Radio Guest List — New York — May 30, 2020
This week’s broadcast of Eye on Travel continues with breaking global travel news. Joining me this week is the Senior Travel Editor at The Independent, Simon Calder, on when — and how — Europe is going to open soon…or not, with some surprising loopholes. Then, Editor of Skift’s Airline Weekly, Madhu Unnikrishnan, speaks about which airlines around the world are failing, which are hanging on by a thread, and those that were miraculously saved. And then, Professor Joseph Allen at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, on how safe the air is in airline cabins. There’s all this and more on this week’s Eye on Travel, airing Saturday May 30th, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET.
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Simon Calder, Senior Travel Editor at The Independent, speaks about the anticipated second wave to hit the U.K. and how it called for another 14-day quarantine even though it doesn’t seem backed by science. It’s seen by many to be a political stunt, but there has been a large backlash. There are already huge loopholes, including no testing when you come into Heathrow Airport. The U.K. still isn’t open for tourism and most likely won’t be until July. Even when it is opened, he anticipates people being reluctant to travel. We are also seeing an arms race between tourism dependent countries to see who can lure people back first. He’s seeing particularly strong campaigns from Spain, Portugal and Croatia. He believes that we are going to see barriers fall away so quickly that travelers will have their choice of locations.
Madhu Unnikrishnan, Editor of Skift’s Airline Weekly, discusses the struggle of Lufthansa and Alitalia and the restructures, thanks to coronavirus. Alitalia was about to go bankrupt, but managed to be saved because of the coronavirus. He also speaks about the A380 and how it has been grounded during the pandemic. The airline networks have changed since Emirates’ heyday a few years ago, and now most people would rather do an ultra-long haul than a layover in a major hub. He also speaks about airports and airport lounges shifting to contactless experiences and what may change.
Dan Reed, Senior Contributor to Forbes.com, talks about his most recent article which highlights the impact of coronavirus on the airlines, including the hard hit that American Airlines has taken with cutting 30% of its management and putting thousands of employees on involuntary leave. American Airlines is not alone. All of the airlines need to redefine what “coming back” looks like because the numbers are going to be low for the foreseeable future, he says. Three months ago, pilot shortages were being lamented, an issue no airline is seeing now as more people are being laid off.
Cree Lawson, CEO of Arrivalist, explains why AAA chose not to release a Memorial Day Forecast for the first time in twenty years due to the unpredictability of Covid-19’s impact on travel. He observes that fear sets in when people don’t have data, so they’ve taken a hard look at road trips. This form of travel is going to be the leading indicator of the return of travel. They’ve been measuring car travel closely since February, with a starting point of trips around 50 miles or less. Over Memorial Day weekend, they saw Americans return to traveling to roughly the same numbers they saw back in February. This number isn’t close to what they typically see for a Memorial Day weekend, but it is a good indicator that travel is increasing. They are also seeing an increase in the distances people are willing to travel, including a 28% jump in trips over 250 miles.
Joseph G. Allen, Director of the Healthy Buildings Program and Assistant Professor at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, reveals how good the air quality on airplanes actually is. Most people find it surprising that the airplane is not where people are getting sick on their journeys. There are about 10 to 12 air changes per hour on a plane. And 50% of the air on a plane is heated air that is brought in through the engine while the other 50% is recirculated air, which goes through HEPA filters. These filters are similar to what you’ll find in an airborne infection isolation room in a hospital. The bottom line is, don’t be worried about the air you’re breathing on a plane, he says. Put your concern into making sure you’re avoiding touching things at the airport before getting on your flight.
Roque Sevilla, President of Grupo Futuro, talks about the Ecuadorian non-profit organization he’s helped form called Por Todos, which translates to “For Everybody.” Ecuador was particularly hard hit by the coronavirus with its loss of jobs and industries. Por Todos works to deliver supplies, food, and money to those who need it the most. So far, it has collected $11.5 million for those most vulnerable in Ecuador. Its objective has been to save lives with the most effective solutions. Resources have been put into helping people directly with supplies, increasing testing, and buying and distributing PPE.