Categories
Transport

Delta CEO Outlines Carrier’s Safety Guidelines

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has sent a letter to the carrier’s customer base, telling passengers that as the world starts to reopen for business the safety of travelers remains paramount.

“That’s why layers of protection are now in place at every touchpoint of your journey, from beginning to end,” Bastian wrote.

Bastian has been proactive in keeping customers apprised of what Delta has been doing to battle the coronavirus; this was his 11th piece of communication since the crisis began earlier this year.

Though airlines have somewhat relaxed their enforcement of passengers wearing a mask, Bastian nonetheless said the safety procedures start with check-in, where fliers will be required to wear a mask until they reach their destination. Delta employees will be wearing them as well, and the airline will provide a mask to passengers who ask for one if they do not have their own.

Surfaces are wiped down throughout the day, starting with kiosks and baggage stations. Plexiglass shields will be in place at Delta check-in and gate counters by the end of May, and customers will be encouraged to maintain a safe distance with decals at check-in, at the gate and on all Delta-owned jet bridges.

“At the gate, you’ll find gate areas and jet bridges disinfected with electrostatic spraying. Before you board, our teams follow an extensive cleaning checklist with authority to hold the flight for additional cleaning if they aren’t satisfied,” Bastian wrote. “This includes safely sanitizing each aircraft with electrostatic spraying before every flight and wiping down tray tables and seatback screens. Boarding will occur from back to front and be limited to 10 customers at a time to minimize your contact with others. You will receive snack bags with a sanitizing wipe at boarding on select flights to reduce onboard service touchpoints.”

More importantly, Bastian said Delta will maintain the integrity of social distancing and will cap capacity at 60 percent for each flight, including blocking the middle seats from use. The air on all aircraft is completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air or through industrial-grade HEPA filters with similar performance to those used in hospital operating rooms and other highly sensitive environments. Announcements will also encourage passengers to take time when deplaning to create distance for those ahead to exit.

“We are exceeding all travel guidelines set by the U.S. Travel Association, and you have my commitment that we will consistently deliver,” the CEO wrote.

Bastian noted that Delta has processed more than $1.5 billion in cash refunds since January, including $182 million so far this month. He asked for patience as customer service representatives “continue to handle an enormous volume of calls each day.”

If you have travel booked through Sept. 30, 2020, or existing eCredits from flights March 1 through Sept. 30, 2020, there are no change fees to reschedule your trip through Sept. 30, 2022. In addition, tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020, can be changed without a change fee for a year from your date of purchase.

“While this crisis has made us distance ourselves, the isolation has brought a sense of togetherness as we check in on one another,” Bastian said. “I will continue to communicate with you and ask that you share any feedback you have. You can rest assured that we are taking every step to keep you safe throughout your journey when you are ready to fly with us again.”

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Categories
Transport

Boeing CEO Says at Least One Airline Will Fail Due to Pandemic

David Calhoun, the new CEO of Boeing, said on national television this morning that at least one airline could go under due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Calhoun, who took over his own troubled company in January, was asked by Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s Today show this morning “Do you think there might be a major U.S. carrier that just has to go out of business?”

Said Calhoun: “Yes, most likely.”

The CEO did not speculate on which airline would be most at risk to fold, but the entire industry is facing a crisis.

Demand for air travel is off 90 percent compared to last year, and virtually every U.S. airline has been forced to take grants and loans made available by the federal government as part of a stimulus package.

Calhoun also said he did not think air travel would rebound by the fall, as many had hoped.

Here is the full interview:

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Categories
Cruises

Interview NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio Part 2

In the second of two parts of a wide-ranging interview with Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio talked about relaunching operations and the importance of travel advisors in the cruise industry’s recovery. Part 1: Del Rio on closing a $2.4 billion round in tough times.

Remarking that the Covid-19 crisis has put travel advisors under “tremendous stress,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said he speaks with at least two or three agents every day.

“We believe in a strong agency distribution system,” Del Rio said. “Before the pandemic, our company had the highest yield in the industry, which meant that travel agents were earning the most by selling our three brands [Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises].

“I know what they’re going through, and we’ve got to be able to do the things we need to do to make sure they survive. The cruise industry without travel agents would be like pancakes without maple syrup. It just doesn’t work.

“Yesterday, I got an email from a travel agent who I’m very close to, and she says, ‘Frank, I’ve got dozens of people who want to book — when are you going to reopen?’

“So, I picked up the phone and I called Jan [Fishbein, of Cruzunlimited]. Jan is in her early 80s. She has been a travel agent for the last 30 years. I know Jan well because she was the first travel agent to make a booking in 2003 when we opened Oceania.

“I called her and the first question I asked was, ‘Jan, how old are these customers that you claim want to cruise?’ She said, ‘Frank, they’re my normal customers, they’re senior citizens, they’re in their 70s.’ I go, ‘Really, Jan? And they want to cruise?’ ‘Yeah. Why not?’

“I said, ‘Where do they want to cruise?’ ‘Well, they want to cruise in August and September; some want to go in the Caribbean, some want to go to Alaska, there’s a few that want to go through the Panama Canal.’

“She’s pushing me — ‘When are you going to open? When are you going to open?’ — and I say, ‘Jan, I’m working on it! I’m working on it! It’s not just up to me.’

“But it gave me such encouragement. When you combine those types of conversations with the numbers that we’re seeing, if that doesn’t give you reason to have hope and be encouraged, I don’t know what does.”

The numbers that Del Rio is seeing that give him encouragement go backward and forward in time, and reflect, he believes, strong pent-up demand.

“2021 bookings are only slightly behind where 2020 bookings were a year ago,” he said. “Prior to coronavirus, 2020 was going to be, by far, the best year ever. And now, with travel agents not working at full strength, with our sales and marketing teams shut down, with the terrible news cycle that we’ve gone through, we can still say that we’re only slightly behind, and at modest reduction — mid-single digits — in price. This is a testimony to the resiliency of the customer and the efforts of the travel agents to preserve those customers.”

And when Del Rio’s longtime travel agent friend Jan Fishbein gets her wish and sailing resumes, Del Rio also plans a gradual resumption, but with a different approach from that of Carnival Corp., which has announced an Aug. 1 relaunch for Carnival Cruise Line.

“We’re not looking at it like that at all,” Del Rio said. “We’re looking at a gradual start; we’re not certain when that date is, because everything depends on the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] lifting the no-sail order. Whenever we do start, we’ll begin with a handful of ships across the three brands. So, let’s say in month one, we open up with five ships; it could be three Norwegian, one Oceania and one Regent. I don’t understand the concept of how one brand could be completely open and multiple brands can be completely closed. That’s mind-boggling to me. We will start across all three brands, and whenever month two is, we’ll bring alongside another four, five, six ships. We think it will take roughly six months from whenever we start until when all 28 ships across the three brands are back in full service.”

Del Rio said he was unconcerned that some ports might not be welcoming visitors when sailing resumes. “We visit over 500 ports around the world. And cruise lines put forth their itineraries more than two years in advance. Today, we’re selling itineraries through the fall of 2022, and we don’t know at this point which ports are going to be open, which ports are going to be closed. I’m not going to prejudge changing itineraries. We’ll have to play it by ear; it may be that when we open a certain itinerary, a port or two on that itinerary may not be operational and we’ll have to make changes. We’ll go to another port in the neighborhood. We have flexibility because, especially in Europe, it’s a condensed geography. There’s always an alternative port to go to nearby. The good news is we’re flexible, we’re nimble, and ships have propellers and rudders. We can move them around as necessary.” 

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Categories
Travel

American Airlines' CEO said ticket sakes are starting to tick upwards again, despite complete uncertainty about when it will be safe to travel


American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that despite the scale of the coronavirus crisis for the airline industry, there’s reason to be optimistic that travel will bounce back when the disaster abates.

Doug Parker wearing a suit and tie

During an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Alley on Wednesday, Parker said that in recent days, the airline had seen an uptick in sales of tickets for travel more than 90 days in the future.

“I will say that just in the last week, we’ve started to see bookings outside of 90 days start to tick up a little bit again,” he said, noting that things could change before the actual flights. “That seems to be a little bit of an indication that maybe our country’s ready to get moving again.”

Additionally, Parker said, corporate clients are starting to look at booking flights to events and meetings towards the end of this year.

a.

“Our sales team tells me we’re being asked to work on conventions in the fourth quarter,” he said. “That certainly isn’t going on in the second and third quarter. So there are indications that the world is ready to start traveling again.”

“But they’re very preliminary, and it’s certainly not happening today,” he added.

GALLERY: Haunting photos of empty airports and planes

Slide 1 of 33:  The newly passed CARES Act requires airlines to maintain certain levels of pre-March 2020 air service even as passenger demand dwindles.  Despite the raging pandemic and stay at home orders, air travel remains the quickest form of transportation and is used by medical professionals and other essential workers to get where they're needed.   With non-essential travel limited, airports have become deserted and aircraft are flying with only handfuls of passengers if any.     Visit  Business Insider's homepage for more stories.   Nowhere has the effect of COVID-19 been more pronounced in the US than the country's transportation system, especially its largest airports and the aircraft still flying.  Once vibrant, bustling centers for the facilitation of travel have been reduced to ghost towns operated by skeleton crews serving the few remaining flights that have yet to be cut by airlines.  Provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, require of the airlines that apply for federal aid maintain minimal air service.  The law requires that airlines "maintain scheduled air transportation service as the Secretary of Transportation deems necessary to ensure services to any point served by that carrier before March 1, 2020."  Especially in a time of crisis, airlines fly crucially needed cargo and maintain national connectivity, as stated in the newly-adopted law.  "The Secretary of Transportation shall take into consideration the air transportation needs of small and remote communities and the need to maintain well-functioning health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including for medical devices and supplies," the CARES Act includes.  Take a closer look at the current state of airports and aircraft amid a pandemic.
Slide 2 of 33: Normally the third busiest airport in the US, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is now a ghost town as the virus has decimated demand.
Slide 3 of 33: The iconic flag concourse at the airport is shown here empty at rush hour.
Slide 4 of 33: A major hub for American Airlines and United Airlines, the evening rush in Chicago would typically be when passengers crowd the airport getting ready to board international flights to Europe, now largely restricted by governments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Slide 5 of 33: With both carriers significantly cutting capacity both on international and domestic routes, their terminals in the Windy City remain stagnant.
Slide 6 of 33:  Source:  City of Chicago
Slide 7 of 33: Nonetheless, travel to, from, and through the city's primary international aircraft continues to dwindle.
Slide 8 of 33: In New York, empty roadways are now a common sight as the few airlines left have moved terminals as part of the airport's attempt to consolidate operations in a handful of buildings.
Slide 9 of 33: Even with the moves, Terminal 8 at JFK lies largely dormant as international flights have evaporated and only a handful of domestic routes operated by tenant American Airlines remain.

Slide 10 of 33:  Read More:   Inside the massive effort by US airlines to transport medical supplies and mail on cargo-only flights using passenger jets
Slide 11 of 33: The world's largest airline has been reduced to only a handful of flights to the country's most powerful city, which has been one of US' hotspots for the virus.
Slide 12 of 33:  Source: City of New York
Slide 13 of 33: Terminal 8, in particular, has been largely impacted as the terminal primarily sees flights to Europe and Asia, both of which were restricted by presidential travel bans. Some international flights remain as JFK is an approved CDC entry airport.
Slide 14 of 33:  Source:  Fox News

Slide 15 of 33:  Read More:   17 air traffic control centers have been temporarily closed after workers tested positive for coronavirus, highlighting a vulnerability in air travel
Slide 16 of 33:  Source:  ABC News
Slide 17 of 33: In Denver, the infrastructure remains in place for an empty security checkpoint despite non-existent lines in the normally jam-packed central terminal building.
Slide 18 of 33:  Source:  United Airlines
Slide 19 of 33: Even the country's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, is eerily quiet. Its largest carrier, Delta Air Lines, has shifted to cargo-only flights.
Slide 20 of 33:  Read More:   Delta, American, and other airlines are parking planes on closed runways at major airports as carriers struggle to store grounded airliners
Slide 21 of 33: Ticket counters remain similarly empty and largely unstaffed as airlines offer voluntary layoffs for employees in an effort to preserve cash flow.
Slide 22 of 33: Some empty ticket counters, however, will remain that way as the airlines that once staffed them have collapsed due to the crisis, as was the case for Ravn Alaska.
Slide 23 of 33: The regional carrier served small communities in Alaska before its collapse, leaving some areas of the state without their lifeline.
Slide 24 of 33: Flight crews remain the few remaining occupants of airport terminals as some flights continue to go, even with little to no passengers.
Slide 25 of 33: Passenger-facing crew, however, are donning personal protective equipment as they serve on the frontlines of the pandemic...
Slide 26 of 33: Although aircraft load factors have been steadily low as passengers avoid air travel.
Slide 27 of 33:  Read More:   Delta, United, and American are 'fogging' their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus - here's what that means
Slide 28 of 33: Empty flights are virtually guaranteed but airlines are required to keep flying some services under the CARES Act in order to receive federal funds.
Slide 29 of 33: Though airlines are applying for exemptions to the rule, air service in the US remains a necessity and some flights must go to maintain connectivity in the country, even empty ones.
Slide 30 of 33: Only 10 passengers took the near-3-hour journey from New York to Miami on this Boeing 777-200 capable of seating around 275.
Slide 31 of 33: For many of these flights, it's the cargo under the passenger seats that make them worth flying with wide-body jets offering the greatest cargo capacity.
Slide 32 of 33: Social distancing on these flights is more easily achieved with no shortage of empty seats and rows.
Slide 33 of 33:  Source:  Reuters

Nowhere has the effect of COVID-19 been more pronounced in the US than the country’s transportation system, especially its largest airports and the aircraft still flying.

Once vibrant, bustling centers for the facilitation of travel have been reduced to ghost towns operated by skeleton crews serving the few remaining flights that have yet to be cut by airlines.

Provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, require of the airlines that apply for federal aid maintain minimal air service.

The law requires that airlines “maintain scheduled air transportation service as the Secretary of Transportation deems necessary to ensure services to any point served by that carrier before March 1, 2020.”

Especially in a time of crisis, airlines fly crucially needed cargo and maintain national connectivity, as stated in the newly-adopted law.

“The Secretary of Transportation shall take into consideration the air transportation needs of small and remote communities and the need to maintain well-functioning health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including for medical devices and supplies,” the CARES Act includes.

Take a closer look at the current state of airports and aircraft amid the pandemic.

Normally the third busiest airport in the US, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is now a ghost town as the virus has decimated demand.

The iconic flag concourse at the airport is shown here empty at rush hour.

A major hub for American Airlines and United Airlines, the evening rush in Chicago would typically be when passengers crowd the airport getting ready to board international flights to Europe, now largely restricted by governments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

With both carriers significantly cutting capacity both on international and domestic routes, their terminals in the Windy City remain stagnant.

Chicago has only seen a fraction of COVID-19 cases compared to other major cities, with cases in the city topping out at around 9,000.

Source: City of Chicago

Nonetheless, travel to, from, and through the city’s primary international aircraft continues to dwindle.

In New York, empty roadways are now a common sight as the few airlines left have moved terminals as part of the airport’s attempt to consolidate operations in a handful of buildings.

Even with the moves, Terminal 8 at JFK lies largely dormant as international flights have evaporated and only a handful of domestic routes operated by tenant American Airlines remain.

American Airlines has largely shifted to cargo-only flights from its New York gateway.

Read More: Inside the massive effort by US airlines to transport medical supplies and mail on cargo-only flights using passenger jets

The world’s largest airline has been reduced to only a handful of flights to the country’s most powerful city, which has been one of US’ hotspots for the virus.

New York has been among the hardest-hit cities in the country, with around 6,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and nearly 200,000 reported cases statewide.

Source: City of New York

Terminal 8, in particular, has been largely impacted as the terminal primarily sees flights to Europe and Asia, both of which were restricted by presidential travel bans. Some international flights remain as JFK is an approved CDC entry airport.

This is the scene at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport where operations have been largely reduced as tourism numbers have dropped sharply.

Source: Fox News

The main gateway to Sin City remains largely empty despite cases of COVID-19 not yet topping 3,000 in Nevada. The airport’s control tower was recently closed after facility personnel tested positive for the virus, leaving aircraft on the ground to fend for themselves when taxiing, arriving, or departing.

Read More: 17 air traffic control centers have been temporarily closed after workers tested positive for coronavirus, highlighting a vulnerability in air travel

The airport’s famous gaming machines have also been off-limits per a state mandate against gaming while the pandemic rages.

Source: ABC News

In Denver, the infrastructure remains in place for an empty security checkpoint despite non-existent lines in the normally jam-packed central terminal building.

The airport is the Rocky Mountain hub of United Airlines, which has reduced capacity by over 60% in April.

Source: United Airlines

Even the country’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, is eerily quiet. Its largest carrier, Delta Air Lines, has shifted to cargo-only flights.

With passenger terminals empty, the airport has lent Delta its runways and taxiways to store excess aircraft to ride out the crisis.

Read More: Delta, American, and other airlines are parking planes on closed runways at major airports as carriers struggle to store grounded airliners

Ticket counters remain similarly empty and largely unstaffed as airlines offer voluntary layoffs for employees in an effort to preserve cash flow.

Some empty ticket counters, however, will remain that way as the airlines that once staffed them have collapsed due to the crisis, as was the case for Ravn Alaska.

The regional carrier served small communities in Alaska before its collapse, leaving some areas of the state without their lifeline.

Flight crews remain the few remaining occupants of airport terminals as some flights continue to go, even with little to no passengers.

Passenger-facing crew, however, are donning personal protective equipment as they serve on the frontlines of the pandemic…

Although aircraft load factors have been steadily low as passengers avoid air travel.

Airlines are adopting new cleaning procedures, including fogging, to ensure that aircraft are safe for the passengers that still choose or need to fly.

Read More: Delta, United, and American are ‘fogging’ their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus – here’s what that means

Empty flights are virtually guaranteed but airlines are required to keep flying some services under the CARES Act in order to receive federal funds.

Though airlines are applying for exemptions to the rule, air service in the US remains a necessity and some flights must go to maintain connectivity in the country, even empty ones.

Only 10 passengers took the near-3-hour journey from New York to Miami on this Boeing 777-200 capable of seating around 275.

For many of these flights, it’s the cargo under the passenger seats that make them worth flying with wide-body jets offering the greatest cargo capacity.

Social distancing on these flights is more easily achieved with no shortage of empty seats and rows.

On this flight from Washington to New Orleans, only one passenger showed up to fly on this 70-seat regional jet.

Source: Reuters

As the coronavirus has brought much of the world to a virtual standstill, airlines have seen revenue stop flowing almost overnight. Parker said American’s revenues were down 90% year over year.

To try and encourage sales for future travel, many airlines, including American, have implemented flexible ticketing policies. American will waive change and cancellation fees for trips booked between March 1 and May 31, 2020, for travel at a later date. Canceled tickets are good for a credit towards a later flight, rather than a refund. 

It was not immediately clear whether American was offering similar flexibility to corporate accounts to try and entice sales for later in the year. Many companies are expected to cut back on travel expenses as the financial crisis leads to belt-tightening across sectors. 

As Americans become increasingly restless while sheltering-in-place and social distancing, however, planning future leisure trips for the summer and fall can offer a future retreat to look forward to.

However, it’s unclear when travel will be able to resume, and whether those bookings can hold.

WATCH: Travel is cheaper, but should you book? (Provided by The Wall Street Journal)


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Categories
Travel

Delta CEO: 'We still haven't seen the bottom'


Delta Air Lines expects revenue over the next three months to be down 90%, with no end of the industry’s troubles in sight.

a red and white plane sitting on top of a grass covered field: KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 03: Planes belonging to Delta Air Lines sit idle at Kansas City International Airport on April 03, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. carriers reported an enormous drop in bookings amid the spread of the coronavirus and are waiting for a government bailout to fight the impact. Delta lost almost $2 billion in March and parked half of its fleet in order to save money. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“Even as Delta is burning more than $60 million in cash every day, we know we still haven’t seen the bottom,” said CEO Ed Bastian warned employees on Friday. He said April’s schedule will be down “at least 80% smaller than originally planned, with 115,000 flights canceled.”

As an example of the drop in traffic he said that on March 28, Delta carried only 38,000 customers, versus its normal late-March Saturday of traffic of 600,000.

“I wish I could predict this would end soon, but the reality is we simply don’t know how long it will take before the virus is contained and customers are ready to fly again,” he said.

Airline fan Buffett dumping shares

In a separate filing Berkshire Hathaway, disclosed that it sold 18% of its stake in Delta earlier this week, dumping nearly 13 million shares for $314 million.

Berkshire also disclosed it had sold 2.3 million shares of Southwest Airlines for $74 million. That only represented 4% of Berkshire’s Southwest holdings though.

Berkshire and its chairman Warren Buffett have been major investors in a number of airlines in recent years. It previously held 11% of Delta’s shares, and 10.3% of Southwest before the recent sales, along with 10% of American and 9% of United.

Berkshire is among the three largest shareholders of all four airlines. Buffett typically does not sell shares simply due to a decline in price or difficult economic times.

Other airlines also see tough times ahead

Delta wasn’t the only airline issuing a grim outlook for business Friday evening. United and JetBlue did as well.

United said that its average revenue in March was $100 million a day less than a year ago. It also cut April capacity by 80%, and said that it still only expected to fill a small portion of the seats it flies – a percentage between the low teens and single digits. United filled 84% of its seats with paying customers throughout 2019. An airline typically needs to sell at least two-thirds of the available seats on a flight in order for it to be profitable.

United said because of the low traffic it expects to make even deeper cuts in the May schedule and it will continue to cut the schedule until it sees signs of a recovery in demand. But it’s not expecting any significant rebound soon. It said revenue for the last three months of this year is still expected to be down 30% from the final quarter of 2019.

JetBlue said that it expects to fly only 7,000 customers a day in April and possibly in May, compared to the normal 120,000 it would handle. It said it was taking in just $1 million a day in bookings and ancillary fees, down from $22 million during April last year. And it is issuing $11 million per day of travel bank credits for canceled bookings.

Airlines file for help

Bastian confirmed that Delta filed Friday for its share of $25 billion in federal grants for the airline industry approved by Congress last week. Most other airlines confirmed that they, too, filed or planned to file for such support. Airlines that did not file by Friday stood the risk that there would not be money available to them when they did.

There’s another $25 billion in loan support available as part of the package. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told his employees a week ago that American stood to get $12 billion of the $50 billion of help available because of it is the world’s largest airline.

United, Southwest, JetBlue and Hawaiian airlines disclosed their requests for help in statements or company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sun County, Spirit Airlines, Alaska and Allegiant Airlines told CNN on that they had filed.

The small regional airlines that operate as feeders for the major carriers also all filed for help, according to Faye Malarkey Black, the CEO of the Regional Airline Association. That does not include the two regional airlines that already announced plans to go out of business.


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