Sales chiefs at United, American and Delta sought to assure
travel advisors attending a Travel Weekly webinar that their clients would be
safe in flight.
“We know that you can never take all the risk out, but we
are going to layer as many practices as we can so that we can minimize the risk
of [Covid-19] transmission,” said Jake Cefolia, United’s senior vice president
of worldwide sales, during a July 20 webinar co-hosted by Travel Weekly sister
publications TravelAge West and TravelPulse.
“This is never going to be about a competition,” added Bob
Somers, Delta’s senior vice president of global sales. “The airlines should be
standing together, and we are on this.”
Executives detailed the health and sanitation measures they
are taking, which include spraying electrostatic disinfectant between flights,
requiring health declarations by all customers at check-in and making masks
Aircraft are equipped with hospital-grade HEPA filters.
Delta has partnered with the Mayo Clinic for its health safety program.
American is working with Vanderbilt University and Purell. United is partnering
with the Cleveland Clinic and Clorox.
In addition, United and American have each rolled out
touchless bag check technology at most of their domestic stations.
In one major area of difference, Delta is blocking 40% of
seats in economy cabins and 50% of seats in first class through at least Sept.
“It is CDC-driven, and the medical community is on board
with that,” Somers said of the policy, referring to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
Delta Vacations also is adhering to the safety protocols in
place at the airline, explained Delta Vacations president Jenny Ho.
That means that transport partners, too, must commit to
blocking seats, and those partners, along with hotels, must commit to Delta
protocols on wearing masks, cleaning and staff health screenings.
Somers and American chief customer officer Alison Taylor
said that customers overwhelmingly comply with mask requirements, and that
those who don’t are not allowed to board flights. Delta had put 87 customers on
its no-fly list as of July 20 for lack of adherence to mask policies, while
American had seven customers on its list.
The airlines also provided details on their current route
networks and on additional steps they are taking to help agents navigate the
American is now running the largest network among the Big 3,
having ramped up capacity much more aggressively than Delta and United. Kyle
Mabry, AA’s global head of leisure, groups and midmarket sales, said the
airline served 7,000 domestic city pairs in July, including more than 50 that
other airlines dropped in the past year.
United served 229 destinations in July, Cefolia said, adding
that what demand there is now is almost entirely leisure. United is currently
the only airline serving Australia and Israel from the U.S., and it is set to
resume Tahiti service in August.
Cefolia directed travel advisors to the insight tool at
United’s Jetstream agents portal, encouraging them to share information on
where their clients would like to fly.
“We will build back our network in a way that supports you
and your clients,” he said.
The speakers also stressed that their agent portals offer
timely information on travel restrictions. Ho said that travel advisors should
check carefully on behalf of clients to see which destinations are requiring
Covid-19 tests as a condition of entry or avoiding quarantine.
“It changes quickly,” she said.