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Qantas to remove services at airports
Qantas have announced they will be permanently closing their service and sales desks at all airports and lounges, which will leave passengers to deal with any cancellations, booking amendments or even last-minute tickets themselves, either online, through a self-service kiosk, or by calling the Qantas call centre.
Check-in desks will remain staffed; however, lost baggage counters will have reduced staffed hours and all other services will be managed directly by the customer.
In its statement, Qantas also said it will adjust its baggage desk service hours to ‘ensure that we will be available when our customers need us most’, and invest in new technology that will ‘assist in tracking baggage and provide self-serve recovery options for customers’.
The decision has been met with shock, particularly as many older passengers tend to choose to fly with Qantas and will now be paying top dollar, for budget-level service. One union has said that the move will make Qantas ‘no better than Jetstar’, the low-cost budget subsidiary.
Qantas made the announcement to staff on Thursday, adding that the service changes will be made within the first half of 2021. The measures are apparently made as part of the ‘necessary cost-cutting’ driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline also feels the decision is in line with how people will want to travel: minimal contact and time spend in airports and queues.
Qantas’ executive manager of airports, Colin Hughes, said that ‘more people are choosing to self-manage their bookings, check in and boarding processes’.
“Their feedback, which is understandable in this environment, is that they prefer digital interactions over face to face contact.”
Qantas’ reaction to the pandemic has already seen around 6000 jobs lost, as well as 2400 which are set to go with the outsourcing of its ground handling work. The new measures will see a further 100 at least be made redundant.
The Australian Services Union’s assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske has expressed disappointment at Qantas’ decision, as well as predicting ‘chaos’ during severe weather events or other major disruptions.
She also emphasised that the removal of support staff will be particularly difficult for older customers, as well as those will disabilities, special needs or particular requests.
“Can you imagine when there’s a flight cancellation – people’s expectation is someone will re-book them, not that they’ll be given an iPad to sort it out themselves,” she said. “And if your luggage is lost, you expect someone to go and look for it.”
Qantas maintains that the decision is primarily in line with customer feedback that they have received
“The main driver is an increasing shift towards people using our app to check in and manage their own bookings, particularly as we expand what the app can do,” Qantas’ executive manager of product and service, Phil Capps, said in a statement.
“This was happening before COVID but it has accelerated significantly since. Given that shift, we can’t ignore the efficiencies that come with removing the traditional sales desks, particularly in the current environment.”
Passengers will be able to ‘self-service their bookings and check in through kiosks, qantas.com and the Qantas app’ with customer service agents on hand to assist passengers through the process, according to a note given to staff.
It also means that customers won’t be able to purchase tickets directly at the airport, but instead ‘self-manage non-urgent fares and ticketing through qantas.com’. There will be a direct phone line to the Qantas contact centre for urgent enquiries.
Accor update their Covid-19 Policy Reservation Cancellation: Now valid through January 10, 2021
As the situation with Coronavirus keeps changing, hotels have taken it upon themselves to remain as flexible as possible.
After updating their cancellation policy earlier this year, Accor have again updated its coronavirus cancellation policy as of November 6th. The previous policy was set to expire on December 31st 2020.
The recent update states:
‘If the booked hotel is closed at the date of your stay, or if the hotel is not allowed to accommodate the guest based on official orders, you can cancel your reservation free of charge and receive a full refund’.
‘Welcoming, safeguarding and taking care of others is at the very heart of what we do and who we are. To ensure guest well-being at our hotels, we have increased our cleaning standards even further by launching the ALLSAFE Cleanliness and Prevention Label which represents some of the most stringent cleaning standards and operational protocols in the world of hospitality’.
FOR HOTELS OUTSIDE OF EUROPE
Guests who planned to stay in one of our hotels prior to and inclusive of December 31st 2020 may modify their reservation for a later date without any modification fees subject to availability and applicable rates and conditions) or request a credit voucher for the full amount of the booking value for use at a future date at the same hotel.
FOR HOTELS IN EUROPE
Guest who planned to stay in one of our hotels prior to and inclusive of 10th January 2021 may modify their reservation for a later date without any modification fees subject to availability and applicable rates and conditions) or request a credit voucher for the full amount of the original booking value for use at a future date, (all at once or over several occasions), at the same hotel within 18 months of the original booking date. If the booked hotel is closed at the date of your stay, or if the hotel is not allowed to accommodate the guest based on official orders, you can cancel your reservation free of charge and receive a full refund.
You can find the relevant Accor page here.
Seattle Airport latest to launch COVID-19 testing program
Several airports and airlines have no implemented some type of COVID-19 testing, whether that is ‘rapid-testing’ at the airport, or by accepting recent, negative COVID-19 lab-test results.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the latest airport to jump on board, rolling out their own COVID-19 testing for travellers. As of Wednesday, the new program offers anyone flying out of SEA the ‘gold standard’ of PCR lab testing prior to their flight.
The pilot program will run through until January 31st, 2021. Discovery Health MD will be offering testing in the airport’s central auditorium, which is easily found prior to going through security, located above the ticketing counters and security checkpoints.
The testing will be available every day from 7:00am through until 2:00pm. Those wanting to make use of the service must be ticketed passengers within 72 hours prior to departure, and must make an appointment. The cost is $250 and results are delivered very quickly, either later that day or the next day.
If a traveller does test positive, the service will notify the passenger as well as public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.
SEA Managing Director Lance Lyttle said of the program:
“Our team is committed to your health and well-being as well as to being responsive to the evolving needs of travellers during the pandemic”.
“Offering COVID-19 testing at the airport is a critical step for restoring air travel and our economy. It is one part of our layered and comprehensive response that embrace the most effective methods proven to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The airport is planning to open up the running of the program to a new (and competitive) vendor after the pilot program expires at the end of January.
“We are excited to bring COVID-19 testing services to SEA and offer travellers convenience, our proven experience, and consistent protocols that keep everyone safe,” said Dr. Ann Jarris, CEO of Discovery Health MD (who currently run the pilot program).
“Our testing helps travellers comply with state and country mandates for COVID-19 testing prior to travel. We utilize gold-standard PCR testing solutions with same and next-day turn-around-times.”
Currently, there are several different services offering testing options for those wishing to travel during the pandemic. Check out our rundown of UK testing services, based on reader recommendations, here.