Q&A WITH ANGELIQUE PLATAS,
In our July/August issue, we discussed the reality of 2020 and adapting travel plans, which inspired the questions: What’s next? Are you shifting gears and hitting the road or braving the airline changes? If so, where to? A few readers wrote in with responses:
Our family took our first flight in months to our vacation home in South Carolina, where we could easily self-quarantine and work remotely during an extended stay. Philadelphia International Airport seemed clean and was easy to get through — no long lines or backed-up TSA PreCheck. We wore disposable masks in the airport, changed them regularly and doubled up on the flight with cloth masks just to be safe. We also sanitized our hands, seats and luggage. So far, so good!
JENN NEWMAN, VIA EMAIL
We will not be flying for a while but definitely taking some weekend road trips. My wife and I have been staying local for now but have some near-future plans to rent a luxe RV and explore.
WILSON REILLY, VIA EMAIL
My girlfriend and I have an extended RV, purchased last year. We have national parks mapped out in Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado for the fall.
CALVIN VALDORA, VIA EMAIL
In our March 3 issue of eFlyer USA we covered the petition hosted by consumerreports.org asking American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to stop charging fees to seat families together. This inspired a few readers to write in with thoughts:
I strongly oppose charging for family seating. I do not want to be responsible for overseeing someone’s child on a flight. This is the parents’ responsibility, and they should not be charged extra to perform it. Separation can also be a terrifying experience for a child on a flight.
WILLIAM HARNED, VIA EMAIL
Except for emergencies (maybe one or two annually) families should be able to find seats together by early booking. Other passengers should not have to take up the slack because parents didn’t plan ahead.
BROOKE HALL, VIA EMAIL
ADDITIONAL SANITATION STANDARDS AT HOTELS
In our April 29 issue of eFlyer USA we discussed hotels, including Marriott, rolling out new cleanliness standards and health policies for guests and staff. We asked our readers: Will a hotel’s cleanliness policy play a part in your future travel decisions? How important are these standards to you? What other cleanliness initiatives would you like to see implemented?
Thanks for asking this question! I’d like to see staff wait 72 hours before entering a room that’s been vacated (for their safety), then entering to clean the room, then waiting another 72 hours before letting a patron into that room. No, it’s not ideal for the hotel business. But my guess is there will be enough empty rooms in the first months after re-opening that this could be easily done, and it would be reassuring to me as a guest to know no one has entered my room for 72 hours, and no one else will enter it (no daily cleaning) while I am staying there. This just might get me to stay in a hotel again.
FRANCESCA KELLY, VIA EMAIL
LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER
After publisher and CEO Francis X. Gallagher sent several travel updates and informative newsletters and before most recently discussing COVID travel experiences in his July/August Publisher’s Letter, an avid reader wrote in with similar thoughts and experiences:
Our anticipated trip on the Queen Mary 2 and onward to Mykonos has been put off until next year. Cunard canceled the voyage, but we’re going to rebook for next June, taking advantage of the cruise line’s 125 percent offer. Cunard has been exceptional communicating with customers and generous in terms of cancellation and refunds. I’ve been very impressed by its transparency.
Fortunately, we were able to cancel all our hotel and ferry reservations. The Greek government ruled passengers can rebook ferry trips for up to 18 months and, if not used, get a full refund. Hyatt and all our Greek hotels readily refunded deposits or canceled without penalty. And Delta Air Lines replaced our SkyMiles with- out penalty as well — given I have no elite status on Delta, that was unexpected!
We’re now left with our U.K. and EU flights to deal with. The European Union requires refunds, but you need to ask. British Airways provides a voucher if we cancel or a full refund if it cancels. But now travelers can rebook through April 30, 2022.
Aegean Air is another story. We had until last Friday to change our reservation without penalty but needed to rebook for flights before March 2021. Otherwise, regular penalties apply. As we had a flexible ticket, additional available options enable us to declare (up to four hours prior to departure) an “open” ticket which would be valid for 18 months with only a €20 per-person penalty.
As we have travel insurance with “cancel for any reason,” this should cover this circumstance, at albeit 75 percent. iTravelInsured is allowing a one-time date change to existing policies up to one year due to coronavirus.
We plan to rebook this entire itinerary next year with the hope the pandemic has abated and travel becomes available, enjoyable and safe. Our October trip to Tuscany/Paris/Amsterdam may be in jeopardy. Time will tell.
So, lessons learned: Book your cruise through a trusted and experienced travel agent (I booked through Q Cruise & Travel, a Cunard specialist). Have a good travel insurance policy with a trusted brand (we booked iTravelnsured/Starr through Squaremouth). Choose flexible fares when the price differential is moderate; though more expensive, they provide more options if scheduling goes awry. Know your travelers’ rights; while the two EU airlines provided options for cancellation/reimbursement/rebooking, knowing the EU requirements gave us ammunition in the event we were unable to achieve our rebook- ing goals.
JONATHAN M. FUCHS, VIA EMAIL
The Hamilton Hotel, located steps from the White House, was the perfect place for a relaxing weekend getaway. Upon arrival, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful with a quick check-in process. The lobby was immaculate with shining marble flooring, velvet couches and an arched ceiling design that brought a sense of sophistication. For added security, the elevators are only accessible to those who have a key card to a guestroom.
Luxury destinations around the country partnered with Bryte to introduce The Restorative Bed and enhanced sleep programming at their hotels. The revolutionary, AI-powered Restorative Bed uses real-time technology to intuitively adjust based on the individual’s needs and preferences. An embedded sensory network detects biometrics, like heart rate and breathing patterns, when a sleeper enters the first stage of sleep, triggering cooling features and lulling sleepers into deep sleep. Computer-controlled air cushions alleviate pressure points, and the technology also leads sleepers naturally out of sleep.
Tauck announced plans to fully restart its U.S. tours by July 1. Departures of the Southern Charms: Savannah, Hilton Head and Charleston tour have already begun, with other popular tours across the country relaunching in the coming months. Check the Open for Travel page for information on specific tour departures.
Turkish Airlines resumed its premium onboard dining and hot meal service on all business- and economy-class flights longer than two hours and 15 minutes. The resumption of service is in accordance with all health and hygiene applications.
Denver’s The Source Hotel offers its new Passport Program. Overnight guests receive The Source Passport at check-in and from there can enjoy restaurants and retail establishments across The Source Hotel + Market Hall with exclusive discounts. Exclusive discounts are available at The Woods, Safta, Reunion Bread, Beet & Yarrow, Melted and more.
With the vaccine rolling out and U.S. air travel expected to pick up in the upcoming months, the personal finance website WalletHub released a report on 2021’s Best Frequent-Flyer Programs, to help travelers make the best decision for their wallets.
TAP Air Portugal now offers all passengers COVID-19 testing service at Lisbon Airport at a discount. Depending on a destination’s various restrictions, the Rapid Antigen Test is €21; the PCR test is €85; and a PCR Test plus Rapid Antigen Test is €106. TAP customers enjoy priority access to this service.