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Lawyers Travel's weekly client e-newsletter, the Informed Traveler, keeps readers updated on travel industry news and trends.
Following is a recap of May's Top 5 (most clicked by Lawyers Travel's clients) e-newsletter stories.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has recently implemented changes to the security screening process in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the upcoming summer travel. According to the TSA, these changes have already taken effect, with more to be implemented at airport checkpoints nationwide by mid-June. As procedure changes begin to rollout in the coming weeks, TSA said travelers should expect to:
- Keep possession of their boarding passes. Instead of handing their boarding pass to a TSA officer at the travel document podium, travelers should now place their boarding pass (paper or electronic) on the boarding pass reader themselves. After scanning, travelers should hold their boarding pass toward the TSA officer to allow the officer to visually inspect it. This change reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a traveler's boarding pass thus reducing potential for cross-contamination.
- Separate food for X-ray screening. Travelers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA PreCheck members do not need to remove items from their bags.
- Pack smart. Travelers should take extra care to ensure that they do not have any prohibited items, such as liquids, gels or aerosols in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces, in their carry-on bags. In response to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per traveler, in carry-on bags. Travelers are required to remove the hand sanitizer from the carry-on bag before being submitted for X-ray screening. If a bag is found to contain a prohibited item, travelers may be directed to return to the divestiture table outside of security with their carry-on bags to remove the item and dispose of the item. The traveler may also be directed back outside of security to remove, items that should have originally been divested (such as laptops, liquids, gels, and aerosols and large electronics) and resubmit their property for X-ray screening. By resolving alarms in this manner, TSA officers will need to touch the contents inside a carry-on bag much less frequently, reducing the potential for cross-contamination.
- Practice social distancing. Travelers should allow for social distancing to reduce direct contact between employees and travelers whenever possible without compromising security. Noticeable adjustments leading up to the security checkpoint include, increasing the distance between individuals as they enter the security checkpoint, placing visual reminders of appropriate spacing on checkpoint floors and staggering the use of lanes where feasible. No two airports are alike, so this could look a little different at each airport.
- Wear facial protection. TSA officers at checkpoints are now using facial protection. Travelers are encouraged to wear face protection to the checkpoint as well. Please note, however, travelers may need to adjust it during the screening process. Travelers are also encouraged to remove items such as belts, and items from their pockets, like wallets, keys and phones, and put them directly into their carry-on bags instead of into the bins to reduce touch-points during the screening process.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued an additional pair of guidelines regarding ticket refunds and airline service obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Transportation Today.
- The DOT has produced a second Enforcement Notice relating to airline ticket refunds in the wake of more than 25,000 air travel service complaints and inquiries filed in March and April. “The Department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time.” Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said.
- Additionally, the DOT said the Notice of Adjustments to Service Obligations addresses incremental adjustments to service obligations under Order 2020-4-2, issued on April 7th. The Notice initiates a process in which the DOT enables covered carriers to reduce the number of points they must serve as a proportion of their total service obligation. This ensures every community served by a covered air carrier before March 1, 2020, continues to receive service from at least one covered carrier.
US airlines such as Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United are currently or will soon begin requiring their passengers to wear face coverings, reports Newsweek. Most airlines state their guidelines follow the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which last month advised members of the public to wear a cloth face covering in situations where social distancing measures are difficult to follow.
The nation's biggest travel trade group, US Travel Association, has unveiled enhanced cleaning, social distancing and touchless payment procedures for hotels, airlines, airports, theme parks, restaurants and cruise lines, reports The Los Angeles Times. The protocols for operating in a post-COVID-19 world set basic standards that all travel and hospitality businesses should adhere to once government and medical experts lift stay-at-home orders and give a green light for leisure and business travel. Most of the steps called for by the US Travel Association are among the practices promoted for weeks by the CDC, including increased cleaning and hand washing, installation of physical barriers, use of masks and gloves and social distancing. Another trade group, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) also released similar suggested protocols earlier this week.
The United States has extended the ban on non-essential cross-border travel to Canada and Mexico to help the fight against COVID-19, reports Reuters. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said restrictions, first imposed in mid-March and previously set to expire on May 20th, would now be extended until June 22nd for both Canada and Mexico.