United

United Airlines Permanently Eliminates Change Fees and adds free standby option

The only thing constant is change and at United Airlines, some of the fees associated with changes related to flying are gone for good

The carrier announced today that it is permanently getting rid of change fees on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S., effective immediately. And starting on January 1, 2021, any United customer can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service, a first among U.S. carriers, while MileagePlus Premier members can confirm a seat on a different flight on the same day with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket if a seat in the same ticket fare class is available.

United is also extending its waiver for new tickets issued through December 31, 2020, to permit unlimited changes with no fee. This policy applies to all ticket types issued after March 3, 2020 and is valid for domestic and international travel. With these improvements, no U.S. airline gives their customers more flexibility when booking – and changing – their travel plans than United Airlines.

“Change is inevitable these days – but it’s how we respond to it that matters most. When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, in a video message to customers. “Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service. United Airlines won’t be following that same playbook as we come out of this crisis. Instead, we’re taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.”

The new change fee policy applies to all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S. 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and customers will not be limited in the number of times they adjust their flights.

Additionally, United is giving customers more flexibility to change their flights on the day of their travel so they can head home if a meeting ends earlier or enjoy a few more hours on vacation. With the ability to list for same-day standby for free, customers will now have an option to take a different flight with the same origin and destination airports as their original itinerary if space is available at departure. This enhanced option will be available to all customers for travel within the U.S. and to and from international destinations beginning on January 1, 2021. Customers who want to switch flights will be able to add themselves to the standby list through United’s award-winning mobile app, on united.com or at the airport no later than 30 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights and one hour before departure on international flights.

The carrier is also improving the travel experience for its MileagePlus members including waiving all redeposit fees on award travel for flights changed or cancelled more than 30 days before departure and allowing all MileagePlus Premier members to confirm a different flight on the day of their travel. As a way to thank MileagePlus Premier members for their loyalty, beginning January 1, 2021, all Premier members will be able to confirm a seat for free on a different flight with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket. This expanded option will allow MileagePlus Silver members and above to confirm a new seat in the same ticket fare class if space is available. Earlier this year, United announced that it will extend status for MileagePlus Premier and Global Services members through January 2022. United also reduced thresholds for Premier qualification by 50 percent for each status level, to make reaching an even higher status tier easier.

For more information on United’s new flexible travel policies, visit https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/change-fee.html.

Finnair

Finnair starts co-operation negotiations on plans to reduce 1 000 jobs due to COVID-19 impacts

Finnair
© Image Finnair

Finnair starts co-operation negotiations on its plan to reduce up to 1,000 jobs, to make other structural changes and to implement additional temporary layoffs due to the impacts of the corona pandemic. The co-operation negotiations concern approximately 2,800 employees working at Finnair in Finland, and similar processes are conducted in Finnair’s units abroad. 

Finnair employs a total of approximately 6,700 employees, of whom 6,200 are based in Finland. Almost all of Finnair’s employees in Finland have been temporary laid off for a part of the spring and summer. In addition to the planned personnel reductions, Finnair will continue to apply temporary layoffs for practically all its personnel in Finland. The temporary layoffs can be either for fixed term or until further notice.

The goal is to ensure the continuity of Finnair’s core operations so that cabin and flight deck crew can return to work gradually as soon as the market recovers and flights can be increased. For this reason, Finnair is not currently planning permanent reduction of its flying personnel in Finland.

”COVID-19 is the deepest crisis of aviation. The pandemic and the exceptionally tight travel restrictions in Finland have impacted flight demand and we will operate only a small part of our capacity compared to last year. A rapid turn for the better in the pandemic situation is unfortunately not in sight. Our revenue has decreased considerably, and that is why we simply must adjust our costs to our new size”, says Topi Manner, Finnair CEO.

”We want to build a competitive future for Finnair and retain as many jobs at Finnair as possible. Also, we want to be able to offer good connections to the world for Finns and the Finnish economy in the future. Unfortunately, this requires the measures we announced today. As the timeline for aviation’s recovery is unclear, our plan is also to implement significant temporary layoffs to adjust our resources.”

Finnair wants to act responsibly in this difficult situation and will support affected employees through a social program, which will include practical job-to-job support, training and guidance on entrepreneurship.

The planned personnel reduction measures are included in Finnair’s savings target, which Finnair has today updated from 80 million euros to 100 million euros.

Virgin

Virgin Atlantic provides complimentary COVID-19 global insurance cover for all booking

Virgin
© Image Virgin

  • To support customers and provide additional peace of mind, Virgin Atlantic has introduced Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 Cover, which will apply to all existing and new bookings, travelling from 24 August 2020 up until 31 March 2021.
  • The insurance policy with Allianz Assistance offers comprehensive cover in the event that a Virgin Atlantic customer or travel companion becomes ill with COVID-19 while on a trip.
  • Emergency medical costs, associated expenses such as transport and accommodation and repatriation up to £500,000 are included, as well as costs if a customer is denied boarding or held in quarantine.

 

Virgin Atlantic customers can book with confidence this year with the introduction of free COVID-19 insurance cover on all new and existing bookings.

The policy, which applies automatically to all flights booked with Virgin Atlantic, is designed to complement existing travel insurance and provide additional peace of mind for upcoming trips, whether customers are already booked or plotting a getaway.

In the event that they or anyone else on their booking becomes ill with COVID-19 while travelling, Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 Cover ensures related costs are covered, no matter how long the trip is or even if they’re visiting another destination on the same overseas trip. The insurance policy is fulfilled by Allianz Assistance and covers emergency medical and associated expenses while abroad totalling £500,000 per customer – the highest value of policy offered by any airline to date, with no excess payment required.

The policy also covers expenses incurred up to £3,000 if a customer is denied boarding, at either departure or in destination, or has to quarantine due to positive or suspected COVID-19 during a trip.

Customers booked to travel from 24 August 2020 up to and including 31 March 2021 will automatically receive the new COVID-19 Cover and Virgin Atlantic Holidays customers will also benefit, where the flights on their holiday booking are with Virgin Atlantic. Providing the customer is travelling on a Virgin Atlantic ticket, if the flight is operated by a partner airline or a Joint Venture carrier – Delta Air Lines or Air France-KLM – the cover will also apply. Tickets can be booked via virginatlantic.com, by phone or through a travel agent, including reward tickets on Virgin Atlantic flights.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic said:

“Our priority is always the health and safety of our people and customers and this industry-leading Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 Cover ensures customers can continue to fly safe and fly well with us.

“Following our return to the skies to much-loved destinations like Barbados, we’re planning more services in the autumn, as travel restrictions continue to ease, including London Heathrow to Montego Bay, Antigua, Lagos and Tel Aviv. Whether it’s to visit friends and relatives or take a well-deserved break, we believe this complimentary cover will provide some added reassurance for our customers as they start to plan trips further afield. It applies in parallel to existing travel insurance policies which may now exclude COVID-19, and provides comprehensive cover for coronavirus, recognising the needs of our customers as we restart services.”

Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 Cover joins the airline’s flexible booking policy to give as much choice as possible to customers as they make their future travel plans. Customers booking with the airline have the option to make two date changes to their flights, with rebooking available up until 30 September 2022. These date changes have the associated change fee waived, though potential fare differences may be incurred if the new travel dates are after 30 November 2020.

Key features of the COVID-19 Cover include:

  • 24-hour emergency medical assistance
  • £500,000 of emergency medical expenses if you are taken ill due to Coronavirus during your journey, including treatment, transport and accommodation costs
  • Additional costs should a customer be denied boarding due to suspected or actual COVID-19, or if they are held in quarantine, including accommodation, transport charges, refreshments, booking amendment fees and other travel expenses
  • Repatriation home, including private air ambulance where necessary
  • No excess payable
  • Cover for the whole trip, with no upper limit on the length of customer’s time away
  • Cover for all passengers with no restrictions on age, travel class or length of journey
  • Terms and conditions apply.

The cover starts from the point of booking and ends when the customer returns home or to a hospital or nursing home in their home country. One-way trips are also included, with the insurance cover valid until the end of the journey, which is defined as 12 hours after the arrival of the customer’s final flight.

For a full breakdown of Virgin Atlantic COVID-19 Cover and more information on the policy visit the Virgin Atlantic website: https://flywith.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/news/coronavirus/free-global-cover-for-COVID-19.html

As part of its multi-layered approach to public health measures, and for customer convenience, peace of mind and confidence, Virgin Atlantic will direct customers towards a list of recommended companies that offer COVID-19 ‘PCR Antigen’ testing, where it’s required to travel. This list will be constantly reviewed by the Medical, Health and Safety teams to ensure the highest standards. Information about the testing requirements for destinations that Virgin Atlantic currently flies to can be found on the website: https://flywith.virginatlantic.com/gb/en/news/coronavirus/travel-restrictions.html

Easyjet

easyJet confirms closure of three UK bases

Easyjet
© Image easyJet

  • Airline closes collective consultation period, remains committed to working with BALPA on next phase and continues to work with Unite on the individual consultation process
  • Consultation has reduced the need for compulsory redundancies through enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme and continues to look at options to reduce job losses overall
  • Customers booked to fly from affected airports will be contacted with their options
  •  The pandemic and travel restrictions, compounded by quarantine measures in the UK, continue to impact demand for travel

easyJet has confirmed on August 17 that the closure of its bases at London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle will go ahead following the completion of its collective consultation process. We remain committed to working with BALPA on the next phase which includes the voluntary redundancy and individual consultation process.

easyJet has reached agreement with Unite on voluntary redundancy terms and selection criteria for impacted cabin crew and the individual consultation process with our cabin crew continues.

During the consultation we have identified ways to reduce the numbers of proposed compulsory redundancies across the business as a whole by offering enhanced voluntary redundancy packages to all UK crew as well as looking at additional options like part time and seasonal contracts, base transfers where possible and unpaid leave. As a result the number of compulsory redundancies will be significantly reduced, for example through the consultation process with Unite 93% of our cabin crew who were at risk of redundancy have opted for an enhanced voluntary redundancy package.

easyJet will cease based operations from London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle from 31 August 2020.  London Stansted and Newcastle will remain part of easyJet’s route network, and some domestic and international flights will continue to operate, served by inbound flying from other bases across the network. We will be informing affected customers of their options which include transferring to another airport or receiving a full refund in the coming days.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO, said:

“We have had to take the very difficult decision to close three UK bases as a result of the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and related travel restrictions, compounded by quarantine measures in the UK which is impacting demand for travel.

“Working closely with our employee representatives, I am pleased that we have been able to identify ways to significantly reduce the number of proposed compulsory redundancies through providing enhanced voluntary redundancy packages for all UK crew alongside additional options like part time and seasonal contracts, base transfers and unpaid leave which we expect to result in reducing the number of job losses overall.

“We would like to reassure customers due to fly from these airports that we are now contacting anyone whose flight is affected with clear advice on their options which include rerouting via alternative airports or receiving a full refund.

“I know this is a very difficult time for our pilots and crew and I would like to thank them for their continued professionalism.”

Since the pandemic began, easyJet has taken decisive actions to remove cost and non-critical expenditure from the business at every level to mitigate the impact however IATA forecasts suggest that the levels of market demand seen in 2019 are not likely to be reached again until 2024. UK quarantine rules have also created uncertainty for customers and an impact on demand for travel.

easyJet remains committed to its UK operations which remain its largest. The airline will continue operate at eight UK bases, serving over 490 routes serving 52 million customers in the UK. easyJet will continue to review its network and bases to ensure they are optimised in the current environment.

Delta

Delta teams up with CVS Health to accelerate employee COVID-19 testing

Delta
© Image Delta

Delta Air Lines is partnering with CVS Health to accelerate employee COVID-19 testing with a rapid-response option for flight crews, a move that will build confidence about traveling with Delta among our people and customers alike. The CVS Health Return Ready SM testing will be overseen by a CVS Health clinician at Delta hub crew lounges and takes fewer than 15 minutes to diagnose whether the active COVID-19 virus is detected.

“Just like there’s no single method to reducing the transmission of the virus, there’s no one solution to testing our global workforce that is always on the move,” said Joanne Smith, Delta’s Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer. “That’s why we’re excited to be partnering with CVS Health and their clinicians to offer an additional convenient and reliable option to our people.”

The rapid-response nasal-swab test is the newest testing option Delta is providing employees so a baseline understanding of the infection can be established across Delta.

“It’s not feasible right now for everyone to take a test every time they walk out the door,” Smith said. “That’s why our baseline testing is so important, and we’re grateful to have partners who share our values and our vision to make testing easy and accessible to all Delta employees. We intend to use what we learn from this round of testing to make sure our re-testing program is one that continues to instill confidence among our people and with consumers about traveling with Delta.”

Read more here about Delta’s leading-edge effort to test all its employees for COVID-19.

“Our relationship with Delta and their commitment to testing underscores Delta’s leadership in taking swift action in response to the pandemic, serving as a model for organizations with large, diverse and geographically dispersed workforces, and shows the important role that Return Ready COVID-19 testing can play in supporting continuity for the business community across many different industries,” said Troyen Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “This is also another example of two values-based companies working together in innovative ways to keep people working while providing services people rely on.”

Health experts agree that a multi-layered approach that includes testing, regularly checking symptoms, wearing masks, distancing and personal hygiene are the greatest inhibitors to spreading COVID-19.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa and Vereinigung Cockpit agree on package of short-term crisis measures through the end of the year

Lufthansa
© Image lufthansa

  • Pilots’ contributions through December: reduced top-up payments for short-time working compensation benefits, compensation adjustments, and reductions in pension benefits
  • In return, redundancies due to business operations (betriebsbedingte Kündigungen) in the second quarter 2021 at the earliest
  • Reconciliations of interests and social plans are still being negotiated
  • Agreement on long-term contributions by pilots urgently needed to limit the number of necessary redundancies

Lufthansa has concluded a short-term agreement with the pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) for initial measures to manage the coronavirus crisis. The measures apply to the pilots of Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Aviation Training and some of the Germanwings pilots.

Cost reductions through the end of 2020 

The agreement includes cost reduction measures that will apply until the end of the year. Among other things, top-up payments for short-time working compensation benefits and employer contributions to the pension scheme will be reduced from September onwards. Collective wage increases negotiated for 2020 will be postponed until January 2021.

Redundancies due to business operations in the second quarter of 2021 at the earliest

Lufthansa will refrain from implementing redundancies due to business operations for the pilots of Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cargo, Lufthansa Aviation Training and certain of the Germanwings pilots until March 31, 2021. However, the significant overcapacity of pilots will last considerably beyond March 2021. The number of redundancies for operational reasons can therefore only be limited by concluding a long-term crisis agreement. In a long-term crisis package, the costs of the personnel surplus could, for example, be compensated for by a corresponding reduction in working hours and salary for the period of the crisis.

At the same time, Lufthansa has announced that for all German flight operations, it will refrain from hiring new pilots from outside the Group as long as there is an overcapacity of cockpit staff. This will also apply to the cockpit staffing of tourist-oriented flight operations – which will be open to pilots from Sun Express Deutschland and the German base of Brussels Airlines who flew tourist routes during the past few years.

Negotiations on the reconciliation of interests and on social plans will be continued with the respective cockpit staff representatives. This process is furthest along at Germanwings, where flight operations are not set to continue in light of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The package of measures was approved by the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the Air Transport Employers’ Association (Arbeitgeberverband Luftverkehr) and the VC committees and is effective immediately.