At the start of a new year, it is tradition for CEOs to send out a company-wide memo about where they see themselves headed over the next 12 months. It is usually a message of optimism and determination, full promises that THIS YEAR will be the best one yet. 

This was not the case for Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian, who was forthright about the challenges and difficulties facing the airline in 2021:

“The beginning of 2021 is no different. Once again, we have ambitious goals for the next 12 months, and they are centered around our core values: taking care of our people and our customers. 

While I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery, the continued uncertainty of the pandemic means we’ll need to be nimble, ready to adjust our course and adapt to an ever-changing environment.

It’s likely that we’ll experience two distinct phases during the next 12 months. The first will look a lot like 2020, with travel demand deeply depressed and our focus on ensuring the health and safety of our people and customers. 

The second phase will begin only when we reach a turning point with widely available vaccinations that spur a significant return to travel, particularly business travel. We continue to expect that we will achieve positive cash flow by the spring.”

Simple Flying shared this story and offered their own commentary, most of which I agree with and will summarize here. 

As much of a lifeline as the vaccines may be for the airline industry as a whole, they will not be magic miracles. It will take a while before the majority of the American population gets vaccinated for COVID-19, and as of right now we are nowhere near close to having the 2020 end goal of 20 million Americans taking the vaccine. 

We also don’t know how other countries will act around the COVID-19 vaccines in regard to travel restrictions. Will every single foreigner arriving need to be fully vaccinated with a treatment of two doses before entering? What if a passenger got vaccinated, but not with the right vaccine? These questions have to be answered.

Putting the vaccines aside, let’s take a look at the airlines themselves. From Simple Flying:

“Delta Air Lines cut down over 200 aircraft from its mainline and regional fleet in 2020, making the airline much smaller and more nimble. In many ways, 2021 is the year to be small. First and foremost, the global marketplace is going to continue to be volatile. And, airlines have taken two different courses of action.

…Delta has taken a second approach. It has deferred aircraft orders and preferred to remain small. Instead, it is fine spilling over demand rather than having excess capacity. Through at least March, the airline is continuing to block seats on its aircraft.

Staying small minimizes Delta’s risk and helps it get to an investment-grade balance sheet with break-even financial results. This, however, comes at the expense of a robust route map that could prove to be a decisive blow against the airline in the future.”

So for now, we might as well act like we’re still in 2020. The best-case scenario is that we see a significant increase in travel demand around the Spring or Summer of 2021. And if US-based airlines commit to flying with a leaner fleet, they’ll need to find a way to accommodate the influx of passengers without running out of space to put them.

At the very least, they should consider getting rid of their “middle seat blocked off” policy. 

What do YOU think about the future prospects of Delta and other US-based airlines in 2021? Can they make the recovery they’re hoping for, or will it be 2020 all over again? Reply to this newsletter and share your predictions with us!

Dr. Fauci: “COVID-19 Vaccines May Be Mandatory for Travel”

In a recent interview with Newsweek, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked about whether people will be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine before hopping on a plane. 

And here’s what he had to say:

“I’m not sure it’s [the COVID-19 vaccine] going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal government mandates. But there are going to be individual institutions that I’m sure are going to mandate it.

…It’s not up to me to make a decision, but these are all things that will be discussed [under the Biden administration]… I would not be surprised, as we get into the full scope of [COVID-19] vaccination, that some companies, some hospitals, some organizations might require vaccination.”

In his mind, it’s 100% on the table. And as for the schools, that’s also up to the local and the state governments. Keep in mind this is for a vaccine where we STILL DO NOT KNOW if they are actually effective at preventing people from getting infected with COVID-19. 

Yet despite all this doom and gloom, Dr. Fauci firmly believes we’ll start returning to normal by Summer or Fall 2021 if as many people as possible get vaccinated.

Just make sure you shut up and get that digital health passport so everyone can see your past history with COVID-19 tests and vaccinations!

Did Brexit Accidentally Mess Up Travel for the Brits?

Looks like the United Kingdom’s independence from the European Union is off to a very rocky start. According to MarketWatch, its effects are already being felt by travelers:

“…some British citizens trying to return to their homes in several European countries this weekend have been barred from boarding flights.

Airlines refused documents that before Brexit had been valid proof of the Britons’ status as residents in Spain, Italy and Germany, although Spanish authorities claimed that the issue had been resolved by mid-Sunday.

Their ordeal came amid heightened travel restrictions due to a coronavirus variant that has been blamed for faster contagion in the UK and highlights the bureaucratic complexities resulting from Britain’s departure from the 27-nation European Union.

…Around 300,000 British citizens are registered as permanent residents in Spain, although before Brexit, many more had been living full or part-time in the country without officially registering.”

If I was a Brit and had any aspirations to travel sometime in the near future, I would put off all my plans until I can figure out what the hell is going on with official authorities. It’s not worth it to assume everything is A-OK and then experience what these travelers had to go through. 

Brexit may have been signed off right before the end of 2020, but its impact on travel and other critical issues of national importance has yet to be fully realized.

The New COVID-19 Mutant Being “70% More Transmissible” Is Now Proven by New Study…

With all of the emerging chaos about the new COVID-19 mutation known as “B117”, which was suspected to be more transmissible than the original COVID-19, we might as well get down to the facts and understand what the hell is going on.

As it turns out, a new study from Imperial College London confirms our worst fears. From Forbes:

The research combined genetic sequencing data and epidemiological findings to conclude that the SARS-CoV2 B.1.1.7 variant was likely to increase the R number of between 0.4 and 0.7 compared to other variants. This means that a person with COVID-19 caused by the B.1.1.7 variant is likely to pass it on to more people than if they have another variant of the virus.

Meanwhile, the UK is ramping up its vaccination efforts to accelerate their hopeful recovery from the new mutant. From Asia Times:

Britain said Thursday that it had vaccinated almost 950,000 people, as a surge in coronavirus cases prompted the reopening of field hospitals and warnings not to party on New Year’s Eve.

According to the latest government figures, 944,539 people in the UK had received a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as of Sunday. 

A second approved vaccine, developed by Oxford University and British drugs firm AstraZeneca, will be given from next week.”

For their sake, the vaccine had better be effective against COVID-19 AND its mutant B117. Because if the latter doesn’t respond to the approved vaccines, the UK is going to be in an awful lot of trouble…

Apparently, You Can’t Have Fun on Flights Within Thailand Anymore…

Thailand has taken a very odd move against what you would perceive as normal airline activities. According to CNN, all of the good reasons to hop on a plane are no longer available for domestic flights:

“In an effort to stem the tide of the coronavirus, Thailand has banned food, drink and any printed materials other than safety information cards on board domestic flights. The airlines will have to follow the regulations or could face possible penalty from their regulator, Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.

This is the second time that such a move has been taken. Thailand previously banned in-flight food and drink service on April 26, 2020, but than ban was lifted on August 31.”

Why is this happening now, you may ask. CAAT (Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand) Director General Chula Sukmanop claims it’s to reduce potential COVID-19 exposure:

“Cleaning time after each stop of domestic flight is extremely short, since operators tend to do the quickest turnaround as possible and I think it is unlikely operators would be able to thoroughly clean all of these items. Therefore, having non-essential reading materials on-board would create more risk of virus exposure.”

Can’t bring your own food or drink, but at least you can bring your own magazines! If you’re lucky, you can ask for a glass of water, but outside of that you have to keep your mask on for the entire flight. 

Might as well take a bus if you’re in Thailand, because it’s going to be a looooong ride. 

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