Choosing to Travel During a Global Pandemic

A local traveler provides insight into her decision to go on a vacation to Aruba in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DALLAS – A week before her vacation to Aruba in the middle of a global pandemic, Lisa began her research into Aruba’s travel guidelines and requirements. She discovered she’d need to submit a negative COVID test within 72 hours of her departure date of Oct. 24 and immediately scheduled an appointment at a local testing center for Oct. 20.

After months of seldom leaving her house despite grocery shopping and dining outdoors, Lisa was ready to “get back out there and live.” She’d wear a mask and practice social distancing, so she felt she was being as responsible as she could be.

Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort | Photo by Lisa Levitt

“With the ‘new normal’ of heightened travel safety and cleanliness protocols, it is very important that our visitors and the Aruban people work together to make sure we ‘do it right,’” Lisa read from the Aruba Travel website.

To ensure she didn’t miss any important requirements, Lisa Levitt, 50, consulted her travel agent, Carolyn Harvey, who just so happened to be her lifelong friend and invited her to travel to Aruba with her. “It gave me more peace of mind working with a travel agent when planning my vacation during the pandemic,” Lisa said. “There’s so much you just don’t think of on your own.”

The travel industry has been majorly impacted since the start of the pandemic, so travelers and travel agents are working closely now more than ever before to ensure safe travel and the industry’s recovery.

Continue reading “Choosing to Travel During a Global Pandemic”

Dallas Love Field Airport Wins Multiple Honors

Dallas Love Field Airport flew to the top of major airport rankings, receiving two new honors this September.

Dallas Love Field is one of two area airports many SMU students use to fly home or on vacation. J.D. Power named Love Field North America’s best large airport and it was inducted into the Airports Council International World (ACI) Roll of Excellence for its multiple honors through the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards program.

Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011.
Airports that earn five ASQ awards over a 10-year period are inducted into the ACI World Roll of Excellence, and Dallas Love Field is now one of the 55 airports worldwide to have received the honor since its inception in 2011. | Photo by the City of Dallas.

The airport’s central location within Dallas and about four miles from SMU makes it a popular place for the SMU community to travel.

Airport satisfaction has risen sharply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Love Field ranking highest among large airports with a score of 844 (on a 1,000-point scale), according to J.D. Power’s 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study released in September.

“In its category (airports that serve 15-25 million passengers yearly), DAL did very well in airport access, check in, facilities, food, beverage and retail, and bag claim,” said Michael Taylor, J.D. Power spokesperson. “Hopefully, considering our data, the SMU community will recognize what other passengers and airport reports have recognized; Love Field is one of the best airports in North America and a pleasant place to fly in and out of.”

J.D. Power has been delivering incisive industry intelligence on customer interactions with brands and products for more than 50 years. The world’s leading businesses across major industries rely on J.D. Power to guide their customer-facing strategies. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Now in its 15th year, the study serves as a benchmark and measures overall traveler satisfaction within 30 days of passengers’ travel.

The other organization that honored Love Field, ACI, inducted the airport into its ASQ program, a subscription model that surveys passengers while at the airport about airport services, perceptions and priorities compared to other airports around the world.

Its role is to be a comprehensive business tool for airports, offering detailed analysis into various aspects of the passenger experience.

Airports Council International (ACI), established in 1991, is the only global trade representative of the world’s airports. | Photo from ACI.

Since the ACI World’s 2020 Customer Experience Global Summit was canceled due to the pandemic, ASQ winners will be recognized virtually for both its ASQ Award and Roll of Excellence honor during ASQ Customer Experience Week beginning Oct. 26, according to an airport press release.

“Our program evaluates every part of the passenger journey,” said David Whitely, ACI vice president for marketing and communications. “We not only celebrate airports and offer them a competitive edge in an increasingly sophisticated industry, but demonstrate to passengers how airports adapt to the times, address passengers’ concerns and offer experiences to its customers.”

Employee satisfaction is another key objective in both reports.

“Southwest [Airlines] is known for its hub at Love Field and reflects its can-do attitude, convenience and attention to every traveler onto the airport,” said Southwest customer service representative, Sean Dennis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global airport industry to a standstill with an estimated reduction in passenger traffic of 5.6 billion, according to an ACI media release.

Dallas Love Field, according to its website, is leading the evolution of the airport experience. | Photo from LinkedIn.

Despite this 76 percent nationwide reduction in passenger traffic since March 1, which financially devastated many airports, customer satisfaction has improved, as those still flying enjoy less crowded terminals and see airports taking special interest in passenger perceptions and prioritization of hygiene, according to a J.D. Power media release.

This is especially true for Dallas Love Field. The airport has demonstrated significant efforts in gathering passenger feedback to help better understand customers during the pandemic, said Chris Perry, Love Field communications and marketing manager.

"We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience," said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. "All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience."
“We aim to be the best medium-hub airport in the United States while leading the evolution of the airport experience,” said Dallas Love Field Airport spokesperson, Chris Perry. “All of the decisions we’ve made in relation to capital improvements are related to that and improving our customer experience.” | Photo by Shutterstock.

“Our customers have shown time and time again that they appreciate our proactive responses,” Perry said. “That shows in our receiving of these honors and our ASQ overall satisfaction score of 4.48 out of 5 at the end of this year’s first quarter.”

The airport served nearly 17 million passengers in 2019, the most in its history, and already more than 5 million passengers this year, despite the pandemic, according to a Love Field total passengers report for August.

“We hope the SMU community continues making Dallas Love Field its airport of choice,” Perry said. “With our location, ease of use and seamless travel experience – one ticketing wing, one security checkpoint, one baggage claim – we have everything that busy SMU students and faculty could hope for in an airport.”


New American Airlines Procedures to Impact DFW Economy and SMU Students

American Airlines presented at Cowen’s Global Transportation and Sustainable Mobility Conference last week.

American Airlines aircrafts
American Airlines aircrafts | Photo by
Patrick T. Fallon of Bloomberg News

DALLAS – SMU students may struggle choosing which airline to fly over the quickly approaching holiday season, and DFW’s economy will, more than likely, experience a major blow.

Continue reading “New American Airlines Procedures to Impact DFW Economy and SMU Students”

A Travel Advisor’s Purpose During the Pandemic

Carolyn Harvey, owner of Caribella Travel, speaks on her experience as a travel advisor who found her passion for travel at a young age.

Carolyn Harvey on a cruise in Haiti. | Photo by Carolyn Harvey.

DALLAS – Deciding to open your own travel agency may sound like a large feat, but when your philosophy is “if you want something done right, you do it yourself,” that isn’t the case. It definitely wasn’t the case when Carolyn Harvey, 49, decided to start Caribella Travel a decade ago.

Continue reading “A Travel Advisor’s Purpose During the Pandemic”

Finding Balance Between Reporting the Whole Story and Wanting Your Story Read

Journalists will continue doing their best to cover both sides of an issue, but it’s up to the reader to seek out the full story.

Journalists are tasked with huge responsibilities. Report only the facts. Report both sides of the story. Be objective. Inform the public of what is happening in the community. Support claims with tangible evidence.

These are the civic, democratic duties of journalists, but what happens when you take the perspective of journalism as a business and journalists as simple professionals trying to make a living?

“Not only does [journalism] protect the people, but also the political integrity of our society, as it participates in ensuring that what is said in the public space can be used to make informed decisions,” says journalist Marc Cataford.

As Cataford suggests, a journalist’s job is to find all sides of the story, present the facts, and let readers discern their own beliefs or opinions. Their job isn’t to “create the news,” it’s to report the news. However, can journalists really handle so much responsibility? What happens when the other side of the story isn’t shocking or exciting enough to make audiences read about it?

Being a journalist, despite all the standards associated with the profession, is still just a profession. Journalists do their best to produce stories their bosses will find newsworthy, or “interesting enough to the general public to warrant reporting,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. That may mean one side of the story gets more coverage than the other.

Think back to several months ago when Dallas saw protesters, rioters and looters swarming the streets of downtown in response to George Floyd’s death by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Which stories did you see more often in the news – print, digital or broadcast – stories about peaceful protests or stories about protesters smashing windows of businesses and cars? You probably saw more coverage about the protests that ended in rubber bullets flying through the crowds and teargas nightmares. Why is that?

It’s no simple task covering both sides of the story. As a journalist myself, when I sit down to write a story, I think about what actually happened and then consider what will make my story interesting enough to read.

You see more coverage about violent protests because those are the stories that are interesting and invite readers to form opinions such as “violent protests are wrong,” or “police officers use so much force when fighting off protestors,” or “the President should do something about this.”

If you read a story about a peaceful protest, all readers do is learn about an event that took place. Exciting and controversial stories are more effective in inviting readers to investigate the root of the cause and form their own opinions. Peaceful protests don’t really invite readers to do much other than read the story and go along with their days.

Around the time of these violent protests in Dallas, my father began asking me “Why are we only seeing news about the violent protests? They’re clearly not all violent.” He wondered how journalists could be so ignorant and self-serving to only provide news on violent protests.

I thought about his concerns for a long time and finally replied, “Because, dad, would you read a story that only told you about protesters walking down the street holding up signs and chanting?” My dad said no.

My father’s question began making me wonder why journalists cover one side of the story more than the other. Why are less controversial or conflicting stories read significantly less and don’t make it to the front page?

“Conflict and controversy attract our attention by highlighting problems or differences within the community,” says PBS.

Controversy is exciting. When journalists seek to cover Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, a lot of the coverage you see centers on her views on abortion, the main issue dividing Democrats and Republicans on the nominee. If you asked anyone walking down the street in downtown Dallas what Barrett’s major political views are, they’re more likely to mention her stance on abortion rights than anything else.

This is because Barrett’s views on abortion rights are controversial, exciting and relevant to current political discourse. Does that make journalists self-serving, knowing readers are more interested in how conflicting Trump’s nominee is on this particular issue and therefore focus on that single issue?

We are susceptible to getting “swept up” in both a story’s message and in the manner of its telling, according to psychologists Melanie Green and Timothy Brock. So, readers are likely to be more interested in the controversy of Barrett’s views on abortion rights rather than other, more typical views that don’t spark heated conversation. This kind of coverage easily gives readers something to comment on and form an opinion about.

Journalists work to persuade readers to keep reading and to find out more. Green and Brock suggest that the most important trait of a persuasive story is how engaging the story is. If this is true, doesn’t that mean both sides probably won’t be covered equally?

Journalism plays a vital role in democracy and public discourse, but it does so by storytelling; and storytelling can’t be completely objective and unbiased. Bill Kovach’s The Elements of Journalismin fact, describes journalism as “storytelling with a purpose.”

Journalists know that readers are more likely to read a controversial story and form opinions than with a dry, fact-oriented story.

“The purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments,” says the American Press Institute.

Controversial and conflicting stories have more ability to shape and mold society. You may not hear about the non-controversial or already known and understood side of an issue, but that isn’t exactly what journalists are trying to do in the first place. Yes, journalists seek to inform the public, but interesting stories are more effective in persuading readers to form opinions that will influence their decisions.

Journalists can’t be entirely neutral when they already know what readers are specifically interested in at the moment.

The American Press Institute explains that “being impartial or neutral is not a core principle of journalism. Because the journalist must make decisions, he or she is not and cannot be objective.”

This further emphasizes the importance of readers doing their homework and paying attention to stories that don’t seem all that interesting or exciting. It isn’t necessarily one journalist’s job to report both sides of the story, it’s more so the reader’s job to seek out coverage on both sides of the story.

The news isn’t always newsworthy. That’s the harsh truth of news coverage. Individual journalists can present objective facts and truths on one side of the story and briefly summarize the other side, but it’s up to the reader to acknowledge that there are always more sides to a story.

When an issue has two sides, one more conflicting and the other more plain, readers are more likely to read stories on the more exciting side. This isn’t to say journalists shouldn’t cover both sides of the story; they should. However, journalists can’t balance reporting the truth of both sides and what’s interesting all at once.

Readers are going to continue seeing sensationalized headlines, but that means readers need to do more in seeking out the full story. Journalists will continue focusing on newsworthy content and inserting as much of the other side as possible. It’s up to the reader to find both sides layered in each story.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform the public, but journalism is still a business, the newsworthy side of an issue will always win readers’ attention and the whole story may not be that easy, or interesting, to uncover, but it’s up to readers to finish the job.