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 September's top 5 (most clicked by Lawyers Travel's clients) e-newsletter stories.
The UK Government will begin rolling out its Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) entry scheme in phases, starting in November, as part of their digitization of the UK border. This change will mean that some foreign nationals that currently do not need a visa to enter the UK will now be required to complete a pre-registration entry form before entering or transiting the UK. Nationals from Qatar will be first impacted, with an ETA required for travel to the UK on or after November 15, 2023. Travelers from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will follow, with their rollout beginning for travel to the UK on or after February 2024. Worldwide expansion is set for later in 2024.
Inbound travelers to the UK will be able to apply for an ETA online, and the application form should take only a few minutes to fill out. Individuals will need to provide valid passport data, some personal information, travel plans, and a debit or credit card. Applications will be processed automatically, and most people are expected to receive authorization within 48-72 hours. The cost of the ETA entry permit will be £10 (~$12.50), per applicant.
Delta Air Lines has announced that it is streamlining its SkyMiles Program while also offering new and enhanced ways for members to earn toward Status. Beginning January 1, 2024, Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQD) will serve as the only qualifier for Medallion Status. SkyMiles Members will no longer need to track Medallion Qualification Miles or Medallion Qualification Segments. The carrier said that members can earn MQDs on flights with Delta and the carrier's partners, on purchases using Delta's co-branded credit cards, through Delta Vacations, and through other products, such as car rentals and hotel stays. The change is similar to one American Airlines made in early 2022 for its AAdvantage program. Status for 2025 will be determined by a single amount of MQD thresholds: $6,000 for Silver, $12,000 for Gold, $18,000 for Platinum, and $35,000 for Diamond.
In addition, Delta announced new guidelines for access to its Delta Sky Clubs. Beginning January 1, 2024, Delta SkyMiles Platinum and Platinum Business American Express card members will no longer have access to Delta Sky Clubs, as well as all American Express card members traveling on a Basic Economy ticket or an equivalent ticket with a partner airline. Beginning in 2025, Delta SkyMiles Reserve and Reserve Business American Express card members will receive 10 club visits per program year, and American Express Platinum and Platinum Business card members will receive six club visits per program year. Members of those cards can earn unlimited club access after spending $75,000 on their eligible card in a calendar year and will have unlimited Sky Club access for both the remainder of that year through January 31 of the next year.
Brazil will reinstate visa requirements on travelers coming from the US, Canada, and Australia beginning January 10, 2024, reports Condé Nast Traveler. The decision was first announced earlier this year, with an effective date of October 1. At that time, the foreign ministry said that the decision to grant visa exemptions marked “a break with the pattern of Brazilian migration policy, historically based on the principles of reciprocity and equal treatment,” and left the option open for affected countries, such as the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan, to negotiate reciprocal visa waivers. Only Japan reached an agreement. Therefore, beginning January 10, 2024, Americans who plan on traveling to Brazil will need to obtain a Visit Visas, or ‘Vistos de Visita’ (VIVIS). The visa will enable travelers to remain in Brazil for up to 90 days for the purposes of tourism, business, transit, study, volunteer work, etc. The process for obtaining a visa should be quick, although it is unknown at this time if applications and issuances will be handled entirely electronically. Procedures are still being finalized by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will provide additional details when available.
American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two of the nation’s top airlines, face potential strike issues as neither carrier has yet to reach contract agreements with pilots and flight attendants, reports Travel Pulse. Both groups have authorized a strike, which has sparked concern among industry experts and travelers about potential work stoppages during the winter holiday travel season. However, Southwest pilots and American Airlines flight attendants are currently in federal mediation with their respective airlines, which technically makes a strike illegal. Both groups have been seen picketing at airports. Southwest, in a statement after a recent pilot demonstration, said: "Southwest Airlines respects the rights of our employees to express their opinions, and we do not anticipate any disruption in service because of today’s demonstration of off-duty pilots. Our contract negotiations continue, with leaders from both parties meeting this week, and we’ll keep working with the assistance of the National Mediation Board to reach an agreement that rewards our pilots and places them competitively in the industry." While both American and Southwest staff have been picketing to draw attention to their situations, no actual work disruptions have taken place.
The European Union (EU) has once again postponed the launch date of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), reports Schengen Area-specialist website SchengenVisaInfo.com. An EU official told the website that the go-live date for ETIAS has now been delayed to May 2025 at the earliest because of issues launching the Entry/Exit System (EES) that would track visitors into Europe. The EES is another EU border security system, an automated IT system that, in the future, will register travelers from countries each time they cross an EU external border. The system has been continuously postponed alongside the ETIAS. “We had initially hoped for the EES to become operational by the end of this year or, at the latest, the beginning of the next year. Due to unforeseen delays, it has become evident that this timeline is unattainable. As a result, the implementation of the ETIAS has been rescheduled to May 2025, with the possibility of further postponement.” While the European Commission has yet to officially confirm this latest delay to the implementation of ETIAS, the postponement has been confirmed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration, and the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs. “The date of the entry into operation of ETIAS is not yet known. It is expected to be announced at the end of 2023,” said the commission.