Latam and Azul Cooperate, and U.S. Airlines Require Masks
- Latam and Azul, two rivals in the domestic Brazilian market, are now cooperating. Pressured by the new realities of pandemic-era flying, they’ll soon start codesharing on 50 non-overlapping domestic routes, and possibly more in the future. Passengers will also have the option of earning miles in either airline’s loyalty program. Normally, such an arrangement between two rivals — in a market with just three major players — would surely arouse the scorn of competition watchdogs. But the crisis changes the equation, with carriers just trying to do what they can to stay alive.
Gol, asked for its reaction, told Panrotas that it wasn’t bothered by the new Latam-Azul partnership. It feels it has the Brazilian market well covered, aided by a partnership with the regional carrier VoePass. But might Latam, already in bankruptcy, wind up merging with Azul, which is flirting with bankruptcy? Azul for its part ruled out the possibility. Latam Brasil’s chief seemed somewhat more open to the idea in an interview with CNN but later refuted any such intention.
- Until now, U.S. airlines had no coordinated policies on facial coverings or masks on board. That changed last week when Airlines for America (A4A) issued new guidelines for its member airlines that require passengers to wear masks inflight. After A4A issued its advisory, United, Delta, and American, among others, quickly said passengers not wearing masks could be denied boarding. This touched off a small furor on social media, featuring pictures and videos of unmasked passengers arguing with gate agents and flight attendants. These incidents appear to be in the minority.
But one thing that airline labor groups have worried about is that there is no federal regulation requiring passengers to wear masks. “These guidelines don’t carry the force of law,” a union representative told Skift Airline Weekly. That puts airline employees in the uncomfortable position of having to argue with difficult passengers and deciding whether to divert a flight if a passenger fails to comply with policy, the representative said. Airlines have said they may revoke noncompliant passengers’ future flying rights, depending on the severity of the incident.
- What is a “wellness ambassador?” Funny you should ask. Etihad has designated staff as what it calls, yes, “wellness ambassadors” to help passengers understand what the airline is doing to sanitize aircraft and to ensure that travel is safe and to answer passengers’ questions about flying during a pandemic. Concerned passengers can contact these ambassadors through Etihad’s website, and a few will be deployed to roam Abu Dhabi airport to help passengers navigate the changes wrought by Covid. When Etihad resumes more international flying, it will deploy its wellness ambassadors on selected flights.
- Finnair and Sabre have resumed working together on distribution, the two companies announced last week. Finnair tickets and itineraries will be available to travel agents worldwide through Sabre’s GDS. “Travel agents continue to play a key role in the travel industry value chain and together with Sabre, we will work to deliver the benefits of NDC technology,” said Finnair Chief Commercial Officer Ole Orver. NDC, remember, is an IATA-championed drive to modernize airline distribution and merchandising, incorporating tactics pioneered by tech giants like Amazon.