And so it begins.
Virtually every major airline issued free travel waivers on Friday and Saturday, as weather-related events threaten to delay or cancel travel plans this weekend – and even into Monday in some spots in the U.S.
And don’t call it a perfect storm. Call it three perfect storms in a good portion of the country that includes thunderstorms, heavy wind and potential tornadoes; flooding; and a massive snowstorm.
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Weather alerts have been issued for the following states in the eastern half of the U.S., according to CNN:
– Nearly 50 million people are under a flood watch in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New York and Vermont. Tornado warnings were issued in Texas on Friday, and in Louisiana on Saturday, where college football’s national championship game between LSU and Clemson is set to take place on Monday night in New Orleans.
– About 35 million are under a winter weather alert in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
– And more than 20 million are under a wind advisory in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky and Indiana.
As part of its preparation for at least the wind and ice portion of the storms, virtually every U.S. airline has issued weather waivers for travel between Jan. 11-13, according to The Points Guy.
Allegiant has only issued a weather alert so far through cities in the Midwest and Great Lakes, but American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit and United have all offered waivers to its customers.
As of 3:30 p.m. Saturday, there have been 1,956 flights canceled today and more than 4,200 flights into, out of, and within the U.S. that have been delayed, according to FlightAware.com
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Travel Industry Lauds Passage of Paycheck Protection Program Reform Bill
The U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act on Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval.
The reform bill provides business owners with additional flexibility and more time to utilize loan money and still be forgiven under the PPP established to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The travel industry has been quick to commend lawmakers. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is in full support having advocated for the improvements behind the scenes.
“We commend the Senate for passing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), which would change PPP loan terms—in some cases retroactively—in a number of ways ASTA has advocated for, including five-year loan terms, reducing the requirement that 75 percent of the loan must go to payroll to get forgiveness, allowing forgivable expense over 24 weeks (as opposed to the current eight) and allowing companies to restore headcount without jeopardizing forgiveness by the end of the year (versus the current June 30),” Eben Peck, EVP Advocacy, ASTA, said in a statement.
“While the PPP will remain complex, this bill gives more flexibility to PPP recipients and increases the chances that loans can be fully forgiven,” Peck concluded.
The U.S. Travel Association also wasted no time praising the decision, calling it an “important step.”
“The PPP changes passed by both chambers are another important step in providing relief to small businesses that otherwise will not survive until the economic recovery phase,” added U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “The modification to the portion of funds that can be used for non-payroll expenses is especially crucial to travel-related small businesses, which have comparatively high capital overhead but virtually zero incoming revenue because of the necessary measures in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.”
U.S. Travel still believes that there’s more work to be done to ensure a successful recovery. The organization is encouraging officials to extend PPP eligibility to non-profit and quasi-governmental entities responsible for driving local and regional economic development.
“Like the businesses they serve, the finances of these non-profits have been devastated by the standstill in travel and tourism, and the moment of recovery will be moot unless they can keep their lights on to take advantage of the return in travel demand,” Barnes stated. “We urge leaders to move urgently to enact the next phase of coronavirus response legislation, which is absolutely vital to the future of the travel and tourism industry, and to prioritize expanding eligibility to those most hard hit by this pandemic such as destination marketing organizations.”
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