IATA launches travel pass and trials with two airlines

The International Air Transport Association and Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, announced Jan. 19 a partnership to launch and trial the IATA Travel Pass. The same launch was announced at the same time by IATA and Emirates.

The pass is a mobile app to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in line with government requirements for COVID-19 tests or vaccines in the destinations to which they are flying – which it will contain – and acts as a digital passport to receive COVID test results and verify passengers are eligible to fly.

The pass is versatile. IATA said, “IATA Travel Pass has been developed as four independent modules that can interact with each other. These modules cover registries for regulatory entry requirements and labs/test centers, verified certificate issuance, digital identity and the possibility for passengers to share their tests results along their journey via their mobile device.

“These modules can work together as one complete end-to-end solution. Or they can be used separately to complement systems that others are building. IATA has developed these modules to ensure they are interoperable with other industry solutions,” the organization said.

IATA represents about 290 airlines, comprising 82% of global air traffic.


KAL pushes back changes to its frequent flyer program

“In light of the continued impact of COVID-19, Korean Air has decided to postpone the implementation of the revamped SKYPASS program by two years due to air travel restrictions limiting the opportunity to earn and use mileage,” Korean Air advised its frequent flyers on Jan. 19.


  • The start date of the new mileage accrual and redemption program has been pushed back from April 2021 to April 2023.
  • The new elite tiers and benefits will be applied in February 2024 based on the qualifying miles and segments earned in 2023.

In addition, KAL said Korean Air will extend the expiration date of miles expiring at the end of 2021 by one year due to the continued impact of COVID-19.

Miles expiring at the end of 2021 (Based on KST) will be extended and will be valid until the end of 2022 (Based on KST). Miles that have been already extended in 2020 will also be included in this year’s extension, and the update will be completed by the end of January.

Korean Air launched an English “Chatbot” service on Facebook messenger and Korea’s instant messaging application KakaoTalk in mid-December.


United releases 4th quarter and 2020 financials

In a Jan. 20 release, United Airlines announced fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 financial results.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, United has raised over $26 billion in liquidity and made important progress in reducing core cash burn to ensure the company’s survival. Over the last three quarters, the company has identified $1.4 billion of annual cost savings and has a path to achieve at least $2 billion in structural reductions moving forward. United ended 2020 with $19.7 billion in available liquidity, including an undrawn revolver capacity and funds available under the CARES Act loan program from the U.S. Treasury,” the airline said.

The company expects 2021 to be a transition year that’s focused on preparing for a recovery, it said. “United has resumed heavy maintenance and engine overhauls, [which are] investments that are essential to recovery when demand returns. The combination of structural cost reduction and timely investments will help set up United to exceed its 2019 adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization margin in 2023”. The company expressed high confidence that it would achieve this target by 2023 and said its ongoing recovery planning would help ensure United was equipped to reach this level even sooner, if demand returns more quickly.


Off-island companies gets environmental work at JRM locations

Sundance-EA Associates II of Pocatello, Idaho, was awarded a maximum-value $30,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for environmental compliance services in Guam. 

The joint venture is comprised of Sundance Consulting Inc., an SBA-certified 8(a), Small Economically Disadvantaged Woman/Native American-owned business headquartered in Pocatello, Indaho and EA Engineering, Science and Technology Inc. of Hunter Valley, Md. Both have experience in Hawaii and Guam.

The award by Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Marianas is for a “full range of environmental support activities for naval installation environmental compliance programs,” according to a Jan. 20 release from the U.S. Department of Defense. 

Work will be performed in the Joint Region Marianas area of responsibility and is expected to be completed by January 2026.  Work under the initial task order will be performed in Guam and is expected to be completed by January 2022.  Fiscal 2021 operation and maintenance (Navy) funding in the amount of $1. 45 million will be obligated under the initial task order and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  This contract was competitively procured via the beta.SAM.gov website, with six proposals received, according to the release. 


GEDA reviews investment portfolio

During Guam Economic Development Authority’s Jan. 21 board of directors meeting, David J. John, chairman of GEDA’s board of directors, discussed diversifying the economy, in terms of dealing with pandemics like the Coronavirus, and said it’s a good idea, “So the next time something like this happens, we’re not sitting on a two-legged stool.”

Vice chairman of the board of directors, Ernesto V. Espaldon, Jr. said GEDA’s investment portfolio from 2020 was analyzed, and the agency had an 11% gain from its investments, amounting to about $3 million. Due to the pandemic, the first quarter of the year had a 17% decline, but it rebounded in the following quarters. For reference, in 2019, the investment profile turned an 18% growth.

“Given all that’s happened, we are very grateful for this return,” Espaldon said.

The directors also approved a new program, the qualifying certificate community contribution program, which will focus on non-profit and government agencies training and re-training employees.

Melanie Mendiola, GEDA’s CEO and administrator, said all three of its current grant programs are completed, including the pandemic assistance, healthcare and rental assistance grants.


Leon Guerrero files brief on quarantine authority

Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero is asking the Supreme Court of Guam to determine that the Department of Public Health and Social Services has the authority to set COVID quarantine for Guam, due to the public health emergency. In a brief filed on Jan. 20, the governor petitioned the court to determine that authority, pursuant to the Guam Code Annotated.

The brief claims that the Organic Act grants the governor that authority and the duty to do so.

Following numerous challenges in the Superior Court of Guam to quarantine and the granting of challenges, the brief seeks affirmation of the authority of DPHSS. The brief cites prior case law, and specifically what case law should govern the court’s decision.

Documents also remind the court that new variants of the COVID virus have been identified internationally.

In comments sent to the Journal, Krystal Paco-San Agustin, communications director to the governor, said on Jan. 21, “While we have been fortunate not to have evidence that this new strain has reached our shores, this highlights the need to keep our quarantine protocols in place. This year alone, 28% of new cases were travel-related. … GovGuam must be able to respond rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies. This includes the ability to quarantine to prevent or limit the transmission of disease.”


FSM moving on COVID vaccination

As of Jan. 19, about 700 vaccines have been given in Pohnpei; about 50 in Kosrae; and about 500 vaccinations in Chuuk. Yap began its immunization program on Jan. 19, with 24 health workers and frontline responders receiving the vaccine, according to a release from the Office of the President.

More than 8,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the FSM on Jan. 9. The government expects additional shipments of the vaccine towards the end of January/beginning of February. T of COVID-19 aboard the MV Chief Mailo remains isolated and contained, and there is no threat of community transmission, the release said.


Mariana Islands get stimulus money approvals

The U.S. Treasury approved the second round of stimulus payments for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, according to Jan. 20 releases from both administrations.

The Government of Guam received approval for $108 million and will begin mailing out checks at the end of the week of Jan. 18 and the NMI received approval for $41.3 million. Eligible residents will receive $600 each and $600 per child. The Government of the NMI will open an online portal for those residents that wish to receive payments by direct deposit.


Audit uncovers irregularities

The Guam Office of Public Accountability released Jan. 19 a performance audit on Government of Guam COVID-19 payroll expenses. Our audit of the COVID-19 payroll expenses found that between March 14, 2020 and May 11, 2020, two GovGuam agencies utilized the Rule 8.406 double pay provision to compensate their employees, while 45 departments and agencies used the Executive Order 2020-08 Differential Pay Policy. GovGuam employees were paid $10.4 million for differential, double, or other pay in response to the state of emergency due to COVID-19. This was in addition to the GovGuam employees’ regular pay received during the closure and suspension of GovGuam services.

Specifically, the OPA found: 

  • $2.5 million in double pay for GPA and GWA;
  • $2 million in 25% differential pay for 26 departments and agencies with top three users: GFD, GMHA, and GPD;
  • $933,000 in 15% differential pay for 29 departments and agencies with top three users: GMHA, MCOG, and GDOE;
  • $568,000 in 10% differential pay for 42 departments and agencies with top three users PAG, GMHA, and DPHSS; and
  • $4.9 million in Other Pay for 34 departments and agencies with top three users: GMHA, GWA, and GIAA.

The OPA has asked the Office of the Attorney General to review the compensation for GPA and GWA, leave credits for GWA and the payment of elected and appointed officials to determine if reimbursement is necessary, the release said.

Readers can find the report at www.opaguam.org. The OPA also published on Jan. 20 a report on the status of GovGuam CARES Act expenditures.


FEMA responds on NMI waiver request

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said no to Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres’ request for a waiver of the local match required for COVID-related grants from FEMA.

The Governor made his request in March of last year, according to a Jan. 20 release from the office of Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan.

The NMI has 30 days to appeal the response. mbj