When and Where Will We Travel Again?
Let’s start with the reality: most of us love traveling; however, many of us are sheltering in our houses and nervous to go even to the supermarket. Many of us are stuck with credits or airline tickets or travel insurance payments. Will be losing them or be able to use them? So where is our travel life going and when?
Some airlines do a fabulous job of communicating. I am a Delta Frequent Flier (full admission). Delta’s emails and announcements go right to what we want to hear. I like the fact that it is the CEO who talks to the consumer not a talking head. Mid-March I was stuck in London trying to get back to NY from a Women’s Travel Group trip. US headlines were very concerning about flying. A Delta announcement explained in detail how the air system works in their planes; I like that kind of science-based conversation and you probably feel the same. Another announcement extended everyone’s FF status for an extra year. Another talked about giving away 200,000 pounds of food the airline did not need. Here is an example of excellent communications from Delta which gives the consumer trust in the airline.
Some smaller airlines might not make it through this pandemic. A good way to protect yourself is: before booking, check that your travel insurer will insure bankruptcy of your chosen airline. Another way is to issue a charge back on your credit card. Big warning: some credit cards (Chase Preferred Sapphire is one) have changed coverage due to bankruptcy of travel suppliers: airline, travel agency, tour company or travel supplier. These are strange times. My suggestion: only book the big ones and US carriers. (BA for one is only issuing credits as of today).
Cruise lines announced that they are planning to sail later in 2020-some as early as May. Experts feel that May is too optimistic and they are concerned no one will book or rebook that early. Cruise ships are facing new scrutiny regarding cleanliness, health of passengers and crew, medical assistance on board and such. A big ‘if’ is going to be which ports will accept a ship and which might turn it away unexpectedly. I have friends who were just on an around the world cruise; the ship was turned away from island after island in the Pacific and they were unsure day to day where they would disembark. They ended up days later in Australia from where they flew home at great extra expense.
Carnival the biggest cruise company in the world is offering incentives to rebook; is $600 ship board credit enough to rebook if you are 60 years old and worried? Carnival is some 50% of the entire cruise industry so it is one travel bellwether. Cruise lines registered in non US countries are not going to receive bail out money. FYI All the big ones are registered overseas.
River cruises like AMA Waterways state they will resume early Summer, and have offered very generous flexible credits and refunds. Their Danube and French sailing dates on line are early June. On a river cruise you can open your window, see the shore and never feel literally ‘at sea’ or confined. River cruises might come back faster. Again, those with loyal passengers who trust them might do the best.
If you were traveling early-mid-end March, expect to lose money. Our friends paid to get home fast from Asia. I paid Delta a ridiculous amount to fly one way LHR-JFK. (Their FF desk was overwhelmed and could not help fast enough). Trump announced a closing of the borders to European flights. I was a woman alone overseas so jumped to buy a replacement one way ticket. Will I get satisfaction on the new ticket cost? Time will tell. As a professional in the travel industry and former financial analyst, I trust Delta will do right. If not, I trust that they did not do right for me, in order to save thousands of employees’ jobs and perhaps the airline itself.
I hope this does not sound cavalier, but we all are going to lose and we are all going to gain. We all will lose money invested in travel, and we all will lose trust in some companies. We will lose friends who do not lean into the new regulations like wearing a mask. We will lose jobs and sadly also, we will lose victims to coronavirus.
We will gain a new perspective in what is important. We will gain a better idea of how national leadership works or doesn’t. We will travel again with those we trust. Over time, we’ll tell our grandchildren about the great pandemic of 2020. And we will invite them to the trip they will also dream about.