Archive for Thomas Pallini

Jetblue founder David Neeleman’s new airline is recruiting pilots and 4,400 have already applied – here’s what Breeze Airways looks for when hiring

Breeze Airways David Neeleman
Breeze Airways pilots with David Neeleman.
  • Breeze Airways has begun hiring for 85 pilot positions as the airline prepares to launch this year.
  • Pilots are required to have a minimum set of hours but recruiters are also looking for soft skills like customer service.
  • The startup aspires to be a "nice" airline and pilots will need to act as brand ambassadors.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The first flights of Breeze Airways are just around the corner and the David Neeleman-founded startup is looking to bring on more pilots in advance of its long-awaited debut.

Getting pilots to take a chance on the startup, which is slated to begin flights amid an ongoing pandemic recovery period, has surprisingly not been an issue for Breeze. Around 4,400 pilots have already applied to fly for the airline with only around 85 spots available.

"They want to work for the newest and the nicest airline out there with new shiny planes or gently used planes," Jan Coleman, Breeze's manager of pilot recruitment, told Insider.

Neeleman's track record speaks for itself with successes across three countries starting JetBlue Airways, Azul Brazilian Airlines, Morris Air, and WestJet, as well as a guiding TAP Air Portugal in a leadership role.

Read More: What Boeing wants you to know about starting a new airline, according to its step-by-step guide

Getting in on the ground floor of a seniority-based company also has its perks. Pilots with higher rankings often have their pick of assignments over more recent hires, allowing them to have better control over their flying schedule, for example.

And the pandemic has given Breeze a lot of talent to choose from as airlines have been downsizing pilot pools with furloughs and voluntary leave programs. "We've really been able to be selective and get the cream of the crop," Coleman said.

Matching an aircraft with a lifestyle

Breeze plans to operate two aircraft types: the Embraer E190/95 and Airbus A220-300. Both have the same requirements in terms of minimum flight hours but each offers pilots a different lifestyle.

"One of our biggest pitches and approaches is: live when you fly and fly where you live," Coleman said.

Pilots assigned to the Embraer fleet will return to their base every night instead of spending nights on the road. It's a concept that saves Breeze on hotel expenses but also allows pilots to spend more time at home.

"There's no commuting if you don't want to commute, there are no more crash pads if you don't want to crash pad," Coleman explained.

Breeze Airways
Breeze Airways pilots.

Allegiant Air operates a similar model and Coleman said Breeze applicants have been largely receptive to that idea because of the additional freedom it gives them to be "at home every night with your family and your friends and your pets and have a life."

But those seeking the typical pilot lifestyle of multi-day trips out on the road will find it on the Airbus fleet. More traditional flying consisting of two to three-day trips will be common on the A220, and pilots preferring that lifestyle should hold off on applying.

Pilots hired to Breeze now will be assigned to the Embraer fleet while the application window for the Airbus fleet will open early this summer. Once a pilot is assigned to one aircraft, though, they're locked in for at least three years before a switch can be made.

And those wanting to experience the life of an international jet-setting pilot will get to do so at Breeze, just not straight away. The first year of Breeze's operation will be domestic-oriented but the airline plans to introduce international flights in the near future, spokesperson Gareth Edmondson-Jones confirmed to Insider.

Breeze's minimum qualifications

The basic requirements to become a Breeze pilot come down to flight hours. All applicants are required to have at least 1,500 total hours with 1,000 hours of experience flying fixed-wing turbine aircraft, regardless of whether applying for the Embraer or Airbus fleet.

Military pilots, however, only need 1,000 hours if that time was spent flying high-performance military aircraft.

Pilots looking to fly the Embraer fleet, however, will have to have a type rating for the Embraer E170/E190 while Airbus applicants are not required to have an A220 type rating since the aircraft is so new.

"We're really looking for those folks that have good time on the E-Jet to get us started," Coleman said.

Breeze Airways Embraer E195
A Breeze Airways Embraer E195.

The type rating requirement for the Embraer fleet favors pilots flying the Brazilian aircraft for the likes of JetBlue or one of the country's regional airlines like Republic Airways, SkyWest Airlines, and Mesa Airlines that fly the Embraer E170.

"The Embraer 175 is a very popular regional jet," Brandon Soloman, Breeze's manager of pilot pipeline and development, told Insider. "The 190 being the same type rating, yes, it's almost kind of a natural step."

American Airlines recently retired the Embraer E190 from its fleet in 2020 but those pilots would still be eligible as Coleman says the airline wants recency of experience from within the past two years.

From a college class to the right seat

Breeze is working with college aviation programs to implement "pipeline" programs that put aspiring airline pilots on a track to work at the airline.

Regional airlines frequently recruit at the college level and then major airlines recruit from the regional airlines using these programs. Student pilots are interviewed by the airline during their training and then put on a path to employment at that airline so that they'll have a job straight out of school.

Breeze plans to operate the program a bit differently by focusing on mentorship from experienced pilots to those still in training. Mentors will help not only help with the technical aspect of flying for an airline but also ensure candidates have the right "cultural fit" to meet Breeze's values.

Breeze Airways
Breeze Airways pilots.

"Our program will be very heavily focused on helping them make that transition a little easier than it might be at a bigger airline that doesn't have enough resources to focus," Solomon said.

Colleges and universities already play a large role in the airline's hiring strategy. Breeze's flight attendants will be paid college interns that attend online classes when they're not flying.

Pilots won't go straight from the classroom to the cockpit, however, as they'll need to build up their flight hours to Breeze's requirements, which is often done through flight instructing.

More than just a pilot

Minimum qualifications might get pilots in the door at Breeze but are no guarantee of a job. Recruiters are also looking to see if a pilot is a match with the airline's values and for customer service-oriented and safety-minded individuals.

"I think the biggest thing is they really need to be a good leader who will really take great care of our team members and our passengers, and they've got to be nice," Coleman said. "We really are all about [how] nice and kindness goes a long way."

Pilots will be expected to be on the frontlines as the airline gets off the ground and that means interacting with passengers in the terminal, making pre-departure announcements in front of passengers instead of from the cockpit, and being an overall brand ambassador.

"We want good pilots that are really good people," Solomon said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amtrak’s $80 billion plan to connect the US is the latest step in a rail revolution but has a glaring omission: high-speed rail

Amtrak Acela
Amtrak's Acela service runs between Washington D.C., New York City, and Boston.
  • Amtrak has unveiled a plan to further connect the US by rail but it doesn't include high-speed rail.
  • New routes will be added and current routes will be upgraded as Amtrak aims to repair its network.
  • Private companies and states have taken up the costly task of building high-speed rail on their own.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Americans are all-aboard for high-speed rail but Amtrak's new rail plan is putting the brakes on bullet train dreams.

Amtrak is getting ready to spend $80 billion of the federal government's money as part of President Joe Biden's planned $4 trillion infrastructure bills. The "Amtrak Connects US" plan calls for greater rail connectivity across the US with the addition of new routes and improvement of old ones in a major step forward for America's rail system.

But one phrase is notably missing from Amtrak's proposal: high-speed rail. Amtrak's fact sheet doesn't mention the phrase even once.

Rather, Amtrak is using the billions to give service to rail-strapped cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Nashville, Tennessee, and upgrade existing lines. Not one penny will be spent towards building a clean-slate high-speed rail line even though getting America's high-speed rail network in line with those in Europe and Asia is a desire for many Americans.

Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, told Insider that Amtrak may still be decades away from true high-speed rail and is still readjusting from an era of extreme cost-cutting.

"As recently as three years ago, Amtrak senior leadership was out talking about how routes have to make a profit and long-distance routes shouldn't exist," Mathews said, referring to the tenure of former Delta Air Lines chief executive officer Richard Anderson that saw Amtrak's most nostalgic offerings cut in a bid to save costs.

Read More: Here are 9 hurdles Biden's infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

Before Amtrak can even consider a brand-new high-speed rail network, there's still a backlog of repairs to work through on its existing lines. And unlike regional transit authorities, Amtrak's network stretches from sea to shining sea, leaving a lot to maintain and update.

"There's all these sort of boring infrastructure investments that you got to do," Mathews said.

On the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak has its only high-speed service with the Acela, Mathews said that it would cost around $50 billion just to get the line to a "state of good repair." That's 62.5% of Amtrak's proposed $80 billion funding from the infrastructure bill in just repairs alone and not even laying the foundation for true high-speed rail in the Northeast.

True high-speed rail would require new infrastructure, including straight lines of track so trains can achieve their top speeds. In congested regions like the Northeast, that means spending millions if not billions just to purchase property along the line's planned route.

"Politically, high-speed has a different ring to it and I think Amtrak is probably unwilling to step into that," Mathews said. "From their point of view, they're like, 'Hey, we just want to run our trains. We want to run more trains and we want them to be on time.'"

Amtrak is already spread thin in its languishing nationwide network. Existing infrastructure across the US has fallen into disrepair and battles with freight railroads prohibit Amtrak from being competitive on existing lines.

Private companies have instead spearheaded the effort to bring high-speed rail to the US. Brightline built a high-speed line to connect West Palm Beach and Miami in Florida that will soon be connected all the way to Orlando. In Texas, the Texas Central Railroad is developing a high-speed rail line that will connect Dallas and Houston in only 90 minutes.

California has even taken up the mantle with a new high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Construction is currently underway with the 800-mile line taking at least 14 years to complete at an estimated cost of at least $68 billion, according to Architect Magazine.

Amtrak is introducing new trains to the Acela line but those will only travel slightly faster than the current train sets. And pre-pandemic non-stop service between New York and Washington still took two hours and 30 minutes, despite being a comparable distance to the planned route between Dallas and Houston.

"What about grandma?"

Critics of Amtrak and its money-losing ways look too much at the big picture, according to Mathews, and not at the smaller journeys that are more in line with Amtrak's original congressional charter. Only around 10% of riders take the full length of a long-distance service like the Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle, for example, whereas most customers are taking the train between intermediary stops.

"The vast majority of trips take place in between," Mathews said. And those short-distance trips between say Staples, Minnesota and Wolf Point, Montana, where convenient air service is a distant dream, is Amtrak's bread and butter. Fares are comparatively lower than flying and trains can better accommodate passengers that face issues when flying, whether it be because they require medical devices or the nearest airport is hours away.

Keeping those smaller cities connected is also the reason why Amtrak rushed to get long-distance trains back to daily service after they were reduced to three-times-weekly service during the pandemic. Restoring them to daily service may have seemed counter-intuitive from a revenue perspective but the move ensures more Americans that rely on the rails have access to it.

When Amtrak does eventually enter the high-speed rail realm, it may be relegated to the lines that private companies haven't already scooped up. But Mathews believes that's alright because the rail corporation's purview, after all, is to serve the entire country - profitable or not.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp appear to be experiencing issues as thousands report outages

facebook instagram
Facebook owns WhatsApp and Instagram.
  • Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp appear to be experiencing outages for many users.
  • Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp.
  • DownDetector reports show the issues started just after 5 p.m. ET.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp appear to be experiencing outages that are preventing many users from accessing the platforms.

Reports on DownDetector surged after 5 p.m. ET, with users of all three social media platforms noticing outages. A total of 23 reports on DownDetector were issued for Facebook at 5:08 p.m., two reports under its baseline of 25, but that number jumped to 18,120 at 5:23 p.m., indicating the issue wasn't isolated.

Facebook owns both Instagram and WhatsApp.

"Sorry, something went wrong," read the generic Facebook error message seen by many. "We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can."

Instagram and WhatsApp show a similar trend on the outage-tracking website. A total of 49 Instagram reports at 5:04 p.m. ET, 18 reports over its baseline of 31, quickly became 10,330 at 5:19 p.m. ET.

Instagram has resorted to other platforms in order to address user concerns. The photo-sharing platform confirmed the outages in a tweet saying, "Is your #instagramdown? We know some people are having issues right now. We're working on it and hope to have everything running smoothly as soon as possible."

WhatsApp saw four Downdetector reports at 5:05 p.m., which jumped to 69 at 5:20 p.m. and then to 424 at 5:35 p.m. The messaging service has a baseline of three reports.

Spokespeople for Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on the outage reports.

Read the original article on Business Insider

America’s newest airline is launching in April with a focus on leisure routes and fares as low as $19: Meet Avelo Airlines

Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800
An Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800.
  • Avelo Airlines just broke cover and plans to start flights on April 28 from Burbank, California.
  • Andrew Levy, former president of Allegiant Air, is at the helm with a focus on cheap flights and friendly service.
  • A total of 11 routes have already been announced to popular destinations across the American West.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It's lights, cameras, action for America's newest airline that's planning its Hollywood debut later this month.

Avelo Airlines plans to launch flights on April 28 from Hollywood Burbank Airport near Los Angeles, giving travelers yet another option when planning pandemic getaways. The new ultra-low-cost airline is focused on cheap leisure flights and will fly to popular destinations in the American West from before expanding across the country.

"Avelo is a different and better kind of airline, built from scratch to offer an affordable, convenient and caring travel experience," chief executive Andrew Levy said in a press release.

The initial slate of 11 routes from Burbank include flights to:

  • Santa Rosa, California from April 28;
  • Pasco, Washington from April 29;
  • Bozeman, Montana from April 30;
  • Phoenix, Arizona from May 3;
  • Ogden, Utah from May 4;
  • Grand Junction,
  • Colorado from May 9;
  • Medford, Oregon from May 9;
  • Eugene, Oregon from May 12;
  • Bend, Oregon from May 13;
  • Eureka, California from May 19; and
  • Redding, California from May 20.

Burbank, just north of downtown Los Angeles, offers a convenient alternative to Los Angeles International Airport that the company hopes will help spur bookings and encourage flyers to travel.

"A big part of our business model is not just offering every day, great fares," Levy told Insider. "We're a low-cost carrier. We're built to offer low fares, but at the same time we're going to offer a great level of convenience by utilizing Burbank, which we think is probably the best secondary airport in the country."

An airport stuck in time, the one-story terminal building at Burbank resembles a scene from the 1950s. Passengers are required to board aircraft directly from the tarmac since there are no jetways.

Hollywood Burbank Airport
Hollywood Burbank Airport in Burbank, California.

The Boeing 737-800, a tried and true narrow-body aircraft that can seat 189 people in the airline's all-economy configuration, will be Avelo's flagship aircraft. The plane is a staple of other well-known low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and Ryanair thanks to its low operating costs and high availability on the market.

In true ultra-low-cost fashion, flyers won't find seat-back entertainment screens - though WiFi may be coming within the next year. Avelo says it's working with potential suppliers for the service.

In-flight snacks and drinks service won't be offered in the airline's initial run, either, due to the pandemic. Customers will instead receive a "convenience package" with hand sanitizer, a bottle of water, and a small snack.

The bulk of the aircraft's seating are "slimline" seats, the term for thinner seats on airplanes, with only 29 inches of pitch across the 129 seats. The remaining 60 seats, however, will range in pitch from 31 to 38 inches, and reserving one will cost at least $18.

Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800
An Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800.

Fares as low as $19 are being offered on all of the airline's initial routes from April into mid-June for some destinations, except for flights around Memorial Day Weekend. They're just introductory fares but low ticket prices are part of Avelo's overall strategy to stimulate demand in underserved markets and become a go-to for cheap flights.

"Quite honestly, I'd love to be able to do, over many years, what Southwest has done," Levy said. "Where when people hear 'Avelo,' they just associate us with low fares."

Offering low fares, however, means that Avelo will have to fill its planes as close to the brim as possible in order to turn a profit. "We're looking to sell the flights very full, we're defining full as 80-85%," Levy said.

And unlike competitors, Avelo doesn't have a robust system of extra fees to fall back on. Advanced seat assignments start at $5 and checking a bag will only cost $10, with the latter meant to open more space in the cabin during boarding and deplaning. There's also no fee to make a flight change or make a reservation over the phone.

These extra charges, known as ancillary fees, have become the backbone of ultra-low-cost airlines' strategy as they don't incur taxes.

Keeping calm during a crippling pandemic for airlines

Avelo, one of two low-cost airlines launching operations during the pandemic, has the benefit of an experienced founder. Levy formerly served as the co-founder and president of Allegiant Air and chief financial officer of United Airlines.

"I think probably during the pandemic, maybe the hardest thing was just to keep everybody calm and to recognize that there's a lot of good that's going to come from the end of the business cycle," Levy said.

Andrew Levy Avelo Airlines
Avelo Airlines' Andrew Levy.

The industry veteran was actually optimistic instead of pessimistic when the pandemic hit the US in March 2020. Leveling the playing field for airlines made it easier for a new entrant to compete with established players.

Congress ultimately saved many airlines from possible bankruptcy, but the pandemic's outcome still favors leisure airlines like Avelo, analysts say. More Americans are willing to get back in the air after an extended pandemic and ultra-low-cost airlines are allowing them to do it without breaking the bank.

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

"I think all of our investors realize that this will have been a pretty strong opportunity for us to get into markets we otherwise wouldn't have been able to get into, take advantage of materially lower costs for things like airplanes, office leases, IT contracts, parts agreements, etc.," Levy said.

Avelo currently has three planes and more than 200 crew members but plans to have six Boeing 737s and 400 crew members by the end of the year.

Read the original article on Business Insider

United debuted new tools during a devastating winter storm that it says have already saved thousands of flyers from cancellations

United Airlines
United Airlines airport check-in counters.
  • United Airlines is being more proactive when winter weather and other travel hazards arise.
  • A February storm in Denver threatened flight cancellations but United was able to proactively rebook as many as 15,000 flyers.
  • The program is the latest in a new passenger-focused trend that aims to reduce trip interruptions.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Bad weather is an inevitability that can ruin vacations, delay flights, and cause stress for travelers.

But when a snowstorm threatened to cripple operations at Denver International Airport over a weekend in February, United Airlines decided to try a different approach.

As early as a week before departure, the airline began reaching out to customers to inform them of the storm and offer rebooking options so they wouldn't be stranded with a canceled flight when they showed up at the airport. For some travelers, it was the first they were hearing about the storm and were glad to change their flights to avoid it.

35,000 passengers were scheduled to fly during the storm, and the new proactive strategy saved 15,000 flyers from having their trips ruined, United said. Once those flyers were accommodated, the company was able to deal with the rest by consolidating flights, rebooking passengers away from Denver, and adding more flights in the days leading up to the storm.

"We actually added 3,000 seats of capacity, 22 extra flights that we had built, on the Friday before, and we were able to seamlessly move customers over," David Kensick, managing director of United's global operations center, told Insider.

Airport operations were one factor United looked at when determining how to approach the Denver storm, Kensick said, but other external factors - such as if public transportation would still be running to the airport - were also considered.

It's a practice passengers hope they will never need, and United says feedback in post-trip surveys so far has been encouraging.

Focusing on passengers and not just traditional metrics

United has been implementing passenger-focused programs designed to minimize trip interruptions for years.

A similar program called "ConnectionSaver" launched in 2019 makes some flights will quite literally wait for connecting passengers that are arriving on delayed flights. Passengers that do experience a delayed flight will often be given detailed reasoning on why their flight was delayed in a new flight status feature.

United is also giving passengers in hub cities the heads up when external issues might impact travel. For example, when the Blue Line train that connects O'Hare International Airport with downtown Chicago briefly stopped running to the airport, United messaged travelers and warned them that they might need a little bit more time to get to the airport if arriving via the train.

These programs are largely non-existent at other airlines. Kensick attributes them to a new customer-first attitude under chief executive Scott Kirby, who took over Oscar Munoz in May 2020. United found that the performance metrics by which airlines live - on-time performance, most importantly - might not be the best indicators of a great airline from the passenger perspective.

"If you slam the door, leave on time and you leave 20 people behind, for them, they don't feel like they left on time," Kensick said.

It's not always as simple as just holding the aircraft door, though, as a flight that's delayed for even five minutes could run into issues that would've been avoided had it left on time. That's why United has to be strategic about how long flights can be held for and how many passengers it can accommodate with the program.

United has also developed a way of finding potential chokepoints in its schedule by narrowing down which flight will have the most ripple effects on operations should it be delayed or canceled. Known as "dynamic priority flights," additional resources may be deployed to ensure that everything goes smoothly or the consequences could spiral.

The Denver debut of these new programs comes as the airline works to recover from the pandemic. Passenger levels are still a fraction of what they were in 2019, and spare aircraft are a plentiful and can be moved around as needed.

United says that the solution will be to "right size" the airline as it returns to full strength. For example, an undersold flight on a large aircraft could see a smaller aircraft swapped in, freeing up the larger aircraft should the airline need it.

Read More: Airline CEOs say it doesn't matter how well they protect passengers from COVID-19 - travel demand won't bounce back until the pandemic ends

"During the pandemic, we've had so much disruption and it's given us a chance to almost pause and rethink how we're going to run our airline," Kensick said.

The challenge for United will be to maintain its proactivity during adverse weather events once passenger levels are back to normal. Nearly 70,000 passengers were scheduled to fly United during the snowy February weekend but that number might be double by next winter. Kensick just wants passengers to know that "United's got your back."

"We want to get you to your destination with your bag on time, and we're doing all this work behind the scenes to coordinate that," Kensick said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Delta canceled 100 flights over the weekend as the airline struggles to keep up with increased travel in a worrying trend

Delta Air Lines Airbus A220
A Delta Air Lines Airbus A220.
  • This past weekend saw Delta Air Lines cancel hundreds of flights due to staffing issues.
  • Middle seats were also booked, despite airline policy blocking them through April.
  • The cancellations come as Delta was already under fire for its response to Georgia's new voting laws.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Delta Air Lines capped off an already turbulent week with around 100 flight cancellations over the weekend due to a shortage of pilots.

"Delta teams have been working through various factors, including staffing, large numbers of employee vaccinations and pilots returning to active status," Delta told Insider.

The airline has been struggling to cope with periods of increased passenger numbers, particularly those around holidays. The busiest travel seasons of 2020 amid the pandemic surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas saw Delta cancel flights in the hundreds due to similar staffing issues. Christmas saw over 300 cancellations while Thanksgiving saw 615.

Easter weekend saw a record number of passengers take to the skies during the pandemic. A total of 1,580,785 travelers departed from US airports on April 2, according to the Transportation Security Administration, and the days following saw more than 1.3 million travelers each.

Pilots are grounded for 48 hours after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine per Federal Aviation Administration rules, as Insider reported in December, as the side effects can impact a pilot's ability to safely operate an aircraft. Delta also houses a vaccination mega-site in Atlanta at the Delta Flight Museum.

Some travelers that booked with Delta to take advantage of its policy of blocking middle seats, the major differentiator between Delta and its rivals in 2021, also found themselves with a seat neighbor. Delta was forced to book middle seats, a policy scheduled to take effect in May, on Saturday and Sunday to accommodate travelers on canceled flights.

Increased travel is now a reality as more Americans are eager to take to the skies amid the accelerated vaccine rollouts and pockets full with the latest round of stimulus checks.

Read more: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population - and airline CEOs say it's proof that flying is safe

The cancellations also come as Atlanta-based Delta is under fire for its response to Georgia's new voter rights law and calls for boycotts. CEO Ed Bastian initially came out in support of the bill but later denounced its contents, which critics have called voter suppression.

Delta employees were also heavily affected by Bastian's initial comments, industry analyst Henry Harteveldt told Insider in a recent interview, potentially demoralizing the workforce during its busiest weekend in over a year in terms of passenger numbers.

Delta will have a slight reprieve until the next holiday travel weekend surrounding Memorial Day is still more than one month away. But with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance giving vaccinated travelers the green light to travel, greater numbers of daily air travelers are here to stay.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on Alaska for the first time since it stopped blocking middle seats and it was the closest to normal I’ve seen during the pandemic

Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
  • Alaska Airlines is a growing mid-tier US carrier that's been on the rise in recent years and expanding on both coasts.
  • Middle seats are no longer blocked but there's still a big emphasis on social distancing.
  • Snacks and beverages are also offered to passengers, with the onboard experience largely normal.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
Alaska Airlines has been steadily expanding across the US in recent years since its acquisition of Virgin America, increasing its presence from coast to coast.
LAX Day Trip Alaska Airlines - Airbus A320
An Alaska Airlines A320.
While its main sandbox is the West Coast, the airline now operates transcontinental flights from numerous East Coast cities. It's not as big as the majors in the big four US airlines including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, but Alaska has been getting its name out there in a big way.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Middle seats on Alaska flights were blocked until January 7, the second-longest seat-blocking tenure of a major US airline behind Delta. Now, flights can be filled nearly to capacity in economy.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Here's what flying Alaska Airlines is like during the pandemic.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Alaska's primary hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was busier than I expected when I arrived for my Friday afternoon flight to Los Angeles. As the airport's top carrier, many of those flyers would be flying Alaska.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
The entire Alaska Airlines check-in, however, had been overhauled with new safety features like plexiglass partitions at the counters...
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Social distancing placards in queues...
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Hand sanitizer stations...
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
And wipe stations in between check-in kiosks. It was an impressive start to my trip on the airline.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
And before I even got to the airport, I was required to acknowledge a health agreement. Standard for most major US airlines now, I had to affirm that I haven't tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days, hadn't been exposed to the virus in the past 10 days, and hadn't exhibited symptoms in the past three days, in addition to agreeing to the airline's mask policy.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
The flight appeared to be largely empty and it was looking good that I'd have a row to myself. Alaska flies near-hourly between Seattle and Los Angeles so there was no shortage of flights available, even during the pandemic.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
I quickly got my ticket from the kiosk and headed to the gate. I hadn't flown on Alaska since before the pandemic when I flew from New York to LA to get In-n-Out Burger, so I was excited to fly the airline once more.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic

Read More: I flew from New York to LA and back in a single day just to eat a cheeseburger and gawk at planes – here's why I'd do it again

The same set of social distancing measures that I found at check-in were also at the gate, including more plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizing stations, and floor placards.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
The airport also had its own social distancing agenda, blocking every other seat in the gate area with placards.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
But while I had hoped for an empty flight, it turned out that this afternoon flight to Los Angeles was very popular with airline employees and standby passengers. There were at least 25 people looking to jump on board this flight, potentially thwarting my chances of an empty row.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Boarding began around 30 minutes prior to departure with Alaska following its normal boarding procedure. Customers board with their assigned group, listed on their boarding passes.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
After pre-boarding, first class boards first followed by Alaska elites and those seated in "premium class." Regular economy passengers in the back of the plane then board followed by those closer to the front. Basic economy flyers, regardless of seat location, board dead last.
Flying Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
More social distancing placards lined the jetway leading up to the aircraft. "Mind your wingspan" is Alaska's slogan of choice for social distancing.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Flight attendants welcomed us as we filed into the Boeing 737 Max but nothing in the way of hand sanitizer or sanitary wipes were offered, as some other airlines are doing.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Walking past first class, however, I noticed each seat was given hand sanitizing wipes, a perk that economy class didn't get.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
I later saw on the airline's website that they were available "on request."
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Source: Alaska Airlines

The plane was spotless, however, as is to be expected since this was a brand-new plane that only began flying for Alaska a few days prior.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Alaska, like most airlines, disinfects aircraft using electrostatic spraying, or "fogging."
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Delta, United, and American are 'fogging' their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus — here's what that means

Aircraft are also cleaned by crews before each flight, the airline says.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Source: Alaska Airlines

The cleaning measures truly showed. I had no concerns whatsoever about the cleanliness of the plane.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
I chose seat 28F for the two-hour flight to Los Angeles, a window seat on the right side of the plane facing forward.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Everything from the seat area to the tray tables was spotless.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Alaska even had some of its new safety protocols listed in this booklet with a website link where flyers could view the full spread of measures being taken by the airline to keep passengers safe.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
This flight would feature an in-flight drink and snack service with nine different hot and cold beverages on offer ranging from Coke to orange juice.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
The rest of the plane slowly filled up and Alaska's boarding procedure meant the front filled out before the back. Those boarding last would have to walk through an entire plane full of people if they were seated in the back.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Flight attendants during the boarding process continually reminded passengers that they were "obligated" to wear a face mask.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
One flight attendant was also walking around with masks to give to flyers that needed.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Even the safety briefing included a reminder that wearing a mask while flying is now federal law. Passengers were asked to report any offenses to flight attendants.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
The flight departed with quite a few middle seats open. Alaska doesn't currently block middle seats in regular economy as of January 7 so having any seats open was pure luck.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Flight attendants also worked to space passengers by moving them into empty rows. The aisle seat in my row, for example, was given to a passenger that was in a crowded row.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Soon enough, we were airborne and bound for Los Angeles.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Flight attendants quickly began the in-flight service, starting with snacks.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
The bag included a variety of items from pretzels to flaxseed chips.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Then the drink cart came around and gloved flight attendants distributed full beverage cans accompanied by a cup of ice and hand sanitizing wipes. Printed on the napkin was a message asking flyers to put their masks on between bites and sips.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Once the service was over, I took a walk around the plane and only found a few passengers flouting the mask rule. Compliance, for the most part, was good.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Alaska also isn't afraid to ban passengers for not wearing a mask. Almost 450 flyers have been banned as of March 17.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.

Read More: Airlines have banned more than 2,500 passengers for not wearing masks — here are the carriers that have booted the most

The rest of the flight was spent enjoying the views of the West Coast as we headed towards Los Angeles.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
Alaska, overall, has largely returned to normal when it comes to things like boarding and the in-flight service. I was surprised to see how much was on offer compared to other airlines.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
I was also impressed by the airline's investment in social distancing measures at its Seattle hub, with everything from hand sanitizing stations to floor placards.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
And even though it meant I didn't get the row to myself, I appreciated flight attendants being proactive in moving people around to distance flyers when possible.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
The routine flight down the coast was largely uneventful and soon enough, it was time to land in Los Angeles.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
After we landed, flight attendants reminded passengers to social distance when deplaning.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
But most passengers just wanted off and didn't mind crowding the aisle, as is normal when flying regardless of whether there's an ongoing pandemic.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic.
Read the original article on Business Insider

I visited the newly designed private terminal at LAX and saw why wealthy travelers are spending thousands for a membership

PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
  • PS, the private terminal at LAX, has been a haven for wealthy travelers looking to avoid the traveling public.
  • As a result, memberships have been surging as the wealthy want a more private experience.
  • I visited a newly redesigned suite and saw first-hand what they're paying thousands of dollars for.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
PS opened in 2017 as the Private Suite, a one-of-a-kind private terminal at one of the country's busiest airports. Like most travel and hospitality companies, business was down at the pandemic's peak in 2020 as would-be travelers stayed at home amid lockdowns.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
But just over one full year since lockdowns began, PS is reporting a resurgence in new memberships from flyers getting ready to travel.
PS (Private Suite) at LAX
PS at Los Angeles International Airport.
Amina Belouizdad, PS' co-chief executive officer, told Insider that memberships have surged and the company has signed on more new members than it had before the pandemic. Annual membership costs $4,500 but the wealthy are scooping them up, even if they don't have upcoming travel planned.
PS (Private Suite) at LAX
PS at Los Angeles International Airport.
"I think people want to have peace of mind that they have access to this," Belouizdad said. "It's a signal of customer sentiment, is what it is. People are saying, 'I'm expecting to travel over the next year, I want to make sure me and my family can do it safely.'"
PS (Private Suite) at LAX
PS at Los Angeles International Airport.
And with that in mind, PS is embarking on a redesign for its Los Angeles flagship terminal to welcome back travelers with a new look. I stopped by PS on a recent layover in Los Angeles, here's what it was like.
Flying on Alaska Airlines during pandemic
Flying on Alaska Airlines during the pandemic
The major appeal of PS is avoiding the commercial terminal at LAX entirely, and that's only increased during the pandemic. Memberships are up as the wealthy want guaranteed access, even if they don't have plans to fly in the near future.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
For those arriving at LAX by plane, the experience starts with a chauffeured car. PS representatives wait in the jetway to meet guests as soon as they step off of their flights, and promptly escort them to an awaiting vehicle below.
PS Direct
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
PS has a fleet of vehicles available to use depending on group size but the flagship is the BMW 750i. Ideal for one to two passengers, the classic all-white sedan features an executive configuration for passengers in the back.
PS Direct
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The car is loaded with luxurious amenities including leather seats with recline functionality to individual climate control for passengers in the back.
PS Direct
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
There are even seat-back entertainment screens from which the SiriusXM radio can be controlled.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Then, it's around a 10 to 15-minute drive to PS, located on the south side of the airport. As two runways separate the facility from the commercial terminals, drivers have to go all the way around the airport while obeying the airport's modest speed limit
PS Direct
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
As an aviation enthusiast, however, I wish the drive lasted longer as we were right alongside moving aircraft for most of the drive.
PS Direct
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Behemoth jets like the Boeing 747 were just outside the window, departing and landing just feet from the car.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
It was like getting a private tour of the airport all while traveling at the height of luxury.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Upon arrival at PS, it's just a short walk down a private hallway into the facility. Everything from reservations to payment is done online so there's no checking in or waiting in line. I didn't even see another guest for the entirety of my stay.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
There are 13 suites in total at PS. Not all have received the redesign but that project is expected to be completed within the next six months.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
I walked into the suite and felt as if I'd just checked into a luxury hotel.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
It was incredibly modern and above any private lounge that I've seen at an airport. Members pay $3,250 per visit while non-members pay $4,350 per visit for up to four travelers.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The suites aren't as large as a hotel suite but are comparable in size to a New York City studio apartment and include spacious living areas, wet bars, fully-stocked mini-fridges, and private bathrooms, among other features.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
PS takes a personal touch when dealing with guests. A handwritten note is left for guests welcoming them to the facility and detailing what they can expect from the stay.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
A massive high-definition television with DirecTV serves as the main entertainment for the suite, helping pass the time until a flight.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Guests can also make use of the in-suite phone and stationary. PS staff use the phone to communicate with guests and keep them informed on their departure information.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
This quasi-kitchen and wet bar are where all of the suite's food and beverage items can be found.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
A selection of high-end snacks, liquors, and wines were all on offer and available free of charge to guests.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Snacks included pistachios, almonds, keto-friendly cereal, and water crackers, to name just a few.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Guests are also encouraged to take snacks with them on the plane and given this blue box to do so.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The fridge contained chilled soft drinks, waters, milk, alcoholic beverages, and even some more snacks. A guest here will truly want for nothing as everything is at their fingertips.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Those making cocktails can use the bar station and the pre-filled bucket of ice.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
And there was no shortage of glasses, cups, and dishes to use when dining.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Complimentary travel accessories were also scattered across the suite including noise-isolating headphones, headphone splitters, and charging cables.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The luxury continued into the restroom complete with marble floors and vanities, as well as gold-plated sink faucets.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
And the complimentary amenities kept on coming with everything a traveler would need to freshen up before a flight.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
There was even a selection of over-the-counter medications on offer if a traveler is feeling unwell or just wants a dose of Vitamin C to boost the immune system while traveling.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The suite design is the result of a partnership with Cliff Fong, a renowned design consultant, and it really felt like home instead of a transient space.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
"Our vision was always like, let's create a space that feels residential, that feels like their home, that doesn't feel like the airport, that doesn't feel like a commercial space, that feels very familiar and collected," Belouizdad said.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The suite window overlooked the airfield, as well as the PS fleet of luxury vehicles. The firm also offers a new service, called PS Direct, where flyers can be taken straight from their domestic flights to their final destination and avoid both the commercial terminal and the PS facility altogether.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Directly adjacent to the suite is an outdoor patio with benches and chairs to enjoy a bit of the outdoors before heading off on a plane for however many hours.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Suite 13 is often the most sought after since it includes this private outdoor space, accessible via a sliding door from the living room.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Meals are included in the stay and everything comes pre-packaged for sanitary reasons.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
The current menu is largely focused on Los Angeles-inspired meals, mainly salads and sandwiches, for lunch and dinner.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
I sampled the Peruvian steak sandwich and the chicken and prosciutto salad. Both were bursting with flavor and better than most of what's available even in LAX's premium lounges.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
It really came as no surprise that the wealthy are buying up access to the facility since staying here was so much more enjoyable than any airport experience I've had in years.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
For me, I found the true luxury of the suite wasn't the complimentary goodies that were offered but that it was a quiet place to relax during a long layover nestled into an already long day of travel. Suites also feature a sleep kit with eyeshades and earplugs.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
When it was time to leave, PS staff came to the suite and escorted me to the in-house Transportation and Security Administration checkpoint. There's no line and TSA PreCheck was available.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Then, it was just a short drive back to the commercial terminals and my awaiting JetBlue Airways flight.
PS Private Terminal at LAX
Visiting PS, the private terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Read the original article on Business Insider

Iceland is officially opening to vaccinated American tourists and its national airline is rushing to launch cheap flights from the US to attract visitors

reykjavik
Iceland is opening to vaccinated American tourists.
  • Icelandair is rebuilding its US route network as Iceland opens to vaccinated tourists.
  • Regular flights to Boston, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C. are scheduled for May.
  • Americans need only their paper vaccination card to enter the country.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The summer of vaccinated travel now includes Iceland as a potential destination for Americans.

Starting April 6, vaccinated travelers from the US will be allowed into Iceland with just their paper vaccination certificate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's the first European country to open its doors to Americans with no testing or quarantine required for visitors upon arrival, creating a potential boom for tourism and the country's national airline.

Icelandair is already ramping up its US network by resuming regular service to five American cities in May, in addition to its current service to Boston. New York, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C. are slated to be the first to receive the non-stop flights again after a nearly year-long pause for many.

Birna Osk Einarsdottir, Icelandair's chief commercial officer, is "optimistic," that the airline will return to its full slate of planned US destinations for 2021 in June, just in time for the summer travel season. Service to Portland, Oregon has already been scheduled for July 1, and flights to destinations including Orlando, Florida are planned for the summer.

"The plan is, of course, to return to full strength as soon as possible in the US, our largest market, but realistically, it might take 2-3 years for the route network to be back to 2019 size," Einarsdottir told Insider.

Pent-up demand also isn't driving up Icelandair's prices too high as the country reopens. A new fare sale is promising round-trip prices as low as $349 in a bid to quickly drum up tourism. The airline is also waiving change fees to give flyers greater flexibility when traveling.

Read More: Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population - and airline CEOs say it's proof that flying is safe

Iceland doesn't currently require a "vaccine passport" for travel and travelers can enter with just their paper vaccination certificates. But some of Icelandair's destination countries, including those in the EU, have expressed a desire to implement the standardized protocol and the airline is ready to begin accepting them.

"It would be extremely good for travel to restart if we could join forces in that and find a common mechanism for this," Einarsdottir said.

The word is out about Iceland and its flag carrier isn't the only airline trying to get tourists to visit the Land of Fire and Ice. Delta Air Lines is similarly restarting Iceland services on the heels of the country's reopening. Existing routes to Reykjavik from New York and Minneapolis are scheduled to resume in May, along with a new route from Boston.

American travelers have successfully been entering the country since March 18, when Iceland first began accepting inculcated visitors. Andy Luten, one of the first American tourists to enter Iceland under the new rules, told Insider in March that entering the country was surprisingly easy, despite the ongoing pandemic.

But while vaccinated American visitors can visit with ease, Iceland won't be the stepping stone to mainland Europe as it once was. American citizens without residency or citizenship in a Schengen Area country won't be allowed to travel further into Europe than Iceland, at least until the US and European Union ease their mutual travel restrictions

"Until then - welcome to Iceland!" Einarsdottir said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Delta spent the pandemic earning goodwill from passengers and workers. It might be about to vanish.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian.
  • Delta Air Lines and CEO Ed Bastian are facing boycotts in response to Georgia's new controversial voter rights law.
  • Bastian initially praised the bill but later came out against its strict measures that limit voting capabilities.
  • Boycotts from Georgia's business community could seriously impact Delta's bottom line.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It started with a presidential election.

Georgia quickly found itself in the crosshairs of then-President Donald Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Joe Biden narrowly won the state and its 16 electoral votes, helping bolster his progressive mandate, but Trump did not let the state go to Biden without a fight.

The Peach State quickly became an epicenter for baseless claims of election fraud in the hopes of overturning the outcome. In response, Georgia began overhauling its election system and its legislature crafted SB202, a controversial election reform bill.

Delta Air Lines, as Atlanta's hometown airline and one of the largest companies in the state, took an interest in the bill and said it worked with the government to bar its "most egregious measures." After its passage, Delta CEO Ed Bastian commented favorably on aspects of the legislation and lauded the efforts of Atlanta's business community in shaping its outcome.

"The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter's ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason," Bastian said in a March 26 memo.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on March 25 and immediately drew the ire of progressive activists. President Biden derided the bill as "Jim Crow in the 21st century" and multiple civil rights organizations have already filed federal lawsuits in opposition.

Delta's response immediately sparked controversy as the airline was seen as supportive of the bill that included what opponents call voter suppression methods. Among others, the law requires a voter to present identification to vote absentee and the window for requesting an absentee ballot is shortened, as Insider's Grace Panetta reported.

Bastian's statement stunned industry observers that had been closely following Delta's great strides in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion over the years.

"Even before the George Floyd incident, Delta had been talking about the need to hire, mentor, provide professional development opportunities, and promote women and people of color and other groups who were underrepresented in Delta's leadership," Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider.

Bastian, in response to the backlash, took a stronger position against the bill in a Wednesday memo.

"However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta's values," Bastian clarified.

"The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections," Bastian said. "This is simply not true."

But by the time the Delta chief changed course, the hashtag #BoycottDelta had already gone viral on Twitter with more than 38,000 tweets mentioning the call to action, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kemp also pushed back on Delta's statement, saying: "Today's statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists."

Inside Delta's turbulent public relations week

Richard Levick, chairman and CEO of crisis management firm Levick, told Insider that the roots of Delta's poor handling of the issue can trace back to the US Capitol Building riots and the George Floyd protests last year.

"[Delta] clearly missed, surprisingly, the import of what happened January 6 and thereafter in terms of companies pausing their [political action committees]," Levick said. "And they didn't see the permanency of some of that."

Levick likened the airline's first statement to "sharpening the blade on the guillotine and saying, 'look how much better we've made it.'"

Veteran communicators told Insider that Wednesday's follow-up statement that unequivocally denounced the bill was the right move but Levick said the company should have been on the offensive early on, either by condemning the bill in its first statement or taken itself out of the bill's formation.

Shying away from the spotlight also wasn't really an option as Levick said that companies have to realize that we're in a new era where they're expected to take action in defense of important American institutions.

"They're not going to have to take a position on everything political, they are going to have to realize that issues regarding race, access, democracy are things where there's an expectation of their involvement or at least not their involvement on the wrong side," Levick said.

"There is no longer brand neutrality on voter suppression," according to Levick.

Delta is also too influential of an employer in Georgia not to get involved in landmark legislation in the state, even if the subject is outside of its primary purview of connecting the world through travel.

"The challenge with being a leader in any industry is that you're a leader and so, you're expected to be involved in things that a lot of other companies aren't involved in," John McDonald, a former American Airlines vice president for corporate communications and public affairs, told Insider. "You're expected to make influential decision-making on subjects that aren't necessarily core to your business."

Bastian's second statement was also buried during a Wednesday news dump as Delta decided to also unveil its latest policy changes. Most notable was the news that middle seats on Delta aircraft would no longer be blocked as of May 1.

Levick says Delta should have let Bastian's condemnation of the bill shine instead of bogging down the media with additional stories unless the airline had a genuine business reason for announcing its new policies when it did. March 31 was the end of 2021's first fiscal quarter and it might just have been bad timing, McDonald said.

Delta now risks losing the goodwill that it has built up over the years stemming from its innovations in the industry and keen focus on social issues.

Staring down a potential boycott from its most influential customers

Individuals promising to boycott Delta won't impact the airline's operations too greatly. Consumers have reliably shown that they will book the cheapest and most convenient travel option, and Delta will often meet those criteria for many Georgians.

But if the business community turns it back on Delta, that could deal a serious blow to the airline's bottom line. "Only when you get corporate accounts or large volume accounts that represent millions of dollars or more in business to an airline would any kind of a boycott really be meaningful," Harteveldt said.

Dozens of Black executives have already spoken out against Georgia-based companies like Delta for not doing more to oppose the law, and a full boycott of the airline's services could damage the airline. Corporate accounts are incredibly lucrative as firms spend top dollar when booking flights on everything from costly last-minute tickets to premium cabin seats for executives.

Read More: 5 charts reveal how badly the loss of business travel is hurting America's biggest airlines - and why a COVID-19 vaccine won't ease the pain

Bastian's initial comments also impacted Delta employees.

"I think that Delta's employees of color feel very let down by this," Harteveldt said. "Over the weekend, I heard a lot from a lot of Delta employees, frontline workers, management, many workers who felt that the airline betrayed the values that it holds so dear."

And it's exactly those workers that Delta should have considered when issuing the first statement.

"I have to think that Delta looked at this largely through a public affairs lens and not through that broader, diverse, fully integrated lens that brought in other internal audience members and [asked], 'how do you see this?'" Levick said.

McDonald noted, however, that these types of statements are often the result of discussions with politicians. All sides likely wanted to come out of this looking good and likely coordinated on what to say and how to say it.

But the public break between Delta and the state government has already yielded repercussions. Georgia's House of Representatives on Wednesday night voted to repeal a tax break on jet fuel that greatly benefits Delta, which has its largest hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

If passed by the Georgia Senate and signed into law by Kemp, Delta will be forced to pay more in fuel costs in the state, a costly expense that would come as the airline attempts a financial recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

A cautionary tale for airlines

As more states take on the issue of voter rights in their legislatures, major companies will have to take note and Delta won't be the last airline forced to take a side on this issue. American Airlines took a stand on similar legislation passed in Texas on Thursday, boldly proclaiming: "To make American's stance clear: We are strongly opposed to this bill and others like it."

As for Delta's next move, Levick suggested the airline should do nothing more and hold firm in its condemnation.

"Don't just do something, stand there," Levick said.

Read the original article on Business Insider