The travel industry came crashing to a stop in April with COVID-19. At the time, I shared that in order to start filling some of the empty seats, the airlines would most likely launch a giant airfare sale. Well, here you go! It looks like the airlines are ready to put the pedal to the metal and try to coax people to return to the friendly skies. The giant airfare sales are offering one-way fares ranging from $49 to $99 for travel ending August 31. The lowest prices require a 14-day advance purchase, and you must book between now and June 12, 2020. Fares are, of course, non-refundable but some airlines are also giving you 2X bonus frequent flyer miles as an extra bonus. I hope the airlines quickly add more flights so that people don’t get shut out of these great airfares.
This airfare sale will make using your frequent flyer miles very difficult – The good news? There is a great airfare sale going on. The bad news? I expect millions of seats will be sold with these low airfares which means it will be very difficult to find seats to redeem your frequent flyer miles in the coming days. If you don’t want to have to use your miles to redeem for magazine subscriptions to Motorcross Monthly you better start searching for free seats ASAP.
Hotels are rolling out new cleaning standards that I bet will include not cleaning your room every day and perhaps a cleaning surcharge – I really hope I am wrong on this gut feeling. Last week I listened to many hotel executives explain how they will be super cleaning your hotel room and many have even launched certification programs to guarantee you have a safe and clean room. One thing that I read between the lines was the idea that in order to have fewer interactions with you during your stay that housekeeping may not clean your room every day. Hey, wait a minute. This is going too far in my book. I want my room cleaned every day with clean towels and a cleanroom. And the biggest thing I see coming down the pike is a cleaning surcharge similar to a resort fee of $15 to $25 a day being assessed to your bill. I hope I am wrong on both counts.
Here is a great visualization of the new timelines to open up the travel industry – It looks like the travel industry is about to make a positive comeback in the coming weeks. I have found an outstanding visualization of all the news around the world identifying all elements of the travel industry from airlines to hotels and even attractions with a timeline of their planned reopenings. Please CLICK HERE to take a peek at the amazing progress the industry is planning this week and into the future.
Airplanes are full? How can it be? – Many people are amazed to see pictures show up on social media of people flying in planes that are full. Some are outraged that they are sitting shoulder to shoulder with people they don’t know and they feel vulnerable. The question becomes if indeed the number of people flying is down almost 95% or more how can planes be full? The answer is simple. The airlines have removed up to 90% of their planes from flying. They have removed their large jets and replaced those remaining flights with small jets and regional jets. Many people expected that because the number of flyers is down so much that airplanes should be empty. That would be the case if the same number of planes were still flying however the airlines have tried to match the downturn in flyers with a proportional decrease in the number of aircraft. Basically before COVID – 19 planes were 80% + full. Now the airlines want to have planes 80% full before they take planes out of mothball status and return to more planes to service. Full planes will make some people nervous and not want to fly. I personally like what United Airlines is doing. Rather than promise you an empty seat beside you they are notifying you before your flight if your scheduled flight is more than 70% full and giving you an option to rebook on another flight. At least you have an option.
TSA Airport Security screening does not want to touch your boarding pass anymore – Last week TSA announced that they have started new protocols that will change the way you present your boarding pass for security clearance. In the future instead of handing your boarding pass to the agent, they will ask you to hold your boarding pass (or smartphone) on the boarding pass reader so it becomes touchless for the TSA agent. I have been doing this for years with my iPhone, but for many people, it will be a new experience. CLICK HERE to read more changes in-store at the airport.
Last call! We still have face masks available if you plan to travel – Many airlines are requiring a face mask if you travel this year. Executive Travel has been able to secure additional 3-ply face masks as well as 4-ply KN95 face masks and will now make them available while supplies last. We have secured a price of 99 cents each (packages of 50 for a total of $49.50 per box) for the 3- ply, disposable masks that are FDA approved and certified. The KN95 masks are 4-ply, damp proof, non-woven fabric plus anti-dust cotton. The KN95 masks are available for a price of $3.99 each in packets of 10. Executive Travel is making these available at our cost as a service to our customers. Sales tax and shipping cost ($5) will be additional. If you are interested, please email email@example.com. Please provide your company information, phone, and address they should be shipped to. Upon confirmation, Nancy will send you a link for secure payment by credit card.
Car rental companies are obviously suffering from the economic tsunami that the virus has brought to the travel industry. The obvious way they deal with the downturn is to not purchase any new vehicles and extend the life of their current inventory. For the car renter, this means that you probably won’t get that fresh new car smell when you rent a car this year. As a matter of fact, the car you rent will in some cases be a year old and later this year may almost be 2 years old. In addition to saving money by not buying new cars and extending the life of their current fleet, the car rental companies are facing the double whammy of the rapid decline in used car prices. The decline in the value of their fleet hits their balance sheet as their billions of dollars in car inventory is now worth billions less. This is one more reason you will see older cars in their fleet as they have two big incentives to squeeze every possible rental out of their current fleet. The mileage you see on your rental car will also increase dramatically from under 10,000 miles to in some cases 30,000 miles on the odometer. I also worry that older rental cars might result in more car breakdowns. This is the last thing that a car renter wants.
June is the month that I think the travel industry starts to come out of hibernation –
It looks like the travel industry worldwide is focusing on the month of June as the month when the travel industry will plug back in the open signs around the world. Even Italy, which took a heavy hit from the virus is giving the green light to the travel industry to open back up. It also appears that airlines are also seeing some small increases in traffic and even though most people expect we have hit bottom they also realize the recovery will probably be slow. You will know things are getting a little bit closer to normal when DisneyWorld opens their gates, which many people believe will be sometime in June. Even Las Vegas is betting that June will be the month some of the monster casinos will turn on the neon lights again. CLICK HERE to read an article about 21 hopeful signs for a reopening of the travel economy.
Frequent flyer mileage alert! Now is the time to make reservations using your frequent flyer miles! –
The inventory of available airline seats to redeem your frequent flyer miles appears to still be pretty open and available but I think it will close rapidly in the coming weeks. This morning I checked flights to London using miles for business class seats and it showed pretty good inventory for the “saver award” seats which use the lowest number of miles for free seat redemption. Domestic seats also appear to be readily available today. As you can imagine the virus has emptied out planes and the airlines have mothballed 80% of their planes until the traveling public returns. As the travel hibernation begins to wake in the coming weeks those empty seats for frequent flyer tickets will go away fast. There will be a very limited supply of frequent flyer mileage seats available as the airlines plan to fill up planes first before they add back additional flights.
Now, this is how a PR department can spin negative COVID-19 results into a positive press release –
I had to laugh this morning when I read the headline that a company (not to be mentioned) says they have offset 100% of carbon emissions generated by employee travel. I think every company in April and May, when nobody was traveling, can say that they have offset 100% of carbon emissions for employee travel as everyone was staying home! I hope this gives you a chuckle as well. Is this what they call taking lemons and making lemonade?
Travelers rediscover Travel Advisors during COVID-19 travel shutdown –
One silver lining for our industry was that thousands of travelers rediscovered the value that their friendly travel advisor brings to them when they travel. This was especially apparent for those traveling internationally. CLICK HERE to see a short video that shares several ways that travel advisors came to the rescue of their customers around the world.
We still have face masks available if you plan to travel –
Many airlines are requiring a face mask if you travel this year. Executive Travel has been able to secure additional 3-ply face masks as well as 4-ply KN95 face masks and will now make them available while supplies last. We have secured a price of 99 cents each (packages of 50 for a total of $49.50 per box) for the 3- ply, disposable masks that are FDA approved and certified. The KN95 masks are 4-ply, damp proof, non-woven fabric plus anti-dust cotton. The KN95 masks are available for a price of $3.99 each in packets of 10. Executive Travel is making these available at our cost as a service to our customers. Sales tax and shipping cost ($5) will be additional. If you are interested please email nancyc@executivetravel.
#1 – Everyone is required to wear a face mask –
This is no big news for many people as over the last two weeks almost all the airlines said they will require face masks for all crew and passengers. I expect this requirement will be with us at least through the end of the year or until rapid COVID-19 testing prior to flights allows face masks to come down in 2021. Most airlines will provide you with a mask if you don’t have one while others may charge a fee.
#2 – Temperature checks before you get on the airplane that prohibits sick people from entering the plane –
This is a simple process of measuring the temperature of all people about to enter the airplane with an infrared contactless thermometer aimed at the traveler’s forehead. This process takes five seconds and the cost of the thermometer is less than $100. This process would identify abnormal temps that may indicate a fever, hypothermia, or other illnesses and prevent sick travelers from flying in order to protect other travelers. People with temperatures would not be able to fly. This is really more for physiological protection as some people are infected with the virus and show no symptoms.
#3 – No more middle seats –
It appears most airlines are blocking off using middle seats on flights as a way to provide social distancing on airplanes. This will be such a joy to not have to be squeezed into a middle seat at least for a few months. How long they continue to block off seating in middle seats will be determined by how fast the virus can be neutralized and also how fast travelers return to flying again. One thing is certain. The airlines can’t make money if they block off middle seats as that gets rid of over 33% of their revenue. The only way to maintain this program for the long term would be for a substantial increase in airline ticket prices of about $100 – $200 a ticket. I just don’t see that happening. My guess is that blocking middle seats will last for the rest of 2020 and then the hope is vaccines and other measures will allow the elbow to elbow travel once again.
#4 – Airlines best customers will board last –
Planes will soon start board from the back of the plane forward. This allows less customer contact and less congestion. I actually like this idea and think it will be around as long as the middle seat is blocked off. Historically the airlines’ best customers boarded first and sit at the front of the airplane. I think the new seating structure throws zone seating into a back to front-loading process and away from the best customers boarding first.
#5 – Overhead bins will be wide open –
You will always be able to find overhead bin space for your carry- on luggage. As long as the middle seat is blocked off flights will never be more than about 70 percent full. That means there will always be empty overhead space on full-sized jets.
#6 – Airport terminals will be ghost towns but flights will be full –
How can it be? The airlines have mothballed almost 90% of all their airplanes. With the middle seats empty to prevent everyone from flying shoulder to shoulder the airlines will need to fill up flights before they add more planes into service otherwise they are just adding more unprofitable flights into the system. Subtract 70-90% of the travelers from an airport terminal and they will seem like an empty ghost town.
#7 – No more airfare sales –
This is exactly opposite what I told you a month ago and I hope I am wrong on this one but my new logic says as long as the middle seat is blocked on all flights it is impossible for the airlines to make money flying airplanes less than 70% full. The airlines will have no incentive to fill empty seats will discount prices and lose money on every ticket sold. Bean counters will say they are better off financially by increasing ticket prices as the first ones who return to fly will be those people who “have to” fly. If the economy is still very slow with people out of work that means business travelers might be the first ones back in the saddle and they are not as price-sensitive as leisure travelers who often will respond to take advantage of a great deal.
#8 – Airplanes will be so clean you could eat off the floor –
Just kidding! But all the airlines will do everything possible to make sure the interiors of planes are double and triple cleaned between flights. This will include spray sanitizing between flights. The HEPA air filters on flights will also provide a fantastic air filtration system to protect recirculating bad air and germs. You will be provided sanitizing wipes to wipe down your seats and tray table areas when you enter the plane.
#9 – No more peanuts and Pepsi –
Many airlines will stop serving snacks along with drinks for domestic flights. Even those airlines that continue to serve drinks will probably pass out bottles rather than provide ice and a plastic cup for your drink. Some airlines will also not be serving alcohol on flights to prevent the high level of service required, plus it also saves them a pretty penny. It will be interesting to see how the airlines will treat passengers on international business class seats who pay $5,000 to $10,000 for a seat. I have a hard time imagining someone paying that much money and not receiving exquisite food, drink, and service.
#10 – Airlines will add a COVID – 19 insurance fee to your ticket price –
If the airlines start taking passengers’ temperatures at the gate before they allow people to get on a flight and prevent people with abnormal temperatures from getting on the flight they have a major problem on their hands. What do airlines do with the people who bought non-refundable tickets yet are refused boarding from something that may or may not be the virus? As much as the airlines like fees I bet that they will offer a simple $10 COVID fee that allows you to get a future airline credit if you test positive for the virus or have a temperature reading that prevents you from getting on a flight. If you don’t buy the insurance you are out of luck. I hope I am wrong with this crazy idea.
This past week many airlines announced they are requiring face masks for all staff and passengers who are flying in the future. Many of the airlines said they would make face masks available at the check-in desk or gate. We do not know at this time if they will provide them for free or for an additional cost. Needless to say, if you are planning to fly, you probably want to have a few spare face masks handy before you head to the airport. Also, many people who travel in cars and check into hotels will probably need these as well. With this in mind, Executive Travel has been able to secure 3-ply face masks as well as 4-ply KN95 face masks and will now make them available while supplies last. We have guaranteed a price of 99 cents each (packages of 50 for a total of $49.50 per box) for the 3- ply, disposable masks that are FDA approved and certified. The KN95 masks are 4-ply, damp proof, non-woven fabric plus anti-dust cotton. The KN95 masks are available for a price of $3.99 each in packets of 10. Executive Travel is making these available at our cost as a service to our customers. Sales tax and shipping costs will be additional. Our current supply is 10,000 units, and they are available while supplies last. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide your company information, phone, and address they should be shipped to. Upon confirmation, Nancy will send you a link for secure payment by credit card.
Hertz Car Rental may file for bankruptcy in the coming days –
The not so perfect storm of a massive drop in car rentals and the decline in value of used cars has caused the giant car rental company to miss a loan payment last week and now faces filing for bankruptcy in the coming days. Please be aware experts say that even if Hertz does file for bankruptcy, they will continue to operate as a car rental company, and they will continue to rent cars in the foreseeable future. This is just one of many dominos that are about to fall in the travel industry as the COVID-19 tsunami wave overtakes the travel industry. CLICK HERE to read more.
Almost 75% of people say they plan to travel this year once travel restrictions are lifted –
A recent survey by Skift Research indicates a surprisingly high number of people plan to travel before the end of the year. Just as I predicted, many people surveyed said they would start out traveling by driving instead of flying. The airlines are anticipating that things will probably return very slowly, and some are predicting that it may take as long as three years for things to be back to Pre-virus normal. About one-third of the people in the survey said they planned to travel within three months. As I have said before, I think there will be a lot of pent-up demand for traveling once the government says the coast is clear, and people feel confident that they are safe to travel. CLICK HERE to read the whole article.
My prediction that travel to Europe would open up on May 11 may have been too optimistic –
Some countries in Europe are slowly opening up, but not much movement is being made by European airlines. Our friends at Turkish Airlines will not start flying until June. United Airlines appears to be adding back more daily flights faster than some airlines in the next few weeks. We still see a lot of travel that was moved from this spring to this fall, so the hope is that June will be the “GO” month, and traffic will continue to build the rest of the year.
I’m trying to figure out how to get my passport renewed during this shutdown –
My passport is set to expire on January 27, 2021. Although that seems far away, many countries will not allow you to travel there if your return date is less than six months before your passport expiration. That means that six months prior is July 26, 2020. That is an amazing 11 weeks away, and I will not be able to travel internationally if I am not able to renew my passport by then. Today I went to the U.S. State Department web site and saw these words, ”If you apply or renew now, you will experience significant delays of several months to receive your U.S. passport and the return of your citizenship evidence documents (such as birth certificates or naturalization certificates). Unless you have a life-or-death emergency, please wait until we resume normal operations to apply for or renew your passport.” I guess I will be stuck at home until the world starts spinning again.
We found an amazing trainer to help our team build skills while travel is frozen –
As I mentioned last week, on April 15, our team celebrated the end of furloughs and shortened work weeks as our whole team went back to full-time work and staffing when we received funding from the new SBA Paycheck Protection Program. Obviously, with travel down over 90%, our team needed to keep busy, so we made a massive commitment to spend this downtime by training and improving all our skill sets. Several years ago, we had a professional speaker named Jeff Beals present at one of our company meetings. We liked his messaging and asked if he would be willing to do a weekly zoom presentation to our team. Last week was the first presentation he made, and I must admit I was not too excited at first glance with the title of the talk being, “Managing the Fear and Uncertainty Experienced by You and Your Clients.” I thought this would just be a boilerplate talk without much punch. But after the conversation, I felt it was fantastic. I have asked Jeff Beals if I could share it with you, and he gave the green light. CLICK HERE if you want to watch his presentation. Also If you need a great trainer on sales and other skills to help build your team through these tough times, you should contact Jeff at www.jeffbeals.com