famed Waikiki Beach and the state’s most populated island, the positivity rate was nearly 4 percent.
County mayors have criticized the state’s plan for a single test prior to flying and want a mandatory second test for all arriving passengers.
Kauai island Mayor Derek Kawakami said last week that his initial proposal for secondary testing was rejected by the governor.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said his county would opt out of the pre-travel testing program entirely and continue to require all arriving visitors to quarantine for two weeks. Both now have different plans.
The governor said this week that mayors could implement certain secondary testing measures on their respective islands, but the cost and logistics of running such programs would be left to the counties.
Maui and Kauai counties decided on voluntary secondary testing for visitors. The Big Island will require secondary rapid screening upon arrival for visitors to avoid quarantine. Oahu officials have said they want to put in place another layer of screening but do not yet have the testing capacity.
The mixed bag of county and state rules could create chaos for vacationers who have not properly prepared for the various screening requirements, especially those traveling to the Big Island.
“This second test upon arrival to Hawaii island will provide an extra layer of protection for our community,” said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim in a statement Monday. “Virtually all medical and coronavirus experts agree for the necessity of more than one test.”
Those arriving on the Big Island—home to Hawaii’s active volcanoes and the site of a 2018 eruption that wiped out entire neighborhoods—will take a mandatory rapid antigen test when they land.
Results will be available in about 15 minutes and travelers who test negative will not be required to quarantine. People who test positive will be required to immediately get a more accurate PCR test and then quarantine until their results are available, usually within 36 hours.
People who test positive in the state, whether on vacation or at home, are required to isolate and cannot fly until they no longer have the virus.
Delta Air Lines expects to be a much smaller carrier, at least for the next couple of years when it expects demand to start to return to pre-pandemic levels. The airline has avoided the furloughs that its competitors have endured to shrink by 20% from its pre-pandemic size, CEO Ed Bastian said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
Almost 17,000 Delta employees have taken voluntary separation packages, and about 10,000 are on unpaid leaves of absence, and several thousand more have reduced their work hours, all of which allowed Delta to avoid furloughs.
United and American, by contrast, are in the process of furloughing more than 30,000 employees. Southwest also has not furloughed employees, relying, like Delta, on voluntary separations to match its workforce with demand. Delta is in talks with its pilots union for modifications to their contract to avoid about 1,700 pilot furloughs. Without the concessions, Delta expects to begin furloughing those pilots on Nov. 1. Bastian noted that Delta’s labor costs have fallen by 40% over the last six months.
Still, Bastian said the company supports extending federal payroll support for airline employees. “The virus is not at the level of containment we thought it would be when the first grant was issued,” he said, referring to the $25 billion provided by the CARES Act earlier this year. “We are still hopeful something might happen.”
Delta is beginning to see timid signs of recovery in air travel demand. About 90% of its corporate customers have resumed business travel, although in much smaller numbers than before the pandemic struck. Videoconferencing and other remote-work tools could have a “small” impact on business travel, Bastian admitted, but “no one knows.”
Unlike earlier in the pandemic when leisure customers booked tickets close to the day of travel and frequently changed their tickets, Bastian said Delta is seeing more bookings farther out from the day of travel, suggesting that consumer confidence is beginning to return. “Every month we see more and more customers booking further out,” he said. “We need to continue to see the development of that confidence.”
Overall U.S. demand remains about 35-40% of pre-pandemic levels, but Delta is seeing variation within the U.S. Demand to its coastal hubs, like New York, Boston, and Seattle, remains depressed. Demand is higher at its mid-continent hubs, Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City. Passenger traffic to Florida, other beach destinations, and in the Mountain states is higher than at the coasts, Delta said. Fourth-quarter capacity is expected to be 30-35% of the same period in 2019.
Rapid-result coronavirus testing could further improve consumer confidence, but Bastian said it is unlikely the U.S. will implement a nationwide program, but testing could become a requirement for international travel.
“The goal is to eliminate quarantines,” he said. Rapid-result testing could be made part of the boarding process, but he said the “wild card” is how the virus is contained.
Delta is cutting costs further by simplifying its fleet structure. It has already retired its MD-90 fleet. Boeing 777s will exit the fleet at the end of this year. The airline will retire its remaining CRJ-200s by 2023, and its B717s and B767-300ERs will be retired by 2025. These retirements will help reduce both pilot-training costs and maintenance expenses. Overall, Delta expects to retire about 400 aircraft between now and 2025. Delta also has restructured its orderbook with Airbus to defer some orders, reducing its aircraft expenses by $2 billion this year and $5 billion through 2022.
One thing that has accelerated during the pandemic is investment in airport infrastructure, as Delta takes advantage of lower passenger traffic to build out some of its facilities. The airline recently unveiled a new terminal in Salt Lake City. Airport improvement projects at New York LaGuardia, Los Angeles International, and Seattle are moving along at a faster pace, President Glen Hauenstein said.
Delta reported a $2.6 billion adjusted loss — $5.4 billion, unadjusted — on $2.6 billion in revenue. The company took $701 million in federal funding through the CARES Act during the third quarter. Delta’s cash burn in the quarter was $18 million per day, down from $27 million per day in the second quarter.
The company expects to reduce its daily cash burn to $10 million in the fourth quarter.
“While our September quarter results demonstrate the magnitude of the pandemic on our business, we have been encouraged as more customers travel and we are seeing a path of progressive improvement in our revenues, financial results and daily cash burn,” Bastian said.
Travelers concerned about contracting the coronavirus on a flight can breath at least a small sigh of relief following new evidence that there is a very low risk of catching COVID-19 onboard an airplane.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has found only 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 caught on a flight from among the 1.2 billion people that flew between January and July this year, in a study released Thursday. That translates to one case for every 27.3 million flyers.
In other words, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than catching COVID on an airplane, the study found.
IATA, as well as experts from Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, all agreed that the combination of wearing a mask and the constant airflow through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters keep cabins safe.
Brazilian planemaker Embraer found that masks alone reduced a flyer’s risk of inhaling COVID particles by six times. This is greater than the benefit of, for example, blocking a middle seat for the appearance of social distancing on a plane.
“The social distance onboard an aircraft are ensured by the airflow,” IATA medical advisor Dr. David Powell said during a briefing Thursday. “That’s the best protection onboard an aircraft.”
IATA’s study backs up assertions by American Airlines, United Airlines and others that blocking seats does not provide safety from the virus. Instead, those sides say that masks, air filtration and enhanced cleaning measures are the best defense against transmission on a plane.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has said that his carrier’s decision to block seats into next year is more a matter of building traveler confidence than anything else.
In addition, the carrier has been able to command slightly higher fares than its competitors throughout the crisis possibly mitigating the impact of blocked seats.
Alaska Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines also either block seats or cap the number of flyers on their flights.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when asked about inflight transmission in August, told TPG that the data was inconclusive.
Despite the new data showing a low risk of COVID-19 transmission on an aircraft, IATA and the planemakers agreed that risks remain elsewhere in the travel process. For example, in the airport terminal or on the way to the airport.
And the trade group is not bullish on a general recovery in air travel. IATA does not expect a full return to 2019 levels of flying until at least 2024, with domestic markets returning before international ones.
“If you want to travel and minimize the risks of COVID-19, put on a mask and get on an airplane,” Luis Carlos Alfonso, vice president of engineering, technology and strategy at Embraer, said during the briefing.
In case you haven’t heard, the U.S. presidential election is less than three weeks away, and travel is a very real campaign issue. Let’s take a closer look at the travel policies of both presidential candidates.
Many of President Donald Trump’s views on travel and borders are likely familiar to you. They’ve become part of the news cycle throughout his presidency. Some of the most high-profile policies are temporary measures put in place by the Trump White House due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they especially impact international travel.
Here’s a comparison of what a Joe Biden White House would look like versus a second Donald Trump term.
CBS News Transportation Correspondent Kris van Cleave told TPG that, “Regardless of who wins in November, the travel sector seems likely to have a supporter in the White House, it is too vital to the overall economy to be left to perpetually wither.”
Fin Gomez echoed that sentiment. He is a White House producer for CBS News. He said it was hard to forecast a travel rebound because of the lack of visibility into when a vaccine might be available, but he also said each side knows how important travel is to the overall economy. Gomez said, “Both campaigns are aware of this massively important industry. As we can tell from the White House’s renewed interest in (a possible 2nd) bailout. People like to travel. Regardless of who wins, both know it’s good for business.”
Kris van Cleave points out that President Trump is a big supporter of the travel industry as a whole:
“A President Trump win would likely continue the status quo which includes the President’s shoot from the hip style which brings with it some uncertainty and unpredictability. That said Mr. Trump has remained sympathetic to the plight of the travel industry as it is one of the few singled out specifically as need(ing) additional aid. It is also a sector he that is near and dear to him given his business holdings.”
Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden have expressed support for a new, second bailout for the travel industry. Some 40,000 airline workers began to get furloughed beginning Oct. 1, 2020 as the $25 billion from the CARES Act ran out.
Democrats in Congress passed a second bailout back in May that included money for the airlines (the HEROES Act), but it was never passed by the Senate. A second HEROES Act is under consideration, but without Senate cooperation it, too, is probably doomed. The Trump administration has pushed a so-called “skinny” bailout that would provide direct relief to the airlines.
According to Politico, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters, “We’ve made very clear we want a skinny package. We’re for direct payments, we’re for extension of PPP, and we’d like to see an airline bailout, but not part of a larger package.”
So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ruled that out. She wants a bigger relief bill.
A Biden administration would likely fast-track another major relief package that could include a second bailout for the airline industry.
Gio Benitez is ABC’s News Transportation Correspondent. He told TPG, “In late January, President Trump restricted some travelers who had visited China from entering the U.S. (American citizens, green card holders, their families, and health care workers were exempt). Vice President Biden hasn’t specifically said what he would’ve done, but his campaign has said he supports travel bans guided by medical experts and public health officials.”
Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told CNN in April that Biden supported some bans on foreign visitors. “Joe Biden supports travel bans that are guided by medical experts, advocated by public health officials, and backed by a full strategy,” but it’s unclear if the bans currently in place would be kept in place under a Biden administration.
We are trying to get both campaigns to explain their views on continued bans on international visitors, but have so far been unsuccessful.
Tim Jue is a San Francisco-based reporter covering airlines and travel. He said, “Under a Biden administration, I expect the federal government to finally jump in and mandate a lot of the safety protocols we already see when traveling like mandatory masks on planes, trains, and buses. So far, it’s been a hodge-podge of rules devised by individual airlines, airports, train operators, and bus companies. The enforcement is inconsistent, and I expect a Biden Department of Transportation to step in with a sweeping set of guidelines for all U.S. operators.”
The Trump Administration has rejected nationwide mandates of any kind on masks or other safety measures.
The Trump administration has resisted calls for requiring masks on all flights and at airports instead leaving it to individual airlines and airports, resulting in a piecemeal approach to rules and enforecement. In fact, The New York Times reports the Trump White House blocked a CDC plan to require masks.
The Department of Transportation has rejected calls multiple times to require masks on commercial transportation. Politico reports Joe Biden pledged to make masks on all public transportation a requirement if he wins.
The Trump administration has largely left coronavirus policy to individual states. That would be a huge shift under a Biden administration which has plans for a national coordinated strategy to tackle COVID-19.
A Biden presidency would see major changes in coronavirus policy. The most dramatic change would likely be a national tracking and tracing program which the Trump administration has not done. Biden wants to hire 100,000 Americans to do national contact tracing. The Biden campaign has also pushed for some $25 billion for national testing.
The Biden campaign website says they would begin by:
“Amending the Public Health Service Act to immediately cover all testing, treatment, and preventive services that are necessary to address a Public Health Emergency for an infectious disease. Once triggered by the HHS Secretary in consultation with the CDC, all commercial plans in all markets will be immediately required to cover such services as COVID-19 testing and any eventual vaccine with no copayments and deductibles, including for the visits themselves.”
According the Biden campaign website, he would also roll out a national testing program including investing in new technologies and rapid tests.
Biden also wants to “Invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.”
The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is pushing for a so-called ‘air bridge’ between New York and London. Politico reports testing would be required including two pre-departure tests for travel. Look for more of these types of arrangements under a Biden administration as well.
Another big difference is the frequency of foreign trips. Fin Gomez from CBS told me that President Trump is, “not a big traveler abroad. Even when he was campaigning in 2016, he liked to go back to his own bed (after an event). Biden will be traveling abroad a lot more.”
Many of the analysts TPG spoke to said the best hope for a rebound in travel and tourism is getting the coronavirus under control.
Naveed Jamali is a national security expert and author of “How to Catch a Russian Spy.” He told TPG:
“I haven’t been on a plane for 6 months. Trips for work and pleasure for many Americans have been not only curtailed but indefinitely suspended. So what’s the solution? Bringing the virus under control, period. Until that happens Americans will not likely resume air travel. So the question about saving the airline industry must look at which candidate will be the most effective in controlling the spread of the virus and overseeing its decline. It’s hard to see anyway in which Trump has handled this pandemic effectively or competently, so Biden is the best hope for airline industry, country, and the world. “
Richard Fowler is a Fox News contributor and political analyst. “The (travel) industry is hurting. The only way we’re going to get to some type of recovery in the pandemic is by getting this virus under control or flattening the curve. If you look at both candidates and their plans or lack thereof. There’s only one candidate who is taking this pandemic seriously, and has been a follower of CDC guidelines — former VP Joe Biden.”
CBS’s van Cleave brings up another important point when it comes to travel policy, “There’s also the question of who controls congress? A divided congress has failed for months to reach an agreement on Covid Relief funding—including additional aid to the travel sector. That legislative molasses seems likely to continue should different parties control the House and Senate.”
He suggests democrats in charge of both houses of Congress and the White House could mean a boon for transportation spending:
“In a scenario where Biden wins and you see a blue wave that takes the senate and maintains the house majority, industry analysts I’ve spoken with see very significant stimulus and infrastructure spending as likely. As aid to the airlines, in particular, has bipartisan support it seems likely in a big stimulus they would not be forgotten.”
Van Cleave of CBS said, “A Biden Administration is more likely to be pro-union/labor which could slow any post-COVID consolidation of carriers. We’d also likely see a move away from the aggressive deregulation efforts we’ve seen over the last four years—something like a mask mandate for air travel/Amtrak travel would be not be surprising, for example.”
The Points Guy Cruise Reporter Gene Sloan said the most immediate impact to the cruise industry could be on the restart date for cruising in North America. Sloan said:
“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a “no-sail” order for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters through the end of October. The agency reportedly had wanted to extend that order into February but was overruled by top Trump administration officials. It seems clear that the Trump administration wants to see cruise ships return to sailing in North America soon, perhaps as soon as December (most cruise lines already have canceled all North American sailings for November, so December is now the earliest we could see cruising in North America in a meaningful way).
If Trump wins the election, my money is on the “no-sail” order being lifted in November and cruising resuming at least in a limited way in December. If Biden wins, we could see more deference to the scientists at the CDC, who have seemed leery of allowing cruising to resume anytime soon. My best guess is that a Biden administration would allow the CDC to extend its “no-sail” order for at least another couple months. The wildcard here is that even if Biden wins, a lame-duck Trump administration in November or December could overrule the CDC and allow cruising to resume.”
CBS’s van Cleave told me, “There is also a sense a Biden Administration, even with a divided congress, would bring some stability and rules-based predictability to governing as well as to relations with China. Better relations with China could be a win for American businesses and thus spur lucrative business travel.”
Indeed, a second Trump term might see a continued deterioration in relations with China. Joe Biden has called President Trump’s China policies “erratic,” and has criticized trade sanctions and tariffs from the Trump White House.
Still, Joe Biden might also be more confrontational over China’s policies towards Hong Kong, Taiwan and on human rights violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang Province.
CBS’s van Cleave said, “As an industry, it continues struggling until there are widely available vaccines and therapeutics allowing people and businesses to feel comfortable traveling again. The biggest hurdles for the industry are apolitical — When will a viable vaccine be widely available and how does its distribution go?”
Darrell West is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Tech Innovation at the Brooking Institute. He told me, “Trump will keep the economy open as he doesn’t want to hurt it. Biden will allow people to travel but call for a national mandate on wearing masks in public. He will support airlines and hotels and try to keep them solvent.”
No matter who you support, the travel industry is likely to benefit.
Saying that “Make no mistake – we’re still in the early miles of this marathon,” Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian and his peers in the airline industry are hoping for the best but planning for the worst when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. airlines expect it will be years before their business recovers from COVID-19, according to Alison Sider of the Wall Street Journal, even after pulling together over $100 billion by tapping government aid and mortgaging assets including planes and frequent-flier programs.
Recapturing demand for travel due to the virus has been difficult for airlines, although they passed an important milestone on Sunday. Carriers have said they likely have enough cash to withstand a prolonged downturn. But passenger demand will be depressed for years, Bastian and United CEO Scott Kirby said.
“While the pandemic is the worst crisis in the history of aviation, it also has presented us with opportunity,” United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart wrote Friday in a memo to the airline’s corporate officers.
United and Delta together lost $16.8 billion in the first nine months of the year. Both have shrunk their workforces by at least 20 percent. U.S carriers hope to stop the bleeding by getting a second round of government aid, as Congress continues to work on a stimulus package.
But another issue remains – removing travel restrictions and quarantines in most destinations that are also prohibiting people from traveling.
“We’re literally looking at where people want to go next week,” Joe Esposito, Delta’s senior vice president of network planning, said at an industry event this week.
After 19 months, Boeing Co. is closer than ever to having its troubled 737 MAX aircraft re-certified to take to the air again.
Grounded since March of 2019, the 737 MAX was involved in two crashes on two separate airlines that killed 346 passengers and crew.
After numerous tests, including a practice flight by the head of the Federal Aviation Administration himself and a promise by American Airlines to put the plane back into its rotation as early as Christmas-time once it is approved, Boeing appears to have satisfied all the conditions to restore the plane to service.
Boeing has one big hurdle left to clear, and it might just be the most difficult – mastering public perception and the court of public opinion. Because after all, this is coming down to one big question for fliers:
Would YOU get on a 737 MAX when they return?
That will be the eternal question when the world’s most popular plane returns. To its credit, American has already said it'll give passengers notification of what kind of equipment will be used. That gives fliers plenty of time to decide what they want to do.
I’ve tried to remain pragmatic about it. Boeing made mistakes, to be sure. The significance of 346 dead can never be overlooked in the name of however many repairs took place, especially to the software system that caused a pair of problems – one of which was found almost a year after the March 2019 grounding.
But this is also the company that put the United States into space. Space, for goodness sake. The last great frontier for exploration.
This is the company that has been the most innovative in the airline industry with its constant designs and adaptations.
This is a company that is now more than 100 years old, founded just a few years after the Wright Brothers worked their magic on a North Carolina beach.
That has to count for something although, again, to reiterate, that is not to discount the deaths of 346 people. Saying ‘Boeing’ is like saying Coca-Cola, Colgate, Ford, IBM and Nike. It is one of America’s most respected and revered companies.
I am confident Boeing, no matter how much time and money it was forced to spend, has solved the problem. Yes, I would get back on a 737 MAX. Perhaps my faith is stronger than my realism at the moment, or perhaps my hubris won’t allow me to think otherwise. But I truly and overwhelmingly believe that Boeing has these problems fixed.
Some won’t get back on a 737 MAX, or any other airplane for that matter, for a long time. They are wary of the accidents or frightened that the plane doesn’t offer enough safety and health protocols at this time. And that’s fair.
But what’s also fair is allowing a 104-year old company the latitude to solve these issues by placing your confidence in their abilities. Countless pilots have. Men who have walked on the moon have.
Today, the Spanish government declared a national state of emergency amid the latest, still-worsening resurgence of COVID-19 infection in Europe.
The order includes an overnight curfew that prohibits free movement on Spain’s streets between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., with allowances for work commutes, purchasing medicines and providing care for elderly and young family members.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that the curfew takes effect tonight, Oct. 25, and will likely remain in place for six months, in an effort to avoid repeating near-collapse of the country’s hospital system under the weight of new cases.
Health officials have been clamping down on partying and nightlife, seeing it as a major source of this latest recurrence of sizeable viral spread.
The curfew order does not apply to the Canary Islands, Spain’s territory that retains the most favorable COVID-19 figures, and which was therefore recently removed from Britain’s and Germany’s lists of unsafe travel destinations.
Officials in Spain’s 17 regions and two autonomous cities are granted the authority to modify the hours of the new curfew—starting somewhere between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., and ending between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.—as well as decide whether to close regional borders to travel and cap social gatherings at six people residing in different households.
In a nationwide address that followed a meeting with his Cabinet, Sánchez said, “The reality is that Europe and Spain are immersed in a second wave of the pandemic,” reported AP News. “The situation we are living in is extreme.” The Prime Minister said that he’ll request Parliament’s lower house to approve extending the state of emergency through May 2021.
This, Spain’s second nationwide state of emergency since the pandemic started, isn’t as restrictive as the order Sánchez issued in March that mandated home confinement for its 47 million inhabitants over six weeks and shut down the country’s borders. Authorities want to avoid another such complete shutdown, the economic toll of which sent Spain into a recession and saw hundreds of thousands of jobs lost.
“There is no home confinement in this state of emergency, but the more we stay at home, the safer we will be. Everyone knows what they have to do,” Sánchez said. “The loss of life must be as low as possible, but we also must protect our economy.”
This past week, Spain became the first country in Europe to surpass one million officially recorded COVID-19 cases, although Sánchez revealed in a nationally televised address that the true numbers could exceed three million. Such a discrepancy could be attributed to gaps in testing, among other factors that would affect the true case count.
A color-coded map system will indicate where coronavirus cases are surging and how countries should respond.
As residents of many countries—including the United States—remain banned from traveling to much of Europe, travel within Europe has not proven to be much easier throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
As of early October, travelers coming from the United Kingdom could enter France without restrictions, but those going in the opposite direction were required to quarantine for 14 days. Those heading to Germany from certain European countries and regions had to quarantine until they provided negative COVID-19 test results. Travelers to Italy coming from EU countries had to fill out a health form, unless they were coming from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, or Spain (then they had to provide proof of a negative test). It went on and on.
But the dizzying patchwork of rules and regulations for travel within Europe should soon be a thing of the past. European Union countries this week approved a series of guidelines aimed at facilitating a more unified approach to travel within Europe during the pandemic.
The European Commission established a set of criteria that countries should follow to determine how and whether to restrict arrivals. They include:
As countries furnish their coronavirus data, the ECDC will be able to produce a color-coded map (which will be published regularly on the European Commission’s Re-open EU site) that will allow for more informed and consistent decisions about travel restrictions across Europe.
Each week, the ECDC will publish an updated version of the map. Countries will then be able to implement either a quarantine or a mandatory COVID-19 test for travelers coming from countries coded as red or gray.
Under the criteria adopted Tuesday, most EU regions would currently be either red or orange because Europe is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases.
During their October 13 meeting in Luxembourg, envoys for the 27 member states of the European Commission agreed on the common approach to travel restrictions. But because it’s not a binding agreement, independent countries can continue to implement either quarantine or testing measures (or even outright bans) as they see fit. The hope, however, is that some greater uniformity will emerge.
The European Commission is pushing for testing as a coronavirus control method over quarantines.
“Wherever possible, the possibility to undergo tests for COVID-19 infection instead of quarantine should be the preferred option,” the European Commission stated.
In a statement following the October 13 agreement, the European Commission said that European countries “learned our lessons: we will not surmount the crisis by unilaterally closing borders.”
The Commission said that member countries had agreed to recognize the use of tests and will continue to work together to create a standard for testing and quarantine requirements.
Until European countries unilaterally implement the new measures, the existing situation for intra-European travel is a bit of an ever-evolving puzzle. Here is a brief summary of how some countries are approaching it as of October 14:
This is far from an exhaustive list, but it serves as an example of just how different all the rules and regulations have been within Europe. It remains vital that travelers crossing borders within Europe are up to date on the latest coronavirus-related travel restrictions because they are constantly changing.
It is not yet clear exactly when the new system will go into effect.
This story was originally published on September 21, 2020. It has been updated on October 14, 2020, to include current information. The Associated Press contributed reporting.
The map features a color-coded map and a drop-down menu of more detailed restrictions and state-specific rules.
Aiming to make deciding where to travel a bit easier, as COVID-19 continues to spark restrictions and rules for traveling around the United States, United Airlines created an interactive, color-coded map detailing everything travelers need to know ahead of planning a trip.
The map lists everything from whether or not entry into a state is allowed, potential quarantine measures, testing requirements, and even mask mandates for all 50 states and Washington D.C., the company shared with Travel + Leisure. Travelers can see if restaurants, tourist sites, or hotels are open and if there are any specific restrictions in place.
"We know it's a challenge to keep up with the ever-changing list of travel restrictions, policies and regulations so we are offering a simple, easy tool that helps customers decide where to travel next," Linda Jojo, the executive vice president for technology and chief digital officer, said in a statement.
"By providing the most up-to-date information on the destinations we serve, customers can compare and shop for travel with greater confidence and help them find the destinations that best fit their preferences."
The map's color-coded feature and drop-down menu offer more detailed restrictions and state-specific rules.
Several states have implemented quarantine or testing measures for out-of-state visitors. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, for example, require travelers from dozens of states to self-isolate for two weeks when entering the tri-state area. Similarly, Hawaii requires visitors to quarantine and has pushed back its plan to welcome tourists again until at least October.
United’s new feature comes as the airline eliminated most change fees on domestic flights and committed to allowing all customers to fly same-day standby for free on both domestic and international flights. Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines then followed suit.
United isn’t alone in trying to inform passengers before hopping on a flight. Google Travel introduced a similar feature, linking to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travel Health Notices.
The federal judge in Miami who is overseeing Carnival Corp.'s environmental probation has ordered the cruise company to attest to the environmental compliance of each ship 30 days prior to its return to service in U.S. waters.
The ruling stems from Carnival Corp.'s environmental probation, which started in 2017 after the company agreed to five years of court-supervised environmental audits and paid millions of dollars in penalties as part of a 2016 plea to charges that Princess Cruises violated pollution laws.
The ruling from Patricia Seitz, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, won't impact the company's current return to service date. It plans to relaunch in December with its Carnival Cruise Line brand, as long as the CDC's current No Sail Order, expiring Oct. 31, is not extended.
In a statement, Carnival said, "We will fully comply with the order, along with all other regulatory and legal requirements."
Whatever normal is for a city like Las Vegas, it’s going to take a while to get back there.
So says South Point Casino owner Michael Gaughan.
“I’ve been here since 1952 and this is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to (Las Vegas),” Gaughan told the Las Vegas Sun regarding the coronavirus pandemic. “I don’t think it can get any worse. Hopefully, by the end of March or April, this will be over.”
But Gaughan admitted Las Vegas might not fully recover until 2022.
“Strip hotels will have their work cut out for them,” Gaughan said. “I do think that by the start of 2022, we should be back to completely normal. I just hope Las Vegas can get back to where it was. Everybody is trying to survive and keep as many working as they can.”
Las Vegas was shut down between mid-March and June 4, when some hotel-casinos began to reopen. Those two-plus months were devastating to the city and, even now, some resorts remain closed. The Encore, a Steve Wynn property, announced it was ceasing midweek operations because of weak customer demand.
Travel to Las Vegas has been going up, but at a snail’s pace.
Gaughan made his comments at a ribbon-cutting event for a new 40,000-square-foot equestrian arena at his resort south of the Strip.
In mid-August, TAP Air Portugal announced plans to return to Chicago, San Francisco and New York JFK by October, meaning the carrier would be serving all seven of its pre-pandemic U.S. gateways.
"There is a lot of uncertainty out there. We don't know anything about an eventual second wave," Carlos Paneiro, TAP's vice president of sales for the Americas region, explained a few days later. "But our plan is to keep growing in the USA as long as demand allows us to do it."
Restrictions imposed by other countries continue to steeply curtail the ability of Americans to travel abroad, while U.S.-imposed restrictions block most incoming traffic from the EU, China and Brazil as well as incoming leisure traffic from Canada and Mexico.
Nevertheless, in August TAP was one of more than 70 airlines, including more than 60 foreign-based carriers, that offered at least some level of international service from the U.S, according to the flight data provider OAG.
Overall, airlines were slated to offer 3.2 million seats in August on international flights from the U.S. That's down more than 77% from last year. But with international travel off-limits in so many cases, and with relatively few people interested in traveling abroad these days in any case, it's reasonable to wonder how, or if, airlines are filling the seats.
"There are essential working communities and groups that are allowed to travel," said OAG analyst John Grant. "Government workers. People in the healthcare sector. Diplomats. And a lot of it is taking as much cargo as you possibly can."
Other major sources of business these days are dual nationals and U.S. resident cardholders headed home to visit family and friends, say airline executives.
"Mainly it's migrant and family traffic that we have been taking," said Paneiro.
At Etihad, which is now serving three of its four pre-pandemic U.S. destinations, some traffic continues to come from re-patriations, vice president for the Americas Vincent Frascogna said.
Meanwhile, Eric Odone, senior vice president of Qatar Airways' western region, said that the carrier is even seeing a modest uptick in business traffic.
Business traffic was very much in mind for Qatar when it decided to resume service to Houston beginning Sept. 2 with three weekly flights, Odone said. He added, though, that the friends-and-relatives market remains Qatar's main source of traffic. The nation of Qatar is closed to tourists, but flyers are connecting through Doha to other parts of the Middle East as well as to East Africa and, increasingly, to Eastern Europe.
As of Sept. 2, Qatar will be flying to eight of the 10 U.S. gateways it served prior to the start of the pandemic.
Overall, many of the large global carriers continue to be the foreign airlines that are doing the most flying to and from the U.S. British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, Aeromexico, Turkish, Qatar, Air France and Air Canada are all in the top 10 in terms of seats offered this month, according to OAG.
Leading the way, though, is discount Mexican carrier Volaris, which has always focused on the family-and-friends travel market. Volaris' scheduled U.S. seat offering this month was down 33.5% year over year as of Aug. 12.
By comparison, KLM's scheduled U.S. flying was down 43%, Qatar's was down 47%, Aeromexico's was down 68%, Lufthansa's was down 81%, British Airways' was down 82% and Air Canada's was down 94%.
The drastic cutback by Air Canada isn't unusual. Indeed, more than 30 foreign carriers that flew to the U.S. last August aren't flying here this year. And others have made similarly large cuts.
One of those is Singapore Airlines, which currently flies just three times weekly from the U.S. on one route, Los Angeles-Singapore. Prior to the pandemic, Singapore flew eight U.S. routes, most of them daily. But Singapore remains closed to tourists and requires even citizens to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Further, the city-state continues to prohibit its national airline from booking U.S. customers for connecting itineraries beyond Singapore.
"Obviously, our priority is to reinstate as much of our network as is possible. That is going to depend on the actions of the Singapore government, as far as opening borders," spokesman James Boyd said.
Still, even with border restrictions dotting the map, carriers like Qatar and TAP continue to optimistically rebuild their international networks. After the Sept. 2 Houston reintroduction, Qatar plans to resume Doha-Philadelphia service on Sept. 15, leaving it with 56 weekly U.S. frequencies, down from 77 pre-pandemic, though some flights are on smaller aircraft.
Qatar's approach, which has included more flying in general than other global carriers throughout the pandemic, has OAG's Grant scratching his head.
"I have been at a loss to see how this has been an effective strategy for them," he said.
But Qatar's Odone asserts that between passenger and cargo traffic, the U.S. flights are moneymakers.
"The flights are reviewed twice a week in terms of whether they are cash positive or cash negative," he said. "From the Americas, we've never had a problem."
TAP, meanwhile, had planned a combined 82 weekly August frequencies to the U.S. and Canada prior to the pandemic. With the addition of New York, San Francisco and Chicago in October, the carrier could bring its actual frequencies as high as 45, Paneiro said. That number includes a new, thrice-weekly Boston-Azores route TAP launched in July to cater to the friends-and-relatives market.
Load factors on the carrier's North American routes right now are in the 50%-to-60% range.
"As long as you cover the variable costs, it is worth putting the aircraft up in the air," Paneiro said. "A load factor of 50% to 60% is not as profitable as it was before, but it's worth putting up with those loads, as opposed to putting planes on the ground."