Hi readers & clients, wow to think it's been almost a month since I last published a blog. CRAZY! The travel industry while still hurting badly has started to pick up a bit for 2021 planning. This increase has caused me to be very busy these last few weeks getting clients booked and or rebooked for 2021. To the point I'm averaging 4 hour days for the first time in months, but I have even worked 6-8 hour days a few times the last week or so. I put in the time for my clients regardless because that's the kind of caring professional I am, and I love this profession. Even though I'm currently reduced to being compensated for only two hours, and that compensation has been drastically reduced by 90% approx. since April. Though with this reduction I've been able to claim unemployment benefits both state & federal. I've been able to recoup most of my salary losses on the year due to these benefits. This is just in salary though, my commission comp has been completely eliminated since April and that is hurting my bottom line by around an additional 30-35%. I'm eager to get back to full time with full compensation, but have no idea when that will be. Though perhaps I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, .....or maybe that's just the Eurostar coming to run me over at 150mph, lol.
Ok ok, so onward to the good news yes?, PLEASE!
Both American Airlines & United released plans to start pre departure testing programs both at airports or by mail for travelers going to certain destinations for certain airport hubs. Surprised I've not heard anything from Delta about a similar program, but maybe Delta is trying to release a program that will be even more inclusive. Both American & United said that they would ramp up these programs from additional hubs and to additional international destinations once they were up and running well. So here's the completely details and press releases of both testing plans.
American's (Official Press Release):
As part of an ongoing effort to help protect customer health and safety, inspire confidence in air travel and advance the industry’s recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, American Airlines is collaborating with several foreign governments to begin offering preflight COVID-19 testing for customers traveling to international destinations, starting with Jamaica and the Bahamas. The carrier plans to expand the program to additional markets in the weeks and months ahead.
“The pandemic has changed our business in ways we never could have expected, but all the while, the entire American Airlines team has eagerly tackled the challenge of reimagining the way we deliver a safe, healthy and enjoyable travel experience for our customers,” said Robert Isom, President of American Airlines. “Our plan for this initial phase of preflight testing reflects the ingenuity and care our team is putting into rebuilding confidence in air travel, and we view this as an important step in our work to accelerate an eventual recovery of demand.”Jamaica
American has reached agreement with Jamaica to launch an initial testing program at its Miami International Airport (MIA) hub next month. The initial phase of testing will be for Jamaican residents traveling to their home country. If a passenger tests negative for COVID-19 ahead of flying with American, the 14-day quarantine currently in place for returning Jamaican residents would be waived. Following a successful pilot program, the objective is to open this testing protocol for all passengers traveling to Jamaica, including U.S. citizens. The timing of such a potential announcement is to be determined.
“I thank American Airlines for initiating these efforts to ensure safety and confidence for travelers from the United States, and for leading with Jamaica as a pilot for its COVID-19 testing program,” said Audrey Marks, Ambassador of Jamaica to the United States. “This is timely, given the government’s ongoing review in cooperation with the Global Initiative for Health and Safety group of the current protocols governing travel to the island, and it could be a game-changer, not just for tourism, but also for other key sectors of the economy that have been negatively impacted by the ongoing pandemic.”
American also has started working with the Bahamas and CARICOM to launch similar testing programs that would allow travel to the region. American’s next international program will be with the Bahamas and is expected to launch next month. Details on the protocols for that country will follow.
“We are so pleased that American Airlines has included The Bahamas in their preflight testing program and for their continued commitment to mitigating the spread of coronavirus,” said Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation for the Bahamas. “Miami is a major gateway to our islands, and we believe predeparture testing will create important efficiencies, while ensuring the health and safety of both our visitors and residents.”
As its initial preflight testing programs begin to launch, American is also actively engaged with CARICOM, an integrated grouping of 20 Caribbean countries, about expanding the program to additional Caribbean markets.
“We are pleased that American Airlines has taken the lead to initiate this exciting COVID-19 pre departure testing program,” said Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Chairman of CARICOM. “The Caribbean Community welcomes this important progress to re-open markets with the health and safety of our citizens being of paramount importance, and we’ll be monitoring this program very closely as it ramps up in our region.”
In addition to its efforts in opening international markets to travel, American has been working with the government of Hawaii to develop a series of options that fit the Hawaiian requirements for travel to the state. Starting Oct. 15, the airline will begin a preflight COVID-19 testing program at its Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) hub for customers traveling to Hawaii, in partnership with LetsGetChecked, CareNow and the DFW Airport.
Beginning next month, American will offer three options for preflight testing to customers with flights from DFW to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG):
- At-home test from LetsGetChecked, observed by a medical professional via virtual visit, with results expected in 48 hours on average.
- In-person testing at a CareNow urgent care location.
- Onsite rapid testing, administered by CareNow, at DFW.
Testing must be completed within 72 hours of the final leg of departure. Travelers who test negative will be exempt from the state’s 14-day quarantine.
LetsGetChecked is a direct-to-consumer at-home health testing and insights company. Offering an end-to-end model, LetsGetChecked’s Sure-track Test offers consumers an FDA EUA-authorized Coronavirus at-home testing solution. The at-home Coronavirus (COVID-19) test incorporates a nasal swab and PCR lab analysis, offering convenient and secure results on average 48 hours upon receipt in the lab.
Since 1993, CareNow has been committed to providing high-quality family care, urgent care and occupational medicine services in the North Texas area. Open seven days a week and weeknights until 9 p.m., CareNow has over 40 North Texas locations providing convenient, quality and cost-effective urgent care and is accredited by AAAHC and UCA. CareNow is affiliated with Medical City Healthcare. Medical City Healthcare has 46 urgent care centers in North Texas: CareNow (42) and Medical City Children’s Urgent Care (4).
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a grouping of twenty countries: fifteen Member States and five Associate Members. It is home to approximately sixteen million citizens, 60% of whom are under the age of 30, and from the main ethnic groups of Indigenous Peoples, Africans, Indians, Europeans, Chinese, Portuguese and Javanese. The Community is multi-lingual; with English as the major language complemented by French and Dutch and variations of these, as well as African and Asian expressions.
United's (Official Press Release) :
United Airlines became the first U.S. airline to launch a COVID-19 pilot testing program for travelers that could make it easier for them to manage quarantine requirements and entry conditions of popular destinations around the world. Starting on October 15, customers traveling on United from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Hawaii will have the option to take a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test ahead of their trip.
The rapid Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 test – administered by GoHealth Urgent Care and their partner Dignity Health – provides results in approximately 15 minutes and will be available to United customers on the same day as their flight departing from SFO. The mail-in test option will be administered by Color and it is recommended that customers initiate testing at least 10 days prior to their trip and provide their sample within 72 hours of their trip.
The airline worked closely with Hawaii officials to ensure that any United customer – both visitors and Hawaiian residents returning home – who tests negative on either test would not be subjected to the state's current 14-day quarantine requirement. United currently offers more flights to Hawaii than any other major network carrier including daily service between San Francisco and Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA). The carrier plans to increase service to Hawaii on October 15, including the resumption of service between San Francisco and Lihue (LIH) and additional flights between San Francisco and Maui and Kona.
"Our new COVID testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations' entry requirements, safely and conveniently," said Toby Enqvist, Chief Customer Officer at United. "We'll look to quickly expand customer testing to other destinations and U.S. airports later this year to complement our state-of-the-art cleaning and safety measures that include a mandatory mask policy, antimicrobial and electrostatic spraying and our hospital-grade HEPA air filtration systems."
GoHealth Urgent Care Rapid Test
United first partnered with GoHealth Urgent Care in July to test its international flight crews at SFO. United now plans to expand that testing infrastructure to include customers who wish to be tested for COVID-19 pre-flight. Customers can schedule their visits online in advance for the on-site testing facility that is located at the international terminal and will receive their results in approximately 15 minutes. GoHealth Urgent Care's dedicated COVID-19 testing area will be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT daily.
"We are excited about expanding our partnership with United and continuing to support their proactive safety measures," said Todd Latz, CEO of GoHealth Urgent Care. "Our on-site, real-time testing for passengers is yet another example of GoHealth's nationwide efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safer return to normal activities and business operations."
Color Physician-Ordered Self-Collection Test
United is working with Color to offer self-collected, mail-in tests for customers traveling to Hawaii. United will email customers traveling from San Francisco to Hawaii an invitation to purchase their physician-ordered Color self-collection kit at least 10 days ahead of their departure, collect their own samples at home 72 hours prior to their departure and return their test via overnight mail or to a drop box at SFO.
Color then processes those tests at their local, CLIA-certified COVID-19 testing laboratory and returns results via text and/or email within 24-48 hours. Color's self-collection kit includes a plastic collection tube, a non-invasive nasal swab and instructions on how to properly collect a specimen.
"Convenient, widespread COVID-19 testing with fast and reliable results is critical to a return to normalcy and to accelerate the economic recovery," said Caroline Savello, Chief Commercial Officer at Color. "We are proud to partner with United to support the safe and responsible return of travelers to the skies."
About GoHealth Urgent Care:
GoHealth Urgent Care is one of the country's fastest-growing, largest and most technology-forward urgent care companies. At GoHealth Urgent Care, we provide unparalleled experiences that are effortless, personal and connected through partnerships with market-leading health systems and our communities as a whole. GoHealth Urgent Care operates approximately 150 urgent care centers in the greater New York metropolitan area, the Portland, Oregon-Vancouver, Washington metropolitan area, the San Francisco Bay Area, Hartford and South Eastern Connecticut, Winston-Salem and Charlotte, North Carolina, St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Northwest Arkansas and Delaware. GoHealth Urgent Care is a TPG Growth portfolio company, the middle market and growth equity investment platform of TPG, which has more than $103 billion of assets under management. To learn more, please visit www.gohealthuc.com.
Color is a leader in distributed healthcare and clinical testing. Color makes population-scale healthcare programs accessible, convenient, and cost-effective for everyone. Color works with health systems, employers, and national health initiatives around the world including the million-person All of Us Research Program by the National Institutes of Health. For more information about Color and its response to COVID-19, visit www.color.com.
My Wrap on these press releases:
It's great news that both these airlines are beginning these programs in just a matter of weeks.
They will need to ramp up quickly so the can add additional airports and destinations. This is needed badly for travel to be reinstated worldwide so travelers can start visiting the likes of Europe & Asia this winter and next spring & summer. Europe can not afford another summer peak season the likes of this year. So having a testing program in place at major airports and by major airlines will streamline and speed up the transcontinental flight recovery. It's very important to know these programs were put into place initially for Hawaii, as it's the only US state that would require a 14 day quarantine without a negative test. In order for vacationers to begin enjoying the islands, and island hopping without restriction this was badly needed. As well the Hawaii state has said to have partnered with CVS nationwide to provide rapid testing. So it looks like so far travelers to Hawaii will have main 3 options as their choices for testing.
I'm absolutely thrilled to hear that AA has partnered up with CARICOM! CARICOM reps many island in the Caribbean and with this partnership beach goers to the islands of the Caribbean will be able to get the testing needed in order to visit certain islands. More details on this need to be released to know what islands are included. The Caribbean requirements are all over the place with different entry and testing requirements. So this should for many islands really make things much easier to get the testing required to head down to the islands.
Funny thing if you look back in my past blog posts, somewhere months ago I said exactly this needs to happen 'Airlines need to take the lead and start their own testing programs.' Why it took them 6+ months to figure this out, when it was a no brainer! You want to fly travelers all over the world without restriction? Test them at the airport before departure! It's even better that they have also found ways to include mail order testing &at home with a doctor by video as options. I'm saying it now, this is the way forward and it's going to advance very quickly now that it has finally started.
Avenue Two Travel
Luxury Travel Advisor