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United Airline Ventures Invests In Algae-Based Fuel Producer, Viridos

United Airline Ventures (UAV) is investing in Viridos; an algae biofuel company that is aiming to turn microalgae into sustainable aviation fuel (SAV).

American Airlines

United Airlines Now Requiring All US Employees To Get Covid-19 Vaccinations 

United Airlines will now require all of its 67,000 US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by October 25th or they will risk termination. This is a first for major US travel agencies that will likely ramp up the pressure for rival services. 

Airlines have mainly been offering incentives for vaccinated employees, like extra pay or time off for being inoculated. Delta Air Lines in May started requiring all new employees show proof of vaccination in order to get hired and United followed suit in June. 

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United’s requirements mark the strictest mandate implemented by a travel service in the US so far. Other companies like Facebook and Walmart have announced that they are requiring all corporate employees to show proof of vaccination before returning to the office. 

 United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart sent out a note to all employees this Friday detailing why this requirement is so important for the future of the company and air travel in general. 

“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees. But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”

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The note detailed that United Airlines employees must upload proof that they received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose five weeks after federal officials give them approval, or by October 25th, whichever comes first. 

The mandate will not apply to regional airlines that fly shorter express flights for United. 

About 90% of all pilots and 80% of all flight attendants working for United Airlines claim to already be fully vaccinated, according to company officials. So the mandate is more so for employees working on the ground in the airports who see tens of thousands of flyers every day. 

About 60% of all American Airlines pilots are also vaccinated, according to a letter from the company’s union, the Allied Pilots Association, which has been working to get more employees vaccinated. 

The rise in Covid-19 cases last fall combined with the new highly-contagious Delta variant is motivating travel employees to create new ways to protect themselves from future travel. Time will tell what other agencies will follow United’s lead in terms of vaccination requirements.

Delta Airplane

Delta And United Airlines Will Permanently Remove International Change Fees 

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the travel industry in the US in more ways than one. Many major airline companies have begun implementing new policies to help cushion the economic blow that the tourism sector has suffered from within the past ten months of the pandemic. Most recently, Delta and United airlines have announced that they will be permanently eliminating change fees for flights across the globe. 

Throughout the entire pandemic airlines throughout the world and nation have recognized that there would be a major decline in travel, so they began eliminating fees that are typically charged to travelers who change their international flights or cancel them all together. Initially this was just a temporary move so that travelers wouldn’t have to worry about paying more money in the middle of a global health and economic crisis, however, Delta and United realized the elimination of these fees is actually a great thing for consumers and the airlines all together. 

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For Delta specifically, the airline will waive its $200 international change fee for any flight that “originates in the US or between the US, Mexico and the Caribbean going forward, including code-share flights,” according to the company’s announcement. Basic economic fares are excluded and according to Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian this elimination has proven to be extremely valuable.

“Our approach has always been to put people first, which is why we’re extending our current change fee waiver and making lasting changes to our practices, so customers have the trust and confidence they need long after the pandemic ends.”  

Delta is going to continue to charge $75 for same-day standby, but the airline is extending its Covid-19 policy waivers which removes change fees for all domestic and international tickets purchased through March 30th of this year. 

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United Airlines also recently announced that they would be eliminating change fees for international flights moving forward. For domestic flights, change fees will also be eliminated but only for flights booked before or on March 31st of this year. The airline wrote a statement in which they claimed that the decision was “made recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever.” 

United initially implemented the no-change fee policy back in August for all domestic flights which inspired a slew of other airlines in America to waive their flight change fees as well. American Airlines became the first US airline to get rid of change fees completely for all flights from North or South America and the airline has also eliminated their fee for domestic same-day standby.

American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer, Vasu Raja, recently released a statement regarding the choice, stating that the company is “committed to making travel easier for customers who fly on American.” 

It’s expected that other modes of transportation that make up the tourism sector for the US’s economy will also begin to implement policies and waivers of fees like these airlines at least in the beginning of the post-pandemic reopening of the country as a means of rebuilding what was lost within the past ten months.

Boeing 737 Max Returns To US Skies With First Commercial Flights After Crashes

American Airlines announced last week that they were set to operate the first US commercial flight of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft’s since the two deadly crashes that occurred in 2019, prompting a worldwide grounding of all Boeing 737 Max’s in March of the same year. 

The flight at this point has already departed, and was scheduled as American Airlines Flight 718, which departed from Miami International Airport at 10:30 a.m. ET for New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Fort Worth is the Texas-based carrier of the aircraft’s that will be operating daily round-trip flights between Miami and New York, and then will begin increasing services to other cities in the coming weeks of the new year. 

United Airlines plans to begin flights using the 737 Max’s on February 11th out of its Denver and Houston hubs. Southwest Airlines agreed to begin flying the planes in the second quarter of 2021. Gol is a Brazilian carrier of strictly Boeing 737 Max planes that actually performed the first relaunch of the jets earlier this month. 

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The planes in general are much more fuel-efficient when compared to traditional commercial planes, which makes them central to a lot of airlines plans around the world. More than 3,000 of the jets are currently on order internationally. 

When all Boeing 737 Max jets were forced to ground in March of 2019, it was quickly recognized as the largest grounding in US history. The Federal Aviation Administration just recently cleared the 737 Max for commercial flight again after Boeing made several safety-related changes to the aircraft. 

Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in Ethiopia in March 2019 were the two flights that resulted in deadly crashes. Pilots on both flights claimed to have battled an automated flight-control system that was incorrectly activated somehow. All 346 individuals on both flights were killed.

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Changes made to the jets include “making the flight-control system less aggressive, providing more redundancy and implementing more robust pilot training that includes time in a flight simulator,” according to news reports. Investigations into both crashes found that there were a multitude of problems with each plane’s development, design, and certification by US regulators.

American Airlines and other carriers of the jets have said that if customers booked a flight on the 737 Max without knowing and didn’t feel comfortable flying on that model, they could switch their flight for free. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson spoke with the media last month, claiming he is “100% confident in the jets and a repeat of the scenarios that led to the two crashes is impossible.”

“In a way, the best thing for the 737 Max has been that it is has taken them 20 months to get the planes ready to going back into service and for almost a year we have had news of the coronavirus that has consumed more attention related to travel than the 737 Max,” said Henry Harteveldt, a former airline executive and president of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel consulting firm.

American Airlines has ordered 76 of the planes and originally had 24 in its fleet when the original grounding occurred in 2019, proving their confidence in the jets as well.

Delta Airline on Screen

Delta Among Airlines Adding Passengers Who Refuse To Wear Masks To No-Fly List

Travelling anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic poses a certain level of risk, but getting on a plane especially is cause for taking as many precautions as possible. Many airlines have begun implementing mandatory health and safety procedures such as social distancing markers within all airports, requiring facial coverings at all times, and removing middle seat options from being purchased.

For the most part, major airlines throughout the US are taking these procedures seriously and mandating them within all locations. Delta, specifically, wants their customers to understand how important these policies are, and have gone so far as to place people on the no-fly list for refusing to wear a mask while on board. 

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Delta CEO Ed Bastian recently spoke with the media about the company’s mask policy, claiming that while some consumers may think being added to the no-fly list is “excessive,” they believe health and safety is number one priority always. 

“We’ve been… steadily and rather aggressively stepping up our enforcement of the mask policy. If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future.”

The airline has had this policy implemented since the beginning of this pandemic, however, they only recently began seriously enforcing it as a part of their “Clearance-to-Fly” program. This program requires all passengers who claim to have medical conditions that exempt them from wearing a mask to go through a lengthy process to get pre-approval, however, the airline more so suggests that if you are one of these individuals, to stay home and not get on any sort of plane. 

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Delta began blocking out middle seat ticket listings to restrict airplane capacity in May, and is planning on continuing this until at least the end of September, however, it’s more dependent on how much worse the pandemic gets within the next two months. Bastian claims that all planes are also consistently sanitized between flights and layovers. 

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety in the general public — and even for road warriors who have been out flying for years — their first time back, there’s a level of angst that they need almost be walked through the process.”

Bastian claims that while he’s ready for traditional airline travel to resume, he knows that a vaccine is the only thing that will make everyone feel comfortable getting on a plane again, as he feels the same way. “We need some medical confidence back in consumers and continue to restore confidence in air travel.”

Southwest Airlines is one of the more recent companies to require all passengers wear a mask with no exceptions; regardless of any medical conditions that may prevent someone from wearing one. They claim if you have an illness severe enough to hinder your ability to wear a mask, you shouldn’t be getting on a plane in the middle of a global health crisis in general. 

American and United airlines also claimed that they would temporarily ban passengers from flying on their planes if they refuse to wear a mask on board like Delta.