Travel has improved after coronavirus — and it also hasn’t. Here’s how.

travel has improved

In some ways, travel has improved as a result of covid-19. But in other ways, it hasn’t. Either way, the travel industry’s pandemic upgrades and downgrades might surprise you when you travel this fall.

Theme parks, car rental companies and hotels have improved their products during the travel slowdown: Lines are shorter, handoffs are contact-free, and facilities have been upgraded. At the same time, airlines have quietly made changes no one wanted.

How travel has improved: Shorter lines at Disney

For example, Disney’s Florida theme parks adopted a new park pass system that allows guests to make advance reservations for their preferred park. The changes, implemented to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, will also ensure that Disney World won’t get as crowded as it used to. You don’t have to be a theme park insider to appreciate the irony of paying thousands of dollars to stand in hour-long lines in 90-degree heat. But that’s in the past.

“It will help Disney keep park capacity at more manageable levels and spread demand around the four Disney World parks,” says Jonathan de Araujo, owner of the Vacationeer Travel Agency, which specializes in Disney World vacations. “Theoretically, this should improve guest experience and reduce lines.”

Cleaner cars and hotels

Car rental companies such as Avis and Budget have overhauled the car rental process during the pandemic, making it a more touchless, DIY experience. They also signed a deal with Lysol, which will offer guidance on cleaning protocols.

The companies now allow customers to check in online. Just flash your license and credit card at the counter and receive a key to your car. If you use the Avis mobile app and belong to its frequent renter program, you can also select the model car you want and receive a QR code. Show the agent your code, and you get a key.

Many hotels and resorts, faced with a hiatus, put it to good use. When the Sirenian Bay Resort & Villas in Belize reopens this fall, it will have 12 new bungalows, a new wine room for tastings and private dinners, and an expanded restaurant. It will also be putting the finishing touches on a new conference facility and fitness center. The resort’s owner, Brian Montgomery, says surviving meant investing. He and his staff went to great lengths to make the renovations and additions. Those included taking pay cuts and reducing travel by employees.

“We locked down the resort property and allowed no outside traffic,” he says. “By quarantining within our own property, we were also doing our part to prevent further spread of covid-19.”

Hotels have been trying to improve their product for years, as I’ve reported before. Maybe these changes will stick?

Airports are cleaner, too

Even the airports are cleaner now. If you’ve flown into Albuquerque International Sunport, for instance, maybe you’ve noticed the robots that look like oversize garbage cans on wheels. They’re actually covid-fighting robots that can disinfect more than 100,000 square feet in less than two hours without any human help.

How travel has not improved: new partnerships

But not all of the changes are for the better. This summer, for example, American Airlines and JetBlue announced a partnership that they claimed would create more choice for customers and accelerate the recovery of both airlines. But buried deep within the agreement was a proposed code-sharing arrangement for flights in D.C. and Boston. That got the attention of consumer advocates who were worried about competition.

Code-sharing is a marketing agreement that allows one airline to sell tickets on flights operated by another carrier. Critics say the American-JetBlue deal nullifies some of the consumer protections that the government required when it greenlighted the merger between American and US Airways.

The reason: To operate flights in and out of LaGuardia, JFK and D.C. airports, the airlines need government permission, in the form of landing slots. And back in 2013, when American and US Airways sought government approval to merge, one of the conditions of the deal was that they had to give up slots in New York and D.C.

“The Washington-to-Boston market will lose competition because the only competing flights are operated by American Airlines and JetBlue,” says Charles Leocha, president of Travelers United, a consumer advocacy group that opposed the American Airlines-US Airways merger.

Travelers United and several other advocacy organizations are pushing the Department of Transportation to reject the proposed code-sharing proposal. But it’s hardly the only downgrade.

Change fees removed? Don’t hold your breath

Last month, United Airlines announced that it would “permanently” eliminate change fees for all standard economy and premium tickets for travel within the United States. The rest of the major airlines — including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines — followed United a few days later. Passengers rejoiced that one of the most hated fees was gone forever. But a closer look reveals that many change fees are still here. Airlines continue to charge for advance seat assignments, luggage (checked and carry-on) and food. Those are all things that used to be included in the price of a ticket. Even change fees remain for some cheap economy class tickets and international fares. Airline fees will likely remain a fixture of travel for years to come, with more complexity and less transparency.

That’s a downgrade masquerading as an upgrade — a classic airline industry move.

So what should you expect when you take your next vacation or business trip? Certainly, your rental car or hotel room ought to sparkle, and key handoffs should be contact-free. New hotel rooms are a nice touch, showing the property is ready to invest in the guest experience. And bonus points for eliminating crowds, the biggest pain point in the Disney theme park experience.

But by keeping most fees and reducing competition, airlines are moving in the wrong direction. Is it really asking too much for the overall travel experience not to get worse? It’s not surprising that airlines are engaging in this behavior. But it really seems outrageous for them to do that and ask for more government aid, as airlines have done.

Travel may be cleaner than ever. But more than anything, the travel industry still just wants to clean out your bank account.

Posted in The Navigator Tagged , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: