Tuesday Briefing: Hurricane Matthew Hits Haiti, Holland America Bans Balcony Smoking

Storm surge from Hurricane Matthew in Kingston, Jamaica.

Hurricane Matthew, Holland America’s new ban on smoking on cruise ship balconies and Sabre’s new mobile platform for business travelers are the three travel headlines to follow this morning. 

Hurricane Matthew Hits Haiti

Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti as a Category 4 storm early this morning, Reuters reports, killing at least one person and damaging homes. The storm has brought serious flooding to the island, which is still recovering from a 2010 earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. Later today, the storm is expected to strike the Guantanamo province of Cuba.

A hurricane warning is also in effect for Turks and Caicos, with tourism officials urging visitors late yesterday to leave ahead of the storm. Visitors who have not left are directed to remain inside. 

The hurricane has disrupted both cruise and air travel, with Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line all rerouting ships to avoid the path of the storm. You can view our full list of cruise ship itinerary changes due to Hurricane Matthew here

In terms of air travel, several major airlines have offered refunds or cancellation waivers for passengers flying to, from or through affected airports. 

The storm is also disrupting flight service in the region. Southwest Airlines reports that service through Montego Bay may be disrupted through today, and service through Nassau may be disrupted through October 5. Customers can rebook their travel plans within 14 days of the original date of travel between the original city pairs without paying any additional charge. 

Delta is allowing customers with travel scheduled to/from/through Kingston, Montego Bay, Georgetown, Nassau, Port-au-prince and Providenciales through October 6 to receive a refund for the unused portion of their ticket or to make a one-time change to their ticket without fee. The ticket must be reissued on or before October 9 for rebooked travel to begin no later than October 9. 

American Airlines is offering customers booked to/through/from Cienfuegos, Holguín, Santa Clara, Cap-Haïtien, Port-au-Prince, Kingston, Montego Bay and Providenciales a chance to change their trip with no fee if they purchased their ticket by October 1 and are schedule to travel through October 4. Travel must take place with the same origin or destination city and be scheduled through October 7. For customers traveling to/through/from Eleuthera, Exuma, Freeport / Grand Bahama, Marsh Harbour and Nassau, customers can rebook without fee if they bought their ticket by September 30 and are scheduled to travel through October 6, with the new travel to take place through October 10. 

Finally, JetBlue has announced it will waive cancellation and change fees and fare distances for customers traveling through October 6 to or from Kingston, Montego Bay, Nassau, Port-au-Prince, Providenciales and Santa Clara. Customers with canceled flights may opt for a refund. Customers must rebook through October 10, for original travel booked on or before September 30. 

We’ll keep issuing further updates as the storm develops — stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for further details. 

Holland America Announces Cruise Ship Balcony Smoking Ban

In other cruise news, Holland America Line has updated its smoking policy to ban smoking on all cabin balconies, Cruise Critic reports. The new policy will begin January 2, 2017, on Maasdam and Rotterdam, before rolling out the rest of the fleet in the following order: Volendam (January 3); Veendam, Zuiderdam and Noordam (January 4); Nieuw Amsterdam (January 6); Eurodam and Westerdam (January 7); Koningsdam (January 8); Zaandam (January 10); Oosterdam (January 13); Amsterdam (April 26); and Prinsendam (May 6). 

The line will still permit e-cigarettes and vaping devices in designated smoking areas and inside passenger staterooms, but not on balconies. The ships’ casinos will also have smoking-designated areas for active slot players in the casinos, except on Oosterdam and Eurodam

Any guest caught violating the policy will be charged a $250 per day cleaning fee. Holland America Line said the new policy is being implemented “to better along with guest wishes and health concerns.”

Sabre’s New Traveler Experience Platform

In business travel news, Sabre has announced a new Traveler Experience mobile platform for business travelers at its Sabre Connect conference in Dallas

The new platform brings to together the critical aspects of travel management into a single mobile app, combing the online booking capabilities of GetThere for air and hotel, the itinerary management and messaging features of TripCase and the e-payment solutions of Sabre Virtual Payments. The Traveler Experience also incorporates the SafePoint risk management solution, which helps travelers to check in with their employer via a GPS location and request assistance during an emergency. 

The platform will be available to travelers through their employer’s travel program, and will automatically adhere to corporate policies when booking or rebooking trips. The app will also automatically capture and store an expense report that is auto-filed when the trip is complete. 

Have a tip on major travel industry news, or an inspiring story you’d like to share? Reach out at [email protected]

And keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for the latest travel industry news, trends and updates.