Exclusive: How American Airlines Is Opening Up Europe With Technology

Global travel has been severely disrupted amid the health crisis. There are still many routes that remain seriously impacted by these challenging conditions. Simple Flying this week spoke with American Airlines MD of Customer Experience Innovation Kim Cisek, about how her company is using technology to reopen markets.

American Airlines 777
American Airlines is determined to reopen travel. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

Significant measures

The most notable impact on commercial aviation this year has been the stringent government restrictions introduced. For instance, general travel for most passengers to the United States from Europe has been banned since the middle of March. As a result, American Airlines is working hard with health institutions and governments to help passengers fly safely as the harsh climate continues. Altogether, technology is crucial in this mission.

Cisek explains that her airline has taken a three-pronged approach. It firstly has a pre-flight coronavirus testing program in place. Then it launched the VeriFLY app, which streamlines the check-in and document verification process at the airport before departure while providing passengers with important reminders related to travel windows and credentials. Now, the airline is looking at public health corridors and figuring out how to open up markets with authorities.

The airline’s at-home and airport testing programs have been helpful in this approach. It is seeing a positive response to countries willing to commit to testing initiatives. Notably, the more authorities that favor testing, the fewer quarantines or travel bans needed.

American Airlines reduces international capacity with 10% due to coronavirus
Several of the airline’s planes remained on the ground for most of the year. Photo: Getty Images

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Willing to give it a go

Moreover, measures such as VeriFLY, the airline’s digital health pass, give governments the confidence that the right care is taken with flight operations amid the pandemic. Ultimately, it allows customers to know what the requirements are during the ever-changing conditions.

The app was initially trialed on its Jamaica services last month. However, the carrier expanded this initiative on Santiago bound flights. It is designed to help travelers easily understand the new requirements for their destination. It should also streamline airport check-in through digital verification to ensure customers have completed mandatory travel requirements.

Cisek notes that additional countries will soon be teaming up with the operator on the VeriFLY’s usage. Already, it was announced today that the app is being expanded to Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador from Miami.

American Airlines Los Angeles
American Airlines is taking a proactive approach. Photo: Getty Images

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Taking it forward

American Airlines is hopeful that these initiatives will continue to open up travel across the globe. Notably, it is teaming with oneworld partner British Airways to offer testing from Dallas/Fort Worth, LAX, and New York JFK to London Heathrow.

Passengers first take an RT-PCR  test 72 hours before departure from the US at home. After landing at London Heathrow, LHR, participating customers conduct a LAMP test at the airport. Three days after arrival, an at-home saliva test is taken, which confirms the results of the first two tests to demonstrate that one or two tests will be enough to allow travel to safely restart.

Hope for the future

The carriers are looking to scientifically demonstrate how these measures can help passengers travel more freely. Notably, this would push for an end to the current form of restrictions.

“With both testing and with the VeriFLY app, we’d like to expand that further. In terms of UK and Europe, we started with London first, with our partnerships through oneworld and through British Airways, to do this trial. So, we’ve had a number of volunteers that we wanted to have.

“It’s still ongoing through this weekend, and customers did a three-test regime, and that allows us to get the data so that we can show what testing does in terms of opening up travel again. We hope to be able to submit that data. From there, we’ll see those trials expand across more into Europe as we open up additional markets.

“But definitely, our plan, we are very much focused on Latin America and the Caribbean and working with the governments of those countries to open up the markets” Cisek told Simple Flying.

“So, we were hoping the trial – that’s kind of the direction we’re going. Let’s finish out our trial. The idea is we’ll use that. And we already saw the quarantine periods start to come down and so we hope to be able to use what we’ve gathered from here. And then the other carriers, so partnering with our other carriers, which was really great to see. So, I think using all of that, should really, hopefully, help to completely open up travel, but we’ll know more soon enough.”

British Airways 777
The carrier is working closely with its partners. Photo: Getty Images

Combining well

Altogether, these initiatives are combining well with the airline’s biometric introductions. The company was already introducing touchless experiences before the pandemic as they helped with convenience and speed. However, the hygiene benefits are catalyzing this approach. So, heading into the new year, American Airlines will continue being at the forefront in the mission of opening up travel.

What are your thoughts about how American Airlines is using technology to help keep passengers moving in the current conditions? How do you see the company progressing into 2021? Let us know what you think of the carrier’s efforts in the comment section.