U.S. Airlines Cut Service, Waive Change Fees
American, Alaska, Delta and United airlines waived change fees for all tickets purchased through March 31. JetBlue previously made a similar announcement. Southwest doesn't charge change fees.
The Big Three U.S. carriers also announced additional service reductions as the spread of the coronavirus decimated especially international demand.
Among the latest adjustments, United in April will cut its domestic and Canada operations by 10 percent and international operations by 20 percent. It is planning similar reductions for May. The downsizing includes service suspensions to China, and reduced frequencies and/or smaller aircraft on other routes. Delta reduced frequencies to Japan through April 30 and cut all service between Atlanta and Rome, also through the end of April. It suspended this summer's seasonal service between Seattle and Osaka. American halted Dallas/Fort Worth-Seoul service until April 25.
Lufthansa Group in the coming weeks will cut systemwide capacity by up to 50 percent. It cited "drastic declines in bookings," with "all traffic areas affected." The airline company cancelled all flights to Israel through March 28 after officials there set up entry bans for travelers from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and several other countries.
Regional U.K. airline Flybe succumbed to financial pressures and ended all operations. The carrier was in dire straits before the coronavirus impacted travel demand. The airline since last summer had been part of Connect Airways, an entity partly owned by Virgin Atlantic. The plan was to expand Flybe’s network — which connected regional U.K. airports to various European destinations — and improve connections to Virgin Atlantic's long-haul network from London Heathrow and Manchester.
Amtrak reduced service in the Northeast Corridor and waived change fees on all new and existing reservations through April 30. The service cuts include three daily trains between New York and Washington.
Delta fired back in Seattle after American and Alaska airlines announced plans for an alliance that would challenge Delta's growing presence there. The beneficiaries of this battle will be the travelers and corporate accounts that get a slew of new flight options to and from Seattle. Specifically, Delta this summer will launch three daily flights between Seattle and AA's Dallas/Ft. Worth hub, and once-daily service between Seattle and Columbus, Ohio. It also will up frequencies from Seattle to 12 destinations, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Orlando and Washington Dulles. In all, Delta will operate 190 daily departures from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to 56 cities.
Toronto tech firm HelloGbye teamed with Travelport to offer Apollo and Worldspan users email-based travel planning that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning. The automation interprets traveler emails and quickly generates recommended itineraries. A HelloGbye exec last week said that thanks to the savings of travel agent time on email communications and fare and availability lookups, TMCs generally were not planning to charge corporate clients for the solution. HelloGbye last year began a pilot of the service with American Express Global Business Travel, which told The Company Dime that the share of business travel itineraries planned with email was in the double digits. Travelport expects to make HelloGbye's interface available to its agencies later this year; integration to the Travelport Smartpoint agent desktop tool will follow.
STR reported lodging demand declines during the week ending March 2 for airport hotels in Newark, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and New York. The firm cited exposure to decreases in international traffic. Conversely, markets with high domestic traffic volumes, including Atlanta, Dallas and Orlando, showed year-over-year increases.
AirPlus soft-launched a new payment option for freelancers, trainees and employees without a corporate credit card in Germany. A spokesperson said the company planned to bring the product to additional markets. Delivered via a mobile app, AirPlus Travel Budget "works like a digital credit limit," according to the company. End users pay for travel services via Apple Pay or a Mastercard debit card linked to the app. Company administrators can set budgets and monitor transactions. Expenses settle centrally through an AirPlus company account.
Green good. Barcelona-based online corporate travel agency TravelPerk now lets users offset their travel-related carbon footprints from within the system. Customers can pay €27 per ton of CO2 emitted by the flights, train rides, car rentals and hotel stays booked through TravelPerk. The company said it worked with non-profit Atmosfair to calculate the number, which "typically ... works out as 4 percent of the cost of a business trip." Atmosfair backs the carbon mitigation projects to which corporate users can direct offset funds. The initial focus is on providing carbon emissions estimates at the point of purchase along with cost comparisons for offsetting, according to TravelPerk CPO Ross McNairn. He said the company would eventually "nudge travelers in the user interface" to choose itineraries that would produce smaller volumes of carbon emissions.
Compiled by the editors of TheCompanyDime.com.