David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
NOT Traveling Blog, 2nd Week Of April 2021
David Danto’s ongoing list of disjointed and occasionally random observations and thoughts as we wait-out the pandemic – mostly NOT traveling like we used to.
“Fasten your seatbelts” the late sportscaster Bob Murphy would tell baseball fans as a close game headed into the last inning. He knew it was potentially going to be a bumpy ride to the end and a possibly hard landing. As this horrific pandemic (hopefully) heads into its end stages, more than your average amount of things are going haywire. I suppose we should have expected nothing else. This week’s list of “disjointed and occasionally random observations and thoughts” will be more all-over-the-place than usual as I attempt to notice and/or warn about the changes that we’ll be experiencing as we begin this transition.
First of all IT’S NOT OVER! As the Washington Post published, “The data doesn’t look good. After weeks of decline, the average number of new coronavirus infections reported each day is higher than it’s been in a month. The number of people in hospitals with covid-19 has been stubbornly stagnant since mid-March. And even as highly contagious virus variants spread, state leaders are relaxing safety precautions.” Here in my home state of New Jersey the positivity rate had dipped in February, but is back up near its peak today.
Average Positive Test Rate New Jersey – source Mayo Clinic
And, it’s important to point-out that New Jersey has a Governor using common sense about cautions. Other states with more questionable leaders have eliminated mask mandates despite the rising numbers. In fact, earlier this week, the Texas Rangers opened their home season by allowing Globe Life Field in Arlington to be the first Major League Baseball stadium to reopen at full capacity – roughly 40,000 seats of people shoulder-to-shoulder and in-denial about the risks. This pandemic isn’t going to end just because we’re tired of it. Additionally, for the first time, with the widespread availability of vaccinations and PPE, Darwinism seems to finally be in the driver’s seat. The more intelligent precautions people take, the less likely they are to be infected.
The good news is that the US vaccination rate is at an awesome record level of over four-million shots per day. The prayer is that enough people get vaccinated quickly enough to prevent that feared fourth wave. Only time will tell.
Helping support the floodgates opening trend in America was the CDC announcement last Friday that said ‘fully vaccinated people are safe to travel only when necessary as long as they observe proper precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing.’ Regrettably, many people with apparently low IQs or attention spans thought that announcement only said: ‘******** people are safe to travel *************’ conveniently omitting all the qualifiers. Last weekend the TSA reported that air-travelers passed-through their checkpoints at the highest level since the pandemic started – 1.3 million on Sunday alone.
Were the airlines ready for such a rush? (Is this your first time flying or reading about flying? It would have to be if you’re that naive.) Delta suffered a major meltdown on Sunday, cancelling 72 flights and breaking their promise to keep middle seats empty until May. Frequent travelers planning to restart their activities had better be prepared for a huge onslaught of bumps as the pandemic end-game plays out. For another example, the Google based ITA system that the airlines rely on for bookings fell apart this past Monday. No one could book a ticket on United, Delta or American. Was the crash due to the pandemic end-game rush? No, not at all. But it is yet another example of how unprepared the industry is to handle loads as they begin to increase.
For yet another example of being unprepared for the rush back to travel, have you tried renting a car lately? We’re currently in a state of unprecedented difficulty getting vehicles at premium destinations as people just start-up traveling again. Short-notice rentals are often being priced through the roof, and reservations are being cancelled due to lack of available cars. The reason this is happening is no mystery. The rental-car industry has taken a beating over pandemic. One example is Hertz – which declared bankruptcy in May 2020 – and that also impacted Dollar and Thrifty, both owned by Hertz. Advantage also filed for Chapter 11 protection in May. Having to go into survival mode, the rental-car companies were forced to sell off a large percentage of their fleets. Now that demand is actually rising, inventory can't keep up with it. And when demand is high and inventory is low – you know what happens – prices of actually available cars also go through the roof. If that weren’t bad enough, the rental car industry isn’t immune from the continuing supply-chain disruptions due to the pandemic. A shortage of parts, especially electronics from China, is delaying auto production. Although rental-car companies are trying to gear up to capitalize on the increased demand, they can't buy new cars to beef up their fleets fast enough. The weirdly counterintuitive advice for travelers nowadays is when planning travel that requires a rental vehicle, of course book your travel as far in advance as you can, but for the time being start with the car reservation, not the flights or hotel rooms. (Also, ONLY reserve from a well-known firm that you are 100% sure is reliable – or you may find yourself with the proverbial Seinfeld reservation – not a car.)
As for me, one just has to check out the webpage where I list my blogs and professional activities. For the first time in over a year I’ve listed industry events I plan to attend (always at the very bottom of the page.) With any luck at all, beginning in late August, my travel itinerary through mid-January 2022 will go EWR-LAS-EWR-IND-EWR-MCO-EWR-LAS-EWR-MCO-EWR-LAS-EWR. That is ambitious and optimistic, but I’m really hopeful that it will happen this time. (Remember, I’m the guy that told you that all the talk about the pandemic ending early was hogwash, so if I believe it then it may be something to have confidence in.)
But then again, since we started with a reference to Mr. Murphy and the New York Mets, it’s worth the time to point out that even though baseball season has started already, the Mets played no games on the opening weekend. This is because their opponent – the Washington Nationals – had a significant outbreak of COVID19 on their team – with four players testing positive and nine more in quarantine. Please use this as just one more reminder that no matter how much we want this to be over, as Yogi would say, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. For every bit of good news we receive, there is likely to be a roadblock around the corner. That is just our lives right now and we have to deal with it. Or, to explain it by going to the comics page one more time:
Oh – and one final note. Remember my blog a couple of weeks ago where I wrote about how quickly passports were being renewed? Um…I may have spoken too soon. My wife’s did come back in 21 days as I mentioned, but four days after that I only received a note that stated my photos were not acceptable and I needed to send-in new ones. The same camera was used for both my wife’s and mine, the same background was used, the same measuring template was used, the same printer settings and paper – all the same – but hers were just fine and mine were rejected – which is very puzzling. I’ve sent in new photos by priority mail and I’m still waiting…again.
As always, please feel free to write to me with comments or items I should add to a future Not Traveling blog (or if you just need someone to write to.) Stay safe, be well, hug those you’re sheltering with (but no one else) and do your best to stay positive. We’re going to be in this for a while longer.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
The Explanation for my Not Traveling blogs: In 2014 I was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top ten business travel bloggers in the USA. Now mind you, I turned out to be number ten on the list of ten, but I did make it on (with my thanks to all those who voted.) Now that we’re all stuck at home and not traveling, I had to think about what to do with my blogs. I could stop writing them entirely – waiting till we all get through the current COVID19 pandemic / crisis. I could wax nostalgic and/or complain about past trips. Or, I could focus all of my efforts on my day job – growing the use of collaboration technologies – especially in light of how many people are now forced to use those tools for the first time. In reflecting upon those choices, what I decided to do is compile an ongoing list of observations during the crisis. Some of these may amuse, some may inform, some may sadden and others may help. My goal will be for you to have seen something in a different light than you did before you stopped to read the blog. I was going to apologize for how disjointed these thoughts may seem when put together, but then it dawned on me that feeling disjointed is our new normal – at least for a little while.