Editor’s Note: This post will be regularly updated with the latest news and updates on the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on travel. Scroll down or click for previous updates and stay tuned for additional coverage.
- Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) Wants to Set Up Airport COVID-19 Tests
- Delta Has Lost More Than $11 Billion So Far in 2020
- Japan Aims to Restart Tourism By Spring 2021
- More than 30K Airline Employees Lost Their Jobs Today
- U.S. Virgin Islands Will Re-Open for Travel (Again…)
- Labor Day Weekend Travel Sets COVID-19 Record
- United Will Cut More than 16,000 Employees
- The Maldives Will Soon Require a Negative COVID-19 Test
- Dominican Republic Will Scrap Pre-Arrival Testing Requirements
- Talks of Travel Corridor Spark Hope for (Some) Travel to the U.K.
Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) Wants to Set Up Airport COVID-19 Tests
Monday, Oct. 19 at 3:45 p.m.
Officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) say they’re working to set up a COVID-19 testing option inside the airport.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended travel, and airline executives and industry leaders say they don’t expect air travel to return to pre-COVID levels until 2023 or 2024. But in the meantime, COVID-19 testing has proven to be one of the few ways to resume any travel, period.
Most of the world still bans American travelers, a handful of destinations across the globe will allow U.S. tourists if they can provide a recent negative COVID-19 test, including Croatia and several Caribbean islands. Hawaii joined that list just last week, allowing travelers to bypass a 14-day quarantine with a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before their departing flight.
Several major U.S. airports and airlines have set up testing procedures already. Brian Ryks, the CEO of the Minneapolis airport’s governing board, said Monday that the airport is looking into how to host a testing center at MSP.
“We realize that we need to continue to be proactive in that area,” Ryks said.
Those discussions are very in their very early stages, and Ryks provided no details on a potential timeline for getting testing up-and-running at the airport. An airport spokesman said MSP would need to find a testing partner to make it happen.
Minneapolis is set to set to resume its first major international route since the pandemic struck when Delta restarts service to Amsterdam (AMS) next Sunday, Oct. 25. The Netherlands and much of the rest of the European Union still ban American travelers from entering, but the flights are expected to carry essential workers and flyers transiting elsewhere.
Read all our coverage of traveling and the coronavirus.
Delta Has Lost More Than $11 Billion So Far in 2020
Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 10 a.m.
Delta Air Lines reported its latest eye-popping financial loss on Tuesday, posting a $5.4 billion net loss during the typically busy summer travel months as the coronavirus pandemic continues hammering airlines.
Combined with Delta’s more than $6 billion in net losses in the first six months of the year, the latest losses add up to $11.6 billion in 2020 alone. It’s a bruising reversal for a carrier that entered the pandemic as among the most profitable airlines in the world. This time last year, Delta reported a $1.5 billion quarterly profit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the airline industry to a screeching halt, forcing carriers to shrink into hibernation mode with job reductions, cost-cutting, and other money-saving measures. Other major U.S. carriers like American Airlines, United, Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska will report their latest quarterly earnings later this month.
“While our September quarter results demonstrate the magnitude of the pandemic on our business, we have been encouraged as more customers travel and we are seeing a path of progressive improvement in our revenues, financial results and daily cash burn,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.
Delta is feeling the same effects of every other airline as travel demand disappeared this spring – and hasn’t come close to back to normal. The airline’s ticket sales and other passenger revenue has dropped by more than 83% in the last year.
And Delta’s losses were exacerbated by some measures that should help it in the long run: Restructuring its fleet to get rid of less fuel-efficient planes and offering more generous buyout and early retirement packages. Delta will retire 200 planes in 2020 alone. And more than 18,000 Delta employees took buyouts over the summer.
During a call with investors on Tuesday, Bastian said there’s no way for airlines to operate as normal until travel demand returns. And he and other airline officials don’t expect that for at least another two years.
“Until then, we will be smaller in the short-term, but also more agile and efficient,” Bastian said.
After a grueling spring and disappointing summer beset by outbreaks, Delta is seeing some signs of hope. Travel demand is up across the board. Some business travel – a lifeblood for airlines – has started to return. Travelers who grew accustomed to making last-minute travel decisions have begun booking flights farther in advance, airline President Glen Hauenstein said.
Still, more than 1,700 Delta pilots face furloughs next month unless if Congress passes an extension of the payroll grants that helped airlines stay afloat through the spring and summer. That funding lapsed Oct. 1.
Japan Aims to Restart Tourism By Spring 2021
Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 a.m.
With the Summer Olympics approaching in 2021, Japan is gearing up to welcome tourists as early as next April.
Like much of the rest of the world, Japan has shut out travelers since March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic spread. Japan currently bans visitors from more than 159 countries, including the U.S. And while countries across the globe have slowly reopened their borders, Japan has given little guidance on when travel may be allowed to resume.
But The Japan Times reports those plans are in the works. Citing confidential government sources, Japan is preparing to lift the travel ban and reopen to tourists in the spring of 2021.
Their tentative reopening plans would require all arriving travelers to provide certification of a recent negative COVID-19 test as well as proof of medical travel insurance in case of an infection. The government is also considering a smartphone app to track tourists’ health conditions for up to 14 days after their arrival. And the government may also set up dedicated public health centers to deal with tourists who experience COVID-19 symptoms after arrival.
Japan is aiming to have its plans ironed out by January 2021 in hopes of beginning to accept some tourists by April 2021 as a “trial run” ahead of the Olympics. The 2021 Summer Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23 through Aug. 8.
More than 30K Airline Employees Lost Their Jobs Today
Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7:45 a.m.
The start of October brought on massive layoffs in the airline industry, as United Airlines and American Airlines combined to furlough more than 32,000 workers as federal funding for the airlines expired.
A $25 billion package of payroll grants passed as a part of the CARES Act in March helped keep airlines afloat while travel demand dropped. Months later, travel demand is still nowhere near normal. So airlines began warning employees of job cuts and furloughs this summer unless Congress followed up with more help for airlines before it lapsed.
That funding expired Wednesday night as September ended. And despite support for granting airlines more financial support, Congress remains deadlocked over how to craft another stimulus package.
United cut 13,000 of its workers while American has officially furloughed 19,000 employees as of Thursday. The Associated Press reports that both airlines say they could reverse those job cuts if Congress passes another round of financial help in the coming days.
“Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that any of these efforts will come to fruition,” American Airlines CEO wrote in a letter to employees late Wednesday.
The toll of job losses could have been much worse. Delta was able to avoid cutting any flight attendants by offering early buyout packages, extended leaves, and transitioning some to temporary catering jobs. Southwest has vowed not to cut any jobs until at least 2021. And United reached a last-minute deal with its pilots’ union that prevents furloughs until at least next June.
Yet the final count still may climb. Delta put off its plans to furlough nearly 2,000 until at least November, citing the ongoing talks to pass another financial rescue package.
And already, tens of thousands of pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, and more have left airlines through buyouts and early retirement offers.
U.S. Virgin Islands Will Re-Open for Travel (Again…)
Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 7:45 a.m.
A month after shutting down travel due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Virgin Islands are gearing up to resume outside travel later this week – with far stricter testing requirements.
Since June, the U.S. territory had been one of the few realistic options for travelers from the mainland since resuming travel, along with a handful of other Caribbean nations. And it had less stringent testing requirements than many other nations – only visitors 15 and up from states with COVID-19 positivity rates of 10% or higher were required to present a negative test result, taken within no more than five days of arrival.
But the islands swiftly locked down for at least a month in mid-August as coronavirus cases increased. Now, the U.S. Virgin Islands tourism department says it’s ready to welcome travelers again starting Saturday, Sept. 19.
Starting this Saturday, any and all travelers entering the U.S. Virgin Islands must provide a negative COVID-19 test result received no more than five days before arrival.
The U.S. Virgin Islands aren’t the only Caribbean destination where travel restrictions are changing. And some aren’t going nearly as far as the Virgin Islands.
As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, the Dominican Republic no longer requires travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test result – or get one on arrival. Instead, Dominican officials are performing rapid breath tests on just 3% to 10% of arriving travelers.
The Dominican government also says it will provide free travel insurance to all tourists staying at hotels, covering emergencies, telemedicine, and any additional expenses if a traveler is required to self-quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 case. That policy is expected to last through December 2020.
Labor Day Weekend Travel Sets COVID-19 Record
Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 9 a.m.
The TSA reported 968, 673 passengers Friday, September 4 leading up to the Labor Day holiday weekend. The last time passenger levels were higher was March 16, 2020, with 1,257,823 passengers passing through security checkpoints around the country before the numbers dropped drastically in just a few days to half that amount of travelers.
While it’s encouraging to see the number of travelers increase, numbers are still 50% lower than 2019 levels around 2,000,000 passengers a day on the same weekend. With travel restrictions in place in 21 states and most of the world closed to Americans travel is incredibly limited.
United Will Cut More than 16,000 Employees
Thursday, Sept. 3 at 7:45 a.m.
United will furlough more than 16,000 employees when federal funding runs dry come October, according to an internal memo, the latest massive job cut as airlines push Congress for another financial rescue package.
CNN reports that the memo calls furloughs “heart-wrenching,” but explained that the airline “cannot continue with staffing levels that significantly exceed the schedule we fly.” And United isn’t alone: American has warned of 19,000 employee furloughs, while Delta has told nearly 2,000 pilots that their jobs will disappear this fall.
Despite steady increases since the spring, air travel remains down by more than 70% due to COVID-19. United and fellow U.S. carriers have lost billions of dollars. Airlines simply need to get smaller to match the new reality: Fewer people are traveling, and that won’t return to normal anytime soon.
But airlines are hoping that the threat of massive job losses just before the Election will pressure Congress to extend the financial support included in the CARES Act in March.
“To be clear, an extension would be the one thing that would prevent involuntary furloughs on October 1 and hopefully delay any potential impact on employees until early 2021,” United’s memo said.
The Maldives Will Soon Require a Negative COVID-19 Test
Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 7:45 a.m.
After re-opening to tourists (including Americans) back in mid-July with no entry restrictions, The Maldives will soon require a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.
God Save the Points broke the news that the island paradise would add a testing requirement to its travel free-for-all. Starting Sept. 10, all arriving travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
The Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism confirmed the upcoming change on Wednesday.
For the safety of all, HPA Maldives has made it mandatory, with effect from 10th September, for all tourists and short term visitors to present a Negative PCR certificate on arrival in #Maldives #VisitMaldives
— Ministry of Tourism (@MoTmv) September 1, 2020
It’s one of the few countries currently allowing Americans to enter, period. And along with Turkey and Mexico, it has stood out for having no real requirements for entry.
That will change next week.
Dominican Republic Will Scrap Pre-Arrival Testing Requirements
Friday, Aug. 28 at 7:45 a.m.
While most countries implement stricter COVID-19 testing procedures for tourists, the Dominican Republic this fall plans to eliminate its requirement that travelers provide a negative test result taken within five days of arrival.
Instead, The Associated Press reports that the Dominican Republic will begin randomly testing arriving travelers with a rapid test. That change is due to take effect sometime in late September.
Dominican officials also say they will provide free travel insurance to all tourists staying at hotels, covering emergencies, telemedicine, and any additional expenses if a traveler is required to self-quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 case. That policy is expected to last through December 2020.
It’s part of a new tourism roadmap meant to boost the hobbled industry on the island while still protecting against the spread of COVID-19.
“We are confident that together we will overcome the challenges of the pandemic and ensure that the Dominican Republic remains the number one destination in the region for international travelers, who visit either for vacation, business, investment opportunities or returning to their preferred second home,” tourism minister David Collado said.
The timing is somewhat odd, as the Dominican has struggled with an outbreak in COVID-19 cases throughout much of the summer. With nearly 10,000 new cases in the last two weeks, it’s among the worst in the Caribbean.
Across the globe, countries have implemented major tourism restrictions due to COVID-19. While many countries have shut out Americans completely, the Caribbean is a rare bright spot for travel in the near future.
Talks of Travel Corridor Spark Hope for (Some) Travel to the U.K
Thursday, Aug. 27 at 10:45 a.m.
Officials from the U.S. and the U.K. are discussing a potential “air bridge” between London and New York City that would allow travelers to avoid the U.K.’s 14-day quarantine requirement, The Telegraph reports.
Nearly all international travel between the U.S. and Europe has been shut down since mid-March, when President Donald Trump implemented a travel ban on most foreign arrivals. The U.K. followed up this spring with a 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors from countries struggling with coronavirus, including the U.S.
But airlines and government leaders worldwide are looking for ways to safely resume international travel – especially between critical business hubs. And there’s no more important corridor for businesses than travel between New York City and London, two of the world’s top financial centers.
Citing anonymous sources, The Telegraph reports that top leaders from the two countries are examining a so-called air bridge between the two cities. And U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed officials were considering how to set up travel corridors that would allow travelers from low-risk areas within countries that are struggling with COVID-19 infection rates to avoid quarantine requirements.
New York City certainly fits the bill. After a terrible outbreak this spring and strict lockdowns, the city’s infection rate has dropped below even the U.K.’s. Meanwhile, the overall infection rate across the U.S. remains much higher, keeping travel from the U.S. to the U.K. – and the rest of Europe – on pause.
But some major changes would be necessary for this to become a reality. Experts say COVID-19 testing would need to be expanded, especially in the U.K. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently lifted a 14-day quarantine recommendation for travelers returning from areas with high transmission rates, the U.S. ban on foreign travelers entering the U.S. from the U.K., Ireland, and European Union remains in place.
That would need to be lifted, too.