February was a month of growth and innovation for the aviation industry, as major players took steps forward and implemented surprising changes, campaigns, and protocols to help revive travel in 2021.
Read on for the latest ‘Intel in the Air’ news roundup, where we keep our community informed and in-the-know on the industry’s latest happenings.
The Birth of the Vaccine Passport
Vaccine passports are abuzz in the industry, every airline and travel company considering their options for virtual vaccine certification. The tech is still in the works, but one thing is for sure, it will be here to stay. Rather than a short-term fix to revive travel during the pandemic, aviation leaders are seeing virtual vaccine passports as an extension of mobile check-in. This move is not a detour, but rather a continuation of the evolving process of travel. Destinations like Hawaii are considering a digital vaccine passport as a means of bypassing mandatory quarantines. Similarly, Qatar Airways is introducing a new tech feature that seems like a pandemic response, but really is a stepping stone on the road to touchless travel. The airline is launching a touch-free inflight entertainment system, where passengers can scan a QR code from their phones and choose their entertainment options through their personal device. It seems the aviation industry is viewing COVID-19 travel as just another reason to go virtual and touchless.
Two Titans Team Up
In an unlikely partnership, two aviation titans joined forces to revive travel. JetBlue and American Airlines teamed up, to the surprise of the industry, in an effort to triple the number of flights offered at New York’s LaGuardia airport. The partnership will also include a loyalty integration, offering reciprocal mileage earning and redemption benefits for travelers.
Airlines to the Rescue
This month, major airlines stepped up to help the greater good. The Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta became the largest COVID-19 vaccination site, one of just four mass vaccination sites in the state of Georgia. Following the devastating storm that froze most of Texas, American Airlines partnered with the Red Cross to help victims, inviting AAdvantage members to donate money and earn 10 miles for every dollar donated to the Red Cross. Early in the month, Qatar Airways launched their ‘Rewild The Planet’ program, pledging to transport wild animals back to their natural habitats, free of charge.
Lovers Take to the Skies
In the days preceding Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, TSA reported a record number of travelers, with more than 4 million passengers just in the long weekend. It appears that travel advisories won’t get in the way of love, and major airlines stepped in to encourage romance travelers. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Southwest offered 30,000 miles and a free companion pass for anyone who signed up for their rewards card. Alaska Airlines committed to giving away 100 flights to reunite couples separated by the pandemic.
The Flip-side of Being Grounded
While things are looking brighter for the aviation industry, the reality is that many of us are still temporarily grounded, and air travel levels won’t fully return to pre-pandemic volumes for another few years. It goes without saying that COVID-19 has had a large and direct impact on CO2 emissions around the world. Dan Rutherford from the International Council of Clean Transportation shares his insights here. While projections vary, many frequent flyers can drive up to half of global aviation emissions, and some estimates are showing up to 36% of business travel will be permanently lost. So even though we certainly miss traveling, and hope to return to voluntary travel soon with all of the current industry innovation, the flip-side of being temporarily grounded is the evident reduction of carbon emissions from the aviation industry this past year, and the potential long-term decrease in harmful emissions from unnecessary business travel.
The airline industry is moving forward, and we’re committed to keeping up. Want to stay up to date with the latest travel restrictions and safety protocols? You can stay in-the-know through our covid restrictions landing page.