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How American, Delta and United are using tech to help you navigate the return to travel

April 05, 2021
5 min read
How American, Delta and United are using tech to help you navigate the return to travel
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Never in the history of commercial aviation have airlines had to deal with so many constantly evolving travel restrictions. Is French Polynesia accepting tourists this week? Can U.S. flyers transit Hong Kong to get to The Maldives? Is Abu Dhabi's COVID-19 test cutoff 72 or 96 hours ?

With every single country adding its own special touch to entry restrictions and testing requirements, there's only one reasonable solution when it comes to sorting through all the muck: add technology to simplify (and speed up) the process.

Vaccine passports and global tools like IATA's Travel Pass will eventually improve the situation somewhat, but airlines are also going to need to continue evolving their own digital solutions to help reduce confusion among passengers and ease the burden on check-in agents.

In the U.S., the "big 3" have already begun rolling out tools aimed at making the international travel experience a bit more tolerable.

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United aims to simplify the process with its "Travel Ready Center." (Image courtesy of United Airlines)

While restrictions have been in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, U.S. carriers first began a large-scale rollout of consumer-facing tools this January.

My last international trip was to the Caribbean island of Curacao in December, and United's check-in process at Newark Airport (EWR) left a lot to be desired. Poor signage and endless lines led to frustration among travelers — especially those required to have documents verified before a trip overseas.

Agents were clearly overwhelmed, and United's plea to arrive at least four hours before departure felt like a double-edged sword — having travelers check in many hours before departure likely led to extra congestion, creating more stress for travelers who didn't take the airline's warning to heart.

Screenshot courtesy of United

The message I received suggested "checking in on the United app," which wasn't an option for my trip to Curacao since an agent needed to verify my negative COVID-19 test.

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Fortunately, that in-person check-in may no longer be necessary in some cases. United's new "Travel-Ready Center" makes it possible for travelers to upload necessary documents directly through the airline's app — in some cases, an agent will conduct a remote review, clearing you to board before you even arrive at the terminal.

United's Travel-Ready Center once again makes it possible to check in for flights online. (Photo courtesy of United)

Customers can easily view airline and destination requirements for all of their future bookings via United's website or mobile app, though some details may not appear until closer to the departure date, as requirements constantly evolve.

Related: Your guide to vaccine passports

While I only have firsthand experience with United's offering so far, American and Delta have both rolled out similar solutions, too.

American Airlines uses a platform called VeriFLY, which is also in use at fellow Oneworld carriers British Airways and Iberia. Customers download the third-party VeriFLY app, create a profile and enter their flight details. If a test is required, flyers can upload their results through the app and receive a QR code that can be scanned along with their boarding pass.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Delta, meanwhile, is currently working to develop its own solution for pre-clearing passengers, including an option to upload test results before travel. In the meantime, the carrier has partnered with Clear to authenticate customers traveling from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL), making it easy for the airline to verify test results before travelers board their flight so they can avoid a quarantine upon landing in Hawaii.

You can learn more about individual airline programs and industry-wide solutions in our detailed guide to vaccine passports.

Also on the tech front, all three carriers offer simple map tools that make it easy to see where you're able to travel and what restrictions may apply — you can access American's here, Delta's here and United's here. Delta's even mixes in real-time fares, making it easier to plan a trip based on accessibility and price.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

While some customers may be hesitant to share health-related data, airlines don't have any incentive to store test results any longer than they have to. United, for example, confirmed that it deletes results five days after departure — soon, customers will be able to schedule a test directly through the airline, in which case the testing partner will simply declare a passenger as "travel-ready," without passing along any additional information.

Bottom line

Ultimately, these digital solutions will help speed up the process for everyone — customers choosing to complete the process virtually will free up agents at the airport, who can then assist passengers who prefer to have their documents verified in person.

This isn't a one-size-fits-all solution — smartphones are generally required, but if you don't have one of your own, or prefer not to install another app, you can approach a check-in agent to have your documents checked at the airport.

If you do choose not to use one of these app-based services, just make sure you arrive with plenty of extra time — during peak periods, check-in lines can snake throughout the terminal, especially as agents and travelers learn to navigate entry requirements, document verification and more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards

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75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023