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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ASTA Outlines Priorities for More COVID-19 Relief

ASTA’s most recent survey results show the progress of CARES Act relief programs. While more advisors are receiving some form of money from the act, whether through unemployment benefits or relief loans, many find the processes put in place difficult to navigate.

This is the second survey that tracks member experiences with the various relief programs available to travel advisors through the CARES Act, and 600 members responded.

According to the results, many more advisors had received money from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Nearly 65 percent of the travel advisors replying to the survey said that they had applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

More than 52 percent had now been approved for a loan versus 20.1 percent on April 20.

Still, many advisors reported that the process to get the assistance was a struggle. Nearly 34 percent said that they found the process very difficult, 28.7 percent moderately difficult and 20.1 percent somewhat difficult.

Finding an institution from which they could get financing was also hard. Just over 38 percent had difficulty in finding a bank, credit union or other financial institution that was willing to accept their application.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans were another common form of relief for travel advisors. However, while 61.7 percent had applied for EIDL relief, just 25.9 percent had been approved for a loan. That is up from 7.1 percent on April 20, 2020, when the survey was first conducted.

Nearly 30 percent found the process very difficult; 20.7 percent found it moderately difficult, and 16.8 percent said it was somewhat difficult.

Unemployment benefits were the most common form of relief. Seventy-six percent of travel advisors had applied. Just over 33 percent had been approved versus 13.8 percent in the first wave of the survey.

Nearly 53 percent reported that the process was very difficult; 21.2 percent said it was moderately difficult, and 15.1 percent said somewhat difficult.

Based on member feedback, ASTA has outlined its priorities for the next coronavirus relief package.

ASTA is requesting that Section 4112 of the CARES Act be amended to provide payroll support payments to “ticket agents and that the funding authorized be increased by $7.7 billion to allow for these payments.

ASTA is also requesting that funding for PPP is increased to $900 billion and is extended through December 30, 2020. It is also asking that the program’s loan threshold be increased from 250 percent of monthly payroll to 400 percent of all business expenses among other requests that include extending loan forgiveness and increasing the employee cap.

The association is requesting additional funding for ticket agent loans as well.

“While we expect the majority of our membership to avail themselves of other relief options in the CARES Act over the coming weeks and months – the PPP in particular – given the scale of the disruption to our part of the travel industry we believe there will be intense demand for relief under this program, which started accepting applications on April 8,” ASTA detailed in its recommendation.

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