No Paycheck but You Can Keep Your Shirt

“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.”

From Paddle Your Own Kanoo.

European Airline Grounded

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.”

IATA Travel Pass

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.

It’s one sign that things are stirring in the world of air travel. Another: Airlines warned about safety of COVID-19-grounded planes leaving storage.

2021 Travel? Not so Fast

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.

You can download the entire report here.

On The Road: Field Notes From The Wreckage Of Tourism

Oops. Meant to post this last week. It’s column #25 of the On the Road series published monthly at 3 Quarks Daily. This column was published there last Monday. Here is a link to all 25 columns.

 

News from the leisure travel world is worse than grim. More than half of the 16 million travel industry jobs in the United States have been lost. On 14 April last year the TSA processed 2,208,688 air travelers. This year that number was 87,534. 

It’s the same everywhere. Da Nang saw a 98.5 percent year on year drop in visitors over Vietnam’s four day Reunification Day holiday. Ninety nine point nine percent fewer foreign visitors entered Japan in April than a year earlier. Planes are parked and ships are docked.

They outfit the American cruise ship industry in a low key shipbuilding town on the Bay of Bothnia in Finland. Turku shipyards built the world’s biggest floating petri dishes, the 360 meter long ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seasfor Royal Caribbean International.

Seventy seven thousand employees, Royal Caribbean had, until a virus as unfriendly to people as plastic to the sea torpedoed its heart, soul and balance sheet in three months flat. Maybe Turku can save its shipyard jobs by building hospital ships; Royal Caribbean may tread choppy water forevermore.

If not by sea, what if by air? Qatar Airways, purveyors of dreamy Qsuites, offers a ticket changeable for anywhere they fly within 5000 miles – at the price of the original booking. You could in theory book a business class flight from Philadelphia to Kyiv for $1600 and change it to Hong Kong. They seem to mean it.

Lest your enthusiasm take flight, Forbes stands ready with a harsh de-icing, predicting “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.

I don’t buy it. That’s just too grim, if only because airlines and governments alike are committed to maintaining a viable airline industry. Plus, airlines need you way more than you need them for a change. How about that.

Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Phuket, Thailand’s biggest tourist island, reported no new cases on Monday and Tuesday 11 & 12 May, so on Wednesday 13 May the tourist board petitioned national authorities to reopen right then and there.

Not so fast, the government replied, as they work on a plan for “high-spending visitors from Asian countries to select areas … to avoid 14-day quarantines.” They will “have to provide a health certificate, buy health insurance, and undergo a rapid coronavirus test on arrival.” Nothing like a carefree week at the beach.

Schemes for survival in the travel industry have veered into wishful thinking. AirNorth, Yukon’s airline, with service (in normal times) to Old Crow, Mayo, Watson Lake and beyond, found itself with a largely idle catering facility. For those fortunate to live near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, it began offering pick up and delivery of airplane food from its Flight Kitchen.

JetBlue thought nostalgia for airplane food might be a thing, too, and in early May began offering delivery of cheese and snack trays, $2.99 for three ounces of mixed cheeses, dried cherries and crackers through Imperfect Foods. Pardon the … delicious irony.

Everything about the road (and flight paths and shipping lanes) ahead is uncertain. The airline trade association IATA, which offers a comprehensive country-by-country map of travel restrictions, argues against countries imposing quarantines, and forecasts, with wistful tear and jutted jaw, that international travel will return to 2019 levels by 2023. Continue reading

New On the Road Column Today

My monthly On the Road column at 3 Quarks Daily is live today. This month, it’s Field Notes from the Wreckage of Tourism.

Read it here at 3QD right now, and I’ll post it to CS&W later this week.

World Map of Travel Restrictions

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.

The Future of Flying?

“A requirement forcing all air passengers arriving at Hong Kong to be tested for the coronavirus will remain in place going forward, a leading city health official said, with experts predicting the practice will become standard at airports around the world as the aviation industry adapts to a new normal once the pandemic recedes.”

From the South China Morning Post. Read the rest here.