Lawyers Travel's weekly client e-newsletter, the Informed Traveler, keeps readers updated on travel industry news and trends.
Following is a recap of June's top 5 (most clicked by Lawyers Travel's clients) e-newsletter stories.
The US State Department has stated that they plan on reopening the online passport renewal program later this year, reports Travel Market Report. The online passport renewal portal (OPR) was first launched as a pilot in February 2022 for government employees and contractors, and then expanded to the public in August 2022. Since then, more than 565,000 passports have been renewed by the online system. The State Department closed the OPR in March, stating that, after the first few pilot programs, it would be making improvements to the system “to optimize the user experience for renewing passports online.” Once the department reopens the portal, about five million Americans will be able to renew their passports each year, which would represent two-thirds of all renewals and roughly 25% of all applications. “In time, OPR will save Americans time and effort, making it more convenient to renew their passports,” a spokesperson said.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said that it screened 2.785 million air travelers on Friday, June 16, the highest number since before the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Reuters. The TSA screened approximately 10.6 million people from Friday through Monday, the Juneteenth holiday, giving an average of 2.67 million people per day. Airlines reported few cancellations over the holiday period and the TSA said Friday was the fourth-highest single-day for screenings ever and the highest since November 2019. The post-COVID 19 rebound is expected to continue throughout the summer, with industry group Airlines for America estimating a record 256.8 million travelers will fly in the June-August period, up 1% over the 254.6 million travelers in the same period in 2019.
The UK government has announced that the cost for its upcoming Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system will be £10 (~$12.50), reports Business Travel News. The ETA is a new requirement for travelers who do not need a visa to visit the UK. The UK government said the ETA system formed part of its digitization of the country's border to "further enhance border security and the customer experience." The ETA will first launch in October for travelers from Qatar, with plans to expand worldwide, which includes travelers from the US and EU, in early 2024. Travelers will apply for an ETA online or through a mobile app, and once granted it will allow the person to visit the UK multiple times over a two-year period. Applicants will have to provide personal and biometric details including a digital photograph and answer a "set of suitability questions." Upon completion of the application, travelers will then pay the £10 fee. Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the cost of the ETA "will be one of the best values in the world compared to similar international schemes. This small additional cost to visitors will enable us to bolster the security of the U.K. border and keep our communities safe." As a comparison, the cost of applying for a US ESTA is $21 and remains valid for two years. The EU will charge a fee of €7 (~$7.49) for ETIAS, which can be used for up to three years.
American Airlines will now charge for checked bags on all basic economy tickets, reports USA Today. The carrier announced it would introduce a $75 fee for the first checked bags on basic economy fares on transoceanic flights, saying the change is meant to make the terms of basic economy more consistent across its network. “We are simplifying our product offerings to make it easier for customers when they are shopping for travel. With this change, our Basic Economy product will include all of the same features whether a customer is purchasing it for a domestic or international flight,” American spokesperson Andrea Koos said in a statement. The new fee means that on American's longest flights, a ticket will cost nearly $100 more than the published price if a traveler ends up needing to check a bag. Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines continue to offer free first checked bags on transpacific flights for basic economy ticketholders, but like American, charge $75 on transatlantic flights. The Biden Administration and the Department of Transportation have been trying to crack down on airline fees, but so far there has been no formal change to restrict bag charges.
Singapore Airlines has announced that beginning July 1, 2023, the airline will offer complimentary unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi access for passengers in all cabin classes, including Premium and Economy, reports Travel Pulse. While many other airlines offer complimentary access, Singapore is the first to offer it to all passengers and not just those who have purchased the most expensive fares or are aligned with certain mobile carriers. “In today’s increasingly hyper-connected world, high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity is one of the most important requirements for our customers,” said Singapore Airline’s senior vice president of customer experience, Yeoh Phee Teik. “Giving them access to free unlimited [Wi-Fi] is yet another milestone in [Singapore's] continuous effort to offer an exceptional end-to-end travel experience.” Wi-Fi access will be available fleetwide except onboard Singapore's seven Boeing 737-800 NG planes, which are not Wi-Fi enabled.