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How to change or cancel flights during the pandemic

Delta Air Lines New JFK Airport Experience
  • A surge in COVID-19 cases across the US is encouraging would-be travelers to cancel their holiday flights.
  • Four major US airlines have eliminated change and cancel fees permanently, while others have travel waivers to make it easier to cancel when plans change.
  • Most airlines won't offer a refund, however, unless a flight is canceled or there is a schedule change, so flyers should be strategic when they cancel. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The airline industry's hope for an air travel resurgence during the holiday season may be dashed as some travelers are looking to avoid flying amid a coronavirus surge. 

Rising COVID-19 cases and new lockdown orders from governors across the US that limit how many people can be at Thanksgiving dinner are forcing travelers to rethink their holiday plans. And for some, that means staying off of airplanes, despite the industry's push to show that flying is safe

For those looking to stay home, airlines are being more flexible this year out of any year prior when it comes to changing plans. In the US, four major airlines eliminated change and cancel fees permanently in an effort to increase bookings despite the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic. 

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have done away with the fees, normally a huge revenue driver, while others have waivers to allow limited changes with restrictions. 

But even though airlines are using words like change and cancel, the policies often have restrictions about which travelers are often unaware. While there might not be a change fee, for example, customers will have to pay any difference in airfare.

Here's what you need to know about changing or canceling a booking as coronavirus continues to impact travel.

Four major US airlines are eliminating change and cancel fees for domestic and limited international travel

United Airlines was the first major international airline to eliminate change fees over the summer for its flights within the US or to the Caribbean and Mexico. Passengers with economy tickets and above, excluding basic economy, can make changes or cancellations as many times as they'd like. 

Award ticket holders can similarly make changes or cancel their flights. In order for the miles to be redeposited without a fee, however, the passenger must cancel greater than 30 days from the day of departure. 

Passengers with basic economy tickets who book or have booked their flights before December 31, 2020, are able to change their flights under United's earlier change fee waiver. 

Travelers can rebook or cancel on United's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-864-8331.

American Airlines' new policy is a bit broader and includes the US, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, as well as all "long-haul international" trips that originate in North or South America, though American hasn't yet defined which routes classify as long-haul international. Ticket holders in all classes except basic economy can make changes or cancel their flight without a fee if they've booked after August 31.

Passengers who also bought a ticket before September 30, 2021, for travel between March 1 and December 31, 2020, regardless of cabin class, can make a one-time change for free under American's existing travel waiver

Travelers can rebook or cancel on American's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-433-7300.

Delta Air Lines is allowing customers with tickets booked between March 1 and December 31, 2020, to change their flights with no fee for up to a year after they've purchased. Tickets purchased before April 17, however, can be extended until December 31, 2022. 

Beginning in 2021, Delta passengers with flights within the US, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands can make changes or cancel without a fee, except for basic economy passengers. 

Travelers can rebook or cancel on Delta's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-221-1212.

Alaska Airlines is also permanently eliminating change fees to its domestic and international destinations for all fares except "saver" basic economy. Passengers with a saver ticket, however, can make changes or cancel if they've purchased before December 31, 2020. 

Travelers can rebook or cancel on Alaska's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-252-7522.

While change fees are waived, travelers will still have to pay a fare difference in most cases for all airlines.

Most US airlines are waiving cancel and/or change fees for flights to any destination

In addition to American, Delta, United,  and Alaska, all major US airlines adjusted their policies to allow flyers to book or cancel flights. 

JetBlue Airways, Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines have all issued flexible travel policies to allow for changes.

  • Allegiant Air is allowing a one-time flight change for existing bookings.
  • Frontier Airlines is allowing passengers with existing and new bookings to change or cancel without a fee for flights through January 7, 2021. 
  • Hawaiian Airlines is allowing passengers with new and existing bookings from March 1 to December 31 to change or cancel without a fee. 
  • JetBlue Airways is waiving change and cancel fees for passengers with new existing bookings until February 28, 2021.
  • Sun Country Airlines is waiving change fees for bookings greater than 60 days out. Travelers can also purchase a change fee waiver, which allows for a one-time change within 60 days of travel. 
  • Spirit Airlines is waiving change and cancel fees for bookings made until December 31, 2020. 

While the fee to change or cancel is being waived, travelers will still have to pay the fare difference in most cases for the flights to which they're rebooking. 

Southwest Airlines hasn't issued a travel waiver as all of its flights can be changed or canceled without incurring a fee. Changes made, however, do incur a fare difference and those canceling their bookings without holding refundable tickets have the funds go into a travel bank.

How to get a refund and not just a credit for future travel

Just because an airline is canceling a ticket, does not mean that travelers will get their money back. Most airline tickets are non-refundable meaning that even if the ticket is canceled, the airline will likely not give the money back to the customer unless certain conditions are met.

The policy is in place to prevent unnecessary bookings as well as prevent the airlines from losing money in the event of a mass cancellation event such as a pandemic. Airlines will instead keep the funds and allow them to be used on a future booking, encouraging customers to rebook for a later date and still fly with the airline. 

If airlines allowed for refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic, they would lose millions with no guarantee that passengers would rebook especially since the demand for travel is still low. 

When a flight is impacted by a schedule change, however, the traveler can request a refund. A schedule change is any change made to a flight by the airline and not by a passenger, including a change in the departure or arrival times, or aircraft type. 

Read more: Airlines constantly adjusting their schedules means you can easily change your flight for free or get a refund — here's how

That's why passengers who want cash instead of travel credit or a voucher should wait until the last minute to see if their flight ultimately ends up being changed, delayed, or canceled. Even a small flight delay on the day of departure can make the case but some airlines do require 24-hour notice for a cancellation or that the cancellation is made before the flight's scheduled departure, so set an alarm as a reminder to cancel. 

If your flight has been changed previously, keep that in mind as the trip nears as a potential way out. For most major US airlines, a schedule change of an hour or two and even an aircraft change can be grounds for a refund.  

Standard travel insurance policies likely won't cover coronavirus.

According to industry analyst for CreditCards.com Ted Rossman, the regular policies that travelers can buy from their airlines won't cover claims that cite coronavirus as the reason for cancellation. 

"The only travel insurance that would be helpful in that scenario is when you pay extra for a 'cancel for any reason' plan," Rossman told Business Insider's David Slotnick. "If you're just canceling out of fear of traveling and getting sick, that's not a good enough reason."

Some policyholders who get sick before travel or having a compromised immune system may be able to successfully file a claim, but would likely require documentation from a doctor. 

Credit card companies offering cards with built-in travel insurance have also said coronavirus is not a reason to file a claim. 

Social media and airline websites and mobile apps can be used to change or cancel flights if waiting on hold isn't an option.

With the influx of calls to change or cancel travel, wait times for airlines have been exceeding normal lengths and it can take hours to get an agent on the phone. Most bookings can be changed or canceled online via the airline's website but for those who require special assistance and can't wait multiple hours on hold, social media offers another option.

Airlines can assist with most booking changes or cancellations via their Twitter accounts over direct message or use a phone's messaging service. Wait times may be similarly long but travelers won't have to wait on hold to reach an agent. 

For international airlines without US phone numbers, social media may be the best way to get in contact with an airline. Some airlines also offer a live chat function on their websites for easy access to an agent, though wait times similarly may vary.  

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to change or cancel flights during the pandemic

Delta Air Lines New JFK Airport Experience
  • A surge in COVID-19 cases across the US is encouraging would-be travelers to cancel their holiday flights.
  • Four major US airlines have eliminated change and cancel fees permanently, while others have travel waivers to make it easier to cancel when plans change.
  • Most airlines won't offer a refund, however, unless a flight is canceled or there is a schedule change, so flyers should be strategic when they cancel. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The airline industry's hope for an air travel resurgence during the holiday season may be dashed as some travelers are looking to avoid flying amid a coronavirus surge. 

Rising COVID-19 cases and new lockdown orders from governors across the US that limit how many people can be at Thanksgiving dinner are forcing travelers to rethink their holiday plans. And for some, that means staying off of airplanes, despite the industry's push to show that flying is safe

For those looking to stay home, airlines are being more flexible this year out of any year prior when it comes to changing plans. In the US, four major airlines eliminated change and cancel fees permanently in an effort to increase bookings despite the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic. 

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines have done away with the fees, normally a huge revenue driver, while others have waivers to allow limited changes with restrictions. 

But even though airlines are using words like change and cancel, the policies often have restrictions about which travelers are often unaware. While there might not be a change fee, for example, customers will have to pay any difference in airfare.

Here's what you need to know about changing or canceling a booking as coronavirus continues to impact travel.

Four major US airlines are eliminating change and cancel fees for domestic and limited international travel

United Airlines was the first major international airline to eliminate change fees over the summer for its flights within the US or to the Caribbean and Mexico. Passengers with economy tickets and above, excluding basic economy, can make changes or cancellations as many times as they'd like. 

Award ticket holders can similarly make changes or cancel their flights. In order for the miles to be redeposited without a fee, however, the passenger must cancel greater than 30 days from the day of departure. 

Passengers with basic economy tickets who book or have booked their flights before December 31, 2020, are able to change their flights under United's earlier change fee waiver. 

Travelers can rebook or cancel on United's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-864-8331.

American Airlines' new policy is a bit broader and includes the US, Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean, as well as all "long-haul international" trips that originate in North or South America, though American hasn't yet defined which routes classify as long-haul international. Ticket holders in all classes except basic economy can make changes or cancel their flight without a fee if they've booked after August 31.

Passengers who also bought a ticket before September 30, 2021, for travel between March 1 and December 31, 2020, regardless of cabin class, can make a one-time change for free under American's existing travel waiver

Travelers can rebook or cancel on American's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-433-7300.

Delta Air Lines is allowing customers with tickets booked between March 1 and December 31, 2020, to change their flights with no fee for up to a year after they've purchased. Tickets purchased before April 17, however, can be extended until December 31, 2022. 

Beginning in 2021, Delta passengers with flights within the US, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands can make changes or cancel without a fee, except for basic economy passengers. 

Travelers can rebook or cancel on Delta's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-221-1212.

Alaska Airlines is also permanently eliminating change fees to its domestic and international destinations for all fares except "saver" basic economy. Passengers with a saver ticket, however, can make changes or cancel if they've purchased before December 31, 2020. 

Travelers can rebook or cancel on Alaska's website, mobile app, or by calling 1-800-252-7522.

While change fees are waived, travelers will still have to pay a fare difference in most cases for all airlines.

Most US airlines are waiving cancel and/or change fees for flights to any destination

In addition to American, Delta, United,  and Alaska, all major US airlines adjusted their policies to allow flyers to book or cancel flights. 

JetBlue Airways, Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines have all issued flexible travel policies to allow for changes.

  • Allegiant Air is allowing a one-time flight change for existing bookings.
  • Frontier Airlines is allowing passengers with existing and new bookings to change or cancel without a fee for flights through January 7, 2021. 
  • Hawaiian Airlines is allowing passengers with new and existing bookings from March 1 to December 31 to change or cancel without a fee. 
  • JetBlue Airways is waiving change and cancel fees for passengers with new existing bookings until February 28, 2021.
  • Sun Country Airlines is waiving change fees for bookings greater than 60 days out. Travelers can also purchase a change fee waiver, which allows for a one-time change within 60 days of travel. 
  • Spirit Airlines is waiving change and cancel fees for bookings made until December 31, 2020. 

While the fee to change or cancel is being waived, travelers will still have to pay the fare difference in most cases for the flights to which they're rebooking. 

Southwest Airlines hasn't issued a travel waiver as all of its flights can be changed or canceled without incurring a fee. Changes made, however, do incur a fare difference and those canceling their bookings without holding refundable tickets have the funds go into a travel bank.

How to get a refund and not just a credit for future travel

Just because an airline is canceling a ticket, does not mean that travelers will get their money back. Most airline tickets are non-refundable meaning that even if the ticket is canceled, the airline will likely not give the money back to the customer unless certain conditions are met.

The policy is in place to prevent unnecessary bookings as well as prevent the airlines from losing money in the event of a mass cancellation event such as a pandemic. Airlines will instead keep the funds and allow them to be used on a future booking, encouraging customers to rebook for a later date and still fly with the airline. 

If airlines allowed for refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic, they would lose millions with no guarantee that passengers would rebook especially since the demand for travel is still low. 

When a flight is impacted by a schedule change, however, the traveler can request a refund. A schedule change is any change made to a flight by the airline and not by a passenger, including a change in the departure or arrival times, or aircraft type. 

Read more: Airlines constantly adjusting their schedules means you can easily change your flight for free or get a refund — here's how

That's why passengers who want cash instead of travel credit or a voucher should wait until the last minute to see if their flight ultimately ends up being changed, delayed, or canceled. Even a small flight delay on the day of departure can make the case but some airlines do require 24-hour notice for a cancellation or that the cancellation is made before the flight's scheduled departure, so set an alarm as a reminder to cancel. 

If your flight has been changed previously, keep that in mind as the trip nears as a potential way out. For most major US airlines, a schedule change of an hour or two and even an aircraft change can be grounds for a refund.  

Standard travel insurance policies likely won't cover coronavirus.

According to industry analyst for CreditCards.com Ted Rossman, the regular policies that travelers can buy from their airlines won't cover claims that cite coronavirus as the reason for cancellation. 

"The only travel insurance that would be helpful in that scenario is when you pay extra for a 'cancel for any reason' plan," Rossman told Business Insider's David Slotnick. "If you're just canceling out of fear of traveling and getting sick, that's not a good enough reason."

Some policyholders who get sick before travel or having a compromised immune system may be able to successfully file a claim, but would likely require documentation from a doctor. 

Credit card companies offering cards with built-in travel insurance have also said coronavirus is not a reason to file a claim. 

Social media and airline websites and mobile apps can be used to change or cancel flights if waiting on hold isn't an option.

With the influx of calls to change or cancel travel, wait times for airlines have been exceeding normal lengths and it can take hours to get an agent on the phone. Most bookings can be changed or canceled online via the airline's website but for those who require special assistance and can't wait multiple hours on hold, social media offers another option.

Airlines can assist with most booking changes or cancellations via their Twitter accounts over direct message or use a phone's messaging service. Wait times may be similarly long but travelers won't have to wait on hold to reach an agent. 

For international airlines without US phone numbers, social media may be the best way to get in contact with an airline. Some airlines also offer a live chat function on their websites for easy access to an agent, though wait times similarly may vary.  

Read the original article on Business Insider

I visited a United Club during the pandemic and saw how the airline is re-imagining the airport lounge as it slowly welcomes back travelers

United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
  • United Airlines is re-examining its airport lounges, called United Clubs, during the pandemic as the priorities of its top passengers have shifted towards health and safety. 
  • Only 10 lounges are open across a network of 33 airports as daily departures are slashed and international travel remains scarce but more are likely to be opened in the coming months.
  • We visited the United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport for a closer look at how the lounge is surviving the pandemic with fewer passengers and a reduced offering.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

United Airlines is slowly reopening its premium lounges, aptly named United Clubs, across the country as more flyers return to the skies.

Only 10 lounges have opened their doors with at least one at each of United's hubs in the US  but locations at 25 airports across the airline's global network remain closed. They normally cater to the airline's top flyers – including those flying in business and first class on select flights, elite status holders, and cardholders of certain United credit cards –  who have not yet returned in meaningful numbers to warrant the opening of additional lounges. 

United was similarly forced to close all of the Polaris lounges, its flagship lounge product geared towards international Polaris business class flyers that included showers, sit-down dining, and private suites. All Polaris lounges had been opened except for one location in Washington before the pandemic hit and the loss of premium international travelers warranted their temporary closure. 

With passenger priorities changing, United has adjusted the purpose of its lounges, focusing more on social distancing and safety than anything else. A five-point plan was crafted by the airline to guide the reopening process with a focus on examining everything from how guests enter the lounge to training staff on new health and safety policies and procedures.

Take a look inside what is now the only United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.

United has consolidated its Newark operation to Terminal C, the airport's largest terminal used exclusively by United.
United Club Newark Airport
Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Even with the consolidation, the terminal remains quieter than normal with Newark seeing a reduction in daily United departures of around 50%.
United Club Newark Airport
Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport.
With fewer departures, only one of the four United lounges at the airport remains open.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
It's a quick walk or elevator ride up to the lounge but before passengers even step foot in the lounge, they're greeted with a hand sanitizer station...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
And a reminder of United's new overall safety measures, in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and Clorox. These signs can be found across the terminal from check-in to the gate.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Elevator riders will notice the social distancing placards that limit capacity to five at a time.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Those placards continue on the top floor and lead the way towards check-in.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The main hallway is divided by a rope where passengers heading into the lounge stay on the right and those leaving the lounge stay on the opposite side.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
And there's another hand sanitizer station for good measure.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Plexiglass partitions have been installed at check-in, a common trend across the entire airport that also sees these partitions at gates and ticket counters.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Visitors are encouraged to scan their own boarding passes when verifying their eligibility to enter as a way to reduce interactions between lounge staff and passengers.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
This lounge just reopened in July after being closed in the early days of the pandemic.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
It has a very basic hexagonal design with capacity restricted to 202, down from around 400.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
United used the downtime to change the layout and also slightly refurbish the lounge as it is one of the older lounges in the airline's network.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
But even with the capacity restrictions, the lounge was nowhere near full during our visit where only 300 people had entered from the time the lounge had opened until 3 p.m.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
That number will undoubtedly grow as United adds more departures from Newark but coastal hubs have taken a beating in terms of traffic numbers since international flights have been reduced.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Returning visitors to the United Club will notice a slight change of design with fewer tables and chairs in some places to better allow for distancing.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Instead of blocking seats or tables with a placard as other airline lounges have done, they've been removed entirely from the lounge.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
These tables, for example, used to line the perimeter of the lounge along the inner window but a lot of them have been removed so they can be effectively spaced.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Chairs were also removed from high-tops so visitors can be spaced a few feet apart.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The low-density configuration helps make the experience more private, contributing to the goal of making the lounge a quiet, safe place to wait before a flight.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
A benefit of the lounge's original design was that it included these single-person workstations, separated from each other with high walls that aid in social distancing.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Beyond the design changes, visitors will also notice a scaled-back food offering.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
This self-serve buffet would normally feature a mixture of hot and cold food items including soups, breads, and salads, but fresh food has largely been replaced with pre-packaged snacks.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.

United is trialing an enhanced pre-packaged food offering to include items like salads, breakfast parfaits, wraps, sandwiches, and desserts. Lounges in Denver, Chicago, and Honolulu will be the test lounges. 

Well-known snacks are represented included Ritz...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Oreos...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Chips Ahoy...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Wheat Thins...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
And Doritos.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Slightly fresher food items include mozzarella cheese sticks...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Brownies...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Individually packaged apples...
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
And classic mixed nuts.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
During lunchtime, Smucker's peanut butter and jelly Uncrustables sandwiches are also available on request while staff will come around with yogurts, selections of cheeses, blueberry muffins, and banana nut muffins throughout the day.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Other hours of the day will also see hard-boiled eggs and cup noodles on offer, depending on the mealtime.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The offering isn't meant to be permanent as United is in the midst of revising its lounge dining strategy.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
But the strategy, for now, is focused on small bites that passengers can grab and quickly bring back to their seats.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The bar area has also been scaled back with United removing all tables and barstools to avoid crowding in the area.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
This now-barren space, for example, used to be filled with tables and chairs
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
And barstools formerly lined the bar so passengers could watch television while enjoying a drink.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
But United doesn't want passengers to linger here so those amenities have been removed. Plexiglass partitions have been installed at ordering stations to further reduce contact between staff and patrons.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Coffee is now also served by bartenders as the self-serve machines have been shut to lower the number of touchpoints in the lounge.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The bar's offering remains the same with house beer, wines, and liquors remaining complimentary.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Cocktails and more high-end items will still cost, however.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
For soft drink users, the multi-drink Coca-Cola machine provides countless options from sparkling water to classic Coke. It even has QR functionality so passengers can operate the machine using their own device.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
I was able to make this sparkling lemon-lime Dasani without touching the screen. All drinks are also being served in these single-use cups so they can be easily discarded.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Hand sanitizer stations then flank the edge of the bar for patrons to use after getting their drink.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
In an effort to further reduce touchpoints, magazines and newspapers have also been removed.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Cleaning the lounge falls under United's CleanPlus initiative that's in collaboration with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic. Facilities are cleaned daily and staff ensure that spaces are cleaned shortly after a passenger uses it.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Unlike other airline lounges, there are very few physical reminders to wear a mask or social distance in the seating areas of the lounge. United attributes that to a desire to use less paper and plastic.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Instead, overhead announcements and digital signage remind all patrons to wear a mask and social distance. Wearing a mask is required in all United lounges, except when eating and drinking, and anywhere in the airport.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Realizing that demand and traffic are down and will be for quite some time, United is re-examining the role of its lounges amid a new reality of air travel. Health and safety now take precedence over the typical lounge luxuries.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Travelers are spending less time in airports as fewer passengers are clogging up security checkpoint lines so the appeal of arriving early to enjoy the luxuries of the lounge is no longer an issue.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.
United will open more lounges are the number of daily passengers increase and has said it will open additional spaces before removing capacity limits in existing ones.
United Club Newark Airport
The United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.

In Honolulu, for example, United is opening a lounge on November 21 as leisure demand increases to Hawaii. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

VistaJet is about to take delivery of its first charter-ready Bombardier Global 7500, a $70 million ultra-long-range private jet that can fly 7,700 nautical miles — see inside

Vista Jet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
  • Private aviation firm VistaJet will welcome another Bombardier Global 7500 to its fleet in January that will be available for charter after its first model was scooped up by a single client.
  • The Global 7500 has the longest range of any aircraft in its class, and is able to fly up to 7,700 nautical miles in a single flight. 
  • The 14-passenger configuration allows for four living spaces, including a private bedroom and office. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Bombardier's largest private jet will soon be ready for private charter.

European private jet firm VistaJet is preparing to take delivery of its second Bombardier Global 7500 in January. It's the first model that VistaJet's wealthy clients will be able to charter, and just in time as the world begins to re-open on the heels of positive COVID-19 vaccine news that may bring the pandemic to an end in 2021.

The 7500 is an intercontinental private jet that boasts the longest range of any aircraft in its class. For business or health-conscious travelers, flying non-stop can maximize efficiency and minimize exposure to pathogens while traveling by reducing journey times and eliminating any en-route fuel stops.

Thomas Flohr, chairman and founder of Vista Global, called the plane a "game-changer" for his company in an April interview with Business Insider. He said the aircraft will help VistaJet capture a new segment of ultra-high-net-worth individuals who are turning to private jets for travel during the pandemic. 

Read more: Private jet industry CEOs say business will boom as the wealthy abandon airlines and reveal what they're doing now to take advantage

VistaJet was the first charter operator to acquire the Global 7500, and took delivery of its first model earlier this year. But, as a VistaJet spokesperson told Business Insider, the aircraft was scooped up by one client for dedicated use and isn't available to the firm's other clients. 

With a second aircraft soon in the fleet, VistaJet plans to offer the ultra-long-range capabilities of the jet to all of its charter customers. 

Take a look inside VistaJet's Bombardier Global 7500. 

The Global 7500 is Bombardier's largest wide-cabin private jet to-date, and is the flagship of the Global family, which has been in production for more than two decades.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
The Global 7500 is still new to the skies. The first one was only delivered to a customer in 2018, making all the more exclusive.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

The jet is ideal for flyers looking to have the best of both worlds when it comes to size and capability.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
With a maximum range of 7,700 nautical miles, there aren't many places that can't be reached in a single flight, or two at the absolute maximum.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

New York-Delhi, London-Santiago, and Taipei-Toronto can all be achieved in a single flight under the right conditions, meaning flight times of over 15 hours.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
And when spending that many hours on a plane, the at-home feel is key. Thankfully, the jet's cabin is 54 feet and five inches long, allowing for plenty of room to spread out.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

And in true Global fashion, the jet has a cabin width of eight feet. Anything larger would be an airliner.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

Step inside this silver and red Global 7500.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
In VistaJet's configuration, the aircraft can seat 14 passengers across four living areas. The forward areas are open concept while the rear two are more private.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: VistaJet

The club suite houses the first four seats. Found on nearly every private jet, this area is comprised of four club seats arranged in two pairs that face each other.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
All club seats on the plane are Bombardier's new "Nuage" seat, which boasts increased ergonomics, a seamless swivel, a deep recline, and lie-flat capabilities.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
Directly behind is the conference suite, a six-seat section with two large tables divided by an aisle.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
It's a multi-purpose area that can be used as a dining table during mealtimes or as a conference table during working hours.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
The tables can also be connected by a sleeve that blocks the aisle, ideal when four or more passengers are sharing a meal.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
Finally, an enclosed entertainment suite serves as a living room with a three-person couch facing a high-definition flat-screen television.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: VistaJet

And when it's time to sleep or get work done in privacy, the principal flyer can retreat to a private suite in the back of the plane.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
The enclosed space has a proper full-size bed opposite an office space that comes with its own club seat and table.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
Eight people can sleep in the jet when all the seats are converted into beds, ideal for when crossing multiple time zones in a single trip.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: VistaJet

Two GE Passport engines power the aircraft are with more than 18,000 pounds of thrust.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

They enable a top speed of Mach .925, making the Global 7500 Bombardier's fastest private jet.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

Its combined speed and range give VistaJet a new tool in attracting customers seeking to avoid airlines with non-stop flights on routes that would require a stop on smaller aircraft.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
The jet broke a speed record in 2019 when it flew from Los Angeles' Van Nuys Airport to Teterboro Airport near New York City in just three hours and 54 minutes.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

It can also climb as high as 51,000 feet, well beyond commercial airliners and high enough to see the curvature of the Earth.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier

Its main rival is the Gulfstream G700, an upcoming aircraft that boasts similar capabilities and a slightly longer cabin.
Gulfstream G700
A model of the Gulfstream G700.

Read More: Private jet industry CEOs say 2 new planes coming out soon will change the business forever. See inside the Gulfstream G700 and Bombardier Global 7500.

But the Global 7500 tops the Gulfstream in range by 200 nautical miles.
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

Source: Bombardier and Gulfstream

In the words of Flohr, the Global 7500 is truly a "game-changer."
VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.
Read the original article on Business Insider

Allegiant Air just added 15 leisure routes for 2021 with a new shortest route that’s under 200 nautical miles— here’s the full list

Allegiant Air Airbus A320
Allegiant Air is growing its US presence in 2021 by expanding into new and existing markets.
  • Ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air is adding 15 new routes to its network to new and existing destinations.
  • Orange County, California and Las Vegas are the focus of the expansion with secondary markets including Grand Rapids, Michigan also seeing a boost.
  • The new flights will launch in 2021, starting on February 11 and continuing until March 5. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Allegiant Air is growing across the US with 15 new routes coming in 2021 as the airline industry hopes to start fresh in the new year and on the path to profitability. 

The routes will see Allegiant grow in existing markets and expand into new ones such as Orange Country, California and Spokane, Washington, undoubtedly boosting its brand recognition. Leisure travel is the main focus of the expansion as that's where demand is shifting and Allegiant already didn't have a strong business traveler following entering the pandemic. 

Ultra-low-cost airlines such as Allegiant are expected to recover sooner than their full-service competitors since their route networks are leisure-oriented and cost structures are tighter than other airlines. Allegiant, specifically, has no international flights and serves Canada and Mexico via US border cities such as Bellingham, Washington and McAllen, Texas. 

Read more: Spirit Airlines' low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

Allegiant is keeping with its traditional route structure that sees flights utilize the smaller airports on the peripheries of larger markets in order to keep costs down. Salt Lake City, for example, is served via nearby Provo, Utah while Phoenix is served via Mesa, Arizona and flight crews return to their home base every night so Allegiant doesn't have to pay for crew hotel rooms.

All flights will be operated by Allegiant's fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft including the A319 and A320. Each aircraft has all-economy seating with below-average legroom for a US carrier — though average for an ultra-low-cost carrier — at 30 inches of pitch.

Here's where Allegiant Air is flying in 2021. 

Between Las Vegas and Spokane, Washington

Spokane Washington
Spokane, Washington.

Allegiant will begin flying between Las Vegas and Spokane, Washington on February 11, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

Spokane is a new market for Allegiant that will also start flights to Orange County in 2021. Both Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines currently serve the route between Sin City and Washington's westernmost cities, giving Allegiant some rare competition. 

Between Las Vegas and Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan
Flint, Michigan.

Allegiant will begin flying between Las Vegas and Flint, Michigan on March 4, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

Flint currently sees Allegiant service primarily to states in the Southeast including Florida and Tennessee. The route to Las Vegas will be the longest and furthest west offered by any airline at the airport with no other airlines currently serving it.

Between Las Vegas and Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina.

Allegiant will begin flying between Las Vegas and Asheville, North Carolina on March 4, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

Asheville is a regional base for Allegiant in the Southeast with service to states across the country from Texas to Massachusetts. The route to Las Vegas will be the longest and furthest west offered by any airline at the airport with no other airlines currently serving the route.

Between Orange County, California and Las Vegas

las vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Las Vegas on February 18, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

The route comes in at 197 nautical miles, making it the shortest scheduled route in Allegiant's network when it launches, according to Cirium data. It overtakes the Los Angeles-Las Vegas route, which comes in at 205 nautical miles, and the 225-nautical mile Fresno-Las Vegas route.

Allegiant will not be the only airline connecting the two cities, however, with Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and JSX all slated to compete for business. And that's only between Orange County and Las Vegas as scores of airlines offer flights from nearby Long Beach, Los Angeles, Burbank, and Ontario to the Gambling Capital of the World.

Delta Air Lines also operated flights on the route until April 5, according to Cirium data, and may restore service as demand dictates. 

Between Orange County, California and Provo, Utah

provo utah
Provo, Utah.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Provo, Utah on February 12, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays. Provo is just south of Salt Lake City, offering a cheaper alternative to Salt Lake City International Airport while still providing direct flights to the ski slopes of the Mountain West. 

No airlines directly compete with Allegiant on this route, though Delta Air Lines serves Orange County from Salt Lake City and Southwest Airlines plans to on March 11, 2021.

Between Orange County, California and Medford, Oregon

Medford Oregon
Medford, Oregon.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Medford, Oregon on February 12, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays.

Medford is a popular Allegiant destination that sees service to cities across the American Southwest and West Coast. No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator.

Between Orange County, California and Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction Colorado
Grand Junction, Colorado.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Grand Junction, Colorado on February 12, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays.

Though not the most direct access point to the sky slopes of the Rocky Mountains, Grand Junction also sees Allegiant service from Mesa, Arizona; Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator.

Between Orange County, California and Boise, Idaho

boise idaho
Boise, Idaho.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Boise, Idaho on February 12, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays.

No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator. 

Between Orange County, California and Missoula, Montana

Missoula Montana
Missoula, Montana

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Missoula, Montana on February 18, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator. 

Between Orange County, California and Reno, Nevada

Reno Nevada
Reno, Nevada.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Reno, Nevada on February 18, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Thursdays and Sundays.

While a destination in its own right, Reno is also a gateway to popular Lake Tahoe. The route is currently unserved by regional carrier JSX has plans to launch service between the two cities on December 3 with four-times-weekly service on Embraer ERJ145 regional aircraft. 

Between Orange County, California and Spokane, Washington

Spokane, WA
Spokane, Washington.

Allegiant will begin flying between Orange County, California and Spokane, Washington on February 18, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

Spokane is the newest destination in Allegiant's route network, along with Orange County. No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator. 

Between Grand Rapids, Michigan and Newark

Newark New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey.

Allegiant will begin flying between Grand Rapids, Michigan and Newark on March 5, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays.

Grand Rapids is a growing Allegiant base with service across the country from coast to coast. United Airlines will be Allegiant's only competitor, offering daily service with regional aircraft and connections to airports across its network. 

Between Grand Rapids, Michigan and Destin, Florida

destin florida
Destin, Florida.

Allegiant will begin flying between Grand Rapids, Michigan and Destin, Florida on March 5, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays.

No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator. 

Between St. Petersburg, Florida and Fargo, North Dakota

fargo north dakota
Fargo, North Dakota.

Allegiant will begin flying between St. Petersburg, Florida and Fargo, North Dakota on February 11, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator. Allegiant is among the largest operators in Fargo, offering flights to the Southeast, Southwest, and West Coast as far as Los Angeles. 

Between Houston and Mesa, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona
Mesa, Arizona.

Allegiant will begin flying between Houston and Mesa, Arizona on February 11, 2021. Offering twice-weekly service, flights will operate on Sundays and Thursdays.

Mesa is used by Allegiant as a gateway to Phoenix as both are located in the same valley. No other airlines currently serve the route, leaving Allegiant as the sole operator, but the airline will have to compete with Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, all of which serve a variation of the Phoenix-Houston route. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

More wealthy travelers are turning to private jets this winter for travel as COVID spikes continue. Here are their top 9 destinations.

Private Jet Snow
A Cessna Citation aircraft being marshaled in the snow.
  • Wealthy leisure travelers are returning to the skies in private jets this winter to escape for the holidays. 
  • Business Insider polled some of the country's leading private jet firms to see where they're heading. 
  • The mountain and beach regions of the US continue to be popular but flyers are also leaving US shores for more exotic locals.

Winter is fast approaching, and so is the holiday travel season. 

While budget travelers shop around for the cheapest commercial airline tickets for a Thanksgiving or Christmas getaway, the wealthy are calling their aircraft brokers to book their private jet flights. Pent up demand for safe travel has brought the private aviation industry an abundance of new business and Business Insider polled leading private aviation firms to see just where their clients are going.

After a summer of unusual flying patterns, private jet firms are reporting a return to the traditional destinations for the winter. Mountain destinations are still popular for ski lovers while the beach provides a warm escape from the winter cold as temperatures and flyers head south. 

International destinations are less prominent on the list as travel restrictions still impact Americans but Latin American and Caribbean destinations remain a popular escape. Countries in those regions have relaxed their entry requirements for US citizens arriving by air as they rely on tourism dollars

"Last year, we saw our clients traveling to London, Paris, Venice and other international destinations, but this year they're sticking to familiar locales," Flexjet Chief Operating Officer Megan Wolf told Business Insider in a statement.

Here are the top destinations to where the wealthy are flying this winter. 

Colorado 

Aspen Colorado
Aspen, Colorado.

Colorado is proving to be an all-year-round destination for the wealthy in 2020 as the mountainous state is among the most popular destinations for four jet companies. Jet Linx, Flexjet, FXAIR, and Silver Air Private Jets are all reporting an increase in flights to the state that also saw a busier than expected summer season for wealthy tourism.  

Aspen and Eagle are the most popular points of entry to Colorado, offering direct access to the ski slopes and an idyllic setting for social distancing in the mountains. Winter travel to these destinations can also prove difficult due to the mountain terrain, especially at night or on longer flights to the East Coast where a fuel stop might be required, so flyers should be flexible.  

Florida 

Palm Beach, Florida,
Palm Beach, Florida.

Florida is also once again topping the lists as a top destination for the wealthy, according to FXAIR, Flexjet, and Jet Linx. Palm Beach and Naples are the favorites in the Sunshine State and were similarly popular during the summer as Florida reopened before most.

The New York-Palm Beach route is among the most popular in the US thanks to a mix of private jet and commercial traffic. And even the president of the United States spends winter weekends in Palm Beach.

Mexico

Cancun, Mexico
Cancun, Mexico.

The wealthy are also heading south of the border this winter to the Mexican cities of Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta, according to Silver Air Private Jets and Flexjet. As the closest destinations to the US, Los Cabos, and Cabo San Lucas top the lists for the two firms and Mexico overall is the top winter destination for Silver Air Private Jets based on current bookings.

The vacation destinations are quick hops by plane from West Coast cities, making them popular escapes for wealthy Southern Californians and the Silicon Valley crowd. Mexico began welcoming Americans arriving by air sooner than most countries and became a popular destination for international travelers of all backgrounds.

Mexico does not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry, according to the US Embassy in Mexico

Hawaii

hawaii 1
Maui, Hawaii.

West Coast flyers are heading outside the contiguous 48 states to a newly-reopened Hawaii, which began welcoming tourists in October. The Hawaiian Islands are only around six-hours from most coastal cities, give or take a half-hour, but a world away. 

FXAIR, Magellan Jets, and Silver Air Private Jets are reporting an increase in bookings to the archipelagic state, with the cities of Honolulu, Kona, and Kahului serving as the primary airports of entry. Travelers can enter the state as long as they take an "FDA-authorized Nucleic Acid Amplification Test from a state of Hawaii Trusted Testing or Travel Partner," according to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority

Caribbean

nassau bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas.

For travelers on the other side of the country, the Caribbean remains a popular spot and is similarly welcoming Americans with relaxed restrictions. Flexjet is reporting an uptick of flights to Nassau, Bahamas while Magellan Jets expects to see more flights to the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos. 

Both Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas require a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within five days prior to departure for entry, according to the US Embassy in The Bahamas. The Dominican Republic does not require proof of a negative test but health screenings may occur on arrival, according to the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic.

Nevada

Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada.

Las Vegas is the top getaway spot in Nevada, according to Silver Air Private Jets. From Los Angeles, Sin City is often just a short 45-minute hop from any of the executive airports serving the region. 

While the gambling and nightlife of Las Vegas is the main allure, natural attractions such as Zion National Park in neighboring Utah, the Grand Canyon National Park in neighboring Arizona, and Death Valley National Park in neighboring California are also just a few hours away by car and an even shorter trip by private helicopter. 

California

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, California.

And while some are looking to escape Southern California for the holidays, others are turning into their destination. Los Angeles, San Diego, and Palm Springs are all right in the middle of Flexjet's top destinations this winter. 

Georgia

St Simons Georgia
Sea Island, Georgia.

Sea Island, Georgia also made it on Jet Linx's list of top destinations this winter. The exclusive island located in between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida is home to miles of Georgian shoreline and, along with nearby St. Simons Island, is a golf-lovers paradise. 

Montana

Bozeman1
Bozeman, Montana.

Bozeman is once again joining the list of popular destinations for Flexjet as the primary point of entry for flyers heading to Montana. A veritable gateway to all that nature has to offer, Bozeman is just a few hours drive from Yellowstone National Park and the ski scene in Big Sky. 

Just as it was in the summer, Montana is a popular social distancing spot and Bozeman has been increasing in popularity with the wealthy looking to escape the cities in search of fresh air and star-laden skies.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden promised a ‘railroad revolution’ that could see faster trains and a return to Amtrak’s nostalgic past — here’s what Americans might see

GettyImages 1277592556
President-elect Joe Biden can be the friend that Amtrak needs right now.
  • President-elect Joe Biden is expected to be a friend to Amtrak following decades of loyal ridership during his time in the US Senate. 
  • A Biden presidency could finally see funding for new tunnels under the Hudson River, a project defunded by the Trump administration. 
  • An expansion of high-speed rail is also on the table as Biden seeks clean energy solutions for transportation.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden is no stranger to America's rail system.

Having used Amtrak to commute between Washington, DC and his home in Delaware for decades during his time as a US senator, the frequent rider earned the nickname "Amtrak Joe," as the New York Times reported. He even chartered an Amtrak train during his successful 2020 presidential campaign for a whistle-stop tour through the Rust Belt. 

In 2016, one of his last acts as vice president was helping secure funding for Amtrak through a $2.45 billion loan for the Northeast Corridor, the name for Amtrak's line between Boston and Washington along which numerous major cities lie, the Associated Press reported. The loan was the largest ever in the Department of Transportation's history with most of it going towards new Acela Express trains capable of traveling 186 miles per hour.

Come January 20, Biden will once again have the opportunity to help and improve the struggling rail system that's reported losses since its inception. On his campaign website, improving the country's railroads are a priority under Biden's clean energy initiatives where the president-elect advocates for a "second great railroad revolution."

The US currently falls behind most advanced nations in rail connectivity and usage, as well as in the development of high-speed rail. Most of the country's rail usage is in the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's only profitable sector, while long-distance trains have suffered service cuts in recent years.  

Here's what America's rail system might look like under a Joe Biden presidency.

A new gateway into New York City

New York Penn Station
The stretch of track from Newark to New York is currently a bottleneck in the Northeast Corridor thanks to aging infrastructure.

One of Amtrak's most pressing issues is repairing a 10-mile stretch of track between Newark and New York City, including the construction of two new tunnels under the Hudson River into New York's Penn Station. Known as the Gateway Program, the project is a three-way initiative between Amtrak, New York, and New Jersey with an estimated cost in the neighborhood of $13 billion. 

The federal government under the Obama administration had planned to split the cost with the states until President Donald Trump backed out of the deal in 2017, Crain's New York Business reported, rejecting it as a local issue. It was just one of many tiffs between the federal government and New York during the Trump administration with the president and governor openly attacking each other on various occasions. 

Trump had later approved $766 million in funds for one of the program's goals, building a new bridge to carry tracks over the Hackensack River located entirely in New Jersey, Politico reported. The tunnel portion remained untouched until Trump expressed interest in funding the program in May as part of an infrastructure-focused pandemic stimulus package that did not come to fruition. 

Completion of the tunnel project would take around seven to eight years from its start, Cuomo said in a video to Trump imploring him to fund the project.  

A Biden presidency might see the federal government's backing of the project restored to pre-Trump levels. Construction of the tunnels would reduce delays not only for Amtrak passengers traveling through the region but also for thousands of New Jersey Transit passengers that commute to and from New York City daily. 

Expansion of high-speed rail

Amtrak Acela Express
Amtrak is investing in the Acela Express line with new, faster trains.

Biden campaign website promises plans to expand America's rail network to make it the "cleanest, safest, and fastest rail system in the world."

High-speed rail has long been overdue in the US as European and Asian nations have all seemingly perfected the system. Only one Amtrak line has high-speed capabilities, the Acela Express between Boston and Washington, and even then, the trainsets are restricted to well below its maximum speeds on certain stretches of the line. 

The task of expanding high-speed rail has been taken up by private companies and state agencies in Florida, California, and Nevada that will connect some major cities with new lines. Connecting nearby city pairs via rail would take travelers off planes for shorter hops, just as the Acela Express has done in the Northeast Corridor by attracting travelers away from the airline shuttles.

But that would require new trackage, additional trainsets, and the ability to compete with the airlines. Amtrak upped its competitiveness when it launched non-stop Acela Express services between New York and Washington in 2019, offering a two-hour and 35-minute journey directly into the hearts of both cities.

Biden already has a track record here as his work to secure funding for Amtrak in 2016 will see faster trains join the line. The Alstom-built trains are currently in testing and scheduled to arrive in 2021, though it could be longer, as Business Insider's Mary Meisenzahl reported in January.   

Resumption of long-distance services

Amtrak
Long-distance Amtrak trains are money losers but carry a nostalgia factor that helps keep them running.

Under CEO Richard Anderson, the former Delta Air Lines chief executive, Amtrak began cutting amenities on long-distance routes. The least profitable in the Amtrak system, these lines mainly served a small segment of the population that preferred train travel over air travel or wanted to experience the novelty of a long train journey. 

Profitable routes such as the Northeast Corridor financially prop up these routes that political pressure prevents from being cut, according to the New York Times. Anderson did away with dining cars on some long-distance lines in 2019 as part of cost-cutting measures to help stem the losses on the routes, the Washington Post reported, in favor of an airline-style pre-packaged offering.

The coronavirus pandemic further impacted these trains as service was cut to three-times-weekly on most lines. As the New York Times reported, the temporary cuts may provide Amtrak with a way to permanently sever the unprofitable lines.

Increased funding to Amtrak under a Biden administration could result in long-distance trains being restored to their former glory, white tablecloths and all. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The outgoing Trump administration just revealed its new citizenship test that’s twice as long and uses exclusive terms like ‘citizens’ instead of ‘all people’

US Mexico Border
The Trump administration just unveiled the new citizenship test required for naturalization.
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Services just unveiled its new citizenship test for immigrants seeking to become US citizens. 
  • The new 12-question civics exam is lengthier and has some updated terminology that could be construed as more difficult for test-takers to understand. 
  • The term "citizens" also replaces "people" when it comes to some questions about representation in Congress. 
  • It also comes with a new 128-question study guide, compared to the previous 100-question study guide.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Although nearing the end of its term after an election defeat, the Trump administration just crossed off another to-do list item in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's new administration, crafting a new and more complex test that immigrants must take to receive their citizenship. 

Officials under President Donald Trump unveiled the new civics test on Friday that replaces a President George W. Bush-era test that's been used for the last 12 years. It's the final hurdle to naturalization before America's immigrants receive their decision from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and take the Oath of Allegiance in a naturalization ceremony. 

Read moreEXCLUSIVE: Documents reveal Trump is building his own 'deep state' by leaving political appointees behind in government for the Biden administration 

The USCIS began revising the test in 2019 in an effort to refresh it every 10 years. The last time it was updated was in 2008 during Bush's presidency, leaving the Obama administration with no pressing need to touch the test during its tenure. With the 10-year mark coming in 2018, it fell squarely in the Trump administration's purview. 

Basic civics questions remain the same including "how many U.S. senators are there?" and "how many amendments does the U.S. Constitution have?" but the wording for some is more complex. Applicants are asked to "name two important ideas from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution" instead of "what are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?" 

In the former test, the applicant need only say a combination of terms in the famous phrase: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Correct answers to the new test, however, include more specifics terms such as "equality," "social contract," "natural rights," "limited government," and "self-government."

The term "citizen" also replaces "people" when it comes to representation in some questions, as the Washington Post noted. When asked, "who does a member of the House of Representatives represent?" or "who does a U.S. senator represent?" the correct answer must include citizens and not people.

For US representatives, the right answers would be "citizens in their (congressional) district" and "citizens in their district," while for senators, the right answer would be "citizens of their state."

In the previous test, the term citizen is typically used when discussing explicit rights not given to non-citizens, such as the right to vote. And when asked "who does a U.S. Senator represent?" in the previous test, the correct answer would be: "all people of the state."

The idea of using the term "citizens" instead of "people" was a staple of the Trump presidency, especially as it came to the census and representation. The president fought to have the US Census Bureau ask respondents their citizenship status but dropped the question following legal battles

The soon-to-be Americans can also put their maps away as geography will be removed entirely from the test. Former geography questions were typically lay-ups that included "what ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?" and "what is the capital of the United States?" The answers to those are the Pacific Ocean and Washington, DC, respectively. 

Changes are also coming to the testing procedure and scoring. Instead of correctly answering only six questions, candidates must correctly answer 12 and must answer the full 20 instead of stopping once they've reached the passing mark, according to the Washington Post.

And that's after studying from a list of 128 potential questions, an increase of 28 from the 2008 study guide. The threshold to pass remains the same at 60%.

Applicants of advanced age, 65 years or older, or those with 20 years of permanent residency in the US need only answer six correctly out of 10 instead of 20. Those applicants will also have the number of questions they're required to study reduced to 20.

Luckily, applicants can view the test and its answers before they take it. Both the new 2020 and former 2008 versions are available on the USCIS website

But advocates fear that the test changes will make it harder to become a US citizen and increase wait times to become a citizen, according to the Washington Post. The process to become a US citizen can already take upwards of two years once you've met the requirements, and that doesn't include the potentially years-long process of getting permanent residency just to begin living and working in the country.

Those already scheduled to take the test won't need to brush up on the new lingo and study guides just yet, however. Citizenship applicants with a filing date later than December 1, 2020, will receive the 2020 test while existing applicants will be administered the 2008 test. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The FBI reportedly wanted to arrest Jeffrey Epstein a year before his plea deal while he was judging a 2007 beauty pageant in the Virgin Islands

jeffrey epstein
This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was denied the opportunity to arrest Jeffrey Epstein in 2007 while he was judging a beauty pageant in the US Virgin Islands, according to a US government report viewed by NBC News, a year before his 2008 plea deal with prosecutors. 

The Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility on Thursday released its executive summary of a report analyzing the handling of Epstein's first federal investigation between 2006 and 2008. The full 347-page report, as NBC News reports,  detailed law enforcement's plan to take Epstein into custody as early as May 2007.

The FBI agents working the case were "disappointed" when they learned the arrest wouldn't be happening and a case supervisor was "extremely upset," according to NBC News. The report details that the refusal dampened morale for Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie Villafaña, who felt held back in pursuing the case despite mounting evidence and witness testimony against Epstein.

"Now I feel like there is a glass ceiling that prevents me from moving forward while evidence suggests that Epstein is continuing to engage in this criminal behavior," NBC News reported Villafaña wrote in the report. 

The shadowy financier later cut a plea deal with Department of Justice prosecutors in 2008 that allowed him to avoid federal prosecution but required him to register as a sex offender and plead guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution. The deal saw that Epstein only served a 13-month sentence that allowed him to leave jail six days out of the week to work from his Palm Beach, Florida office. 

Former Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta was also found to have exercised "poor judgment" in the case, according to the executive summary, by pursuing a non-prosecution agreement that resulted in little jail time for Epstein, allowing him to continue his activities that prompted a later investigation that resulted in his 2019 arrest in New Jersey. The Trump administration appointee resigned from his cabinet post amid controversy surrounding his handling of the investigation. 

Epstein owned an island in the US territory called Little St. James - now referred to as "Pedophile Island" or "Orgy Island," according to Business Insider's Libertina Brandt - that's now become a Caribbean tourist attraction thanks to its owner's notoriety. Media reports and court documents allege that visitors to the island included lawyer Alan Dershowitz, former President Bill Clinton, and Marvin Minsky.

The US Virgin Islands was Epstein's primary residence. He frequently flew back and forth between the territory and the US mainland using a fleet of private aircraft that included a Boeing 727 airliner-turned-private-jet and a Gulfstream G550 that is now for sale

Before he could be tried for the charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking, Epstein died while in federal custody in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center of an apparent suicide. He was denied access to bail due to his status as a flight risk and potential public safety risk by US District Judge Richard Berman.

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JetBlue will soon fill its planes to capacity and is offering refunds for travelers who don’t want to fly on the airline as a result

JetBlue Airways Airbus A321
JetBlue will start filling its planes to capacity after previously blocking middle seats and restricting capacity.
  • JetBlue Airways will not be blocking middle seats come January 8, 2021, as more airlines start to fill their planes.
  • Flights from December 2 to January 7 will be filled to 85% capacity and to 100% capacity after that. 
  • Only two US airlines have committed to blocking middle seats into 2021, so far.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

JetBlue Airways is joining the growing list of airlines that plan to fill their aircraft to capacity in the upcoming months, abandoning a policy of onboard social distancing that was thought to be necessary in order to restore confidence in air travel. 

Starting December 2, JetBlue will increase capacity on its aircraft to 85% through the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The airline's current policy for Thanksgiving travel is to limit capacity to 75%, which blocks most middle seats but doesn't guarantee that they're all empty. 

Come January 8, all capacity limits will be removed and any seat on any JetBlue aircraft can be booked. In a message to the airline's crewmembers, JetBlue President and Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty said that the airline expects less full flights during the winter as travel demand usually decreases. 

The New York City-based airline is citing a science-based approach in removing the seat restrictions, pointing to recent studies from Harvard and the US Department of Defense that show the efficacy of high-efficiency particulate air filters, or HEPA filters, and mask usage in stopping the onboard spread of coronavirus. All JetBlue passengers are required to wear masks at all times when flying, except when eating or drinking, as Business Insider found on a recent flight in August

Unhappy passengers who have travel booked on JetBlue for January 8 or later, however, can request a full refund. Travel must have been booked by November 13 and the latest day to apply for the refund is November 27. 

Passenger numbers from the Transportation Security Administration still show that under a million passengers are flying every day in the US but planes are filling up as airlines consolidate their route schedules. JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told Bloomberg in August that his airline would evaluate individual flights up to four days prior to departure to determine if they're financially viable and cancel them if they are not. 

JetBlue joins Southwest Airlines, once a leading airline in the push to block seats, which will open its planes come December 1. America's largest low-cost airline cited the same Harvard and US government studies as JetBlue in its announcement last month that followed a $1.2 billion third-quarter loss. 

Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines are the only two airlines to announce that all middle seats on their jets will be blocked through January 6, 2021, when the holiday travel season will have likely died down. Delta CEO Ed Bastian has said that he expects the policy to end in mid-2021

Hawaiian Airlines is blocking middle seats on its aircraft until December 15, as of now, and hasn't yet announced an extension into 2021. A spokesperson for the airline told Business Insider in October that the airline is confident in the current science surrounding mask usage and air filters, as well as its new cleaning practices. 

The policy change also comes as JetBlue seeks a return to profitability following a third-quarter loss of $578 million, announced last month. JetBlue is also planning to add a new aircraft to its fleet next month, the Airbus A220 that's slated to dramatically boost the passenger experience and replace the airline's aging Embraer E190 fleet.

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