It has been three-hundred and ninety days since I last flew. That flight was as routine as possible: Southwest Airlines from Chicago Midway back to Kansas City, concluding a standard trip to visit with business partners. At the time, there was some concern over risks of a pandemic but the topic wasn’t a worry for most. Headlines of the day were about the Iowa caucuses, Trump’s first impeachment hearing, and a Pegasus 737 sliding off the runway in Istanbul. 2020 was going to be an incredible year for travel, both for the work -and- personal varieties. We all know how that turned out. Like many, I decided that flying during a global pandemic was not a good idea. Shortly after, my employer instituted an outright ban on travel. Events across the board were canceled and Delta parked a sizable chunk of their fleet on one of Kansas City’s runways.
My reasons to not travel were varied. Back in November, David cared for most of them. If you haven’t read his piece, I would recommend starting there because this is a sort of follow-up. Go ahead and click, we’ve got it set up to open in a new tab for your convenience. One crucial piece that I think David left out was that I don’t believe either of us were particularly concerned about *our* health, but the risk of contracting and unknowingly spreading to others. That is an important part of the narrative which I think has been missing from the conversation. I am not worried about me. I am worried about my wife, my son, my son’s teacher, his schoolmates, their families… Public health is less about the individual, and more about the population. My decision to not fly was not about me, it was a selfless one.
But now I’m ready to fly! What has changed? Click read more and let’s get into it.
Why I’m ready to fly
This past Friday, I received my second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC this vaccine was 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness. It’s also nearly perfect at preventing the most serious outcomes of COVID – hospitalizations and deaths. The vaccine, paired with continued social distancing and mask wearing offers the peace of mind I have long desired. Now, as I ease back into travel after over a year hiatus, I can do so without doubt and risk of transmitting a deadly disease to friends, family, and the communities I engage with.
Prior to the pandemic, I routinely flew enough to earn Southwest Airlines A-List status, and sometimes unlocked status on other airlines as well. A typical year for me would average around two trips per month spread between work/personal and AirlineReporter events. While I am excited to get back out there, I seriously doubt my travel will rebound to pre-pandemic levels. That said, I believe there is a significant pent-up demand for leisure travel which will be unleashed in the coming months as other receive their own vaccines.
I’m ready to fly, how about you?
I recently gave an interview to Slate about my thoughts on travel. During that discussion I noted the positive psychological effect that booking my first pandemic-era trip had on me. People need something to look forward to, particularly following the incredible disappointment that 2020 was. With FDA authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there are now three companies cranking out doses at breakneck speeds. Public health experts expect that vaccine “open season” (vaccines for any/all who want them without prerequisite) is just months away. There is a light at the end of the tunnel so long as we all do our best to mitigate spread.
In closing, I offer you a challenge: Make a plan to get vaccinated if you haven’t already. Review tools such as NPR’s state-based vaccine locator and CDC-approved VaccineFinder to determine when you might realistically get your own vaccination. And then book that dream vacation, or routine trip to see family or friends you’ve been considering. Whatever it is, get something on the books to look forward to. And do it before the pent-up demand causes a surge in prices.
2021 will likely be another muted year for travel, but we are excited at the opportunity to get back out there and bring you exciting stories covering the industry we love.