David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
NOT Traveling Blog, 2nd Week Of December 2020
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.
December 2020 – the Dumpster Fire of a year is almost over. I find myself very contemplative today as I watch this year like no other coming to a close. Today’s Not Traveling blog is devoted only to even-more-random-than-usual thoughts.
I read today that American Airlines is planning to fly its first returned 737Max flights with only employees onboard. I wonder if there is any frequent traveler that sees this as the reassuring move AA brass must have expected it to be. In reality, anyone familiar with US airlines and traveling knows throwing their employees under the bus (or 737Max in this case) is just what they always do.
If the US Center for Disease Control strongly recommended that people should not travel during this just past Thanksgiving Holiday (as they did) shouldn’t the US airlines have respected this for the good of society and limited flying to emergency situations only? The TSA reported that Thanksgiving air travel saw the highest number of passengers since the start of the pandemic. Clearly, in line with all their past actions, US airlines couldn’t really care less about passengers’ safety when it’s not enforced by regulations and there is an opportunity to make money. In light of that, are these companies really to be trusted when they tell you flying during a pandemic is safe? (The right answer here is no of course, as I’ve written about in the past, and others have as well.)
If you’ve really got nothing better to do, go take a peek at this entertaining yet useless thread about toasters on Twitter. I believe all toasters going forward should be able to detect that toast is burning before the smoke detector in one’s home goes off. Yet my good friend Josh Srago, having just completed his Law School training, takes the opposite position.
I recently stayed at a hotel here in New Jersey – my first night away for a long time. I have a real fear that I’ve lost my efficient packing skills, as they must have atrophied during the pandemic. I took a suitcase for one night more than twice as large as the one I used to travel with for a week. Of course, the pandemic made me pack my own coffee maker and my own pillows, and that took some room, but I fear we’ll all need to go to classes again to learn how to correctly consolidate our carry-on bags when traveling really returns. Remember when airlines would stop you from trying to bring on a bag too big? Nowadays they’ll likely let you on with a grand piano in a bag as long as you’re willing to risk your life flying during a pandemic.
Going to the movies dozens of years ago meant a special experience that everyone would enjoy. (About thirty years ago I got to see a reissued My Fair Lady – with the Bugs Bunny cartoon What’s Opera Doc before it – at Radio City Music Hall. The size of the screen and the grandeur of the house were a throwback to what a night at the movies used to be in prior years.) The recent past however saw the elimination of the big, beautiful movie houses and wonderful experiences – replaced with tiny screen multiplexes (sometimes in malls) with poor sound, dirty, small seats and overpriced concessions. How many times have you been jarred out of your movie experience because of a loud scene from the movie being shown next door? Well, one of the things this pandemic has done is forced tired industries and business models to reinvent themselves. Home TV screens are now very large and sport fantastic UHD images and excellent surround-sound. In addition, OTT (over-the-top) services such as Disney Plus and Amazon Prime are serving-up very high quality content for watching at home. Put all of that together with the stay-at home orders and we see another industry finally reinventing itself. Warner Brothers has announced that their entire catalog of new release movies will be available SIMULTANEOUSLY in theaters and on their HBO-Max service. Now I can watch newly released movies from my comfortable sofa on my 80” UHD-TV with my Dolby Surround Sound receiver AND pause the film if I need to use the bathroom or want to grab a snack. A buck’s worth of popcorn will never again cost me seventeen dollars – after having to wait in a line to get it (or pay for the privilege of waiting on a shorter line.) Movie theaters and theater chains will kick and scream about this, but ultimately it is inevitable. This industry will be one of those that needed to be reinvented if it wants to survive. If you want me to watch a movie at a theater instead of on my wonderful home theater system then give me a reason to go – perhaps add a live element…or a contest…or make the experience so beautiful that I’ll want to enjoy it more than my home set-up. Here again with the pandemic, we have 6-8 years of digital transformation that took place in 6-8 months. Progress…
There are two business conferences I usually attend scheduled for June 2021. One international, one domestic. Honestly, I still can’t see these happening at all. Even if the vaccines work well, get distributed efficiently and are willingly taken by people (all big ifs) I think exhibitors will be gun-shy about starting-up with the huge expense again, and travelers will need a long ramp to feel comfortable going to large events again. I still feel that air travel will not really return to normal levels until there is on-the-spot COVID testing, and only negative travelers and crew are allowed to board. I pray someone in the industry is thinking about offering that, because it won’t be able to be slapped together at the last minute. August feels like a good guess for a return to leisure travel at this point, and I think that CES in January 2022 is likely to be the next widely attended business conference.
My last flight was in March of this year. Eight or so months later here are the things I miss: eating at restaurants; going to concerts and plays; hugging friends; shaking hands; roundtable industry dinners; experiencing different local cultures around the nation and world. The things I DON’T miss: tiny US airline seatback pockets; tiny US airline coach seats; tiny US airline management minds; promised but not delivered upgrades; TSA lines; Pre-Check not working reliably; airport food; surly FAs; dirty Uber/Lyft cars; being away from family for extended periods of time. What’s on your miss / don’t miss lists? Send them to me for a future blog.
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.