Business Travel News for the Week: August 31
The world is ready to get back to traveling to meet with colleagues and customers, brainstorm new ideas with their teams at off-sites, and sign those deals that move businesses forward. In order for this to be done safely and efficiently, an open data program bolstered by COVID-19 testing and contract tracing is needed across the travel industry.
Last week we explored how industry leaders are working alongside the U.S. government to get business travelers back in the air as soon as it is safe to do so. We also got to see what plane sanitation looks like on the front lines with United Airlines’ Curb to Cabin Tour, which showcased the cleaning and sanitation standards that United Airlines employees are practicing, and providing to travelers. Our business travelers are already traveling with confidence that suppliers have done the hard work of making sure every experience is as safe as possible. They’re sharing their stories in our weekly series Today’s Traveler.
As you decide on your return to business travel plan, we encourage you to use our free-to-the-public TripActions Business Travel Recovery™ Tool and our COVID-19 Report in the TripActions Travel Manager Dashboard. These will help you assess the safety of travel, understand any government regulations associated with travel, and use other pertinent real-time data to guide your business and travel policy decisions.
You can also explore the most pressing industry topics on the TripActions Community, which has valuable insight from travel managers, finance leaders, HR professionals, and others.
Now, let’s dive into what’s happening across the industry today. You can check out past weekly news roundups here.
Some of the fees associated with changes related to flying are gone for good at United Airlines. The carrier announced today that it is permanently getting rid of change fees on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S. -- effective immediately. American Airlines and Delta followed suite in what will likely be a major shift in how changes are managed for all major airlines.
Corporate travel rebounded nearly in line with overall capacity for Air New Zealand, which in July returned to operating almost 70% of its prior domestic capacity. This is good news from a market where virus spread was efficiently minimized and suggests that corporate travel will continue to grow as local economies recover.
While every major U.S. carrier carried more passengers in May than April, some far outpaced the competition. In fact, Allegiant and Frontier — two of America’s biggest ultra-low-cost carriers — led the month-over-month recovery, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and its data arm, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Of the three largest U.S. airlines, American recovered the fastest by carrying a higher percentage of passengers month-over-month. This insightful article from The Points Guy is packed with data that shows how airlines adjusted and adapted in the spring.
The first airport COVID-19 rapid testing site in the United States has opened in San Francisco International to screen employees and airline flight crews, but not travelers — at least not yet. The program launched quietly in July and must be fully functional for employees before officials consider expanding the program to flyers. Its existence, however, is a sign of what’s to come. Until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes readily available, widespread testing could be the key to safely reopening international air travel.
Although the number of expenses submitted by employees in the first six months of 2020 fell by two-thirds compared to the previous year, there’s been a significant increase in certain kinds of spend such as food delivery services and supplies for home offices. There’s also been an increase in expense monitoring with executives from finance, procurement, and HR hoping to increase control and minimize risk.
UK and US in Discussions to Launch a Travel Bubble [Simple Flying]
In a potential bid to restart the persistent near standstill in transatlantic travel, UK and US government officials are reportedly looking at establishing regional air corridors. Localized travel bubbles could allow for UK quarantine exemptions for passengers from low-infection rate areas, such as New York, and jumpstart the world’s most revenue-generating routes. Although travel bubbles didn’t take off as well as expected, as Skift tourism reporter Rosie Spinks reported, they still have the potential to restart business travel between key markets.
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