How to Use Technology to Prepare for Travel During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Once you’ve figured out the logistics to get in and get out, you will have more homework to do. Don’t expect your favorite airport restaurants or lounges to be operating normally. Before leaving home, check your airport website to see what’s open near your terminal; if your options are lacking, pack a meal. Likewise, when you arrive at your destination, make sure to check the websites for the restaurants and tourist sites that you hope to visit for their hours. The travel industry is far from returning to normal.

To make traveling smoother, airlines may require travelers to present a vaccine passport, digital documentation proving that they have been vaccinated. Airlines have been testing mobile health apps including CommonPass, ICC AOKpass, VeriFLY and the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass app to ensure travelers can present their health data in a secure, verifiable way.

Most of the apps will, in theory, work like this: If you get vaccinated at a medical facility, the app connects with the database of that facility to retrieve your information. The app then loads a QR code, which is a digital bar code, verifying that the vaccine was administered. You could then show that bar code at the airport check-in counter, the boarding gate or immigration control.

Too much is still up in the air with vaccine passports for widespread use, Mr. Harteveldt said. Airlines, government agencies and cruise lines are still testing the apps to determine which products are the most reliable and easy to use. Things could get chaotic if different parties require people to download different passport apps, and many experiments may fail. Vaccine passports have also set off a fierce political debate over the legality of requiring digital credentials for a vaccine that is ostensibly voluntary. (The Biden administration has said it would not push for mandatory vaccination credentials or a federal vaccine database.)

So the best we can do with vaccine passports right now is nothing. Don’t upload your data to any of the apps just yet — but when it comes time to travel, do check your airline’s website for updates on vaccine passports and follow the instructions.

The rest of your travel tech prep will largely be the same as it was in pre-Covid times. Pack a spare battery pack, charging cables and a safety pin to eject your SIM card. Then do the following:

Unlock your phone. Your phone must be unlocked to work with foreign SIM cards. Many newer smartphones come unlocked by default, but you should call your carrier to confirm that your device will work with other wireless carriers.

Buy a foreign SIM card. If you’re traveling abroad, you can avoid paying expensive international roaming fees to your carrier by temporarily using a foreign phone plan. When you arrive at your destination, you can usually buy a SIM card at the airport or a cellphone store and insert that into your phone; you can also order a SIM card online and have it delivered to your home before you travel. (Some newer smartphones work with eSIMs, which are essentially a digital SIM card to add a separate phone plan. I’ve had mixed experiences, including eSIMs that failed to activate when I reached my destination, so I prefer physical SIMs.)

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Are you making travel plans for this summer despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? – Bowling Green Daily News

Are you making travel plans for this summer despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?  Bowling Green Daily News

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Bangladesh to impose week-long air travel ban after COVID surge | Coronavirus pandemic News

All international and domestic flights to be banned for a week from Wednesday, coinciding with another lockdown amid spike in cases.

Bangladesh has announced plans to ban all international and domestic flights for a week from Wednesday, coinciding with yet another lockdown to counter a spike in novel coronavirus infections.

All international passenger flights to and from Bangladesh will remain suspended from April 14 to 20, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said on Sunday.

More than 500 flights will be cancelled because of the ban, said the CAAB’s Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman.

Domestic passenger flights and chartered helicopter flights are included in the suspension, while some exceptions may be made for medical evacuations, humanitarian relief and cargo flights, the aviation authority said.

A surge in COVID-19 cases since March prompted the government to enforce a nine-day nationwide shutdown until Tuesday, to be followed by yet another seven-day lockdown from Wednesday to slow the spread of the virus.

The authorities imposed a ban on air passengers from Europe and 12 other countries on April 3. Passenger flight operations on domestic routes were suspended on April 5.

Ex-PM tests positive

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, her oppositional Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said on Sunday.

Zia has been asymptomatic and was doing well, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, a senior leader of the BNP, told a news briefing, urging people to pray for her.

The 74-year old politician has been under the supervision of her private physicians at home in Dhaka ever since she was released from jail after the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suspended her prison term on health grounds in March last year.

Zia, a three-time prime minister in the 1990s and 2000s, had been in prison since February 2018 after a court sentenced her to five years in jail for misappropriating funds meant for orphans. A higher court later doubled the term.

Eight other staff members of her home have also been tested positive for the COVID-19, according to her physician Mohammad Al Mamun.

Bangladesh, which reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus last March, reported its highest single-day increase in infections on Friday, with 7,462 cases. So far, the country has reported some 684,756 cases and 9,739 deaths.

The South Asian nation previously imposed a nationwide shutdown for more than two months beginning March 2020.

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Airlines hustling to unwind pandemic cutbacks with surge in summer travel ahead – The Keene Sentinel

Airlines hustling to unwind pandemic cutbacks with surge in summer travel ahead  The Keene Sentinel

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COVID pandemic still crippling air travel, IATA warns | News | DW

On Wednesday the new head of the global airline industry body, the International Air Traffic Association (IATA), Willie Walsh, said international traffic “was down almost 89%” in February 2021 from February 2019 — the most recent year without major disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Walsh said there were no immediate indications of a potential recovery in the first two months of 2021, with restrictions being reimposed in parts of the world as a third wave gathers pace. “In fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants,” he said.

19 in 20 Asian flights off, 9 in 10 in Europe

The Asian continent suffered the most drastic drop in air traffic. International air traffic fell 95.2% in February 2021 compared with February 2019. That was a slight decrease from the 94.8% drop in passenger traffic from January 2019 to January 2021.

European carriers recorded an 89% decline in traffic in February 2021 compared with February 2019 — far worse than the 83.4% decline in January 2021 compared with 2019. North American, Latin American and African airlines experienced similar drops in air traffic in the same time frame.

Walsh, in his first news conference since taking control of the IATA earlier this month, said the developments in rapid tests for COVID-19 “should reassure governments that there are ways to efficiently manage the risks of COVID-19 without relying on demand-killing quarantine measures and/or expensive and time-consuming PCR testing.”

He also pushed for the “development of global standards for digital COVID-19 test and/or vaccination certificates” and “to accept certificates digitally” in order for air travel to recover.

Australian and Russian domestic exceptions

The Australian domestic market bucked the trend. The country saw a 60.5% drop in air traffic in February 2021 when compared to the same month two years prior, but that marked a dramatic improvement compared to the 77.3% decline in traffic between January 2019 and January 2021.

The IATA said the reduced impact from the pandemic came after some state border restrictions were lessened in February, which allowed for more domestic travel.

“This tells us that people have not lost their desire [to] travel. They will fly, provided they can do so without facing quarantine measures,” said Walsh.

Another major exception was the Russian domestic airspace, which saw a 2.9% increase in air traffic in February 2021 as compared to the same month in 2019.

Overall around the world, domestic air travel fell by just over 51% in February 2021 when compared to February 2019.

Airlines hurting

The EU on Tuesday approved a €4 billion ($4.7 billion) recapitalization for struggling French flag carrier Air France-KLM. The French government’s share in the airline will increase to 30% as a result. In return for the aid, the airline also promised to make slots available for competitors as the Paris Orly airport. 

“The public support will come with strings attached,” said European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager.

Air France-KLM posted a record annual loss of €7.1 billion in 2020, while German flag carrier Lufthansa lost a record €6.7 billion. 

Lufthansa warned shareholders this week that recapitalization would be necessary to pay back part of the loan it received from the German government by using a new loan taken out on the capital market. Germany took an almost 17% share in the company as a result of the rescue.


kbd/msh (AP, Reuters)

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