Though the pandemic isn’t over yet, many are eager to resume the normalcies of pre-coronavirus life. And perhaps no one is more eager than the organizations within the travel industry.
Air travel took an enormous hit when operations shut down during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Now, as airlines have reopened, they are taking drastic steps to urge travelers to once again take to the skies. In many cases, this means more of a customer-centric approach that will improve the experience of air travel for years to come, and maybe permanently.
Reducing or eliminating fees
In the past, changing or canceling flights has been one of the most frustrating parts of air travel. Now, United, Delta, and American have all announced that they are permanently eliminating their change fees for domestic flights. In a recent message to customers, Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, said: “When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request.” He went on to say that the company is looking for new ways to better serve their customers. On a similar note, American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja shared: “we’re giving customers the freedom to make their own choices when traveling with American.”
Other airlines are also exploring ways to make travel easier for the customer. Air Canada is allowing travelers to make a one-time change without any fees for all new or existing bookings before September 30th, and Alaska Airlines is waiving change fees on any ticket purchased in 2020. Southwest, on the other hand, has never charged a change fee. Additionally, they are now extending all canceled ticket credits through September 7, 2022.
Increasing international routes
Though certain travel restrictions are still in place, many airlines are working to reopen and expand their international routes. United, for example, is doubling their service between San Francisco and Shanghai in September. Aeromexico increased their operations by 20% in August compared to July, including domestic and international routes. And Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to start service between the United Kingdom and Pakistan in December.
Qantas, on the other hand, predicts that they won’t be able to resume operating international flights until as late as July of 2021. Current international travel restrictions make it impossible for the group to continue operations at this time.
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the post-coronavirus world is how inextricably linked cleanliness and sanitation are with traveler safety. Although these increased safety protocols were implemented to reduce the risk of the coronavirus, they may become standard procedure as the world places an increased focus on sanitation in the future.
Airlines have been very diligent in announcing their new programs with a focus on protecting the health and safety of their travelers. For example, United has partnered with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic to shape their United CleanPlus policies and practices, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. Delta has partnered with Lysol to implement Delta CareStandard for a clean and hygienic travel experience, and will also continue to block middle seats through the holidays to limit the number of customers on board. Southwest has issued their Promise, which includes stringent cleaning and physical-distancing practices as well as the installation of HEPA air filters.
While the coronavirus has caused unique challenges for people and organizations around the world, some of the necessary changes could have lasting positive impacts. From greater flexibility when booking to a cleaner, safer travel experience, air travel may be changing for the better.
For more information regarding travel or the health and safety practices of businesses within the travel industry, please reach out to your designated Professional Travel team.
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