We’ve taken our first flight in fourteen months from our home in Georgia, USA. Much as they might appreciate our business, not a lot of places want Americans right now, and judging from the airport, with cause. Certain of us won’t acquit ourselves well when we arrive.
A return to the airport reminds you that a benefit of largely quarantining inside your own enclosed small space is that you make your own rules. Even as we could hear others around our apartment partying this past year, people whose approach to quarantine apparently involved about twenty close friends, we kept a closed regime.
The first thing that’s plain in the airport is that some people are just going to be ornery and you just can’t stop them. ATL bustled along fairly close to normal, lots of amenities, shops open and some people, damn them, are clearly just not going to respect distance, with no mask in sight and an undercurrent of belligerence, just as we’ve seen in American politics through the entire pandemic. After a year of only seeing that behavior on TV, it’s disappointing to see it live.
But we thank the welcoming people of Belize for having us. They accepted our vaccination cards and welcomed us with smiles. It’s lovely here. Cheers.
My monthly travel column, about southwest Africa is live now at 3QuarksDaily. Read it at 3QD now, and I’ll put it up here on CSW in a few days. It’s a consideration of dodgy and disastrous colonialism in Southwest Africa, with a little flying adventure on the side.
“Near bankrupt low-cost airline Norwegian has told over a thousand laid-off employees that it can’t afford to pay them their final wages or other redundancy payments but that it will let them keep their uniforms and branded cabin bags as a “keepsake” of their time with the airline.”
The government has grounded Montenegro Airlines, whose employees hadn’t been paid since September.
Things ended poetically: “[T]he pilots on the company’s last flight to Belgrade on Friday were given permission by air controllers to make a heart-shape course in the skies over the picturesque mountainous Adriatic state.”
In order to hurry along the resumption of international air travel the trade group International Air Transport Association (IATA) plans to initiate its Travel Pass in the first quarter of 2021 which, of course, is now only a couple of weeks away. Travel Pass will be “A global and standardized solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding COVID-19 passenger travel requirements,” and will include “accurate information on passengers’ COVID-19 health status.” Essentially, it will tell passengers what’s required of them to reach their destination, and tell airlines whether passengers have been tested and/or vaccinated. IATA says it will soon be downloadable for iOS and Android phones. Here is a pdf fact sheet.
The aviation consultancy Simpliflying reaches some fairly downbeat conclusions about the swift resumption of tourism in 2021. It thinks:
1 – It’s likely that there will be some form of air travel recovery from April. Shorter haul leisure routes (e.g from Northern / Western Europe to the Mediterranean) will recover first, especially those catering to older leisure travellers, who are higher in the vaccination queue.
2 – Widespread vaccinations of the adult population in Europe and North America however, won’t occur until after April, and we can’t expect a mass of adults to be vaccinated until the Summer.
3 – In Western Countries, vaccination schedules will not be uniform. In other countries, the roll-out may take until 2022 or 2023. This means testing is here to stay, and will work alongside vaccination certificates and biosafety measures.
4 – Reopening borders for air travel will not be a priority for Governments. Even the introduction of vaccines may not be enough.
Much as we might prefer otherwise, we may be in this air travel limbo for a while.
Forbes predicts a future of “no cabin bags, no lounges, no automatic upgrades, face masks, surgical gloves, self-check-in, self-bag-drop-off, immunity passports, on-the-spot blood tests and sanitation disinfection tunnels” and a four hour check-in process.
My bet, that’s too grim, if only because airlines and governments alike are committed to maintaining viable airline businesses. Plus, airlines need you way more than you need them for a change. How about that.
For now, here’s a useful, clickable IATA map of worldwide travel restrictions.