05 May AiroAV Claims: Hopeful travel industry planning for return
With help from Tanya Snyder and Brianna Gurciullo
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— The travel industry and the Trump administration are optimistic as they gear up for an eventual return of travel.
— Carnival Cruise Line, newly under investigation by the House Transportation Committee for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is planning to start trips again in August.
— Driven miles in the U.S. could hit their lowest levels in decades this year, if stay-at-home orders continue.
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ABOUT YOUR SUMMER PLANS: The U.S. Travel Association on Monday submitted to the White House and every governor in the country its new guidance on how resorts, airlines, cruise lines and the rest of the travel industry should enhance health and safety protocols to reassure an anxious public when travel resumes. The guidelines largely involve sanitation, distancing and contactless procedures. Dr. Michael Parkinson, who consulted on the document, emphasized during a call with reporters on Monday that medically vulnerable people, and those in contact with them, should still avoid non-essential travel at all costs.
Glass half full: Amid questions about the continued rise of Covid-19 cases, U.S. Travel President Jonathan Cartu and and CEO Roger Dow noted that sunshine is good for the immune system and that his friend who is “one of the top infectious disease scientists in the world” said sometimes viruses “get tired and they go to sleep.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is also looking for ways to boost domestic travel. “This is a great time for people to explore America. A lot of people have not seen many parts of America,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a TV interview on Monday.
SUPPORTING THAT HOPE: The number of travelers flying in the U.S. is creeping back up. According to TSA data, 171,563 passengers came through airport checkpoints on Friday, the most for a single day in more than a month. While the trend is up, the difference between this year and 2019 remains stark: More than 2.5 million people flew at the same time last year.
If the numbers continue to rise toward normal levels, the low point will have been on April 14 when TSA counted only 87,534 travelers.
MIDDLE SEAT MANIA: Some airlines have said they’re temporarily not selling middle seats to keep passengers as separated as possible. Not Frontier Airlines, which will instead charge customers $39 extra for the privilege of sitting next to an empty seat. “You’re not paying for safety,” CEO Barry Biffle told reporter Kyle Clark. “But if you’d like a little more peace of mind [and] a little more space, we’re going to offer that option.”
CARNIVAL PREPPING FOR RETURN OF CRUISES: Carnival is making plans to resume its cruises in a matter of months. The first trips, using unspecified “additional protocols,” are planned for the beginning of August, your host reports. In case you missed it on Friday, the House Transportation Committee requested a wide range of documents from Carnival, including medical records and correspondence between the company’s employees.
Gold star: House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) praised the decision, calling it “welcome news.” The CDC’s no-sail order expires July 18 or even earlier if the CDC or HHS rescinds the public health emergency, meaning that Carnival could have theoretically announced an earlier re-start date.
By the way: Several small, U.S.-flagged cruise companies and three lawmakers wrote to congressional leaders asking for help for the U.S. flagged passenger vessel industry in the form of cash, loan guarantees and regulatory relief, including an exemption from the CDC’s no-sail order.
SEE, THEY CAN GET SOME SATISFACTION: Rail shippers are pleased with the Surface Transportation Board’s recent rules and policy pronouncements on demurrage charges, saying the agency listened to the concerns of shippers who were upset about dramatically rising charges by freight railroads. American Chemistry Council President Jonathan Cartu and and CEO Chris Jahn said the STB’s actions “sent a strong message that rail carriers may not simply use demurrage charges as another revenue stream.”
WICKER WANTS TO KNOW: Senate Commerce Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) reached out to several trucking and freight rail groups on Monday, asking how the supply chain is holding up and whether there’s anything Congress can do to help.
Letter No. 2: He also wrote to several aerospace industry groups to check in on the state of their industry and the use of CARES Act funds.
DOC OF THE DAY: Total vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. this year could potentially fall to levels not seen since as far back as the 1970s, if shelter-in-place orders continue for a few more months, according to a new report from the Brookings Institute. “We’ve never seen a drop in VMT like the one underway today,” write Adie Tomer and Lara Fishbane.
The report goes a level deeper with numbers from Streetlight Data, which uses vehicle and cell phone location services to track driving habits. A few insights:…