Radio Guest List — Covid-19’s Impacts on the Travel Industry — May 9, 2020
This week on Eye on Travel, Peter Greenberg continues his reports on COVID-19’s impacts on the travel industry and your travels. The Wall Street Journal Travel Editor Scott McCartney gives his perspective on why airlines are flying mostly empty planes — and then his report on a continuing problem: tour operators and airlines not giving refunds. And then, a report on one lawsuit filed against a hotel for not returning money from a school group — and the amount in question might surprise you. Peter also answers your travel questions. There’s all of this and more on this week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel.
Click here to listen to the show streaming live from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 9, 2020
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Zane Kerby, President and CEO American Society of Travel Advisors, discusses protections for travel advisors that airlines are now giving and why not having an advisor during the Covid-19 pandemic meant that you were truly on your own during these unprecedented times. Kerby also speaks about navigating travel in the future, what he predicts will come back first and how, plus how to restore faith in travelers.
Charles Leocha, Travel Writer, Author, President of Travelers United, looks forward to travel rebounding and discusses the airline protections in the legislation that was supposed to protect travelers as well – like shielding consumers from penalties for being sick and not being able to fly. He further speaks about the unethical methods airlines use to generate revenue and the airlines refusing to give travelers refunds, but instead are using their money as a free loan.
Daniel Blonsky, Miami Based Attorney, explains a recent case with the Eden Roc hotel refusing to give a refund to a school group. The group had the entire hotel booked over Passover weekend with over 50% of the deposit paid in advance. Although the hotel shut down and services weren’t rendered, the hotel refuses to issue a refund. It’s in the contract that the group gets a refund, and instead of giving the money back, Eden Roc has asked for the rest of the money. He believes the hotel has already spent the money and is not in a position to return the money. The hotel has a legal obligation to respond within a few weeks, but as of now it has not responded to the lawsuit.
Scott McCartney, Travel Editor for the The Wall Street Journal, speaks about the issue of companies holding on to consumer money. He says that travel agents have been hit hard by this pandemic. Credit card companies are supposed to be doing holdbacks to refund you if things fall apart. Many agents are giving vouchers instead of refunds, which means that consumers are not eligible for the holdback funds from credit cards. There are also different rules for different countries and dealing with tour operators overseas leads to further complications. Vouchers can only go so far, and many people no longer plan to take their initially planned trip. McCartney feels airlines and cruise lines can win more customer loyalty and goodwill if they offer these vouchers with the flexibility to change the names on them. If those who no longer intend to travel can give them to someone else, the airlines and cruise lines have higher chances of less people asking for full refunds.
Greg Morris, Commercial Airline Pilot, talks about what changes we can plan to see in airlines this September. TSA numbers in mid-April were at 80,000 compared to 2.4 million a year ago. Since April though, that number has begun to creep back up again. A few weeks ago, flights were flying with 15 passengers, but now the number is closer to 100. American Airlines CEO has called out United for taking full time employees and moving them to part-time status, saying it’s an illegal interpretation of the CARES Act. All the airlines are unveiling policies as they enter a new territory. Almost all of the airlines have implemented a mask requirement policy for both employees and passengers. With flight loads increasing, we are seeing that the middle seat is being left open. Some airlines have been called out for not leaving the middle seat open, but we will see how this is implemented moving forward as planes fill up again.
Brian G. Becker Esq., Immigration Attorney, walks us through what closing immigration into the United States means both for those looking to move to the U.S. as well as those looking to visit. The executive order on April 3rd only applies to those applying for immigrant visas, and so it doesn’t affect as many people as we thought. It has no effect on individuals already in the United States or application status. This was supposed to only be a 60-day order, and President Trump has already said that he may extend and modify the order. Extending is less concerning than modifying, because he’s already spoken about cutting off student visas, specifically those from China. He believes that although we couldn’t have foreseen the extent of this pandemic, the government knew something was coming and was ill prepared across the board. Becker says his business has completely declined from new cases, and he’s only been working on existing cases.