PR Newswire | October 06, 2023
United Airlines today announced new technologies and policies to improve the travel experience for customers who use a wheelchair, including a new digital filter on united.com that helps determine which aircraft can accommodate different sized chairs, and refunding the fare difference if a higher-fare flight is needed to accommodate a specific wheelchair size. United expects to launch these new tools early next year.
"By offering customers an easy way to know if their personal wheelchair fits on a particular airplane, we can give them the peace of mind they deserve when they fly with us," said Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for United. "Plus, collecting this information ahead of time ensures our team can handle these special items with proper care and attention."
New Flight Filter and Fare Reimbursement
The new flight filter on united.com will enable customers to enter the unique dimensions of their personal wheelchair as part of the flight search. The search results will then prioritize flight options on aircraft with cargo hold doors large enough to accommodate the wheelchair dimensions. The size of aircraft cargo hold doors varies, so some aircraft are better able than others to handle larger motorized wheelchairs, which must travel upright.
If a customer is unable to take a preferred flight because their wheelchair will not fit through the aircraft's cargo door – and takes a United flight with a higher-fare that can accommodate their wheelchair on the same day and between the same origin and destination – the customer may seek a refund of the fare difference. Customers seeking a refund of the fare difference will need to follow United's process, including completing a short form after they've traveled. United will promptly ensure they receive the difference in fare after review.
Airport Experience Improvement Program
Later this year United will begin a six-month pilot program at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport to explore ways to better accommodate customers in the unlikely event their wheelchair was damaged or delayed while traveling. The program will focus on the timeframe between a customer's arrival and when United returns the wheelchair or provides an appropriate loaner wheelchair if the original is damaged. United will collaborate with its Accessible Travel Advisory Board to explore several initiatives aimed at improving the airport experience during this challenging period, including providing specialized seating onsite and reimbursing the customer for transportation expenses should they choose to wait at a location other than the airport.
United entered an agreement earlier this month with the U.S. Department of Transportation to deliver these initiatives through a mutual commitment to increase accessibility and improve the travel experience for customers who require the use of a wheelchair. United carried about 150,000 wheelchairs in 2022.
United's other recent measures to improve accessibility include:
Providing ramp agents new mobile technology that indicates when a wheelchair is on a flight to ensure they are prepared to receive and load it. The technology also inhibits ramp agents from closing out a flight until they acknowledge that they've loaded all wheelchairs.
In August, United became the first U.S. airline to add Braille to aircraft interiors, helping millions of travelers with visual disabilities more easily navigate the cabin independently. United expects to outfit its entire mainline fleet with Braille by the end of 2026.
The United mobile app was recently redesigned to make it easier to use for people with visual disabilities with increased color contrast, more space between graphics and reordering how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with the screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack.
United's latest Inflight Seatback Entertainment screens offer a wide range of accessible features such as closed captioning, text-to-speech controls, magnification, explore-by-touch capabilities, audio-described movies, and adjustable and high-contrast text and color correction. As part of United Next, the airline's historic growth plan, the carrier expects to take delivery of about 700 new narrow and widebody aircraft by the end of 2032, all of which will include the latest in seatback screen entertainment options.
Through Bridge, United's Business Resource Group for people of all abilities, employees help create a workplace environment where all can strive to achieve their maximum potential and support our commitment to being an ally for customers with disabilities.
For the eighth-straight year, United was recognized as a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion and earned a top score on the Disability Equality Index benchmarking tool, a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN, to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities.
At United, Good Leads The WaySM. With U.S. hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., United operates the most comprehensive global route network among North American carriers and is now the largest airline in the world as measured by available seat miles. For more about how to join the United team, please visit www.united.com/careers and more information about the company is at www.united.com. United Airlines Holdings, Inc., the parent company of United Airlines, Inc., is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol "UAL".
Travel Technology, Hospitality Management
Virgin Voyages | September 08, 2023
Virgin Voyages announced a $550 million funding round led by Ares Management for global expansion.
Founder Tom McAlpin transitions to Chairman of the Board, while Nirmal Saverimuttu takes over as CEO, bringing extensive experience from Virgin Voyages' early days.
Virgin Voyages looks forward to continued success and collaboration with investors, including Ares Management, to drive future growth and innovation.
Virgin Voyages, the award-winning cruise brand backed by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, has announced the completion of a $550 million fundraise led by Ares Management's Private Equity Group. This funding, including contributions from existing investors such as Virgin Group and Bain Capital, is poised to propel Virgin Voyages into international markets while enhancing the overall customer experience.
Partner and Co-Portfolio Manager of Special Opportunities in the Ares Private Equity Group, Aaron Rosen, remarked,
With this new investment alongside our partners at Virgin Group and Bain Capital, we believe the company is on strong footing to capitalize on its differentiated product and value proposition in the growing cruise industry.
[Source - Cision PR Newswire]
Established as a leading player in the industry, Virgin Voyages has swiftly gained recognition and accolades with a fleet serving various destinations and recent wins like topping the mega-ship category in Travel + Leisure's 2023 World's Best Awards and sweeping all five cruise categories in the 2023 Cruise Critic Cruisers' Choice Awards.
Alongside this development, Tom McAlpin, the founding CEO, is transitioning to the role of Chairman of the Board. Nirmal Saverimuttu is taking the reins as the new Chief Executive Officer, having formerly served as President and Chief Experience Officer. In addition, Nirmal Saverimuttu has been a foundational figure at Virgin Voyages since 2014, when he joined as Chief Commercial Officer after securing initial investments from the Virgin Group. His role expanded in 2021 to President and Chief Experience Officer, making him well-prepared to guide the brand into its next phase of growth and innovation.
Nirmal Saverimuttu, CEO of Virgin Voyages, said,
I want to send our deepest thanks, on behalf of all our Crew and the Board, to Tom for his leadership and passion for the business. We are so grateful for all he has done and are thrilled to continue to partner with him as our Chairman.
[Source – Cision PR Newswire]
Virgin Voyages is a trusted brand due to its crew's dedication and passion for offering remarkable experiences for its guests. Nirmal also expressed his anticipation of collaborating with the Ares team and Virgin Voyages' current investors to execute growth and expansion plans as the company contemplates its promising future.
Marriott International | October 09, 2023
Marriott International launches the Hospitality Alliance for Responsible Procurement to drive sustainability and supplier engagement in collaboration with EcoVadis.
HARP focuses on achieving Net Zero targets and sustainability goals by pooling resources and expertise to address common challenges in the hospitality sector.
The initiative utilizes EcoVadis' sustainability rating methodology and platform to increase supplier visibility and accelerate supplier performance improvement.
Marriott International, along with Accor, Hilton, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotel Group, Avendra, and Entegra, has launched the Hospitality Alliance for Responsible Procurement (HARP) in collaboration with EcoVadis.
HARP aims to accelerate sustainability practices within the hospitality sector by fostering collaboration among trading partners. By utilizing EcoVadis' sustainability rating methodology and platform, HARP seeks to enhance supplier engagement, drive performance improvement, and focus on key industry categories.
Chief Customer Officer at EcoVadis, Richard Eyram, stated that as companies aim to involve their value chain partners in sustainability initiatives, they come to understand the intricate nature and shared difficulties within their sector. The hospitality industry can maximize its collective influence through partnerships and collaboration across the industry. Through the consolidation of efforts, alignment of priorities, and the exchange of best practices, members of HARP can attain favorable results, leading the way toward achieving Net Zero targets and a more sustainable future for everyone.
The alliance addresses common challenges faced by the industry in achieving sustainability goals, with a particular focus on increasing supplier engagement and performance. By pooling resources and expertise, HARP members aim to work collectively toward Net Zero targets and a more sustainable future. It addresses these fundamental challenges confronted by its collective supplier sustainability programs, such as:
Increasing supplier engagement rate to increase supplier visibility, beginning with the supplier assessment.
Accelerating the performance improvement curve of suppliers.
Increasing the relevancy of those engagements by concentrating on the industry's most important categories.
HARP has implemented EcoVadis's sustainability rating proven methodology, scorecards, and improvement platform to attain these objectives. The EcoVadis Sector Initiative features are designed as a network compliant with antitrust laws and enable more efficient supplier enrollment, transparency, collaboration, and analytics. Together, these capabilities provide HARP with visibility over the sustainability performance of the hospitality supply chain and enable HARP members to align on the industry's top priorities. This results in a positive message to the supplier community and a more cohesive direction that allows targeted improvement.
HARP member suppliers will have access to additional capacity-building and engagement activities, as well as tools and best practices, in order to achieve this targeted development and meet the needs of the hospitality industry. Marriott and the seven HARP founding members collectively rated more than 2,000 suppliers upon the initiative's foundation. HARP intends to increase this number in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the sustainability performance of its supply chain and to maximize improvement.