WHAT’S GOING ON: Travel, tourism and COVID-19

A CEO says his airline may never reach its pre COVID-19 size again. A president dons a fashion statement face mask, the no fly schedule extends, an airline adds a nasty actual dollar cost to social distancing and a new red light area – all that and more.

After effects 

WestJet CEO Ed Sims said this week that the effect of COVID-19 on the airline has been so devastating that the company may never return to its pre-pandemic size. Sims said the unprecedented collapse in demand for air travel as a result of the virus means WestJet must decide what size of fleet will be commercially viable for the next several years.

Sims told Postmedia he has “unequivocal” confidence in the airline which he claims has a capable team, the solid backing of its owners (Toronto-based Onex Corp.), and the assurances of the federal government.

WestJet has been in an aggressive expansion mode, launching its Boeing 787 Dreamliner program last year to fly transatlantic routes to London-Gatwick, Paris and Dublin and it had planned to launch a direct flight from Calgary to Rome this month.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive change of plans. All commercial transborder and international flights have been suspended and 135 of WestJet’s 181 aircraft have been ‘furloughed’ along with more than half of its employees. WestJet is also considering whether it will be necessary to defer or cancel future scheduled deliveries of the Dreamliner.

As a private company, WestJet has not made public the extent of the financial losses it has taken. (Competitor Air Canada, which is publicly traded, said its own losses topped $1 billion last quarter.)

Sims said he wants to resume flying to WestJet’s original four European destinations — London, Paris, Dublin and Rome — as soon as it is safe to do so.

Fashion statement

With a face mask 100% made in France, President Emmanuel Macron showed the famously fashionable French people this week that civic responsibility and style are not mutually exclusive. Macron used a visit to a primary school to promote the type of cloth masks that will be de rigueur on public transportation and other locations when France starts emerging from its coronavirus lockdown next week.

A little bit longer

Sunwing is suspending all southbound flights between March 17th and June 25th. Customers with departure dates for flights or vacation packages between March 17th and June 25th are eligible to receive a future travel credit in the value of the original amount paid. The credit can be redeemed against future travel for departures up to June 20, 2022 to anywhere Sunwing Airlines operates.

Sorry about that

Health officials in New Brunswick say a warning issued this week about a passenger with COVID-19 on a flight into Moncton was a mistake. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced Tuesday that someone on WestJet Flight 3456 on April 27 had tested positive and all passengers on the flight should self-isolate and report to their doctor if they develop symptoms. However, Russell says it has since been learned that the person had recovered from COVID-19 in Alberta before flying to New Brunswick and was no longer contagious. She says no notice should have been issued about that passenger, and a review is being done to ensure such a mistake is not repeated.

Peace of mind for a price

Frontier Airlines was severely criticized over the its move to charge passengers extra to guarantee they will sit next to an empty middle seat while flying during the coronavirus outbreak. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee called it “outrageous” and accused the airline of using the need for social distancing “as an opportunity to make a buck … capitalizing on fear and passengers’ well-founded concerns for their health and safety.”

On Monday, Frontier announced that from Friday through Aug. 31 passengers can pay a fee, starting at US $39 per flight, to guarantee an empty middle seat next to them. CEO Barry Biffle rejected the notion that his airline is charging for social distancing.

“We are offering the option, and it is guaranteed. We don’t believe you need it – if everybody is wearing a facial covering – to be safe,” he told The Associated Press. “It gives people more peace of mind if they want it.

Cancelled cruises

Two additional cruise lines said Wednesday they are cancelling sailings to Alaska this summer, citing travel and other restrictions linked to coronavirus concerns. Princess Cruises and Holland America Line had previously announced sharply reduced plans for voyages to and tours in Alaska. Earlier this week, Carnival Cruise Line announced it was cancelling trips to Alaska this year. Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line fall under the Carnival Corp. umbrella.

Mike Tibbles, with Cruise Lines International Association Alaska, said by email that the state faces a loss of 479 voyages – or 80% of expected sailings – with a passenger capacity of more than 955,000 because of ship cancellations.

Red light

On May 5, iconic landmarks in the Tampa Bay area are rallied in support of tourism by lighting up in red, the official color of National Travel and Tourism Week in conjunction with U.S. Travel Association. Tourism is responsible for more than 150,000 jobs across Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and billions of dollars in revenues, sales tax and more. While the industry has been one of the hardest hit during this pandemic, the destination marketing organizations working with U.S. Travel Association are determined to show solidarity with those on the front lines of hospitality and show encouragement that better days are ahead.

The movement is in partnership with Visit St. Pete Clearwater who joined Visit Tampa Bay in celebrating tourism for the Bay Area as a united region.

Landmarks participating in the lighting include:

• City of Tampa
• Tampa International Airport
• Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
• ZooTampa at Lowry Park
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers
• Tampa Riverwalk
• David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
• Dali Museum
• Sunshine Skyway Bridge
• The Dali Museum
• The Birchwood
• The James Museum
• Mahaffey Theatre
• Museum of Fine Arts St. Pete

Source: Travel Industry Today
WHAT’S GOING ON: Travel, tourism and COVID-19

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