Travel industry update – 10 April 2020



Jet2 Hoping To Resume Flight And Holidays Programme In June and Jet2holidays will resume its flight and holidays programme on 17 June, meaning all services and holidays are now cancelled up to 16 June. The decision will be kept under constant review, in line with government guidance. After initially announcing plans to suspend all flights until at least 1 May on 19 March, owing to local travel restrictions in many of the destinations it serves.

Bravo United

United Airlines is extending its coronavirus travel waiver, allowing customers with travel anytime in 2020 to change their flights without a fee, or cancel their flights and receive a voucher for a future flight. However, those with flights later in the year will need to make the change or cancellation by April 30. The waiver was previously only valid for travel booked through May 31. United is the first US airline to extend its general coronavirus waiver beyond the summer. Under the terms of the travel waiver, passengers with tickets to fly anywhere with the airline can change their travel dates without a fee, or can cancel their trip altogether. Those who cancel their trips will receive a voucher for the full value of their ticket, to be used for a future flight. Vouchers are valid for two years.

Etihad to Test New Airport Scanners for Pinpointing Sick Passengers

During past pandemics, many airports have used scanners to check the temperatures of passengers, hoping to identify people with fevers. But Etihad Airways plans to go further. It will soon add more tests to try to spot people with symptoms of coronavirus and other illnesses. Etihad will use new self-service kiosks that check the temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate of passengers.

Whenever a machine detects possible symptoms of illness, personnel with public health or medical training will check the passenger. Only the medic will be able to give the okay for a passenger to check their bags, pass through security, or pass through an immigration checkpoint.

Etihad will start testing the kiosks at its hub airport in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the end of April. It said the effort was a first for an airline.
Elenium Automation, which makes self-service devices for airports, built the machines. A three-dimensional sensor monitors nostril flaring, to suss out if breathing is heavier than usual. Near-infrared scanners claim to detect subtle change in skin colour.

The new symptom-testing equipment aims to be “touchless,” relying on voice commands. Testing will show how well the systems recognize voices of international travellers in a crowded terminal. Elenium claims it can retrofit its illness-sensing tech into any airport kiosk, bag drop, or immigration desk. But airlines will need to do tests of whether compatibility and workflow issues can measure up to the demands of the typical airport.


What next for Corporate Travel

By now most companies are settling in for this unprecedented new reality in the corporate travel world, having made arrangements to get travelling employees safely home and suspended nearly all business travel for the foreseeable future.

What comes next is anyone’s guess, The feedback from travel managers contain some common themes:

Safety first

It is imperative that companies can account for all employees’ travel activity in order to assess potential Covid-19 exposure risk, for the employee as well as family and colleagues that employee may have contact with. This means tracing both business trips and personal trips to high-risk areas. A recent vacation to Italy or China, for example, could have resulted in virus exposure that your employee brings back to the office upon return. While this level of detail may cause some heartburn for company data-privacy teams tasked with protecting employees’ personal privacy, enlisting the help of your risk management and HR teams to determine the best way to approach this conversation is highly recommended.

Reporting Work with your travel management company, expense management and other reporting partners to build a true picture of your company’s recent travel activity, as well as what was previously scheduled (and likely now cancelled), including both on-channel and off-channel booking activity. You will need this data handy and regularly updated to help you manage this rapidly changing environment, including:

  • Tracing employees’ past travel to high-risk areas (as noted above)
  • Ensuring proper pre-trip approvals and risk authorisations have been secured for future essential trips
  • Tracking potential refunds, fee waivers and credit balances for trips that were cancelled
  • Assisting employees who are in-trip but may be subject to travel disruptions as countries close borders and airlines suspend service.
  • Many companies do this already, but most handle this on a somewhat ad-hoc basis. Developing a repeatable process around aggregating and reconciling this data will save considerable time and headaches, and enable much faster responses to fluid situations.

Contingency Planning

It’s impossible to predict when the Covid-19 danger will pass, or what the new normal will look like after the initial lockdown period. One thing is certain: business travel will come back. The global economy depends on it. While there is a lull in active business travel, you can use this time to plan for its return:

  • Update budgets. Things may look quite a bit different once the dust settles, so take time to work with your executive and finance teams to understand the scope of budget available for travel over what time period.
  • Prioritise type(s) of business travel to open first. Most companies will likely take a phased approach to restarting their engines; giving this some advanced thought and communicating your plans across the company will help ensure teams are aligned.
  • Re-evaluate your travel risk management strategies. What worked, and what didn’t? Where did you find gaps in data or coverage that delayed action? How would you rate your communication strategy across the company?
  • Policy and programme updates. How did your company’s travel programme perform during the crisis? Enlisting all your stakeholders, from Executive team to risk and finance to vendor partners and employees – including both road warriors and infrequent travellers – is critical here to determine whether enhancements should be considered for policy, tools or other programme management resources.

In addition to the steps above, there’s the most important action: empathy. Travel suppliers, agencies and the service providers who support corporate travel managers and the programmes and travellers they manage are experiencing a catastrophic and unprecedented meltdown of their business in a shockingly short time. Taking a moment to reach out and show support in whatever form available to you can go a long way to making someone’s day just a touch less stressful.

Business travel will be back, hopefully much sooner than later. During this time when we may be feeling a bit powerless, using this downtime to plan for what it could and should look like when it returns is both empowering and pragmatic.

Free Business Travel Spend Consultation

Let’s see if we can make immediate savings to your business travel programme. 

Like this article? Share it!

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter