TO TRAVEL OR NOT TO TRAVEL

That Is The Question, by Rich Paschall

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take flight against the clouds of doubt,
And by opposing end them.
(with apologies to William Shakespeare)

From March of 2020 right up to the present day, the global pandemic has been devastating to the travel industry. This has been particularly true for the airlines. As knowledge of the risks posed by COVID-19 spread faster than the coronavirus itself, flights were grounded and planes were put into storage. People were afraid to fly.

Pinal Air Park, Arizona

Adding to the general fear were the restrictions by governments on air travel around the world. This left air carriers bleeding cash. Most airlines were doing quite well as 2020 rolled in. Leisure travel, as well as business travel, was big business. The recent successes were wiped out in a stunning reversal.

According to figures from the International Airline Transportation Association (IATA), “the combined $201 billion in net losses over the pandemic-blighted period eclipses close to nine years of industry earnings,” as stated in Bloomberg recently. Loss estimates for 2021 keep getting pushed upwards. Worse yet for air carriers is the continued projection of losses for 2022.

When we were sent home from our airline jobs in mid-March 2020, the hope was that it would not be for long. Furloughs, aka lay-offs, for April and May, were handed out with the belief that things would begin to turn around in a couple months. The airline was reduced to a fraction of its former flight schedule. Passenger loads were 8 to 10 percent of capacity and much of the fleet was grounded. Early projections, based more on wishful thinking than anything else, were that the airline would be at about 50 percent by the end of 2020.  That did not happen.

Meanwhile, many airlines are forced to pay for facilities and equipment that get little or no use. IATA, a trade association of 290 airlines, that is almost everyone, believes the airlines will reach about 40 percent of pre-pandemic passenger traffic by the end of this year and 61 percent next year. Is that just more wishful thinking? How long can the world’s airlines stay in business while losing money at a rapid pace?

While there has been some recovery on domestic and regional routes, international travel is still lagging. Do people even want to travel given the present circumstances? According to IATA Director General Willie Walsh, “People have not lost their desire to travel as we see in solid domestic market resilience. But they are being held back from international travel by restrictions, uncertainty, and complexity.”

Many countries will not let in travelers from certain other countries. The European Union has recommended to their member countries to restrict Americans to essential travel only. In fact, four European countries will not let us in and the list is likely to grow. Cross Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Bulgaria off your vacation list. Some countries have vaccination requirements and some have quarantine rules. The entire world knows COVID-19 and its variants are on the rise here in the US and 45 percent of the population are not vaccinated, despite the availability of the vaccine.

Pfizer vaccine

The US government has its own list of advisories and restrictions. Are some of those based on politics rather than science?  The list of restricted European countries is about to be changed, but will that bring more tourists here?

You may think that I would be out of my mind to consider any world travel now. We are not particularly welcome in places I would like to visit, and if I go I might not be able to come back

In order to fly to Germany then travel to France, I must get a negative COVID-19 test with 72 hours of my flight. Rapid testing is becoming a big business. It might be free in your neighborhood and cost a fortune at an airport. This has to be done even though I am vaccinated. I must also have a Health pass for France. You can apply online with your proof of vaccination. Without your COVID test and Health Pass, do not even think of starting out.

Many businesses in France will require a look at your Health Pass.  If you want to eat in a restaurant, you must show your pass. Do not attempt to pull any “I am an American and I have rights:” nonsense. Les gendarmes would be glad to show you their accommodations. 

In order to return home, I will need a negative COVID test within 72 hours before getting on a plane in Frankfurt. My passport and proof of vaccination will be good too. Rapid COVID testing is big business in other countries as well as the US.

You can be assured that most airlines clean and sanitize planes in ways they never did before this global pandemic. They realize that any COVID outbreak pegged to one of their flights would be disastrous to a business already ravaged by the pandemic. Every bit of the business that deals with the public has been reevaluated, from cleaning to contactless check-in and baggage handling. You can tag your own bag and drop it on the conveyor yourself. Of course, you could do that before on some airlines.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Almost sunset

I did not travel last year. The pandemic kept me home. I was reluctant to travel this year. I had to weigh this very carefully.  I have airline vouchers that I will not be able to use after this year. I can fly at a very low cost. I know my way around Frankfurt airport and how to go on to Strasbourg.  My vaccinated friends will meet me there and I will stay with them.  They work in the tour business and know the safest places to go. The trip will cost me next to nothing, but only if I go this year. I have a hotel voucher for a Frankfurt airport hotel I may use for one night before returning.

It does not escape my mind that this may be the last time I will be able to travel on my own. It gets harder with each passing year. My friend in France has been married since my last visit, and his wife is expecting their first child. The sun is setting on our many adventures and I must get there before the sun goes down. I will capture the sunset for you and bring it in the coming weeks.

Sources:  “Airlines See Covid-Related Losses Exceeding $200 Billion,” Bloomberg, by Christopher Jasper, October 4, 2021.
COVID-19 Travel Guidance for U.S. Citizens,” US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.


Categories: Airplanes and flying, Coronavirus - Covid 19, Rich Paschall, Travel, Vacation

Tags: , , , , , ,

24 replies

  1. Great info from someone who knows! We couldn’t travel to the UK from neither France nor Switzerland last year and with much hassle could extend our Eurotunnel tickets to end October this year. But of course, there is no way we’ll be visiting the UK now, so our money is lost. Those tickets to travel by car (which is important for us as we always go to UK with a truckload of English books I then distribute in Charity Shops) are more expensive than air-tickets…. but we have put them to the rest of our losses thanks to C19.
    Astonishingly we have many German tourists here in Switzerland and a not neglectable number of Asian travellers. I wonder how they do it. Otherwise it’s travelling in one’s own country and we finally get to know our tiny but so varied and beautiful country a bit better. Our activities have been slowed down to a standstill in some respects, we’re more housebound, but what hurts the most is the loss of culture and the impossibility to visit our dear friends abroad. Some we can’t even visit here as there are still so many restrictions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This Sunday I will have more on my efforts to travel France and Germany. The rules are a little different for each and we have even moved into an eral of checks at the borders in Europe. This is a surprise to me as I have crossed the Germany/France border many times at Strasbourg/Kehl and at Freiberg withour restriction. I have also considered flying to the Euroairport at Basel/Mulhouse but their are not so many flight options. I guess I will not get to Switzerland this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As you may know or not, we lived in France for 12yrs and with overall at least 1-2 border crossings we were stopped I think 2 times…. go figure! Now it’s different, just like everything else in our world…. good luck, should you decide to go. But have you considered that it just might be not worth it? 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I have considered that it might not be worth it, but I have travel vouchers that expire at the end of the year. I have not seen my good friends in a while and may not get the chance to ever go again. I am going to give it another try in the middle of next month. After that I may be finished with such trips.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Here in the UK my husband and I have had similar conversations. For about 18 months we couldn’t really consider travelling abroad. Either we were in total lockdown (last March to May and then again Christmas through to March), or required to quarantine if returning here from almost every country in the world (and some countries not on that list wouldn’t have let us in, such as Australia!) We made do with ‘staycations’, little weekend trips to the English countryside or interesting towns and cities. Then at the end of this summer international travel at last became feasible again, albeit with strings attached. We hesitated, then decided to go for it, but in a small way. Our first venture was to Paris, as we can do that by train. To enter France all we needed was proof of vaccination and the health pass – Passe Sanitaire. We found that easy to use and had no problems anywhere we went 🙂 But to return to the UK we had to take a lateral flow test beforehand and a PCR within two days of arrival – a bit of hassle but no big deal.

    Now those requirements have been further simplified, for the fully vaccinated. No test before the return trip and only a simple lateral flow one two days after arrival. So next month we will fly for the first time since February 2020, on a short city break in Seville, as Spain has one of the least restrictive policies. Foreign travel is possible again, we just have to accept that it’s different. And while there’s some risk attached, it’s probably less than going out and about in London which we’ve been doing regularly when permitted 🙂

    Next year we hope to return to long-haul travel, with a trip to Sri Lanka pencilled in and a possible visit to the US. Fingers crossed!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have traveled recently but had to go under all necessary tests and precautions. It’s better to be careful always. Next month I m flying within the country and may be in December I shall go to Thailand….in del8mma when it’s an international flight.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi rich, I hope you enjoy your travels, if you do go! Can you tell me, if I am vaccinated, do I still need a negative covid test before I travel to the USA? Ireland is allowing US travel starting in november. But I’m unsure if my phizer vaccine will be enough, or if I’ll need to get a negative covid test before I travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to get sick flying long before COVID. I always thought it was that recirculated air. One person had a cold, sneezed, and everyone in the craft caught it. We are unlikely to fly again and not because of COVID but simply because we are too old to hassle with airports. But It is nice to know they are cleaning up the planes. They really needed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Planes are cleaned and sanitized in ways they should have been doing it before. In the busiest times, planes were turned around so quickly there was no time for a thorough cleaning.

      Like

      • It’s hard cleaning out the air circulating system. It requires special equipment to really get it clean. I worked for all those years at the environmental health laboratory at the University of Jerusalem and I got a good look at some of the things air recirculating system often contain. It’s amazing more people didn’t get sick.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I travel a lot to Seattle and I’m going again next week. It’s all gone smoothly for me, knock on wood. I’ double mask and I’m triple vaxxed.

    Liked by 1 person

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