CATHAY PACIFIC Adding Flights in June

Like most of the world’s airlines, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon are currently operating extremely limited schedules in light of the ongoing pandemic equating to roughly 3% of the airlines’ pre-coronavirus capacity.

These minimal passenger flight schedules will continue through the first three weeks of June 2020.

Between 21-30 June, however, the airlines intend to operate additional passenger flights across their networks, lifting capacity to 5% of pre-coronavirus operations subject to government travel restrictions.

“It’s early days but we’re encouraged by this and will continue to monitor similar developments with other airlines.”

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

The increased schedule will see Cathay Pacific will operate five flights per week from Hong Kong to:

  • London (Heathrow)
  • Los Angeles
  • Vancouver
  • Sydney

Three flights per week from Hong Kong to:

  • Amsterdam
  • Frankfurt
  • San Francisco
  • Melbourne
  • Mumbai
  • Delhi

And daily flights from Hong Kong to:

  • Tokyo (Narita)
  • Osaka
  • Seoul
  • Taipei
  • Manila
  • Bangkok
  • Jakarta
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Singapore.

Daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai (Pudong) will be operated by Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon. Meanwhile, Cathay Dragon will also operate a daily flight to Kuala Lumpur.

The airlines have advised they will continue to monitor the developing situation and further adjustments may be made as necessary.

For more information, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

SOCIAL Distancing at 40,000 Feet

During these times of isolation and physical distancing, it’s not unreasonable to wonder how this might work at 40,000 feet.

Even though most of the world’s commercial passenger aircraft are parked and patiently awaiting the restart of the global economy, many airlines still have a few aircraft servicing essential routes. So, if you find yourself on one, how will you ensure a safe, social distance from the other passengers?

In what might just be the best silver lining in all of this, airlines are leaving their dreaded middle-seats empty.

“Flying is going to feel different for a while yet. Fewer flights, fewer people, fewer everything. But, on the up-side, more space for everyone.” 

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

Or as Virgin Australia describes it, “Virgin Australia has implemented new social distancing measures on all scheduled domestic flights until further notice. Guests will have the seat next to them blocked as part of the new social distancing policy.”

Similarly at Qantas, whilst acknowledging that the risk of contracting Coronavirus on board an aircraft is regarded as low, “social distancing has been put in place across all flights.”

Our friends at US carrier Delta Air Lines also recently supplied this update around its new COVID-19 practices and policies for all flights through the end of June:

  • Reducing the total number of passengers per flight.
  • Blocking middle seats in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ and Delta Premium Select.
  • Modifying boarding process so customers will now be boarded by row, starting from the rear of the aircraft.

For information about how your favourite airlines are dealing with social distancing and other parts of their services, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US for a chat.

We’d love to hear from you.

EXCHANGING Miles for Smiles

We’re all looking for feel-good travel stories at the moment, right?

Here’s one.

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper, brought a smile to his dial by making the most of an Aegean Air—a Star Alliance Member—program that encourages frequent flyers to donate miles to referral hospitals in Greece.

And to increase the impact of gestures like this, the airline triples the miles contribution. Not only that, it offers two round-trip tickets to medical staff so that, when this is over, they can take a break with their plus-ones in any Greek destination on the Aegean Air network.

“I didn’t have a huge miles balance. But I know those miles can be better utilised by others and work much harder than they would for me.”

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

“I know many other people doing similar things with their miles and points. It’ll be a while before any of us are in the air again, and it feels nice to have made a contribution those working at the COVID coal face,” Hosper added.

Aegean Air isn’t unique in offering ways for customers to put their miles to work charitably.

Here are some more examples.

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Qantas’ program supports a range of organisations from the Australian Red Cross, Unicef, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Royal Flying Doctor Service and more.

More info here.

Singapore Airlines and KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines supports Make-A-Wish Singapore to help fulfill the wishes of children with life threatening illnesses.

More info here.

The Emirates Airline Foundation

If you’re a Skywards member you can donate your Miles to the Emirates Foundation to sponsor the travel of doctors and volunteer professionals serving on humanitarian missions.

More info here.

Etihad Guest

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad enables flyers to donate to the UNHCR through its Etihad Guest frequent flyer program to support the prevention and response efforts in view of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in refugees settings.

Etihad Guest contributions can be made in any number of miles.

Marriott Bonvoy

The Bonvoy loyalty program covers 30 hotel brands, and is currently encouraging members to donate points and aid crisis relief efforts for COVID-19 and more worldwide.

Donations can be directed to a number of organisations including:

  • World Central Kitchen
  • UNICEF
  • American Red Cross
  • International Federation
  • The Marriott International Disaster Relief Fund

More info here.

There are, of course, many more.

If you’re interested in doing something similar, be sure to check-in with your preferred frequent flyer program and see just how much good you can do with your miles and points.

For more information, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

VELOCITY Program Redemptions Pause

Following the announcement that Virgin Australia has entered voluntary administration, the airline’s Velocity frequent flyer program—a separate business—has announced a decision to pause all redemptions for an initial period of four weeks, effective immediately.

Velocity’s media release [21 April 2020] stated,

“Although Velocity is owned by the Virgin Australia Group, it is a separate company and it is not in administration. That means we’re still operating, but we’ve made some temporary program changes in the interests of members.”

Velocity Frequent Flyer update [21 April 2020]

The decision was made, according to Velocity, because the ongoing travel restrictions have reduced flights and, therefore, opportunities for Velocity members to redeem their points for flights. As a result, members have rushed to use their points to shop online for items like gift cards, electronic goods, and wine.

“This unexpected demand has made it difficult for our suppliers to provide these offers and limits the availability for all members to redeem their Points.”

Velocity Frequent Flyer update [21 April 2020]

Velocity members have been advised that:

  • Their Points will remain in their accounts.
  • Their existing Points will not expire through this period. The expiration period for existing Points will be extended by the timeframe of the pause.
  • They will continue to earn Points with Velocity partners, even though they won’t be able to redeem them during the pause.

These changes take effect immediately. Although the initial timeframe for this restriction is four weeks, Velocity Members have been advised that this period may be extended.

For more information, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA Enters Voluntary Administration

The Virgin Australia Holdings Limited Board of Directors has appointed Deloitte as voluntary administrators of the company and a number of its subsidiaries.

The airline advised that it has entered voluntary administration to “recapitalise the business and help ensure it emerges in a stronger financial position on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.”

“We feel for our friends at Virgin Australia, and wish them well as the airline navigates its way through the headwinds of administration and beyond. This is a disappointing moment for Virgin Australia and travel industry more broadly. Australia needs two robust, competitive airlines. We’re hopeful that this process delivers that.”

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

Virgin Australia will continue to operate its scheduled international and domestic flights which are helping to transport essential workers, maintain important freight corridors, and return Australians home.

Administrator, Vaughan Strawbridge, said: “Our intention is to undertake a process to restructure and re-finance the business and bring it out of administration as soon as possible.

“We have commenced a process of seeking interest from parties for participation in the recapitalisation of the business and its future, and there have been several expressions of interest so far,” Strawbridge added.

Velocity Frequent Flyer, while owned by the Group, is a separate company and is not in administration.

“Our decision today is about securing the future of the Virgin Australia Group and emerging on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Virgin Australia Group Chief Executive Officer, Paul Scurrah.

“In 20 years, the Virgin Australia Group has earned its place as part of the fabric of Australia’s tourism industry. We employ more than 10,000 people and a further 6,000 indirectly, fly to 41 destinations including major cities and regional communities, have more than 10 million members of our Velocity loyalty program, and contribute around $11 billion to the Australian economy every year,” said Mr Scurrah.

“Australia needs a second airline and we are determined to keep flying. Virgin Australia will play a vital role in getting the Australian economy back on its feet after the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring the country has access to competitive and high-quality air travel.”

For more information, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

MINIMAL Domestic Schedules to Commence

On the back of confirmation that services will be underwritten by the federal government, both Qantas and Virgin Australia have announced the commencement of minimal domestic schedules.

Both airlines’ minimal schedules commence on Friday 17 April, and at this stage are expected to operate for a period of eight weeks, until 07 June 2020.

The government-underwritten flights will transport passengers and keep important freight corridors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re delighted to see these services take to the sky again. It’s a positive step in the right direction for an otherwise grounded industry.”

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

In a statement, Virgin Australia said, “The minimal domestic schedule will enable Virgin Australia to reinstate some of its stood down flight, cabin and ground crew, along with other operational team members.”

  • Virgin Australia’s minimal schedule will operate 64 return services each week between Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
  • Qantas and Jetstar’s flights will increase from 105 per week currently to 164 per week to all capital cities and 36 regional destinations around the country.

Describing its services, Qantas said that, “While the risk of contracting Coronavirus on board an aircraft is regarded as low, social distancing has been put in place across all flights. Similarly, on-board service will be a scaled back version of what would normally apply, with cabin crew focused on in-flight safety and they will wear personal protective equipment.”

The Travel Authority Group will continue to monitor and report on updated airline schedules as they are announced.

For more information, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

GROUNDED: Parking the Qantas Fleet

With airlines all over the world more or less grounded, where on earth are they parking their aircraft?

Typically, at any given moment, a huge proportion of the world’s aircraft are in the sky. But not these days—the global shutdown has brought the aviation industry to a standstill.

All up there’s more than 200 Qantas Group aircraft parked at major airports around Australia.

Parking a plane isn’t as simple as locking up your car and walking away.

Here’s how Qantas has managed the issue of parking and maintaining its fleet while it awaits a return to the business of flying.

Cleaning

In an update from the airline, John Walker, Head of Maintenance at Qantas, stated that all aircraft are given some ‘TLC before being put to bed’ including an extensive ‘deep clean’ of every interior surface. The outside is given a good wash, too.

Wheels

Did you know that all aircraft have their wheels rotated every seven to 14 days while parked? This is done either by being towed around the tarmac or by using a jack to hoist and spin the wheels. This helps having to replace tyres due to ‘flat spots’.

Engines

Aircraft engines require specialised care as well. Given that each A380 engine is worth about $US25 million, maintaining them is critical.

The engines also need to be fired up every seven or 14 days. The rest of the time, a cover is put on the engine cowling to protect it from dust and insects.

For more information, simply leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA Repatriation Flights

Australian carrier, Virgin Australia, is supporting the Government’s efforts to return Australians home and maintain important freight links into the country.

For a limited period, the airline will be operating one return flight per week between Los Angeles and Brisbane, and two return flights per week between Hong Kong and Brisbane.

Please see the flight schedule below.

In addition, Virgin Australia will operate a one-off service from Brisbane to Paris, with stops in Auckland and Hong Kong. The flight—operated by a Boeing 777-300ER—is a charter service for the French government seeking to return its citizens stranded in New Zealand.

“The seats will go as a priority to the following reported situations, vulnerable people, health personnel, young people in great difficulty and with no return solution,” advises the French Embassy of New Zealand.

The flight will cover 21,000 km on its epic and exclusive repatriation journey, although it will only take on passengers at Auckland – not Brisbane or Hong Kong.

Virgin Australia flight VA9940 will push-back from Brisbane at 8.00am on Saturday 11 April.

“These are extraordinary times, and so many of our travel partners like Virgin Australia are operating under extraordinary conditions”

The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

“We wish them well now as they work to bring Australians home, and as they navigate the economic quagmire affecting all of us,” Hosper added.

For pricing and more information about Virgin Australia’s repatriation flights, leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES Repatriation Flight 11 April 2020

Following agreement between the British, Singaporean, and Australian Governments, Singapore Airlines has advised that it will operate a special single-aircraft repatriation service between Sydney and London Heathrow departing Saturday 11 April.

Please see the flight schedule below

“This is a great initiative in trying times,” said The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

“We encourage all applicable travellers to take appropriate action and secure their seats on this flight. A number of significant terms and conditions apply to carriage on this service, and we implore travellers to familiarise themselves with each of them before they purchase a ticket on this flight,” added Hosper.

Things you should know if you’re considering travel on this flight:

  • Seats are strictly limited.
  • All exit and entry requirements for Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom continue to be enforced by respective governments, please ensure customers booked on this flight are approved to travel as per government guidelines.
  • Singapore Airlines will not uplift Australian Citizens or Permanent Residents unless they have exemptions to leave Australia. Passengers must apply for an exemption at least 24 hours before departure.
    CLICK HERE for the link to relevant forms.
  • Advanced seat selection and seat changes during the flight will be prohibited. Singapore Airlines will determine all seating allocations.
  • Passengers will be required to undergo temperature screening at Sydney Airport, and answer a questionnaire. Singapore Airlines will have final discretion on who will be allowed on the aircraft, based on the temperature screening and questionnaire responses.
  • Passengers with Singapore as their destination will disembark from the aircraft in Singapore.
  • Passengers with London as their destination will remain on-board for 1.5 hours and will NOT be allowed to disembark the aircraft, and therefore will not enter Changi Airport.
  • All passengers wishing to utilise this service must have a ticketed itinerary prior to arriving at SYD airport. Any person arriving at SYD airport without a valid ticket will be denied entry to the airport as per current government regulations.

For more information, please leave us a note in the form below, or CALL US to discuss your specific requirements.

We’d love to hear from you.

BUSINESS AS (UN)USUAL: Update No. 2

03 April 2020

We hope you’re adjusting well to this new ‘normal’—a state of affairs that still seems to change hourly.

We’re pleased with the announcements coming from our state and federal leaders. As always, the devil will be in detail, but we’re hopeful that their roll-out will be straightforward and effective.

For now, however, we’re working from home and getting used to the new reality of that.

A few personal observations:

  • My cat seems annoyed that I’m in her house much more than I used to be. (See catty contempt in the header image)
  • It turns out that my partner—who works in technology—is not technical at all.

In fact, it seems like many of us are learning thing about our partners that we never knew before. Imagine, for example, not knowing that you were married to ‘let’s circle back’ guy.

How’s working from home going for you?

Over in Western Australia, our team at The Travel Authority Resource are still busy. We’re really very proud to support essential industries like energy and resources.

And on the New South Wales Central Coast, our leisure travel team continues to work hard, we’re pleased to say, on the re-booking of holidays for next year. Despite also now working from home, they can be contacted through all the usual touch-points.

We hope you’re enjoying our Business as (Un)usual updates, and are looking forward to travelling again as soon as possible.

We thank all of our clients, business partners, even our competitors for their support and friendship. Our industry is a tight one, and the support means the world to us wherever it comes from.

We know we’ve said before that we appreciate there’s little you can do for us right now. But when life returns to normal and you’re ready to book your corporate travel, holidays, your conference or event, our award-winning teams will be ready to look after you, your families, friends and anybody you could refer to us.

We would really love that.

Peter Hosper
Co-Founder and CEO of The Travel Authority Group