This week we discuss United Airlines free tests, Rail admin fees, Marriott WFH offer & 'Very Nice'...
United free Covid pre-departure testing on NY-Lon route
Following on from last weeks successful flight, United Airlines is to run a four-week-long pilot programme offering passengers on its New York Newark-London Heathrow route rapid pre-departure tests for Covid.
The airline said that from 16 November to 11 December, all passengers and crew members on United flight 14, which departs Newark for London Heathrow at 8.15pm on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, would be offered a free test as part of a project to help convince officials that international travel is safe.
United will be using a molecular Abbott ID Now test which can yield a result in 13 minutes. In a study of 955 individuals in which 23 people tested positive for Covid using lab-based PCR tests, the Abbott test picked up 21 of the positive patients. This means the test has 91.3 per cent sensitivity (correctly identifying those with the virus) and 100 per cent specificity (correctly identifying those that are healthy).
The test will be administered by Premise Health at a facility in the Newark United Club near gate C93 at Liberty International. Passengers will need to book the test in advance and are advised to do this at least three hours before the flight. Those testing positive at the airport will not be permitted to board but will be offered a refund or the opportunity to travel at a later date.
“Through the pilot programme, we will ensure that everyone on board has tested negative for Covid-19 on the day of travel,” said Aaron McMillan, United’s managing director of operations policy and support.
The test will not allow passengers to bypass quarantine on arrival unlike the airline’s recent pre-departure testing programme on its San Francisco to Hawaii route.
“Customers who participate will still have to comply with quarantine regulations in the UK,” said McMillan.
Josh Earnest, chief communications officer at United Airlines, said that in the two weeks since the Hawaii trial had started, the number of people travelling on the route had nearly doubled as a result.
On the Hawaii route, United passes on the cost of the test to passengers.
“We certainly feel comfortable that for the four weeks of the trial we will offer the test for free. We will evaluate whether this a cost we can absorb. We are optimistic that as we build more of a track record with partners, as we get into an operational routing and testing capacity begins to expand, all three of those will put downward pressure on the cost.”
The airline said it had been an “active participant” in discussions to open up flights between the US and the UK. “We have been in touch with officials here in the United States and officials overseas to talk about the potential to open up those corridors,” said Earnest.
Recently, the airline took part in a limited test on the transatlantic route of a digital health passport called CommonPass that could standardise the way test results are handled internationally.
Earnest said, “We ran a pilot last week that was small in scale but wildly successful. We continue discussions with CommonPass to look at ways to further streamline this process. At present, we have people showing up with paper documentation for various travel destinations and it can be confusing for customers and employees. Using CommonPass could be of great benefit but we don’t have any definitive plans to plug them into this pilot and we are evaluating opportunities.”
The airline is bullish that customer testing will reopen long-haul travel.
Earnest said, “We are not second-guessing the decisions that government officials are making. They have a responsibility to look after the health and wellbeing of their population. We are trying to demonstrate that this kind of international travel is safe.”
He added: “We are hopeful that this programme will prompt governments to look at the data and the science to see that this is a safe way to reopen the economy.”
Government waives admin fees - UK advance rail tickets
The UK Department for Transport has announced that passengers who have bought advance tickets and subsequently cannot travel because of Covid restrictions will not have to pay the administration cost of rearranging travel.
It said that passengers would also be able to claim discretionary rail travel vouchers or credit notes for unused advance tickets that are valid for up to a year.
Independent rail retailers will also be able to temporarily waive the usual change of journey admin fee for advance tickets. The admin fee is usually £10.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Covid has seen massive disruption to our way of life, and passengers buying advance tickets should not be penalised for cancelling their travel plans to follow advice that can save lives.”
“By temporarily scrapping these admin fees on advance tickets, and extending the time people have to re-book their journeys, we are ensuring that large numbers of rail passengers will not be left out of pocket.”
Marriott launches Day Passes for WFH Londoners
Marriott International is turning bedrooms into individual 'office' spaces to offer as an alternative to Londoners working from home.
Several of its hotels in the capital and the southeast of England are offering Day Passes, which allow guests to use rooms from 6am to 6pm.
Marriott also has a Stay Pass and a Play Pass, both also aimed at the WFH community. The stay pass includes an overnight stay with early morning check in and evening checkout, while the Play Pass allows for a multi-day work or leisure break.
"Working remotely doesn't necessarily have to mean working from home where blurred lines between personal and professional lives can create distractions and stress," said Neal Jones, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Marriott International, EMEA.
"We are inviting guests to work anywhere with Marriott Bonvoy to help them be more productive and achieve work/life balance by reimagining our hotel rooms as local remote workspaces for our customers. By providing flexible booking options, our loyalty members and guests have a familiar alternative when choosing where to work."
Day passes include:
* Fast and reliable Wi-Fi and technology. * Clean and disinfected places to work. * Ample desk space with a comfortable chair and plenty of nearby outlets. * Modern space with a view and natural light. * Peace and quiet with no distractions. * Access to coffee, bottled water and food with social distancing. * Access to hotel perks like the gym and pool.
In the UK this package is currently being offered in select hotels including:
* St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London * London Marriott Hotel County Hall * London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square * Sheraton Grand London Park Lane * W London * London Marriott Hotel Canary Wharf * Bankside Hotel, Autograph Collection * Residence Inn London Kensington * Aloft London Excel * Sheraton Heathrow Hotel * Bexleyheath Marriott Hotel * Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel & Country Club
It is also being launched in the US at hotels in Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, New York, Toronto, and in Asia in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, along with planned expansion in other European cities, the Middle East and Latin America.
Prices in London start from £50 a day at Residence Inn by Marriott Tower Bridge and can be booked via your Corporate Team.
Kazakhstan embraces 'Borat' catchphrase for new tourism campaign
There is no such thing as bad publicity: the first 'Borat' movie caused outrage in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan but the indignation subsided over the years, thanks to the success of the movie. It apparently led to a huge spike in visitation.
Now, the tourism board has adopted the Borat catchphrase 'very nice!' in a new tourism video. Take a look below...