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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Escape is just a click away

Jeri Clausing

In the age of social distancing and travel lockdowns, many destinations are using virtual reality to keep bored, homebound travelers dreaming about where they want to go when the pandemic ends.

But a number of luxury companies are also coming up with a host of other innovative and interactive ways to stay engaged with their customers through their social media channels and other digital platforms.

• Planning a virtual happy hour with your friends this week? Tune in first to the Langham London’s Artesian Bar social media feeds for virtual mixology classes.

• Rather eat than drink? Aqua Expeditions this week launched culinary masterclasses via Facebook and Instagram. First up is a lesson on how to prepare ceviche and pisco sours from chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, owner of the Malabar and maZ restaurants in Lima, Peru, and the consulting chef on Aqua’s Amazon river ships, the Aria Amazon and soon-to-be-launched Aqua Nera.

The company also promises future releases from chef Benjamin Cross, consulting chef of the Aqua Blu, and chef David Thompson, consulting chef of the Aqua Mekong.

Surviving the pandemic, however, will also require balance. And more health-focused resorts and travel companies are offering everything from virtual yoga to general fitness tips.

• Follow Six Senses for videos, tutorials, articles and advice on mindfulness and healthy eating and sleeping.

• Take free vinyasa yoga classes, compliments of the MacArthur Place Hotel in Sonoma, Calif.

• For those dreaming of the great outdoors, Natural Habitat Adventure has enlisted 150 guides from around the globe to sponsor free webinars every weekday. The series will feature everything from nature photography tutorials to conservation updates, even tips on how to create a wildlife habitat in your own backyard.

• Already burned through your watch lists on Netflix and Hulu? Viking this week launched its own online tv network
with a host of categories. In addition to museum tours, wellness tips and destination pieces, Viking highlights the Hagen family’s  friendship with the Countess of Carnarvon, who gives a tour of her family’s Highclere Castle, featured in the popular television series “Downton Abbey.”

And no digital channel would be complete without a good animal video or two. Viking’s channel also has plenty calming dog fun with Karine Hagen’s yellow lab, Finese, who was born at Highclere Castle and was gifted to her from the countess.

Source: Read Full Article

Escape is just a click away

Jeri Clausing

In the age of social distancing and travel lockdowns, many destinations are using virtual reality to keep bored, homebound travelers dreaming about where they want to go when the pandemic ends.

But a number of luxury companies are also coming up with a host of other innovative and interactive ways to stay engaged with their customers through their social media channels and other digital platforms.

• Planning a virtual happy hour with your friends this week? Tune in first to the Langham London’s Artesian Bar social media feeds for virtual mixology classes.

• Rather eat than drink? Aqua Expeditions this week launched culinary masterclasses via Facebook and Instagram. First up is a lesson on how to prepare ceviche and pisco sours from chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, owner of the Malabar and maZ restaurants in Lima, Peru, and the consulting chef on Aqua’s Amazon river ships, the Aria Amazon and soon-to-be-launched Aqua Nera.

The company also promises future releases from chef Benjamin Cross, consulting chef of the Aqua Blu, and chef David Thompson, consulting chef of the Aqua Mekong.

Surviving the pandemic, however, will also require balance. And more health-focused resorts and travel companies are offering everything from virtual yoga to general fitness tips.

• Follow Six Senses for videos, tutorials, articles and advice on mindfulness and healthy eating and sleeping.

• Take free vinyasa yoga classes, compliments of the MacArthur Place Hotel in Sonoma, Calif.

• For those dreaming of the great outdoors, Natural Habitat Adventure has enlisted 150 guides from around the globe to sponsor free webinars every weekday. The series will feature everything from nature photography tutorials to conservation updates, even tips on how to create a wildlife habitat in your own backyard.

• Already burned through your watch lists on Netflix and Hulu? Viking this week launched its own online tv network
with a host of categories. In addition to museum tours, wellness tips and destination pieces, Viking highlights the Hagen family’s  friendship with the Countess of Carnarvon, who gives a tour of her family’s Highclere Castle, featured in the popular television series “Downton Abbey.”

And no digital channel would be complete without a good animal video or two. Viking’s channel also has plenty calming dog fun with Karine Hagen’s yellow lab, Finese, who was born at Highclere Castle and was gifted to her from the countess.

Source: Read Full Article

Airlines Say Stimulus Not A Cure-All For Waning Demand

While appreciative of the nearly $60 billion in aid from the government’s $2 trillion stimulus package for economic relief, the airline industry says it’s not a cure-all for the waning demand in travel due to the coronavirus.

“While this assistance is welcome, it’s important to remember that the relief package is not a cure for the unprecedented challenges we face,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a memo, according to CNBC.

Both Delta and United Airlines said going forward they are likely to become smaller airlines with fewer employees, although part of the government aid package, or some $25 billion in grants, requires the airlines to continue to pay employees through the end of September. The remainder of the bailout comes in the form of loans.

But given the spread of the virus, airline executives expect the new normal – drastic cuts in service, flights barely a quarter full – to last for quite a while.

“Based on how doctors expect the virus to spread and how economists expect the global economy to react, we expect demand to remain suppressed for months after that, possibly into next year,” United CEO Oscar Munoz and United president Scott Kirby, who’s scheduled to take the helm in May, wrote in a message to employees. “That means being honest, fair and upfront with you: if the recovery is as slow as we fear, it means our airline and our workforce will have to be smaller than it is today.”

Most airlines have asked employees to take voluntary unpaid leaves of absence or early retirement.

Mandatory stay-at-home measures implemented by more than a dozen states, inhibiting more than 80 million Americans from leaving their homes except to go to work or essential places of business such as grocery stores and banks, have contributed to the drastically falling numbers in airline travel and hotel stays.

But Kirby and Munoz remain optimistic.

“So when travel demand returns — and it will return — we will bounce back and be ready to accelerate towards our goal of becoming the best airline in the history of aviation,” they wrote in their memo.

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Airlines owe you a refund when they cancel a flight. So why is United balking during coronavirus crisis?


The text from United Airlines popped up on Joe Bushee’s iPhone just before dinner on Sunday.

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: An United Airlines plane is shown on the tarmac from an outdoor terrace and observation deck at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco on Feb. 20, 2020.

“Your flight UA366 from Hartford to Denver is canceled due to the unprecedented circumstances currently affecting travel,” it said.

Bushee, 27, a television producer, had already decided not to go on the trip with his college buddies due to  coronavirus concerns but hadn’t called United to cancel because the airline’s website urged travelers to wait until 72 hours before their flight. Bushee’s wasn’t due to leave until Thursday.

When he called United on Monday, he asked about his reimbursement options. He wanted his $364 back and figured it was a no-brainer since United, not him, canceled the flight. He had received an instant refund for a concert in Denver that was canceled.

Bushee said the agent told him United is not giving out refunds “at this time” and offered a different flight to Denver or a travel credit good through December. Bushee declined.

He read up on the U.S. Department of Transportation rules requiring refunds on nonrefundable tickets when an airline cancels your flight and turned to Twitter for help from United, to no avail.

He called United back, and a second agent said he was due a refund, but when he tried to process it, the computer only showed a travel credit as an option. The agent told Bushee he hadn’t seen any official policy from United about not issuing refunds but figured it was because the airline was losing “a lot of revenue.”

Bushee asked to talk to a supervisor and pressed his case. He was finally promised a refund. 

The most frustrating part of the ordeal, he said: “Nobody seemed to know why I couldn’t get the refund.” 

No major U.S. airline is outwardly touting the availability of cash refunds to passengers whose flights are canceled given the industry’s precarious finances, typically offering rebooking or a travel voucher as the first options online and over the phone. (Travelers who cancel upcoming flights on their own can rebook or receive a travel credit, with the change fee usually waived depending on the travel date.) 

But American, Delta and Southwest do offer refunds without fine print for domestic and international flights the airlines cancel, their standard practice.  

United is playing hardball with travelers who should be eligible for a refund – something it did not do during the Boeing 737 Max crisis that grounded planes and forced thousands of flight cancellations over the past year.

The airline’s coronavirus refund policies for travelers whose flights are canceled by the airline are the stingiest of the big four U.S. airlines and appear to skirt the DOT guidelines. An agency spokesperson said the government’s rules have not changed: a passenger is entitled to a refund if an airline cancels a flight and the passenger chooses not to accept an alternative flight on that airline. 

@united Actions speak louder than words. Refund passengers whose flights you have cancelled. Taking money from people for flights that no longer exist is not a demonstration of unity; it’s a demonstration of corporate greed, at best – and theft at worst.

United’s policies are complicated and hard to find on the airline’s website or get clear answers about from the airline. Its cancellation assistant bot offers no help on this front.

The bottom line for travelers: United is not offering immediate refunds for canceled international flights and has added a big hurdle for canceled flights within the U.S. The changes came as United and other airlines have slashed flights in unprecedented numbers as travel demand has plunged due to government and business travel restrictions and traveler anxiety.

Domestic flights: For canceled flights within the United States, United is not issuing refunds unless the new flight their computer system automatically put you on delays your departure or arrival by more than six hours. If it doesn’t, and you don’t want to travel, you’ll receive a travel credit for the value of the ticket. (United booked Bushee on a flight three hours later, which required a connection. His original flight was nonstop.) The DOT policy does not mention time frames  for determining a refund when a flight is canceled. There is a separate policy on refunds for significant delays caused by a schedule change.

The only exception to United’s domestic refund policy: flight cancellations to destinations the airline no longer serves due to coronavirus fallout. Those travelers can get their money back. So far, that list only includes Mammoth Lakes, California, United spokeswoman Leslie Scott said.

International flights: United is effectively delaying any passenger refunds for up to a year. Travelers whose flights are canceled – and this is most international travelers as international flights service has nearly been eliminated – will receive a voucher for the value of their ticket, and if they don’t use it within a year of the ticket purchase date, they can then get their money back. 

“It seems like they are going out of their way to not be as accommodating as other airlines are, and that’s unacceptable,” said William J. McGee, aviation adviser for Consumer Reports.

Don’t want to fly during coronavirus? Don’t rush to cancel that ticket

The DOT said in a statement to USA TODAY that the department was aware of complaints regarding airlines’ refund practices and was reviewing the issue.

Scott said United has communicated with DOT about its policies “and they have not objected.”

She also said other major global airlines, including Air France/KLM and Lufthansa, have implemented a similar policy of only offering credits for international flights, some without the option for a refund later.

“We have implemented brand-new policies in the last few weeks to give our customers more flexibility in these extraordinary times. Our policies are transparent and clearly spelled out for our customers, laying out steps to take if their plans change,” Scott said, mentioning the airline’s coronavirus travel waivers. “We’re proud of the role our company – and our employees – play in serving our customers during the most disruptive global crisis that the commercial airline business has ever faced.”

A dream international trip deferred, a refund significantly delayed

Matt Williams, 43, a university professor in the United Kingdom, calls what United is doing during the coronavirus crisis “malpractice.”

Williams and his husband spent more than $4,800 last August for two nonrefundable business-class tickets to San Francisco for a two-week dream trip down the coast of California.

They were supposed to leave April 7. Williams said he called the help line for business-class customers last week to check on the status of his flight. It was still scheduled.

Williams didn’t want to cancel because he figured he was due a refund if the flight was canceled by United. Williams said the customer service agent was insistent that he cancel the flight, mentioning the Europe travel restrictions announced in mid-March, and take a credit.  

“I was pretty bulldozed into it,” he said. “I really regret calling them.”

A few days later, United canceled the long-haul flight. 

The credit Williams received expires in November, but he said he won’t be able to use it by then and would like his money back now. He said he received instant refunds from other airlines including Irish discount carrier Ryan Air, which isn’t exactly known for top-notch customer service.

“They sent me an email saying, ‘Here’s your money.”’

Williams said he has reached out to United executives for help and circled back with a United representative. The agent cited European Union aviation laws, which are generally more liberal than U.S. consumer protections, that say passengers are not entitled to compensation if it was caused by “extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided.”

“Mr. Williams,” the email said, “COVID-19 is an extraordinary circumstance.”

United (or any airline) canceled my flight and is not offering my money back. What can I do?

1. Keep pressing your case with airline representatives, over the phone (late night is best for lower call volume) or via social media, and cite the DOT policies. Be polite and respectful, not angry and rude. Customer service representatives have been overwhelmed by the crisis. 

2. Document everything. Provide dates, times, flight numbers and reservation numbers, McGee said. And always record names, titles, times and dates of all in-person and phone conversations. The more information, the stronger the case, he said.

3) File a complaint with the airline and copy the DOT and the EU if applicable. 

4.) Contact your credit card company for potential help.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Airlines owe you a refund when they cancel a flight. So why is United balking during coronavirus crisis?

RELATED VIDEO: Analyst explains the COVID-19 impact on airline industry (provided by WGN-TV Chicago)


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