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

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.

Airline Food Available for Delivery

AirNorth, Yukon’s airline, with service (in normal times) to Old Crow, Mayo, Watson Lake and more, now has a largely idle catering facility in Whitehorse. So it’s offering pick up and delivery of airplane food from its Flight Kitchen. Here’s a screen shot:

Choose from cabbage rolls, meatloaf, lasagne, cannelloni, shepherd’s pie. The Thai vegetable curry is sold out.

State Run Airlines Throw Money

Boeing got a big hug this week from Kazakhstan. At the Dubai airshow, Air Astana’s chief planning officer Alma Aliguzhinov announced plans to order up to 50 737 Max jets worth $6bn, saying

“We are making flying affordable for the people of Kazakhstan.”

Here’s an article.

“Separately, another airline signed a firm order for 10 Boeing 737 Max 7 and 10 Boeing Max 10 jets, a person familiar with the matter said. The airline’s name was not disclosed,”

the article says. Add that to Turkey-based airline SunExpress, which added a firm order for 10 of the planes, worth $1.2 billion at list.

A fine week’s work

“for a plane whose dangerous defects triggered the largest crisis in the aviation industry in years.”