Criminal investigation launched after 600 cruise passengers test positive for coronavirus

A criminal investigation into the docking of a cruise ship is being launched by police in Australia after 600 passengers who disembarked later tested positive for coronavirus.

Carnival’s Ruby Princess cruise liner docked in Sydney on 19 March with 2,700 holidaymakers and 1,400 crew onboard.

Some 200 crew members also displayed symptoms of Covid-19.

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The police probe will look at whether national biosecurity laws were broken in allowing passengers to disembark from the ship, when so many were showing symptoms of the virus.

“The only way I can get to the bottom of whether our national biosecurity laws and our state laws were broken is through a criminal investigation,” said New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller at a press conference.

He added that ships are permitted to dock only if the captain can assure the authorities that those onboard are not carrying a contagious disease.

The actions of the port authority, ambulance service, police, NSW Health and Carnival Australia, the cruise company that own the Ruby Princess, will all come under scrutiny as part of the investigation.

So far, 11 passengers from the Ruby Princess have died, accounting for more than a third of all coronavirus-related deaths in Australia at the time of writing.

Passengers weren’t tested onboard, but were found to have Covid-19 after having already disembarked in Australia.

Carnival Australia is fully cooperating with the investigation, according to police.

It follows the stories of a number of cruise ships that struggled to find places to dock amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One such vessel, the Zaandam, was finally allowed to dock in Florida last week after being stuck at sea for three weeks.

President Trump overruled the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, who initially denied permission for Zaandam to end her long voyage at her home port of Fort Lauderdale.

The Holland America Line vessel, with 229 British passengers on board, left Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chile on 12 March. She had not been able to disembark passengers at any port since then, despite repeated attempts.

Four passengers died from Covid-19 onboard in that time, while others became critically ill.

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Here's something to look forward to… bag a bargain deal on a cruise

Here’s something to look forward to… bag a bargain deal on a cruise holiday for later this year or next

  • The Best Of The West Indies Winter Escape takes in Antigua, St Lucia and more 
  • You can discover both Spain and Portugal on a no-fly cruise offered by P&O 
  • Crystal Symphony is setting sail from Mombasa to Cape Town next March 

Cruise ships may have dropped anchor for now, but there are plenty of enticing bargains to be snapped up for holidays later this year and next.

You can save on winter heating bills at home and dine out every night for just £61pp a day when you spend seven weeks on a no-fly cruise to the Caribbean.

The Best Of The West Indies Winter Escape takes place aboard the Amy Johnson, the new flagship of the Cruise & Maritime fleet (cruiseandmaritime.com).

Island paradise: Explore the lush landscape of St Lucia during a seven-week Caribbean cruise next year

The ship leaves Tilbury on November 10, 2021, and there will be lots of relaxing days at sea before you call at nine islands in the Caribbean, including Antigua, St Lucia, Grenada and Barbados, plus two in the Azores on the return journey.

Fares for the 36-night break start at £2,194pp because the second person sharing your cabin sails free.

Another great value no-fly cruise is offered on sparkling new Iona, the latest ship built for British holidaymakers by P&O (pocruises.com).

The Spain and Portugal cruise, sailing round-trip from Southampton on March 6 next year, will take you on a leisurely two-week voyage to Vigo, Gibraltar, Alicante, Barcelona and Lisbon, all for £999pp. Invite a third or even a fourth person to share your cabin and they’ll pay just £199 each.

Solo travellers often get a raw deal in terms of prices because of single supplements. But to celebrate the launch of the new riverboat MS Arena, Arena Travel (arenatravel.com) has scrapped the charges in Europe this year.

On its Journey Along The Danube To The Rhine this autumn, all fares cost from £1,495pp – a saving of £748 for solo travellers. Highlights of the 13-day cruise, heading from Budapest to Cologne on October 16, include an overnight stay in Vienna and scenic cruising in the Wachau Valley. Fares include flights and transfers.

Farther afield, what could be more exciting than an exotic adventure to look forward to? On the varied African Allure trip, sailing from Mombasa to Cape Town, you’ll stop at the cultural melting pot Zanzibar, the Comoros Islands and the wildlife-rich Richards Bay in South Africa.

On an African Allure sailing with Crystal Cruises, you will visit Zanzibar, the Comoros Islands, pictured, and Richards Bay in South Africa 

Book now for discounted fares from £3,853pp (saving £1,680pp), and be ready to bask in all-inclusive luxury for 14 nights when Crystal Symphony sets sail on March 8, 2021. 

You will also have the reassurance of the new Crystal Confidence cancellation policy – cancel up to a week before your holiday and you’ll receive 100 per cent credit towards a future cruise (crystalcruises.co.uk).

Extras on holiday can add up, but far less so on a 14-night Baltic Heritage cruise from Southampton on May 15, 2021, that includes a Princess Plus package usually costing £70pp a day.

Grand Princess (princess.com) stays overnight in St Petersburg, calls at Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki and Copenhagen, and you’ll enjoy cocktails, cappuccinos and unlimited wi-fi. Fares, which start at £1,989pp, include gratuities, too. 

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From 271 to 13: American suspends most NYC flights amid coronavirus crisis; demand 'evaporating'


American Airlines is suspending most of its flights to the New York metropolitan area on Tuesday as travel demand evaporates to the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

EDDF Picture: N279AY American Airlines Airbus A330-243   (Photo by Patrick Becker/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

American will operate just 13 daily flights to LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports through May 6, compared with 271 a year ago.

“As coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in New York City and the surrounding region continue to increase, along with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for travel to the area, the demand for flights to the New York area is rapidly evaporating,” David Seymour, American’s senior vice president of operations, said in a statement late Sunday.

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American said it will only operate these flights in April:

LaGuardia; Two daily flights to its Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dallas hubs. One daily flight to Boston, Chicago, Miami and Washington, D.C.

JFK: One daily flight to Dallas, Charlotte and Miami.

Newark: One daily flight to Dallas and Charlotte. 

The announcement comes a day after United slashed flights to the metro area. Spirit Airlines, JetBlue and other carriers had already suspended service since New York is a coronavirus hotspot.


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Dealing with stress during coronavirus: The world’s first online retreat

If the idea of a wellness retreat feels about a million miles away right now, New Zealander Janine Hall might have the answer.

Hall, who owns two award-winning women’s resorts in Bali, has created what she believes to be the world’s first online retreat. Although her real-life retreats Escape Haven and The Palm Tree House have closed their doors for now, Hall has put together Escape @ Home – for anyone to experience five days of Bali magic, from home, and for free.

While a real-life visit to a Bali wellness retreat might include a morning yoga session, a healthy lunch and maybe a vigorous afternoon surfing lesson, a day in the virtual retreat is guided by similar philosophies of wellness. Participants can start each day with a refreshing morning ritual, perhaps followed by a workout, a nutritious lunch and a mindfulness practice. In response to current anxieties, Escape @ Home has a focus on mental clarity and resilience, and coping strategies for stress and worry.

Coursework will be delivered each morning by email, and will include readings, recipes, yoga flows, worksheets and workout videos.

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Holidays: Top five city destinations off the beaten track hand-picked by travel experts

Holidays often take British tourists to the well-worn path. Travellers are generally keen to tick off bucket list destinations and to visit the gems cities are most known for. And while there’s nothing wrong with this approach, holidaymakers shouldn’t forget that heading off the beaten track can throw up some incredible highlights.

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This month Lonely Planet publishes its new book Secret City, an insider’s guide to the world’s coolest neighbourhoods.

The team has shared with Express.co.co.uk five of the best under-the-radar destinations to add to your travel list for after coronavirus.

Woodstock – Cape Town, South Africa

“One of the hippest neighbourhoods in the city, Woodstock is home to microbreweries, craft distilleries, coffee roasteries and art studios,” explains Secret City.

“At heart, it’s still an industrial district – after dark you’d be wise to summon a ride-share service to get from A to B.

“Thanks to its slow gentrification, there are plenty of newly opened attractions and hidden sights to seek out, some even sitting on the main roads.”

Head to Altona Fisheries for famous foot-long sandwich the Gatsby, visit the enduringly popular and ever-busy Neighbourgoods Market on a Saturday and drink beer with a view of Devil’s Peak at the Drifter Brewing Company.

Vesterbro – Copenhagen, Denmark

Lonely Planet writes: “What was once the meat-packing district is now one of the city’s favourite evening hangouts.

“Vesterbro long had the questionable accolade of being Copenhagen’s seediest neighbourhood, with residents crammed into 19th-century tenement blocks, and plenty of unsavoury transactions on the streets.

“A clean-up in the 1990s kick-started its transformation into the hipster ’hood of today, albeit still with rough edges.”

Hang out at Kalvebod Wave on the waterfront, try out the excellent but casual restaurants at War Pigs Brewpub and go for a dip in one of the several harbour baths – Havnebadet Fisketorvet is the most popular.

Euljiro – Seoul, South Korea

“Discover noodle dishes and craft brews in this trendy, industrial-chic neighbourhood,” enthuses the book.

“Minutes from Seoul’s touristy Myeongdong neighbourhood, Euljiro is an industrial quarter filled with printing presses and hardware shops.

“Men in their 50s reigned supreme here five years ago, but recent gentrification has brought in hidden bars and cafes as well as millennial-aged hipsters.”

Eat signature dishes naengmyun, buckwheat noodles in ice broth, and bulgogi, marinated, pan-grilled beef at famous old restaurant Wooraeoak, snap top Instagram photos at Hotel Soosunhwa and peak into Seoul’s history (and shop) at the Sewoon Shopping Centre.

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Karlín – Prague, Czech Republic

“This neighbourhood east of the Old Town was forced to completely reinvent itself after the damage caused by the 2012 floods, which left it in ruins,” details Secret City.

“In a way, the restorations helped to establish an alternative side of Prague – rough around the edges but much more hip.

“It’s impossible to find the same vibe in the occasionally artificial-feeling city centre; head instead to Karlín, which is liveliest at lunch hours and on weekends.”

Savour a coffee at hipster joint Můj Šálek Kávy, sample authentic wines of the former Habsburg Empire at Veltlin and check out Kasárna Karlín – an exceptional space converted from former army barracks. It’s host to concerts, a summer cinema, exhibitions and workshops.

Campo de Ourique – Lisbon, Portugal

“At the end of the line of iconic tram 28, Campo de Ourique doesn’t feature on most tourist itineraries,” explains the book.

“The wide streets of modernist-style pastel-coloured buildings aren’t full of landmarks, but they’re brimming with local shops and family-owned restaurants.

“This is the Lisbon you’ll gloat about to friends and family, never fully unveiling all the spots you found on your wanders.”

Explore Casa Fernando Pessoa, the home where poet Fernando Pessoa lived his final years – a treasure trove of the modernist’s life, tuck into typical hearty and affordable daily specials at Imperial de Campo de Ourique and experience lively neighbourhood market Mercado de Campo de Ourique.

Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet © 2020

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Holidays: How to explore wonders of the world from home with these seven virtual tours

Holidays are often the light at the end of the tunnel for many Britons. What’s more, heading to the wonders of the world is often on the bucket list of many people. However, with coronavirus crushing any hopes of travel in the coming week, foreign jet-setting is not an option any time soon.

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Thankfully, virtual escapism is still available to any Britons hoping to sate their wanderlust.

The travel-hungry can voyage to the new seven wonders of the world during the coronavirus lockdown thanks to virtual tours.

UK-based price comparison service Uswitch have brought together seven free virtual tours, allowing you to experience the allure of these wonders, right from your armchair.

From Jordan’s Rose City of Petra, to the white marble Taj Mahal in India there are more ways to visit these ancient architectural gems than you might think.

1. Great Wall of China, near Beijing, China

Every year, over 10 million people visit the Great Wall, China’s longest wall and biggest ancient construction.

Its winding path covers over 21,000km and the wall is thought to be 2,300 years old.

This Virtual Tour provided by The China Guide allows you to ‘walk’ along the wall with just a click of your mouse.

2. Petra, Jordan

With Google’s Street View Treks, you can get up close and personal with Jordan’s Rose City, Petra.

Leave your passport at home and grab your headphones to be immersed into this stunning city steeped in history and impressive architecture.

Petra is over four times the size of Manhattan, but with Google Street View Treks, you can explore caves, temples and tombs spread out for over a hundred square miles with just a click of your mouse. 

3. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Roughly 6.4 million people visited Rome’s Colosseum last year, making it one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world – and it is easy to see why.

This majestic amphitheatre measures over 189m long and 50m high and could seat over 50,000 to watch sporting events and games.

Skip the crowds and take a virtual tour on YouTube – this hour-long walking tour of the Colosseum is filmed in pin-sharp 4K, immersing you into the action. 

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4. Chichen Itza, Yucatán, Mexico

Attracting more than 900,000 visitors each year, Chichén Itzá continues to be a historical wonder popular with tourists. Situated just two hours from tourist hot-spot Cancun, it’s a popular cultural excursion for many visiting Mexico. 

Experience a 360 view of the stepped pyramids in this virtual tour.

5. Machu Picchu, Cuzco Region, Peru

Set high amongst the Andes mountains in Peru, it’s an adventure just getting to Machu Picchu. Built in the 15th century, this ancient Inca site draws tourists from all over the world to visit.

This virtual tour comes complete with a voiceover, educating and entertaining as you take in the spectacular scenery of Machu Picchu. 

6. Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

This ornate marble mausoleum is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The building was designed to be completely symmetrical and in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake everything would fall away from the tomb inside.

Go behind the scenes of India’s Crown Jewel with this virtual tour from Google. 

7. Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This colossal statue of Christ the Redeemer is the largest art deco statue in the world, standing at an impressive 98 feet tall overlooking Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and has been classed as a ‘World Wonder’ since 2007.

To reach the statue on foot, you’ll scale around 200 steps, but you don’t need to with this virtual tour of the statue. This 360 view includes a guided tour with some interesting facts about the origins and construction. 

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Cruise: The tip that could see you enjoying a better onshore excursion for less money

Cruise holidays encompass all of the relaxations of a luxury boutique hotel with the adventure of a multi-destination backpacking trip. Most cruises sail on a planned route, and often take in up to five port stops where guests can disembark and explore the local area.

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However, while these stops provide ample opportunity to experience new cultures, they can end up costing cruisers hundreds of pounds in additional expenses.

Speaking to Express.co.uk Adam Coulter, UK Managing Editor of Cruise Critic explained: “Shore tours vary in price, depending on the cruise line, and can run you anywhere from £40 per person for a simple beach break to hundreds of pounds each for such higher-priced options as helicopter rides, golf outings and long-day or overnight tours.”

These shore excursions are planned with the aim of enhancing the customer’s onshore experience enabling passengers to see new places, engage in new activities and immerse themselves in the local culture of the destination port they are visiting.

Most operators offer a variety of excursions, from sightseeing and walking tours to zip-wiring and dog-sledging, depending on the destination.

“Activity-based trips might feature a day at the spa or beach, a pleasure cruise on a sailboat, a wine or food tasting, a cultural performance or a visit to a museum,” says Adam.

“Sightseeing excursions are typically bus tours that take passengers to the highlights and shopping areas of the port city or nearby destinations, and they usually differ according to the particular part of the world you are visiting.”

He continues: “Cruise line tours are usually a tad more expensive than tours available ashore, so depending on what you want to do and experience and the time you have ashore, you can often save money by going it alone.”

Of course, whether the added expense is worth it is really down to the traveller.

In fact, savvy travellers could enjoy a very similar experience for a cut of the price simply by planning and researching.

“If you want to book your tours independently, then the key trick is to plan ahead. Learn about the attractions in each port and check to see how far these and key shopping outlets are from the port,” says Adam.

“If you want a relaxing beach day, find out if there are actually any good beaches nearby too.

“If all you want to do is walk around town, shop or visit the beach, then it could be much cheaper and less time-consuming to get a map and do it on your own.”

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Exploring port stops independently allows travellers to stick to their own time frame, and avoid large crowds of tourists.

Adam adds: “Although organised museum shore excursions, for example, include transportation and expedited admission, in most cases you can still go it alone and minimise hassle and wait times by planning transportation and purchasing museum tickets in advance.

“In many instances, it can be cheaper and quicker to get a cab to a certain attraction, rather than waiting for other passengers to get on and off specially-arranged tour buses.”

However, while the savings might be tempting for budget-conscious holidaymakers, there are some downsides of going it alone.

“The key potential downside of going it alone, is that while a ship will wait for any late-returning passengers on ship-sponsored tours, if your independent tour gets stuck in traffic or there are other problems and you are late returning to port, then your ship will leave without you and you will be stranded in port,” warns Adam.

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“This is more common than you’d think, so it might be advisable, for absolute peace of mind, to opt for a ship-organised tour if you plan to visit cities, such as Athens, Rome or Florence which are pretty far from the port.”

The destination should also be at the forefront when deciding if you’re going to venture off independently.

Adam explains: “It is also wiser to take a ship-sponsored shore excursion in any third-world country or in foreign ports if you don’t understand the language and customs, such the need to cover most of your body at certain religious sites, or the usual haggling practices of stallholders or taxi drivers, which can seem overly aggressive to tourists.”

What’s more, though the price tag for a cruise line excursion may seem high, the quality and content of the trip are sometimes beyond what can be planned DIY-style.

“Cruise-organised tours generally take the hassle out of arranging your own shoreside activities and will usually look after you from the moment you step off the ship, to ensure you get back onboard safely and on time,” says Adam.

“Shore excursions are generally worth it if you want to venture to attractions that are located far from the pier, learn more about an area through a guide or participate in physical activities where gear is required, such as scuba diving.

You also have the assurance that your ship-sponsored tour provider is licensed and reputable, and the ship won’t depart until all of its tour buses have returned.

“It’s also worth noting that some ship tours are exclusive to the ship only, which means you are getting a unique experience that you would not get if you go DIY.

“The knowledge and efficiency of tour operators vary, and some tour offerings are not good value for money – especially if they simply offer time-consuming bus rides with drop-offs at shopping centres. It always pays to do your research and check other cruiser reviews before you book.”

For holidaymakers who do decide to book onto the pre-arranged excursion, it is advised you do so as soon as possible, as popular excursions can fill up fast.

“If you decide to book a ship-sponsored tour, check to see how many places are available and how popular the tour is. If it’s a limited-availability excursion, or specialist must-see tour, then it is certainly worth adding this to your booking as soon as you can,” says Adam.

“Be aware, however, that some cruise lines charge penalty fees for cancelling shore excursions onboard or within 24 to 48 hours of the port call, so make sure you check the weather in-port, in advance, if you can.”

Largely, whether shelling out for a planned port excursion is down to the specific needs of the traveller.

“The answer ultimately depends on budgets, personal preferences, what’s available in port, the particular customs and language at your destination, and the distance of key activities or sites to your port,” concludes Adam.

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How to Become a More Conscious Traveler

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a global focus, and many travelers are wondering how they can make more conscious choices when choosing where, when and how to travel.

The TreadRight Foundation has put together a number of resources to help travelers become more aware of sustainability in the travel space and include steps for making the best decisions.

The journey begins with research and preparation, the impact travelers have on a destination and what visitors can do once they return from a trip.

Travelers can commit to sustainability with the “Make Travel Matter Pledge.” The pledge includes dos and don’ts of travel such as a commitment to making travel matter, to “tread right,” honoring the people they meet and respecting animals and nature.

Travelers can find advice for making good on their pledge with a video from Ambassador and Storyteller Sarain Fox, who discusses how choices big and small can have an impact.

“People generally assume sustainable travel will dampen their travel experience or make their vacation stressful, so my goal is to inspire people to come up with their own ways to make a positive impact,” said Fox. “My tip for travelers would be to research their options and choose conscious companies while learning to get really honest about the impact they are making. Accountability matters.”

Travelers can use the TreadRight’s Make Travel Matter checklist to ensure they are doing the right thing. The list includes advice to make follow the steps to making conscious travel decisions and includes ways to research companies, packing suggestions to be prepared. The checklist also includes ways to make less of an impact on the environment and how you can help when you return.

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ASTA Encourages Increased Airline Flexibility for Consumers

The fight for airline refunds is heating up.

Airlines are desperate to hold onto their liquidity in the face of an unprecedented grounding of aircraft due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this means that cash-strapped consumers unable to take their vacations are not receiving the refunds that they are due.

Yesterday, IATA said in an open letter to travel agents that airlines deserved flexibility.

“We believe the best answer for both airlines and travel agents is for regulators to ease requirements for cash refunds and allow airlines to issue vouchers instead,” read the letter. “…This would remove the pressure that is currently on agents to issue cash refunds at a time when airlines are making decisions based on their own need to preserve cash. IATA is willing to engage in open and collaborative discussions with the travel agency community represented in the Passenger Agency Programme Global Joint Council to formulate a structure for these vouchers that will bring value for airlines, travel agents and consumers.”

However, earlier today, the Department of Transportation (DOT) ordered airlines to pay out refunds for canceled or severely delayed flights rather than giving out vouchers.

“The longstanding obligation of carriers to provide refunds for flights that carriers cancel or significantly delay does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control,” said the DOT’s order. “The focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger.”

ASTA supports the decision of the DOT saying in a statement that it is a “first step in the right direction.”

The organization called on airlines to follow the order and provided several ways to move forward:

—Relaxing existing fare rules to accommodate requested refunds for any flight through the end of 2020

—Refraining from issuing agency debit memos for credit card chargebacks on canceled flights/trips for which the airlines are refusing refunds today

—Ensuring travelers who have booked through an agency are advised to contact their advisor to process refunds and exchanges rather than directly on the carrier’s website

—Ensuring all tickets are fully refundable and not merely credited for future travel

—Permitting travel advisors to process all refunds via their GDS and ARC

—Protecting original agency commissions/incentives on air bookings should the tickets be exchanged or rebooked

—Protecting advisor commissions on refunded tickets

—Confirming and/or clarifying that penalty charges or change fees will not apply for canceled or rebooked flights during the current crisis

—Providing travelers the opportunity to use any credit issued for unused tickets for a minimum of two years from the original departure date

—For those tickets booked on or after March 1, extending the window for rebooking flights to a minimum of one year from date of travel with no change fees

—Ensuring that ancillary fees for any flight booked in 2020 that is subsequently canceled are fully refunded to the traveler

ASTA points out the value of the travel agency community to air carriers in its statement, noting that the U.S. travel agency community generated $97.4 billion in ticket sales in 2019 and that an additional $84.6 million was generated in ancillary fees.

“Clearly, the U.S. travel agency community represents an extraordinarily significant source of revenue to the airline industry, and as such its views on the harsh impact these refund and exchange policies have on both advisors and the traveling public should be given the most thoughtful and serious consideration,” ASTA’s statement noted. “Doing so will help promote and solidify brand loyalty as the agency and airline world continue to align and grow in support of the traveler in a post-pandemic world.”

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