Travel News

US reopens to international travel, allows happy reunions - ASSOCIATED PRESS

NOVEMBER 09, 2021

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Parents held children born while they were stuck abroad. Long-separated couples kissed, and grandparents embraced grandchildren who had doubled in age.

The U.S. fully reopened to many vaccinated international travelers Monday, allowing families and friends to reunite for the first time since the coronavirus emerged and offering a boost to the travel industry decimated by the pandemic. The restrictions closed the U.S. to millions of people for 20 months.

Octavio Alvarez and his 14-year-old daughter zipped through a pedestrian crossing in San Diego in less than 15 minutes on their way to visit his mother-in-law in California.

“It’s a big feeling,” said Alvarez, 43, who lives in Ensenada, Mexico, a two-hour drive from San Diego. Prior to the pandemic, his family would visit California twice a month. The emotional cost of the border restrictions were “very high,” he added.

American citizens and permanent residents were always allowed to enter the U.S., but the travel bans grounded tourists, thwarted business travelers and often keep families far apart. Travelers must have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.

“I think a lot of people have been waiting for this day,” said Eileen Bigelow, area port director for Vermont for Customs and Border Protection. “They look at it as a light at the end of the tunnel for some return of normalcy.”

There were lots of prolonged hugs at airports from coast to coast. At Newark International Airport in New Jersey, Nirmit Shelat repeatedly embraced his girlfriend, Jolly Dave, after she arrived from India, ending their nine-month separation. She was on the first flight out of the country to the United States.

“I can’t even explain in my words how happy I am," Dave said.

Gaye Camara, who lives in France, last saw her husband in New York in January 2020, not knowing it would be 21 months before they could hold each other again.

“I’m going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him,” said Camara, 40, as she wheeled her luggage through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, where the humming crowds resembled those before the pandemic, except for the face masks.

On the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, where traveling back and forth was a way of life before the pandemic, the reopening brought relief. Malls, restaurants and shops in U.S. border towns were devastated by the lack of visitors from Mexico.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, flanked by U.S. and Mexican officials at a celebratory news conference at the San Ysidro crossing, said the economic losses were hefty and the cutting of family ties “immeasurable.”

Retail sales in San Ysidro fell about 75% from pre-COVID levels, forcing nearly 300 businesses to close.

Edith Aguirre of Tijuana took off work to go shopping in San Diego. Bubbling with laughter, she accepted a gift bag from a duty-free store at the San Diego border crossing. She was a regular at SeaWorld in San Diego and last came to the U.S. to celebrate her 50th birthday at Disneyland in February 2020.

“It was very draining,” she said of the interruption to her cross-border life.

Sales dropped in half at David’s Western Wear shop in Nogales, Arizona, which manufactures boots popular among Mexicans.

Owner David Moore hopes his specialty products lure back customers, but he said it won't happen overnight. Many Mexicans are still trying to get expired visas renewed amid a backlog. Those who do come may be disappointed to find shelves empty because of supply chain problems.

“I really don’t think Mexican shoppers are going to come across in hordes because they have now gotten used to buying a lot of products they need in Mexico," he said.

David Jerome, president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce on Mexico's border in Texas, said: “It won’t come back as quickly as it was shut off.”

Still, “we feel like we’re getting our neighbors back and we’re glad to get people going back to work," Jerome said.

Along Canada's boundary, cross-border hockey rivalries were upended by the travel restrictions. Churches that had members on both sides of the border were suddenly cut off from each other.

But on Monday, border traffic quickly returned.

At Vermont’s busiest international crossing with Canada, U.S. border agents said they began to notice the uptick in border crossing shortly after midnight. By mid-morning, traffic appeared steady.

Travelers at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, one of the northern border's busiest crossings, found a 2 1/2-hour wait at 2 a.m., officials said, though within a few hours traffic was flowing more freely. The bridge typically handles about 2 million passenger vehicles from Fort Erie, Ontario, yearly, many of them bound for the region’s shopping malls, ski slopes and sporting events. Volume dropped by more than 90% during the pandemic.

River Robinson’s American partner wasn’t able to be in Canada for the birth of their baby boy 17 months ago. She was thrilled to hear about the U.S. reopening and planned to take the child to the U.S. for Thanksgiving.

It’s “crazy to think he has a whole other side of the family he hasn’t even met yet,” said Robinson, who lives in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Airlines are preparing for a surge in activity — especially from Europe — after the pandemic and resulting restrictions caused international travel to plunge.

The 28 European countries that were barred made up 37% of overseas visitors in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association. As the reopening takes effect, carriers are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and the U.S. by 21% this month over last month, according to data from travel and analytics firm Cirium.

In a sign of the huge importance of trans-Atlantic travel for airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrated the reopening by synchronizing the departures of their early morning flights to New York on parallel runways at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Maria Giribet, 74, who lives on the Mediterranean isle of Majorca was headed to San Francisco where she planned to “suffocate" her twin grandchildren with hugs after missing half their lives. Gabriel and David are now 3 1/2.

The U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S. That’s a relief for many in Canada, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used.

But millions of people around the world who were vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s CanSino or other shots not approved by the WHO will not be able to travel to the U.S.

Testing and quarantine requirements remained obstacles for others. A mobile testing truck was parked near the Peace Bridge in New York, promising results in 30 minutes for $225 and next-day results for $160.

Marcela Picone, 39, of the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, has been waiting for the day her fiancé and father of her 2- and 3-year-old children can visit from Stoney Creek, Ontario. But his 15-year-old son would have to miss school to quarantine upon their return if they traveled.

“He’s a dad to two American kids," she said. "He should have had the right to come into this country the entire 19 months.”


Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York. Associated Press writers John Leicester in Paris, Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee, Wilson Ring in Highgate Springs, Vermont, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Ted Shaffrey in Newark, New Jersey, contributed to this report.


Follow AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

Elliot Spagat And Carolyn Thompson , The Associated Press

Virgin Galactic has sold 100 more space tickets - AFP

NOVEMBER 10, 2021

Virgin Galactic has sold around 100 tickets since flying its founder Richard Branson to space last summer, with commercial services expected to begin by the end of 2022, the company said in its financial results Monday.

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico© Patrick T. FALLON The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo space plane Unity and mothership separate as they fly way above Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico

The current price of the fare is $450,000 per seat, well above the $200,000-$250,000 paid by some 600 customers from 2005 to 2014.  

In total, the company has now sold 700 tickets, a spokesperson told AFP.

"We are entering our fleet enhancement period with a clear roadmap for increasing the durability, reliability and predictability of our vehicles in preparation for commercial service next year," said CEO Michael Colglazier in a statement.

"Demand for space travel is strong, and we've been selling seats ahead of the pace we had planned."

Established in 2004, Virgin Galactic is seeking to cash in on the success of a high profile test mission in July, which saw Branson beat by a matter of days Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos in their billionaire space race. 

But since then, the company, which flies out of Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert, has faced setbacks. 

In September, it was briefly grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which found the July flight deviated from its assigned airspace and Virgin Galactic did not communicate the "mishap" as required.

In October, Virgin said it was postponing by several months a mission with members of the Italian Air Force, after lab testing revealed certain materials used in its vehicles might have fallen below required strength margins, necessitating further analysis.

The company is currently in the process of enhancing its vehicles.

Unlike Blue Origin and SpaceX, its main competitors in the nascent space tourism sector, Virgin Galactic deploys a massive carrier aircraft that takes off horizontally, gains high altitude, and drops a rocket-powered spaceplane that then soars into space.

As a publicly traded company, Virgin Galactic is also required to be more transparent about its finances. 

The cost of tickets on Blue Origin's suborbital New Shepard rocket, capable of roughly ten-minute hops into space and back, is unknown, but likely to be substantially higher.

An online auction for the very first seat sold for $28 million, but the winner deferred their flight.

Seats aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon, which launches atop a huge Falcon 9 rocket and is also contracted by NASA to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, are likely to run into the tens of millions of dollars. 

In September, Elon Musk's company took four private tourists on a three-day orbital mission sponsored by online payments billionaire Jared Isaacman.

Business Travel Seen in ‘Structural’ Decline in Post-Covid Era - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 10, 2021

(Bloomberg) --

As the airline industry struggles to recover from a deep, pandemic-induced slump, another crisis is looming in the crucial business travel market, according to a new report.

Companies are expected to keep a tight rein on trips in the coming years, leading to a “structural” decline of between 15% and 25% through 2025 from before the Covid-19 pandemic, consultancy AlixPartners said Wednesday. The loss could trigger a broad strategy overhaul for full-service carriers because corporat demand makes up as much as three quarters of their profits, and nearly a third of sales.

“Business travel will be hit harder than leisure,” said Pascal Fabre, a managing partner at the firm in Paris. “There will be a long-lasting effect from hybrid working and reduced corporate spending on travel.”

European airlines like Air France-KLM and IAG SA’s British Airways benefited from a rebound in regional travel this summer and are adding more capacity after the U.S. lifted border restrictions this week. Yet a full recovery to pre-crisis levels of overall flying worldwide isn’t expected until around mid-decade, AlixPartners said.

Airlines, financially weakened and debt-laden coming out of the Covid crisis, are holding out hope. Shai Weiss, chief executive officer of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., said this week that he expects a full rebound in business travel by 2023. But IAG chief Luis Gallego said it is likely to remain as much as 15% lower than 2019 levels by then.  

Cost Cuts, Fares

In the meantime, the sector is pushing ahead with more cost cutting, aggressive fleet deals and simplification, and the sale of non-core assets. Consolidation could also be in the offing, as stronger carriers wear down weaker ones with lower pricing. 

“They are trying to keep discipline on capacity but there is a high risk of a market-share fight,” Fabre said. “The conditions are ripe for fare wars.”

For the lucrative business-travel segment, the biggest threat comes from cutbacks in internal meetings — which make up roughly 40% of corporate travel — while trips to meet customers are more likely to be maintained.

“It’s going to be very complicated for some airlines,” he said, predicting a rethink of networks and cabin configurations.

Heathrow passenger numbers improve for sixth consecutive month - P.A.MEDIA

NOVEMBER 11, 2021

Heathrow’s passenger numbers have improved for six consecutive months, according to new figures.

Some 3.0 million passengers travelled through the west London airport last month, compared with 1.2 million during October 2020.

Relaxation of travel rules ahead of half-term “unleashed pent up demand”, Heathrow said.


But it urged ministers to “reassess” the testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK.

Currently those people are required to pay for a lateral flow test taken on or before the second day after their arrival.

Heathrow noted that its passenger levels remain 56% down on pre-pandemic levels, and air travel is recovering quicker at its European rivals.

Meanwhile the airport also called on the Government to support investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

It suggested this should be done by ensuring price stability and requiring airlines to use SAF for 10% of their fuel by the end of the decade.

SAF is produced with materials other than crude oil, and produces up to 80% less carbon emissions than traditional jet fuel.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said: “As the journey to recovery accelerates, aviation’s ambitions to decarbonise must keep pace.

“We need to keep our foot to the pedal, working to make air travel guilt-free and Government must act with a mandate for 10% sustainable aviation fuel by 2030 and a price stability mechanism to upscale SAF usage, if we are to tackle the industry’s biggest challenge – carbon.”

Turkey Agrees to Curb Migrant Flows to Belarus Under EU Pressure - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 12, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Turkey agreed with the European Union that it would monitor flights headed to Belarus in an effort to prevent them from being used to ferry migrants toward the Polish border, an EU official said Thursday.

Under the plan, Turkey will take several steps, including suspending the sale of one-way tickets to Minsk from Turkish territory. Turkish Airlines agreed to restrict the sale of tickets from Istanbul to Minsk for citizens of countries that have been among the primary ones involved in migrant flows, particularly Iraq, Syria and Yemen. 

Turkey will also prevent Turkish airliners’ Middle East networks from being used by Belavia, the Belarus national airline, to purchase code-sharing flights to funnel passengers to Istanbul so they can catch Belavia flights to Minsk, the official said.

Refugee tensions on the border between Belarus and Poland has spiraled in recent days, with the EU accusing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of instigating migrants flows in retaliation for its pressure on his government over its brutal crackdown on domestic opponents. Several thousand people are stuck on the frontier.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation by phone, the Kremlin said. In response to Merkel’s appeals to intercede with his ally Lukashenko, Putin reiterated his stance that the EU should talk to Minsk directly. 

The EU has worked in earlier flareups to prevent migrants from being flown to Belarus in the first place, particularly from Iraq. This latest agreement with Turkey is aimed at cutting off the flow of migrants before they reach Belarus.

But the Turkish government has pointed out to EU officials that the problem is a tough one to tackle. For one thing, many of the migrants have the proper paperwork to travel, which makes it difficult to prevent them from traveling or to punish airlines that permit them on board.

African airlines’ international cargo volumes increase by 34.6% - THE SUN

NOVEMBER 12, 2021

By Chinelo Obogo    

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released September 2021 data for global air cargo markets showing that demand continued to be well above pre-crisis levels and that capacity constraints persist. 

African airlines’ saw international cargo volumes increase by 34.6 per cent in September, the largest increase of all regions for the ninth consecutive month. Seasonally adjusted volumes are now 20 per cent above pre-crisis 2019 levels but have been trending sideways for the past six months. International capacity was 6.9% higher than pre-crisis levels, the only region in positive territory, albeit on small volumes.

 Supply chain disruptions and the resulting delivery delays have led to long supplier delivery times.  This typically means manufacturers use air transport, which is quicker, to recover time lost during the production process. The September global Supplier Delivery Time Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was at 36, values below 50 are favorable for air cargo.

    The September new export orders component and manufacturing output component of the PMIs have deteriorated from levels in previous month but remain in favorable territory.  Manufacturing activity continued to expand at a global level but, there was contraction in emerging economies..

IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said, “Air cargo demand grew 9.1 per cent in September compared to pre-COVID levels. There is a benefit from supply chain congestion as manufacturers turn to air transport for speed. But severe capacity constraints continue to limit the ability of air cargo to absorb extra demand. If not addressed, bottlenecks in the supply chain will slow the economic recovery from COVID-19. Governments must act to relieve pressure on global supply chains and improve their overall resilience.”

 IATA also announced a moderate rebound in air travel in September 2021 compared to August’s performance. This was driven by recovery in domestic markets, in particular China, where some travel curbs were lifted following the COVID-19 outbreaks in August. International demand, meanwhile, slipped slightly compared to the previous month.

Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted, all comparisons are to September 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern. Total demand for air travel in September 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 53.4 per cent compared to September 2019. This marked an uptick from August, when demand was 56.0 per cent below August 2019 levels. 

‘A farce’: Jamaica charter flight leaves UK with four people on board after dozens found to have right to stay - THE INDEPENDENT

NOVEMBER 13, 2021

BY  May Bulman

Dozens of Jamaican nationals have been taken off a removal flight in the days and hours before it was due to take off, raising renewed questions around the legality and efficacy of the Home Office’s deportation policy.

Campaigners say just four deportees were on board the charter plane, which left Birmingham airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning and is said to have had the capacity to seat 350 people. Around 50 people were originally due to fly.

Hours before the flight, activists calling themselves Stop The Plane locked themselves to metal pipes outside Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport.

The Home Office removed an unknown number of deportees from the flight list because there had been a Covid outbreak at Colnbrook, an immigration removal centre near Heathrow, where they were being held.

At least another five had their deportation deferred because they had been identified as potential victims of trafficking, with indicators that they had been groomed by county lines gangs and that this had played a role in crimes they had committed.

Among those taken off the flight list include a 23-year-old man who has lived in the UK since he was three months old, and another, aged 29, who has been in the country since he was a year old. Neither has any memory of Jamaica, and both have been identified as potential county lines victims.

The Home Office also took a man with HIV off the flight list. The department was threatened with legal action over its failure to provide him with life-saving treatment in the detention centre, as reported by The Independent.

Last week, it emerged that the Home Office was planning to deport non-criminals to Jamaica for the first time since the Windrush scandal broke, in what was described as an “affront to the Windrush generation”.

Among them was a 20-year-old woman with no criminal convictions, who has been in the country since she was 13 and has no relatives in Jamaica. She was due to be deported with her mother, 56, who also has no convictions. Both were taken off the flight list within hours of The Independent publishing an article about the situation.

The fact that so many people were taken off the flight in the days before its departure will fuel concerns about the efficacy and cost of the current deportation system.

An analysis by The Independent in August revealed that the cost per deportee from the UK had more than tripled in four years, with the average number of returnees on each charter flight dropping from 45 in 2016 to just 15 last year.

This means the Home Office has spent an estimated £13,300 for each person removed, compared with £4,444 four years before.

Sixty charter flights left the UK in 2020, with a total of 883 people on board, according to the analysis of figures obtained through freedom of information law by campaign group No Deportations. This compares to a total of 1,563 people on board a total of 35 flights in 2016.

There are widespread concerns about a lack of access to legal advice for people facing removal, which leads to them only obtaining access to decent lawyers in the days leading up to their flight, when charities intervene and lawyers offer to work pro bono.

Charity Detention Action is currently bringing a legal challenge against the Home Office over access to legal advice in removal centres, warning that people bring last-minute legal claims as a result of the “shambolic” advice system.

Bella Sankey, director at Detention Action, described the deportation flight on Wednesday as a “farce”, adding that the system for people obtaining adequate legal advice was “irrational and arbitrary”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady had called for the flight to be cancelled, adding: “There have been far too many miscarriages of justice in the immigration system. All deportation flights should be suspended while the Home Office addresses its failures to adequately check the circumstances of those targeted for deportation.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Those with no right to be in the UK and foreign national offenders should be in no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to remove them. This is what the public rightly expects and why we regularly operate flights to different countries.

“We are committed to tackling the heinous crime of modern slavery, but we will not tolerate those who seek to abuse the system to prevent their lawful removal. That is why we fully review all cases, with many going through the courts, to ensure there are no outstanding legal barriers – such as modern slavery or trafficking claims – that would prevent removal from the UK.”

Aucklanders return to malls as New Zealand eases lockdown in biggest city - REUTERS

NOVEMBER 13, 2021

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Shops and malls in New Zealand's biggest city Auckland flung their doors open for the first time in three months on Wednesday as the city, which is at the epicentre of the country's coronavirus outbreak, gradually reopened.

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland© Reuters/FIONA GOODALL COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in AucklandCOVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland© Reuters/FIONA GOODALL COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland

Retail stores filled up within hours of reopening due to pent up demand while some shoppers reportedly queued up outside malls overnight to take advantage of early bird offers at some stores.

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland© Reuters/FIONA GOODALL COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland

Libraries, museums and zoos were also allowed to receive visitors as the government eased coronavirus restrictions amid a pick-up in vaccination rates and due to mounting pressure from critics calling for more freedom.

The hospitality sector, however, remained shut.

In her first visit to the city since it was locked down on Aug. 17, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the hospitality sector will reopen as soon as Auckland hits its vaccination target.

"We have maintained contact with hospitality representatives all the way through...we know how tough it's been," Ardern said.

"But the light is at the end of the tunnel. We will see reopenings in the very near future as Auckland starts to hit those targets," she said.

Ardern has said the city will move into a new "traffic-light" system to manage outbreaks rather than lockdowns once 90% of Aucklanders have been fully vaccinated. So far, about 84% of Aucklanders have received their second doses.

While New Zealand has been criticised for a slow start to its vaccination campaign, nearly 80% of the eligible population has now received a second dose.

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland© Reuters/FIONA GOODALL COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland

Auckland schools can return to face-to-face learning from Nov. 17, the government said.

Despite its success last year in eliminating COVID-19, New Zealand has struggled to fight off a highly infectious Delta variant this year, forcing Ardern to move from a strategy of zero cases through lockdowns to living with the virus.

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland© Reuters/FIONA GOODALL COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland

New Zealand still has among the lowest coronavirus cases in the world with under 8,000 infections reported so far and 32 deaths.

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland© Reuters/FIONA GOODALL COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in Auckland

Apart from the 1.7 million Aucklanders, and residents in some neighbouring regions, life for the rest of the population has largely returned to normal domestically although the country's borders still remain tightly shut.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

Poland to Extend Controls at Belarus Border Amid Migrant Crisis - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 13, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Poland is seeking to extend limits on free movement at the Belarus border as it expects the migrant crisis to continue for months.

The government is readying new rules that would replace the current state of emergency imposed on a 3-kilometer (1.86 mile) wide corridor along the 418 kilometers of border with Belarus, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said in a interview with radio RMF. The legislation will be discussed in parliament in next week.

Poland introduced state of emergency early September, and extended it to end of this month in reaction to the inflow of migrants -- mostly from the Middle East -- through Belarus. Lenghtening it further is forbidden by the constitution, and so the government is seeking alternative rules that would allow the interior minister to ban entry to border zones to prevent human trafficking. 

Kaminski said he’s considering allowing journalists from the “biggest newsrooms” to be allowed to report from the border region. Current regulations ban access for any media, which has been criticized by the opposition and human rights organizations. Journalists are relying on videos being released by the Polish government and Belarusian state television, as well as footages posted on migrants’ social media accounts.

Kaminski said that President Joe Biden’s comments on the great concern about the situation at the border shows that the U.S. is ready to act, if necessary. Hundreds of migrants stormed border fences with tree trunks and tools to cut through the barbed wire last week. 

Polish Border Guard said that Belarusian troops on Friday night helped migrants destroy makeshift barriers on the border close to Czeremcha town. They also equipped migrants with tear gas. An attempt to break through the fence was prevented.

Asked about Belarusian and Russian forces’ military drills close to the Polish and Lithuanian border, Kaminski said they are part of ongoing “psychological, hybrid war” and Poland will remain “defensive” with its response.

Lufthansa to Charge Customers to Flaunt Their Green Credentials - BLOOMBERG

NOVEMBER 13, 2021

(Bloomberg) -- Airlines have long found innovative ways to charge passengers for services like seat selection, priority boarding, checked bags and even carry-ons.  

Deutsche Lufthansa AG is taking it to the next level: the German airline group is working on a new rewards plan to coax customers into paying for its greenhouse-gas cleanup, tapping into their desire to be seen as environmentally conscious.

For a price, travelers will be able to demonstrate support for alternative jet fuels or carbon-offset purchases. Lufthansa is considering everything from marking seats green to creating digital badges that can be shown on a phone.

“We do think the eco-conscious traveler wants people to know that they’re an eco-conscious traveler,” Chief Customer Officer Christina Foerster said in an interview. “It needs to be chic to show off you’re flying green.”

Airlines face a challenge in shifting onto travelers a bigger share of the potential $2 trillion industrywide cost of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Lufthansa and other carriers already offer customers ways to pay extra for emissions, but just 1% pitch in. 

Increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuels is likely to raise airline ticket prices, United Airlines Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby said at the COP26 climate conference on Thursday. 

“That’s the way it should be,” Kirby said. “Ticket prices should be a little higher to offset the impact on the environment.” While the fuel should eventually become cheaper, in the medium-term the cost will be high, he said. 

Profit Squeeze

Corporations have cut back on flying during the crisis, eating into the highest-margin premium seats sold by airlines. Paying for SAF, a focal point for aviation net-zero goals trumpeted at the COP26 climate summit, would add measurably to costs. 

Lufthansa, Europe’s largest airline group, is clawing its way back from a Covid-19 downturn that required a $9 billion government bailout to survive. It’s committed to halving its carbon emissions from 2019 levels by 2030, including buying newer, more efficient planes and purchasing $250 million in SAF over the next three years -- about 1% of its fuel consumption. 

Airlines Jockey for Small Sustainable Fuel Supply: Green Insight

The carrier’s greenhouse gas emissions hit a record of more than 32 million metric tons in 2019. They fell to 11 million tonnes in 2020, the hardest-hit pandemic year, while plans for next year imply a figure of about 22 million metric tons.

Lufthansa hasn’t yet finalized the green rewards plan, which would take effect next year. The app for the company’s Miles and More loyalty program already displays the carbon footprint of a customer’s flights and allows them to spend air miles on SAF and offsets. 

The SAF required to fully neutralize the carbon impact of a round-trip flight between Frankfurt and New York would cost 485 euros ($559) per passenger. Airlines are trying to get governments to help shoulder some of the expense as well.

“It’s not yet affordable for a family trip,” Foerster said. “Today people would rather spend money on the hotel or holiday activities.”


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