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June 2020: What’s next?

By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency

With much of the world “re-opening,” to varying degrees, you’re probably thinking about what the post-virus travel environment will look like. Although my crystal ball is definitely low-res, I can see a few possible items of interest for your immediate consideration.

1. Where travel is “safe.” Logic says that some “safe reopenings” are safer than others, and the folks at eTurboNews published a list of high-risk and low-risk countries and areas. Low-risk areas in the U.S. include the states of Alaska, Hawaii, and Montana, along with American Samoa and Guam. Other popular tourist destinations in the low-risk group include Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, along with many independent Caribbean and several small European countries.

The group of listed very-high-risk countries contains an unfortunate number of highly popular destinations. In the U..S, it includes Albany, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, D.C., and metro areas in Georgia. The Canadian listing includes Ontario and Quebec, although, currently, the border remains closed in all provinces. Key European high risks include Ireland, major cities in Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and the U.K. And high-risk areas in Latin America include major Mexican tourist centers, along with Lima, Rio, Sao Paulo, and Santiago.

You can view the entire unsourced list here. And it’s obviously a moving target: As I’ve noted previously, check with the State Department for updated virus information.

2. Travel insurance morphs. Several important travel insurance provisions are in a state of flux. Until the COVID-19 epidemic, most trip-cancellation policies did not list “epidemic” or “pandemic” as a “covered reason” for cancellation. Now, however, some insurers are starting to include those terms as covered reasons. On the other hand, for many insurers, COVID-19 became a “named event” in January, so a future problem related to COVID-19 would be a “foreseen” event and therefore excluded from conventional cancellation coverage.

Over the years, I’ve advocated a “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) policy as the best option for cancellation insurance. But because of a high percentage of claims, insurers are backing away from CFAR. Quotewrignt, a major online travel insurance agency, says only two of the many insurers it represents still offer CFAR at all. Where available, the premium for this optional coverage now adds at least 40% to the cost of a policy, and, at best, it covers only 75% of the cancellation loss.

Coverages and benefits related to other possible virus-related events, too, are moving targets. One troublesome factor is that some policies are starting to count credit toward future travel as “recovery” from a supplier and cover only the fees that might be involved. And, frustratingly, many policies do not state the treatment of credit recovery at all. Read the fine print very carefully for any policy you might be considering.

3. Best airlines — same old, same old. In this period of dramatic upheaval in the entire travel scene, it’s oddly comforting to find something that continues with little or no change. This instance is another listing showing which U.S. airlines rank best among travelers. And the latest J. D. Power customer satisfaction scores constitute a clear case of “round up the usual suspects.” JetBlue and Southwest come out on top, with scores of 833 to 839 for short-haul trips and 823-826 for long hauls, and Alaska comes close for short hauls at 828. Over the last few years, these three always seem to come up on top: People seem to like JetBlue’s more generous legroom, Southwest’s generous baggage and cancellation policies, and Alaska’s excellent personal service. Among the Big Three giants, Delta tops American and United by comfortable margins–again, a pattern that seems now to be firmly established. And for long-haul flights, where customer treatment matters most, the usual bottom-feeders Frontier and Spirit retain their dubious distinctions. Until you start traveling again this information may reside only in the “nice to know” bucket, but you will resume flying sometime.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s rail travel website at Rail-Guru.com.)

(c) 2020 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.– June 2, 2020

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