Amex GBT Lawyers Travel's (Lawyers Travel™) weekly client e-newsletter, the Informed Traveler, keeps readers updated on travel industry news and trends.
Following is a recap of October's top 5 (most clicked by Lawyers Travel's clients) e-newsletter stories.
The US State Department has issued a worldwide caution for Americans traveling overseas, encouraging travelers to take caution, reports Travel Pulse. "Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution," officials stated. The department is advising US travelers abroad to stay alert in locations frequented by tourists and follow the department's information and alerts on social media or through its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The worldwide caution comes on the heels of recent travel advisories for Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, where conflict and tension continues to rise. The worldwide caution is the first issued by the State Department since August 2022.
United Airlines is updating its boarding process this month, allowing travelers in window and middle seats to board earlier in an effort to speed up the process, reports Travel + Leisure. The new procedure – called "WILMA" for window, middle, and aisle – will go into effect on October 26. The procedure saves up to two minutes of boarding time, according to the airline. The boarding procedure was used prior to 2017 when United introduced its carry-on restricted basic economy fare. Technical advancements have now allowed United to bring it back. Similar to the current procedure, the boarding process will start with pre-boarding travelers with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, active-duty military, global service members, families traveling with young children 2 and under, and United Premier 1K members. Travelers in United Polaris business class, United first class, and other premium cabins as well as status holders will then be able to board. The airline will then board travelers sitting in window seats or exit rows. New this month, the airline will next board travelers in middle seats, followed by those sitting in aisle seats. Finally, United will board travelers sitting in basic economy, as well as travelers who don’t have a boarding group listed on their boarding pass.
The US State Department has announced that the wait time for a standard passport renewal is now 8 to 11 weeks and expedited applications is 5 to 7 weeks. The new timeline is down from 10 to 13 weeks earlier in the year, yet still longer than the 4 to 6 weeks the department was estimating in 2019. Additionally, the State Department said it has issued more than 24 million passport books and cards between October 2022 and September 2023, the most ever for a single fiscal year. “Our dedicated staff have worked countless hours to reduce passport processing times. We are continuously reassessing our operations to maximize efficiencies and are introducing innovations to our customer service and processing models,” State Department officials said. “We are investing in supporting and modernizing our technology, increased staffing levels by ten percent, and have hundreds of additional staff in the hiring pipeline. We remain focused on lowering processing times, and this reduction is an important first step.” To ensure on-time delivery of passports, the State Department encourages travelers check their passport expiration date before making plans for international travel and renew their passport well in advance of international travel (at least 6-9 months).
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has launched a new Global Entry mobile app designed to enhance the travel experience for Global Entry members, reports Travel Pulse. The new app is currently available for Global Entry members to complete their arrival processing instead of waiting in line to use a portal. With the new app, travelers take a photo of their face, which will be compared to a photo gallery to verify their identity through facial biometrics. After submitting their photo, users will receive a receipt on the app. The mobile receipt can then be used to bypass the Global Entry Portals upon arrival at the primary inspection area. For now, the app is available for use at seven airports including Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Miami International Airport (MIA), Orlando International Airport (MCO), Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA), and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). CBP said it plans to evaluate and expand the use of the app at airports where Global Entry processing occurs in the future. The new app is free and available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Delta Air Lines has announced its modifications to the changes to its SkyMiles Loyalty Program announced in September, while adding several new benefits as well. Delta will adjust the number of Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) required to achieve 2025 Medallion Status, further enhance the Million Miler program, update Delta Sky Club access policies for eligible Card Members, and enhance options for Rollover Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs). The changes come weeks after September’s announcement drew negative reactions from SkyMiles members. “Over the past few weeks, many of you have shared feedback about the changes we announced to Delta’s SkyMiles Program,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. “It’s been a challenge to balance the growth of our membership with our need to deliver premium service experiences. We made some difficult program decisions to address this issue…. But your response made clear that the changes did not fully reflect the loyalty you have demonstrated to Delta. Based on your feedback, we are making program adjustments and adding new benefits to begin earning in 2024 toward your 2025 Status."