Health Passports? Is this a real option?

European countries may be implementing “health passports” which would determine whether a traveler can enter a foreign country depending on their virus history. But what would the ramifications of that mean for the future of travel post-virus? I dig deeper and try to answer some of the questions surrounding this…..

What might an implementation of this new policy look like? Maybe we see a trial run in countries like Greece and Italy before other countries adopt a similar policy?

Essentially it would involve creating a ‘digital certificate’ using facial biometrics to prove who has had Covid-19. While this could obviously could be applied to leisure and business travel, ultimately it could also help test workers to ease the impact on the economy and businesses from ongoing physical distancing. We know that in the UK tech firms are already in talks with ministers about creating these so called health passports, AND summer hotspots like Sardinia, Turkey and Greece are all looking at introducing them for tourists. Now, tourists would be required to produce a document showing theyv’e tested negative for Covid-19 within a week of their arrival. In fact, the European Union tourism ministers are already said to be discussing the possibility of a bloc-wide “Covid-19 passport.”

What does this mean for the future of travel and tourism – Will it help or hinder it?

In areas that could be severly affected by the upcomoing summer tourism season, yes of course this could help. However many are sceptical to what extent this would be 100% safe at this current stage. The World Health Organisation has warned against the idea, stressing that there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19, and have antibodies, are 100% protected from a second infection. The fear would be that this could actually increase the spread of the virus even more. This could change obviosuly, as new reserach emerges, but it could also be premature. Like anything with this virus, it’s all about timing.

Is it realistic? Surely this would require hundreds of thousands of virus tests per week, possible doctor involvement and, on top of that, it’s just another form of documentation travelers have to remember to bring with them to the airport.

The reality is that people are going to start to travel again and when they do there is going to have to be safety measures in place. Whether or not health passports take off, flights in the future are likely to see us undergo health checks before departure and upon arrival. I also think people are going to find ways to protect themselves better when traveling as well. I see more business and consumer travelers joining health and safety programs like Medjet, an air medical transport and travel security membership, that if a traveler is hospitalized while traveling, gets sick or injured, will organize transportation to a home country hospital of their choice for in-patient care. In general people are going to be more conscious of wellness and travel, and as long as its safe,  anything that puts them at ease will help. 

Crowded flights raise questions about the landscape of flying….

The number of Americans boarding commercial flights has risen steadily over the past five days, leading to an increase in reports of crowded flights on which social-distancing measures were impossible. There has been some recent criticism of American Airlines after a passenger boarded a weekend flight and found it nearly full, with no social distancing guidelines being practiced due to the shere amount of people on the flight. The question here is – if airlines keep running these flights, and travel continues even on a limited basis, what airlines are doing to protect passengers and what we can do to protect ourselves? Travel Expert, Francesca Page, sheds some light….

So are airlines listening?

American Airlines and JetBlue implemented new flying policies Monday, after travellers reported packed flights amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Taking AA as an example, we do know that despite the fact that American has cut 60% of its flights in April (and is reportedly planning on suspending more in May) beginning in early May, American will build on its cleaning program by expanding on the cleaning procedures already used during longer stops to every mainline flight. Changes will include flight attendents being required to wear masks (something Jetblue was already enforcing,) the distribution of sanitizing wipes or gels and face masks to customers, and an expansion of cleaning frequency in the areas under its control including gate areas, ticket counters, passenger service counters, baggage service offices and team member rooms. 


What do you think people will do in future to protect themselves when flying and traveling in a larger sense?

There is no doubt that people are more aware of their vulnerability in general when traveling now more than ever. In terms of flying, airlines like AA have been very open about passengers rights to ask for a seat ‘re-assigment’ to create more space and have said they are blocking half of all middle seats but they have also said seat reassigment is not guaranteed. In a larger sense I think we’ll see business and consumer travelers taking it upon themselves to keep protected in a few ways: 

  • The landscape of travel insurance and protection will change, with more business and consumer travelers joining travel health and safety programs. Those that can afford it, will sign up air medical transport and travel security memberships so that if they hospitalized while traveling, get sick or injured, transportation to a home country hospital of their choice can be arranged for in-patient care. 
  • There will undoubtably be a rise in other alternative forms of transport to flying that allow more privacy and less exposure, like the road trip.
  • People will be more aware of keeping themselves at a distance from other passengers and in flight etiquette will be more obligatory accross the board. 

FBN – How to get a refund during coronavirus

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Let’s talk about getting refunds from flights… We know that as of last week – The U.S. Department of Transportation has mandated airlines to refund passengers in the event flights are canceled OR significant schedule changes or made OR government restrictions prevent flying due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Can you go back to the airline if you were given a credit and get a refund instead of a credit? This would be at the discretion of the airline – and it is to note – that despite the the statement from DOT – it is LIKELY that airlines will continue to try and offer credits instead of a refund – particularly as the DOT has said they wont’  be strictly enforcing this of yet – and they are giving airlines ‘time’ come into compliance with the mandate. Thus some airlines might act sooner on this than others.

How long can airlines continue to refund customers? Not for too long, however, while we can assume April and the early part of May people are going to be pulling trips, there is a chance that when it comes to summer and fall travel we could see an up-tick as restrictions are lifted. And yet, to counter this, I also predict that less exposed travel ideas, like a road trip will rise in popularity. 

How are the airlines doing when it comes to responding to customers?  Is there a work flow you and other industry insiders are noticing is working better than others? A lot of people are complaining of not being able to reach airlines. Now the good news is that many airlines like Delta, for instance, are aware of how jammed the call centers are and are automatically issuing refunds or credits on missed or cancelled flights now. My advice to travelers is that if you are really struggling to reach an airline, keep in mind that The Federal Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute a charge for services not provided.

Reimbursement vs travel credit – even with this new mandate, should we be taking the refund versus the credit? Remember – as I have said – that airlines want to keep your business. When a flight is cancelled, airline systems try and re-book you on the closest available flight or offer you a credit voucher –  but this keeps them holding your business and your cash. Now what do you do if your flight is NOT canceled? Hold onto your reservation SO THAT the airline calls the cancellation BEFORE you do – this will increase your chances of being entitled to a refund.