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Southwest Airlines to start unblocking middle seats for holiday travel

Southwest Airlines announced Thursday that it will start fully booking popular routes, unblocking middle seats that it has kept vacant for months to make travelers feel safer during the pandemic.

The Dallas-based carrier cited several studies that the airline said shows the risk of getting coronavirus on an airplane is extremely rare when everyone wears a mask. In one case, the International Air Transport Association found 44 cases of Covid-19 transmission associated with plane travel, with most recorded before airlines adopted enhanced cleaning procedures and mask requirements, according to a news release.

“That’s 44 people out of the nearly 1.2 billion passengers who have traveled in 2020, or one case for every 27 million travelers this year. As IATA suggests, this is approximately the same risk category as being struck by lightning,” Southwest said in a statement.

Another study from Airbus, Boeing and Embraer found that an airplane’s airflow systems, filters and seatback barriers, along with wearing a mask, make flying safer than being in another type of indoor environment.

“We expect demand to be stronger around the holidays so it probably makes sense to make more seats available to customers in December,” Helane Becker, managing director and senior research analyst at Cowen, told NBC News.

Becker also cited the IATA study as proof transmission rates are lower in air travel.

The decision to open up middle seats comes as Southwest posted its biggest ever quarterly loss on Thursday. The airline reported a loss of $1.2 billion in the three months ended Sept. 30. During the same period last year, Southwest posted a $659 million profit.

“This practice of effectively keeping middle seats open bridged us from the early days of the pandemic, when we had little knowledge about the behavior of the virus, to now,” the airline said in a statement Thursday. “Today, aligned with science-based findings from trusted medical and aviation organizations, we will resume selling all available seats for travel beginning Dec. 1, 2020.”

Delta and Alaska are the only two U.S. airlines now committing to block middle seats through January. With Southwest now gearing up to run full flights during the post-Thanksgiving travel holiday period, some customers expressed concern about whether this was the right choice.

“This is disheartening. Even with the middle seat empty I was almost too nervous to consider return to SW air travel. Are you requiring 100% mask compliance?” one person wrote on Twitter. “I would definitely get off a plane if even one person is not wearing their mask.”

Another person questioned why middle seats are being unblocked when cases are starting to surge.

“Very upsetting to learn this just as all the scientific, solid predictions are that cases are spiraling upward and will continue thru the winter,” they wrote. “With this policy I would not risk flying even for a family emergency. Hope you’ll roll this back.”

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said on Thursday that the airline is seeing “modest improvements in leisure passenger trends since the slowdown we experienced

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Travel destinations start strategizing how to get consumers to come back

These are among the strategies the travel industry is starting to deploy as it begins the long slog to getting customers to return when the pandemic wanes.

They’re featuring images of visitors outside, with no crowds — even in cities — and offering flexible bookings and liberal cancellation policies with insurance included to cover not only cancellations but also emergency evacuations, medical expenses, and quarantine costs.

They’re giving deep discounts and pitching packages to celebrate missed anniversaries and honeymoons, and subscription deals for “workcations” and other long stays under the watchful eyes of “guest guardians.”

They’re featuring remote locations with no crowds, touting high square-footage-to-guest ratios and zeroing in on families and friends who they expect will prefer to travel and stay together, using gift cards that never expire.

Even places likely to remain out of reach the longest are trying to stay connected with their customers through everything from e-mail updates to virtual tours, wine clubs, cooking destinations, and “wanderlists.”

“You will not rationally convince someone that it’s safe to go on vacation,” said Allen Adamson, managing partner of marketing strategy company Metaforce and author of the book BrandSimple, who has studied how the travel industry promotes itself. “You have to emotionally convince them.”

That’s what’s behind subtle images of wide open spaces and such things as free trips for travel agents to Universal Studios in Florida, which asked in return that they post photos of their visit on social media.

Visitors at Universal Studios, in Orlando, in June.
Visitors at Universal Studios, in Orlando, in June.John Raoux/Associated Press

“The idea is that if people see that the travel agent thinks it’s safe, then they will think it’s safe,” said Jonathan de Araujo, owner of the travel agency the Vacationeer in Watertown, who took up the theme park on its offer.

Eighty percent of Americans say they are willing to pay more for privacy and distancing, and nearly 60 percent that they’re more likely than in the past to travel with close friends, according to a survey by the travel division of the public relations firm Ketchum, which found that cleanliness is also a deciding factor.

The people whose job it is to fill airplane seats, hotel rooms, restaurants, and package tours are paying unprecedented attention to findings like those.

“Travel marketers need to be much more nimble in understanding what’s in their target audiences’ minds right now,” Adamson said.

That’s why the guided vacation company Trafalgar is adding “well-being directors” to its trips and the Anantara hotels, resorts, and spas are hiring “guest guardians” to ensure that health protocols are being followed.

“People want to know that they can travel safely and that they can travel wisely, so we’re communicating health and safety precautions,” said Jessica Bradford, who handles public relations in the United States for the Bangkok-based luxury chain.

And while people once may have been drawn to destinations that were wildly popular, such as Amsterdam and Barcelona, now Anantara is expecting they’ll prefer to stay at villas it operates deep in the Abu

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Winter Will Be the Start of Travel’s Turnaround, Says Hilton Exec

(Bloomberg) — Dino Michael took on one of the most coveted jobs in travel, that of global head of luxury brands for Hilton Worldwide, in November 2019. Four months into his tenure, the industry collapsed around him.

That means that for most of the time he’s been in charge of Hilton’s crown jewels—Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and the collection of independent properties known as LXR—he’s been focused on difficult, long-distance troubleshooting, rather than glamorous long-distance travel.

For someone who started the year dreaming big about the renovation and reopening of New York’s iconic Waldorf flagship and expansion plans around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic may have come as an especially big shock. But speaking with Bloomberg Pursuits from London, Michael is steadfastly optimistic.

a large building: 1472766829_secrets-waldorf-astoria-hotel-13

© Bloomberg

“The one thing that has stood out to me over the last few months is—given how big an enterprise we are—how nimble we’ve been able to be,” he says, pointing to the quick rollouts of flexible cancellation policies and strict cleaning measures that the company committed to under the CleanStay initiative it announced in late April.


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Even with the company’s second-quarter earnings reports that show overall revenue per available room dropping by 81% year-over-year, with the luxury segment taking a disproportionate hit when compared with extended stay and limited service brands, Michael is bullish. His two highest-end properties in New York, the Waldorf and the Conrad, have clung to life while such mid-priced behemoths as the Hilton Times Square surrendered to fate.

“Right now,  service looks a little different. It’s more hands-off, we understand that. But service is even more important right now … and with winter coming, there’s real opportunity.”

On New York’s Waldorf Astoria

The Waldorf’s long-awaited reopening was supposed to take place in 2021. As with many an ambitious renovation, that’s been pushed back—most likely until 2022, Michael says. Roughly two-thirds of its 1,400 rooms are being converted into luxury condos designed by Jean-Louis Denoit; the sales office for Waldorf Towers opened in February, with 75 units listed, just before the pandemic arrested all development in Manhattan.

But the spaces travelers know and love will be “restored” more than “renovated,” Michael says, of an effort to return to their original postwar grandeur.

a store inside of a building: 1472766696_secrets-waldorf-astoria-hotel-18

© Bloomberg

“We’re taking out every single window frame, peeling back every piece of wallpaper,” he begins, describing a project that’s estimated to cost $1 billion. “We’re doubling every room in size. I think we’ll have the largest entry-level room in the city—over 620 square feet.” He also mentions such historical refurbishes as converting the ornamental flower pots at the top of the Park Avenue entryway back to the large lighting fixtures that once spotlighted women’s dresses as they waltzed through the double doors. In the process, at least 80,000 decorative objects have been removed and put up for auction.

As for the oversized meeting and event spaces that have made the hotel a global bastion for fancy weddings and black-tie galas? Michael says “it’s too early

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Essay About Traveling: Why Should You Start Travelling Today?

Traveling is an extraordinary experience every person needs to try. It reveals a whole new and exciting world out there, opens out your inner strength, and presents with unforgettable adventures. Read an example of essay about traveling to learn more and get inspired.

Traveling – The First Thing on Your To-Do List

There is nothing quite like traveling, like seeing a new place for the first time or returning to a favorite one. People of all ages, from all around the world, go to foreign places for different reasons – mainly, for work, family, and leisure. Whether by plane, train, ship or by automobile, traveling is generally a pleasurable experience, at least for the people who can financially afford comfortable and safe methods of travel. But it has more benefits than satisfying one’s need to make money, like, for example, to see loved ones and enjoy oneself on vacation. There are other benefits of traveling worth mentioning and trying out.


One of the significant benefits of traveling is finding and keeping inner balance. Too often, people get wrapped up in their lives, their daily routine of working, sleeping, eating, and living. They become self-absorbed to the point when their fatigue affects their health, their happiness, and their future.

Essay about Traveling

It’s a great, big world out there with billions and billions of people, who each day live their life and have their own unique experiences.

Traveling is a humbling experience. It is merely a superior feeling: to go to another country, and to see people live differently, speak differently, look differently. This is how one comes to understand how big and crazy our world is.

Another benefit to traveling is coming to see one’s native country in a different light, in a different way. It is possible through making a comparison of your home and a foreign location. Sure, this is impossible without traveling. Going to unknown places create new perspectives and inspiration.

Away from home, one comes to understand what “home” actually is and what it means.

Perhaps their native country is not as free as they had been told or initially thought it to be, for example. One does not understand what it means to be a citizen of their native country until they have seen it from a distance, from another, completely different country. When traveling elsewhere and having to live according to a foreign place’s laws and social norms, one immediately thinks of how things are done in their own country and culture and begins to favor one way or another. This changes how one feels about their native land, whether in a better or a worse way. This notion can be applied to various characteristics, such as women’s rights, human rights, customs and traditions, beliefs, a trust for government, etc. Traveling is always beneficial for the individual experiencing it.


Essay about Travelling

Another great benefit of traveling is a life experience. Many people do not have the luxury of going to another

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Start planning ahead for future vacation adventures

The world is your oyster, but at the moment, there’s no lustrous pearl inside. Until travel returns, spend your time planning the best vacation ever. Here are 10 things you can do.

1. Figure out who is going

Whether the family, you and your siblings or some other collection of folks, check whether there are dates that won’t work. If you’re going solo, congratulate yourself and skip to Step 2.

2. Set a goal

Gather your group — even if virtually — and figure out what each of you wants from your respite. It’s critical to find out who wants to lounge undisturbed on the beach for a week and who wants to do the equivalent of study abroad. If this doesn’t go well, maybe some folks should go one way and some another.

3. Choose your destination

A beach vacation may sound simple, but California alone has more than 400 public beaches. Which one of the thousands around the world will work for you? A learning trip can be any place you choose; what’s a favorite and what are the risks?

Start planning now to make your future vacation go smoothly. Getty Images

4. Decide how much you want to spend

Start saving. How much can you set aside? You don’t want to rely on credit cards. A vacation savings account is one of the most important girders in this construction.

5. Begin expense calculations

If you’re driving, figure your mileage, miles per gallon and the cost of gas. Go to AAA Gas Prices. Flying? Start perusing airfares. Lodging, meals and incidentals? See the federal government’s per diems for international travel and U.S. travel in the Lower 48 and in Alaska, Hawaii and the territories.

6. Add up hidden costs

Do you need insurance? (See below.) If you need to board a pet, pay someone to bring in your mail and check on the house, park at the airport or a cab or ride-share, figure in those costs. Unless you’re tent camping or staying with family, calculate tips, and don’t forget the housekeeper. Figure in transportation at your destination.

It’s never too early to think of what you’ll need to bring with you on your next trip. Getty Images

7. Begin your bookings

A travel adviser (don’t call them agents) can help with complex vacations. But if you prefer to do it yourself, save the details of each transaction. Keep meticulous records. Consider using a planning app (TripIt is one), but many people also like to keep paper records as a backup.

8. Buy insurance, but be careful

Because coronavirus is now a known event, you probably won’t be covered if you want to cancel your trip, unless you have cancel-for-any-reason insurance. Read the fine print, talk with an agent and find out whether a travel provider’s default is covered.

Don’t forget to factor in costs like pet boarding. Getty Images

9. Make sure your documentation is current

If you’re traveling internationally, check passport expiration dates; know that some

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11 travel apps to start summer vacation planning now

Editors’ note: This post has been updated with new information about several of the apps.

Whether you’re dreaming of a summer getaway but need reservations, or just need help navigating your already-planned journey, the app stores are full of apps to give you a hand. The summer travel season is here in the northern hemisphere, so we’ve rounded up some of the most useful travel apps, all of which are great for long vacations and short trips alike.

The first section is dedicated to apps that help you book reservations for flights and hotels, and the next group helps you pack your bags. The third keeps you organized en route and the final collection has apps that will help you find something to do when you’re at your destination.

Research and reservations

These apps will help you book your travel reservations, including flights, hotels and car rentals.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET


Android and iOS; Free

Hipmunk is well known for its travel booking service, and its app is extremely easy to use to book flights and hotels. You can use it to find hotel deals near you, browse hotels by city, and search for flights.

What’s unique about the app is that, when hunting for flights, you can sort your search results with a filter called Agony. That means you’ll see itineraries with the least amount of layovers and hassle first, followed by longer trips that may be less expensive. You can also create fare alerts for a particular search and the app will let you know when there’s a deal on flights.

What’s great: The app has a clean design, which makes selecting flights easy.

What’s not: You can’t book your travel from the app, and you can’t set specific price alerts for flights or hotels.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET


Android and iOS; Free

This simple app helps you find just the right hotel in the right area. You type in the city where you want to stay, choose your dates, pick your room size, and then run a search. The app will show available hotels on a map, so you can see if that beachfront resort in Maui is actually next to the ocean.

You can filter your search results by price, rating and amenities, such as free Wi-Fi or a pool. For each hotel listed, you’ll see prices from the major booking companies, including Expedia, Priceline, Hotels.com and Travelocity.

What’s great: Trivago’s helpful map makes it really easy to find a hotel exactly where you want to stay.

What’s not: You can’t book a reservation in the app, and you can’t sort prices by the type of room.

Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Kayak Pro

Android and iOS; 99 cents

Kayak Pro is an old standby for finding flights, but updates over the app’s long lifespan have added tons more to help you plan your vacation.

You can start with

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