Singapore Airlines is holding a ‘dining event’ later this month. Above, one of its planes lifts off in October 2019.



Photo:

arnd wiegmann/Reuters

Nothing brings to mind pleasure quite like the memory of bumping elbows with strangers while trying to carve up “chicken or beef” with plastic cutlery.

At least, that’s what ticket holders to

Singapore Airlines

’ dining event seem to think. The airline is offering a chance for a meal on its “largest passenger aircraft,” the A380, for two weekends starting October 24 while parked on the tarmac. Don’t get your hopes up too much, though—all seats are sold out, though one can still join a wait list.

It isn’t cheap. Dining in the economy class cabin sets you back 53.5 Singapore Dollars, or roughly $40. For six times that amount, you can dine in the more spacious business-class section. And if you’re willing to shell out $472, you can even be seated in your own suite.

There are a few differences here, of course. The meals aren’t exactly the foil package variety: They will be prepared by an acclaimed chef. And the carrier is enforcing safe distancing measures between groups of passengers.

Other aspects of the dining experience still resemble flight-level hassle, though: All diners must complete a form to get access to the transit area at the Changi Airport and they must bring passports to the event.

Airlines will do anything to get their passengers back, and so far their schemes have worked resoundingly well:

All Nippon Airways

and

Qantas Airlines

’ pricey “flights to nowhere,” for example, were sold out.

The events might do little to make up for airlines’ revenue losses, but they provide warm reassurance to an industry that desperately needs some.

After an unprecedented drop in

In the months after Congress allocated of hundreds of millions of dollars to keep airline industry employees working, passenger airlines applied for shares of that money and then then laid off less than 1% of their workers, until the funding ran out.

Airline contractors similarly applied for money and then laid off about 58,000 people, about 35% of their workers, a new report says.

“Contrary to congressional intent, Treasury permitted aviation contractors to lay off thousands of workers and receive full payroll support calculated based on the companies’ pre-pandemic workforce,” according to a report, released Friday by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

The report, “Unnecessary Costs: How the Trump Administration Allowed Thousands of Aviation Workers to Lose Their Jobs,” was issued by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

It blasted both the slow pace of work by the Treasury Department and airport contractors’ allocation of the funds they received.

“This staff report documents how the Department of the Treasury’s implementation of the Payroll Support Program (PSP) caused thousands of workers at aviation contractors to lose their jobs,” said the introduction to the report.

“Documents uncovered during the Select Subcommittee’s investigation show that aviation contractors sought to avoid ‘unnecessary costs’ by terminating employees before executing PSP agreements,” the introduction continued.

In comparison with passenger airlines, “Aviation contractors reported conducting 57,833 layoffs and furloughs prior to applying for PSP assistance—more than 17 times the number reported by passenger air carriers,” the report said.

The Cares Act was approved by Congress on March 27. The report makes a distinction between the 57,833 layoffs and furloughs before PSP applications were filed under the act, and the16,655 layoffs between

Willie Walsh stepped down from his position as CEO of IAG in September 2020, retiring after a remarkable 41 year career in aviation.

He has been a rare airline leader, successfully making the switch from Aer Lingus pilot, to leading that airline and subsequently both British Airways and IAG.

Extensive achievements

One or two of Walsh’s achievements would look impressive on a CV but his list is much more extensive, including turning one notable public relations disaster into a success.

At Aer Lingus he succeeded in turning around the airline at a time when it was close to bankruptcy.  Critically, he recognised the growing ascendancy of his neighbouring competitor, Ryanair, and the urgency of mounting an effective response if Aer Lingus was to survive. The airline was reinvented as a low cost carrier.

Moving to the helm of British Airways, he took the lessons learned at Aer Lingus and began to address the airline’s cost base to permit it to tackle a tidal wave of growing low cost competition from easyJet and Ryanair on short haul routes out of London. The market was changing around BA, becoming increasingly dominated by price. The glory days of large numbers of high paying business customers were on their way out. By improving its efficiency, BA’s domestic and European network, historically loss making and regarded primarily as a necessity to feed customers onto long haul flights, was turned to profit.

Acquisition of bmi

Another key step instigated by Walsh whilst at BA was the acquisition of bmi (formerly British Midland) from Lufthansa. This airline had struggled financially prior to being bought by Lufthansa but the German airline failed to take advantage of bmi’s strong slot position at Heathrow.

WestJet, Canada’s second largest airline, is now offering complimentary COVID-19 insurance for eligible passengers for travel to and from the US, Europe, the UK, Mexico and the Caribbean until August 31, 2021. The carrier joins Air Canada in offering free Covid-19 insurance in an effort to boost sales as more Canadians elect to stay home or travel domestically to avoid Canada’s 14-day quarantine for international travelers.

Originally WestJet’s insurance did not include US coverage but will now cover travel to the United States. On September 25, 2020 WestJet announced that “guests travelling to, through or from the United States are now eligible for the airline’s enhanced $200,000 CAD COVID-19 travel insurance coverage for air-only and vacation reservations. The enhanced coverage will retroactively include all bookings made as of September 18, 2020 and will increase by $100,000 CAD to include up to a maximum of $200,000 CAD at no additional charge to eligible guests.”

Eligible bookings include any WestJet air-only reservation, including WestJet Vacations bookings for travel to and from the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe (including U.K.) and inbound to Canada. These trips will be eligible for coverage for up to 21 days for travel into and including August 31, 2021. For one-way travel reservations, coverage is available for up to seven days.

Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer, said that “Our research shows that a lack of COVID insurance is a considerable barrier to travel and our guests were seeking the inclusion of U.S. destinations to our travel insurance offering. Eligible guests travelling to and from the destinations we serve can now have an added layer of confidence

In a desperate bid to get Canadian travelers to go abroad once again, Canada’s biggest airline, Air Canada, is offering passengers free Covid-19 medical insurance, even as the Canadian government continues to advise against non-essential travel.

Air Canada announced that it will now be including complimentary COVID-19 emergency medical and quarantine insurance for eligible passengers who book round-trip international flights. The coverage will be available for new bookings made in Canada from September 17 until October 31, 2020. The airline hopes that the free insurance will give customers added confidence when booking flights and travelling abroad.

“At Air Canada, we know people have personal, family and business reasons to travel. To give them greater confidence as they do so, we have engaged Manulife to offer all Canadian residents complimentary COVID-19 emergency medical & quarantine insurance when they book round-trip flights for travel outside of Canada. Combined with our industry leading airport and onboard biosafety protocols, including Air Canada CleanCare+, and our flexible rebooking policies, customers can be assured that when they book and travel with Air Canada their safety and well-being is our top priority,” said Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada in the press release.

The plan (called the Manulife COVID-19 Emergency Medical Certificate of Insurance) is available only for new international, round-trip bookings made in Canada between September 17 and October 31, 2020, for travel completed by April 12, 2021. 

When abroad, if customers test positive for COVID-19, the Plan coverage includes:

  • Up to CDN $200,000 per insured for COVID-19 treatment medical expenses.
  • Up