How to Think About Travel: This Isn't a Star Trek Episode
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2020 -- When I suggested last week that travel should be a no-go for a while, several outraged members resigned. How dare I tell people travel might not be a good idea?

So they're not here as I note CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield says we must prepare for two months of daily Coronavirus death tolls worse than the 3,000 people who died on 9/11. The death rate in America yesterday was 3,124, so it's hard to argue with Redfield.

I'm sure these former members will, though. It's their right and I wish them well. But I fear for their safety.

What about the rest of us? We can't hunker down forever. We will travel again, sometime, somewhere, some way.

I've been giving that some thought. I don't know if I believe HHS Secretary Alex Azar when he claims anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one in the second quarter of 2021. After all, he whores for Donald Trump, who claimed in March that anyone who wanted a Coronavirus test could get one. That was a lie then and, ten months later, it's still a challenge to get tested.





Flights to Hawaii and France


Flights to Hawaii


Flights to any state requiring negative test; select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean; some London flights


Some flights to Italy and Amsterdam


Flights to Hawaii


Flights to Caribbean and Latin America and U.S. cities requiring negative test


Houston/Intercontinental to Aruba, Peru and Central America; Newark to London; San Francisco to Hawaii


Flights to Hawaii; some flights to/from Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto

KEY: Airlines are selectively offering testing before departures to some destinations. Travelers are almost always required to pay for the tests and for their validity at the destination. Source: Listed airlines

Yet testing is where we should start as we plan for a travel future. American Airlines this week claimed all passengers headed to a state with a testing requirement can get a test. American also arranges tests to many Latin and Caribbean destinations. To lesser degrees, the other major U.S. and Canadian carriers also offer testing assistance.

The tests aren't free, of course. You'll pay (prices start around US$100) and you're responsible for most of the logistics. And there are no guarantees anywhere along the testing chain. But it's a start. If you're looking to--or must--travel soon, examine what is on tap from each airline. Check the box above for links to more specifics as offered on airline Web sites.

Even if Azar is correct and vaccines will be freely available starting in the second quarter, don't expect group travel to return quickly. Most companies will be extremely reluctant to approve attendance at meetings, conferences and conventions. That just doesn't seem in the cards next year. Hell, even next June's Paris Air Show, the airline and aircraft industry's biggest and glitziest event, has already been cancelled. And if the airlines don't want to gather, why would you expect your industry will want to gather? Ditto group leisure events such as land tours and cruises. It is not something people will be comfortable doing for quite some time.

David Danto this week suggests designating August 25 as pandemic freedom day. I applaud that sentiment, but I'm skeptical of the reality. Besides, I'm not convinced there'll ever be a day when we "know" this terrible crisis has ended.

Logic dictates that travel's return will be like turning a dial, not flipping a switch. Nations will begin to allow cross-border travel on a case-by-case or region-by-region basis. That's what Singapore and Hong Kong planned late last month. A travel bubble, they called it. Unfortunately, it collapsed before launch when Coronavirus cases spiked in Hong Kong. It's what Hawaii has been doing for a month or so, but the Island of Kauai opted out earlier this month.

Travel in late 2021 and even most of 2022 will not be a matter of the world being your oyster. You're more likely to say, "Well, time to visit Destination Y because we can--and we can't visit Destination X." So have a bucket list ready, but be prepared to settle for somewhere else.

We've lived through so many "new normals" since 9/11 that I honestly don't remember what normal should be on the road. But I am fairly sure that whatever the next "new normal" will be post-pandemic, it won't be what we remembered from 2019. Your favorite restaurant or museum may be closed forever. Your go-to airport coffee shop could be gone. Airline food, even the occasionally edible stuff, may come in a box. Who knows what frequency programs will look like. Lavish buffet breakfasts and on-demand housekeeping may be historic hotel oddities.

The trick to traveling again, when we get to travel again, is to focus on what the current reality may be. There'll always be an England and Rome is the Eternal City, but they don't look or feel or act like they did 20 years ago. Next year, they won't look like they did last year. Ditto New York or Chicago or the office park north of DFW or south of Atlanta/Hartsfield.

I said this back in April and I marvel at my prescience. Life in the time of pandemic isn't an episode of Star Trek. Bones won't discover the miracle cure in Act Four, there won't be Kirk and Spock banter in the tag and next week's episode won't start like this week's crisis never happened.

Sadly, life is not an episode of Star Trek. Besides, flip phones are already passé.

We will fly again. But we will be changed. The places we'll go will be changed. The ways we get there and where we sleep will be changed.

The road, when we get back on it, will be a very different place. And accepting that reality may be the most difficult transition of all.

Cue the credits and the outro music. This has been a Desilu production in association with Norway Corporation.