A Recipe for Coronavirus Panic That Is Very Bad News for Airlines

Miscellaneous

Coronavirus panic has reached a fever pitch as cases outside of China continue to tick upwards. We appear to be seeing a perfect storm of airlines, governments, and passengers all feeding off each other to create an elevated level of fear. Judging from airline reaction, demand seems to be disappearing quickly and dramatically. Now the question is… how long will this last? Only that answer can begin to help us understand just how awful this will be for the industry, but as of now, there are no answers.

I don’t have access to real-time numbers, so this won’t be a numbers-based post. Instead, I’m hoping to add a little levity to the situation which has grown increasingly frenzied with every passing day. How crazy are things? I’m glad you asked.

Anecdotally, I can speak to our Cranky Concierge sample size. We had clients going to Wuhan and other parts of China, and obviously, that was canceled long ago. This week we’ve seen heightened concern around Italy and South Korea, which is understandable. We’ve also seen travelers cancel trips in places that you wouldn’t imagine including Germany, Israel, and Australia.

Even more ridiculous is a study that shows that 38 percent of American won’t buy Corona beer due to the coronavirus. This doesn’t really pass the smell test, so I’ll assume it’s just a fake (and ingenious) study commissioned by Tecate. But we’re in a world right now where this sounds somewhat plausible. This just makes me want to…

via GIPHY

How did we get to this point when the impact of the virus seems largely like what you’d expect from a bad flu? This is a great question. I liken it to a doomsday layer cake.

Layer 1 – Media Coverage

When the outbreak first occurred in the Hubei province in China, the media was all over it. The Chinese government, afraid of messing up like it did with SARS years ago, was quick to lock the place down. How could the media resist such a striking move with great visuals showing a massive, deserted city?

Even though this was far from having an impact on the US, it was still big news for a long time. The evacuation of US citizens in Wuhan along with the quarantine and subsequent infection of people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship just kept feeding the news cycle with still small but increasing relevance to the US.

The drip, drip, drip of news kept this at the top of every newscast, something almost unheard of during primary season when politics usually pushes everything else aside. As it crept into South Korea, Iran, and Italy, people got more scared. Then the news that there was a transmission of “unknown origin” to someone in the US ramped things up even further. Throw in the first death from the virus in the US over the weekend, and the media coverage has continued relentlessly. You know it’s bad when you start wishing you could see more coverage of the primaries.

Layer 2 – Businesses Clamp Down

With people already on edge, businesses have made the decision to avoid risk and shut down business travel. We had a client cancel a trip to Germany, because the company called off the meeting due to coronavirus fears. Companies all over are cutting back or banning business travel in the near term, and events are being canceled. We had one business client reach out to tell us specifically that their event was NOT canceled.

It’s not hard to understand why some businesses are doing this; they don’t want to take any risk here if they can avoid it. But they are also shooting themselves in the foot. We had a client going to an unaffected part of Italy who had to cancel plans, because she said her business would require she quarantine herself for 14 days upon her return. She knew she couldn’t make that happen, so she just canceled her plans.

Layer 3 – Governments Gone Wild

I’ve already mentioned how the government of China had a very strong — arguably too strong — reaction when the outbreak first occurred. But the madness isn’t limited to China.

  • Switzerland has bizzarely banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people through March 15. (As if 1,000 is some magic number.)
  • Saudi Arabia is blocking pilgrims from entering the country.
  • Japan is closing schools for the month of March, and rumors swirl about what will happen to the Olympics which begin in Tokyo in late July.

These are just some of the reactions from around the world, but it’s the response from the US government that’s of most interest to readers of this blog. The US Department of State has four levels of travel advisories.

As you can see, Level 4 with its red color and dire warning is meant to be scary. China has been in that zone for a bit, but on Saturday, the government upgraded parts of South Korea and Italy. When the news first came out, it was widely misinterpreted to be applicable to entire countries. When the State website was finally updated, it was clear that it only applied to northern Italy (Lombardy and Venetia) and southern South Korea (Daegu). The damage, however, was done. The headlines made people think it was broader than it was, and that stirred the pot further.

Layer 4 – Airline-Imposed Hysteria

The signs of a demand slowdown are all over the place, and that puts airlines in a tough spot. Both Hawaiian and Delta have cut or outright canceled Korea flying in the near-term. United slashed service throughout Asia late last week. American pulled out of Milan through April 24 with Delta gone from there through the end of April. Airlines around the world are cutting back. As concerning as that is, it’s moves started by JetBlue and Alaska that provide the biggest clue to how severe things are.

Even though they only fly within North America, JetBlue and Alaska felt the need to announce they would suspend change fees. JetBlue is suspending them for all bookings made between February 27 and March 11 with travel before June 1. Alaska is doing it for bookings through March 12. No airline does that if it isn’t seeing bookings dry up, but you can understand the marketing angle.

But now, American has gotten in on the act for tickets bought through March 16. It is broadening the promise to include all travel dates, but it’s more restrictive in that it only allows changes outside of 14 days before travel. JetBlue and Alaska each make about $50 million a quarter on change fees, but American makes more than four times that, over $2 million a day.

By waiving those fees for leisure travelers (assuming business travelers aren’t as likely to change outside of 14 days), American is admitting two things. First, it is so worried about demand that it will do just about anything to fill those seats, even if it means sacrificing fee revenue opportunities. Second, it is signaling to travelers that there is something to be scared about. That’s really the problem with this and all airline waivers. They are drawing attention to the problem and giving it credibility. That is going to have the opposite of the desired effect.

Those blanket waivers allowing changes without any cost to travelers are dangerous. Right now, they are primarily for travel to places like China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy to help out concerned travelers. It’s good customer service, but it is also giving a clear sign to travelers that they should rethink their trip. It deepens the hole that has already been dug.

Layer 5 – The Community Effect

After all this, you’d think that people would never leave their homes. But if they do, they’ll just be greeted by another blood pressure-elevating sign. Go to an airport and you’ll see people walking around with their faces covered by masks. It looks like a post-apocalyptic scene, and it’s not calming.

This isn’t just an issue in airports; it’s impacting people all over. Forget that the masks are unlikely to be effective. This is just a knee-jerk reaction and it’s having at least a mental impact on everyone who comes into contact with them.

Pop It In the Oven and…

With all of this coming together to scare people, it’s going to be very, very bad. The stock market would agree. Last week was a bad week for all stocks, but the airlines… ooof. Just look at stock performance for the last two weeks of February.

Stock Performance via Yahoo! Finance

I know it’s hard to see, but the thick black line is the S&P 500. It was down about 12.4 percent. That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared to the clump of airlines down between 20 and 24 percent or American down more than 35 percent.

The reason airlines are getting hit so hard is obvious. It’s a double whammy. Cancellations of existing bookings rise while future bookings drop as people take a “wait-and-see” approach to travel as fear continues to rise.

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

This is where everyone needs to take a deep breath. First, read this article comparing this new virus to the flu. Put in context, it doesn’t sound nearly as scary.

I suppose the difference here is that it’s a new virus that isn’t fully understood, and there is no vaccine. Without those two things, this basically is a flu from an impact perspective. All that being said, no country wants to be the one that failed to contain it and caused a pandemic. So, countries are stepping up to show that they are doing the work necessary to make sure they don’t get blamed. Combine the government warnings with the airline waivers and everything else, and now you’re really cooking with gas.

What can you do? Just… breathe. I’d start by taking the advice of the WHO and go about living your life. Just take smart precautions like you would for the flu.

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Maintain 3 feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

While you’re at it, go buy a plane ticket. It’ll probably be cheap. The airlines are going to become increasingly desperate if things don’t change soon.

We don’t know when this particular outbreak is going to end, but it sounds like we can expect the virus to stick with us for a long time in one form or another. As scientists race to understand how it works and hopefully create a vaccine sooner rather than later, the paranoia will begin to let up. Until then, however, it’s going to be a really rocky ride for everyone in the airline business. Hang on, tighten your belts, and ride this one out. It’s going to be ugly.

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57 comments on “A Recipe for Coronavirus Panic That Is Very Bad News for Airlines

  1. There’s one other difference between Covid-19 and a typical winter flu – namely the death rate is much higher. Makes a bit of a difference, doesn’t it ?

    1. Agreed. Levity is fine, and I also share the annoyance at how poor media coverage of this is (and how prominent politicians haven’t got a f****** clue what they are talking about); but this isn’t simply an over-enthusiastic influenza strain. Surprisingly, Bill Gates’ letter in the New England Journal of Medicine last week (free to read, I think), makes an awful lot of sense – we can’t simply deal with the immediate threat (which is very real), we also need proper preparative and preventative measures in place (and several disastrous political decisions have severely affected those). I have flights booked for 3 weeks time, and intend to travel (to California), and yes, I will be pissed off if I am prevented from doing so. But I don’t agree that the response has been disproportionate, Brett – not when vulnerable lives are at stake. People buying (and wearing) masks, on the assumption that they are somehow protecting themselves are delusional – a decent mask might prevent you contaminating someone else, but you buying up stocks and reducing availability for medical professionals is really not helping. Anyway, hoping this isn’t end-of-days stuff.

    2. Much higher, yes. But the death rate hovers around 2%, varying by country. The average flu has a death rate of around 0.1%. Makes Covid-19 sound scary, no? But that death rate is still relatively low and mainly impacts those who have underlying health conditions. The death rate from SARS is 9.6%, that of MERS is around 34%! So this is hardly the apocalypse and I agree with Cranky on this one.

      The media have whipped everyone into a frenzy that is absolutely unnecessary and which has done more harm than good. Personally, I can think of a couple of reasons that it’s being covered in this way, but I’ll keep those to myself.

      1. The concern around the death rate (which I also think is overstated; from what I’ve read, the 2% comes from Hubei province, and outside of it is lower, something like 0.7%) actually masks the real problem: something like 10-20% of folks appear to have severe enough symptoms to require some level of hospitalization. *That* is what’s going to make a mess of things, because hospitals simply don’t have that capacity outside of China, who’s probably the only country that can build a hospital in a week.

        In any case, we’ll find out soon enough, given it’s circulating in the US…

        1. True, but again we’re talking about something that ultimately has the impact of a bad winter flu. Higher death and hospitalization rates, but a much smaller population having the virus. At least thus far.

          And one thing you said was true but not mentioned enough in the news: the death rate appears to be highly dependent on where you are. The death rate from Covid-19 in the US has been relatively low thus far, as has been the case in Europe. China’s death rate (at least that they have admitted to) is actually higher than average. Iran’s is appalling. Then again, they are still encouraging pilgrims to publicly lick a shrine this week and yes I am dead serious. So this has a lot to do with it.

          As long as we don’t have millions of people infected, we will do fine. And if we do, we’ll still be ok. So let’s not panic.

  2. It’ not just the mortality rate is higher. The spread is faster than typical flu also despite nationwide effort in some cases to stop the spread. I think the hysteria over this is getting way out of control, but it doesn’t change the fact that the spread rate would be even higher than what we’ve seen if nations haven’t been isolating patients.

    I don’t blame the airlines. If they see demand falling off the cliff, they should try all they can to get people to fly. Corporate America doesn’t want to take any chances, so the airline industry is going to be in a lot of trouble. Especially, the legacy airlines that depend on corporate spending and TATL travel for their margins. UA has probably been the hardest hit, but DL is not going to be far behind. Expect a lot of cuts coming.

    1. But isn’t part of the reason it is spreading fast due in part to there being no vaccine? Seasonal flu can be slowed because a lot of people get a flu shot every year. I am not trying to downplay the severity, but this is really getting out of hand. I wish I knew how many of the people panicking about this avoid getting their flu shot, because they don’t think they need it or think it will make them sick.

    2. Corporate Earth is the correct term. No one knows if spread is quicker, that hasnt been determined yet. You think these people in US just magically appear w/ it? No, C-19 has been here and we just didnt test for it or have the test for it. Airlines will cancel flights which will reduce expenditures for 12 months out. Not to worry.

  3. Very well stated, Cranky. This has all degenerated into uninformed panic of the masses that is disconnected from reality. This is about the 5th or so global viral outbreak in the past 20 years and none of them have seen large numbers of US deaths or major domestic disruption.
    Of course people should avoid major disease outbreaks including right now PARTS of S. Korea, northern Italy etc but there are huge parts of the planet that have infection rates WAY less than any other communicable disease.
    As for those who tout the higher death rate of covid-19, we really don’t know because we don’t know how many people are infected – but it is a given that many people are infected but don’t have symptoms, let alone will have major symptoms requiring significant medical support.

    And China did NOT react quickly. The virus was detected well before the New Year but major efforts to cut it off didn’t happen for a month or more. Same thing in S. Korea and other places, perhaps including Washington state.

    The sad thing is that some bad actors are seeing the level of hysteria of the world for something that really is not deadly and will use it against humanity in a much more powerful way later.

    1. These sorts of comments are nonsense, and not backed up by either the science or the real risk of pandemic. We know that COVID-19 has a long latency period, that some people appear to be carriers without ever getting sick themselves, and that those who do appear to have symptoms are seeing a higher mortality rate than the seasonal flu, translating into a disease that has real risks in world that is as interconnected as ours is.

      Taking the position that this is scare mongering is just as bad as people who are predicting doomsday scenarios. The reality is that this virus will likely hit hard, and will see significant penetration and serious impacts on vulnerable and elderly populations. Dismissing that out of hand is dangerous.

      1. The great irony of Brett’s attempt to “calm” things is the advice to “stay 3 feet away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing” literally is guidance NOT TO FLY, since you do not have the luxury of staying any number of feet away, and given that it’s cold and flu season, the likelihood of symptoms within 3 feet of you is exceedingly high. Also, if you have kids, you’re basically suggesting they be permanently quarantined; my 4-year-old is semi-permanently-sniffling during the winter months.

        So… what is the advice again, exactly?

        FWIW I’m not particularly afraid of flying at this time, but it’s immaterial; my big Bay Area company has just banned all international travel. Whether or not you like it, companies are trying to mitigate unknown risk, and whether you think it’s overblown or not, the business and economic impacts are going to be real. While they are risk-averse to an extent, they *know* it’s going to greatly hurt their business, and they’re willing to swallow that cost. Also, these business bans are going to hit the airlines particularly hard, as all their international business class travel is going to dry up in the next few weeks.

      2. Oh my God, we’ll all die according to Sean!! Calm down and be rational. At this point, the vast, vast, vast majority of Covid-19 patients make a full recovery. For many, this isn’t even as bad as the seasonal flu (aside from the fact that they’re treated as if they have ebola virus).

        Once again, the hype does not match the relative level of risk and this freak out is bordering on irresponsible at this point.

        1. I’m not sure what about this sentence is we’re all going to die “The reality is that this virus will likely hit hard, and will see significant penetration and serious impacts on vulnerable and elderly populations. Dismissing that out of hand is dangerous.”

          I work in a hospital, and many of my patients live in care homes, assisted living, and nursing homes, the exact sort of breeding grounds we are seeing get infections such as WA. Due to the compromised nature of many of the patients in those sorts of facilities, and the difficulty of countering spread within them once it is there, we will see these sorts of vulnerable populations hit hard by the disease. If you want to be a tool and unnecessarily increase risk for yourself and other people who are vulnerable by being flagrant about sensible public health initiatives, than go right ahead. I hope none of your relatives or loved one’s live in care facilities that are prone to such outbreaks.

          1. I do not think that hype which treats this as if it were the second coming of the black plague is helpful. And, I absolutely agree with you regarding particularly vulnerable groups, such as those in care homes. But that is NO reason for the hysteria that we are seeing. And, may I remind you that vulnerable groups are just that: vulnerable. Seasonal flu epidemics wipe through those facilities and kill people too. But we don’t crash Wall Street for that, now do we? And yes, I have relatives for whom catching the coronavirus would be very serious. But catching the flu virus would be bad for them as well. As would many other viruses that are commonly transmitted on the street.

            The media are masters at manipulating the relative risk or impact of a story on the general public. Don’t be manipulated.

            1. The beauty of your position stogie, for you, is that you get to be right no matter what happens. If indeed the efforts that are being done result in containment of the spread, you get to claim you are right and no one needed to worry, if nothing happens because the virus doesn’t end up being as lethal as predicted, you also get to be right and claim everyone else is “manipulated.” The fantastic part of of being a conspiracy theorist and crackpot is you never have to be wrong.

  4. This week we’ve seen heightened concern around Italy and South Korea, which is understable. We’ve also seen travelers cancel trips in places that you wouldn’t imagine including Germany, Israel, and Australia.

    I think you ment to wright understandable, not understable.

    I suggest watching yesterdays “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver as he dedicated most of the episode to this very topic & dispelled the myths & conspiracies online & elsewhere.

    1. “I suggest watching yesterdays “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver”

      I try and avoid far left propaganda.

  5. When we landed in PTY a week ago, we were met by fully masked & gowned individuals taking the temperature of every deplaning passenger. No warning, no information, and very poorly trained staff. The thermometer is meant to NOT touch the patient. My “health care professional” put the tip right on my forehead. No sanitizing between passengers. I guess if the guy in front of me was ill and it was my time to go…

    When we left PTY yesterday, the Wetzel’s Pretzels (and a couple of other non-food spots) were selling face masks for $1. Both fear AND greed are contagious.

    As we deplaned in PHX, an elderly gentleman sporting a mask mentioned the plummeting of airline stock and predicted the fall of airline travel.

  6. The NYT article was sensible, and it doesn’t really support as cavalier a reaction as Brett is advocating. This new virus has a higher mortality rate than seasonal flu; it seems to spread more aggressively; nobody is yet immune. For these reasons, a vigorous public health response is justified.

    It’s likely that a while lot of people will get Covid before this epidemic ends. But social distancing policies will help lower that number. And they will also help slow the spread of the disease, which may keep our health system from becoming overwhelmed. Our supply of ventilators, if nothing else, won’t meet a huge surge in demand.

    Because the mortality rate of the virus is fairly low, people shouldn’t become paralyzed with fear. But doing stuff like avoiding crowds and avoiding some travel is a reasonable stop from both personal and public health perspectives.

    My wife and I are doctors but not ID specialists. We will go on a camping trip as planned in a couple of weeks. But she cancelled an upcoming meeting in Vienna because she was worried there’d be a quarantine in place by the time she got done.

    Wash your hands.

  7. Cranky,
    In your past experience how many of these “scares” that affect travel we’re caused by the media versus a government agency warning people?

    1. Junior – I can’t remember something exactly like this, but media and government both play a role. It’s important not to ignore those warnings, but it’s a delicate balance and it’s hard to know what’s the right way to cover it.

  8. You can tell who the airline apologists are in this piece and the replies. I’m looking at you Cranky and Tim Dunn.

  9. There’s a couple of things going on. First, government is both defensive and opportunistic. People expect their government to react to protect them. Government has and if you can get a couple billion more for your favorite research project, all the better.

    Second, we’re coming off of a wave of stories written about the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-1920. You have a boatload of reporters who are semi-informed and loaded with data about that Pandemic and anxious to use it again. So, we get saturation coverage on Coronavirus. At these coverage levels, even if 100% accurate, fair and reasonable, you strike fear in the hearts of media consumers. It’s the same reason why many fear gun violence in Chicago, no matter where you go in the region.

    Perhaps we have a mass man fallacy, perhaps not. But nobody gets fired for being overcautious.

  10. I’m not sure how you plan for these types of events but if you are in the airline business it seems logical to have a plan in place for when an external event creates a massive and sudden change in your business. A global pandemic is sensible since modern air travel is what will spread a virus around the globe faster than was possible in previous generations, but military conflict or natural disaster or any other number of major events can have massive impact on an airlines business.

    While I’m not a doctor and don’t intend to comment on the virus itself I don’t think the answer is to downplay the severity and encourage a business as usual answer. Airlines need to be nimble and react to these type of events because it’s part and parcel to the business they are in. After 9/11 I was able to fly to LHR r/t for $200 (all in) because people where afraid to fly and the airlines couldn’t balance the supply with demand. I’m sure most of that fare went to taxes. If that happens again I plan to travel for cheap again, but it shouldn’t happen again. We shall see.

  11. One thing I find interesting is that so far, pricing has held up to historical levels.
    I did a random search from ORD to TYO (NRT & HND) one month out and basic economy is holding at $1100 rt with Biz in the $7500 range. ORD-LHR is in the $4500 range.

    So far, the airlines aren’t following the post 9/11 & SARS playbook of giving the store away to get tails in seats. By cutting capacity and rotating planes in for early mx and refurbishment it will lessen the hit to balance sheets vs. operating at a loss. Assuming of course that this is a short term crisis and won’t call for drastic measures months down the road.

    1. Any idea on whether airlines with an older (amortized) fleet will sustain less financial damage if routes are cancelled for an extended time period? I would guess that if international travel remains at below average levels for months, airlines with new aircraft will be forced to fly them somewhere to generate revenue to cover the high fixed costs.
      As an example, one would assume that Delta can park/retire MD88/90, 757, 767 aircraft at minimal cost, while their competition must keep their newer 321s, 787s and 777s flying.

      1. On another note, this is decimating oil prices. Not so expensive to fly around that old inefficient metal at $40/oil vs. $80.

    2. Funny you mention this, because I have been debating flying up to SEA from BOI with my sons to see the Red Sox play the Mariners in April (my 5 year old is a big Red Sox fan… not because of me). Prices on Alaska Air were fairly cheap for off-time flights when I looked in early January, but late morning/afternoon flights were fairly expensive. I just checked this morning, and now just about all the flights are in the $69-$89 range (one-way), and even cheaper if you get a Saver fare. I built an itinerary for $350 for the 3 of us.

  12. The day is still young (almost 1 pm EST), but so far I’m shocked by how few new corona cases we’re seeing in the USA. Given the fear, the vastly expanded testing criteria, and the known existence of at least some “community spread,” I was expecting many new outbreaks. If we don’t start seeing 3 digit daily infection numbers, this scare is going to pass quickly. I’m not yet sure that’s the most likely scenario, though. We’ll have to see. In any event, I do think there’s way more panic than reality to this “crisis.” Just look at the situation in Beijing. The official numbers show only about one or two daily new cases in that city of 21+ million. That’s insanely low under the circumstances. Beijing is now worried about foreign flights bringing in infected passengers! I know folks don’t trust the Chinese numbers, but it’s indisputable that there’s now been little spread of the virus on Beijing. If Beijing could easily contain this thing, the idea that we’re going to have a wave of infections in the USA seems very improbable.
    https://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2020/01/22/coronavirus-count-in-beijing#virus_latest_news

  13. The rate of recovered patients worldwide is growing faster than the rate of new infections. Quarantining and monitoring infected patients works; quarantining entire cities/neighborhoods that include many uninfected people does not work and is counter to the principles of free movement of people. China quarantined entire cities but the rest of the world has not.
    There is a risk of spreading infections by not locking down every patient that has been exposed (and we don’t even know how many have been exposed relative to the number that are sick), there is a risk of the disease spreading.
    That principle is true with every communicable disease – and this is NOT the first global virus and it is also does not have the highest mortality rate, even based on the information we currently have about covid-19.
    The free movement of people is a foundation of democratic societies and air travel is the backbone of that freedom.

    There will be people that will be infected and will have a much more severe response, potentially including death – but that so far has been a low percentage of total worldwide cases, esp. when prompt medical treatment is provided. There were stories for weeks of patients in China that could not get medical treatment – that is precisely why they built a hospital in a week.

    Airlines and travel-related companies will fail and Asia will be hardest hit. Other airlines that were weaker will sustain significant financial damage. After 10 plus years of strong international growth and a healthy economy throughout much of the world, there are very healthy airlines and they will weather this latest storm with little long-term negative impact. Some are already pressing on with their strategic plans by adding service this summer and into 2021.

    As hard as it might sound to some people, there has always been disease among humans that negatively impacts some people more than others, including up to death.
    There have also been major events that shake the world that separate those companies that can survive from those that can’t.

    Individuals need to make their own choices.

    The US government’s top experts have indeed said that the vast majority of Americans do not need to panic and should carry on with their lives. That is true for most of the world except for a few countries – and even regions within specific countries.

    Companies are cancelling some conferences where large numbers of people will gather. Domestic business travel for non-conference activity appears to continue and should.

    Balance on both sides of the discussion is necessary and a deference to people’s individual decisions is necessary. Even when medicine has all of the answers about this disease, they will still just have statistics. You and you alone have to disease whether you want to minimize your risk of exposure – just as you manage your risk for heart disease or whatever concerns you. For those that don’t wish to slow their lifestyles and wish to travel, no one should condemn them and the means for them to do so likely will remain available.

  14. I’m traveling to Chicago in a few weeks. I’m bracing for my flight being moved or cancelled outright as US carriers cut back on flying due to Coronovirus suppressed demand. And I fully expect flying demand to take a big hit in the US as more people get infected and die.

  15. If people are fighting over toilet paper at Costco, you know things are bad. Media hype will do more damage then the actual event taking place.

  16. Cranky – the NYT article you linked to indicates that COVID-19 is ~2x more contagious than the annual flu, and ~10x more likely to kill those who are infected. I don’t think your conclusion of “Put in context, it doesn’t sound nearly as scary.” follows from those facts.

  17. > Go to an airport and you’ll see people walking around with their faces covered by masks.
    > It looks like a post-apocalyptic scene, and it’s not calming.

    Not really. I walked through PDX and twice LAX T6 Saturday and Sunday and there were very few people wearing masks. Sunday morning at LAX I saw two people, and the AS terminal was quite busy (the AS lounge had the “sore, we are full, no Priority Pass access right now” sign out).

    1. Even in Japan only 1/3 of the people outside in the streets and riding trains are wearing masks, and in the winter probably 10-15% normally do anyway. Tourism is way down and of course there are some people who are panicking, but the vast majority of people are going about their day as normal.

        1. Well sort of, but the school closures seem to be just annoying people rather than causing real problems. Besides, they don’t affect everybody (only public primary and middle schools, not high schools, colleges, or any private education) and Spring break for the schools is in 2 weeks anyway so schools closing really is not for as long as it may seem.

          Still doesn’t mean that it was necessary or useful though.

  18. Please people, don’t eat bats [or whatever exotic creature you consider a ‘delicacy’]…

    I think the interesting thing will be to see how airlines come groveling (or not) back to customers now that they’ve gutted their loyalty programs.

  19. The shortage of airline passengers will also come from cancelled cruises. Many ports in Asia have banned cruise ships from calling. If more and more ports do that, lots of cruises get cancelled and just one of these ships can take 3500 passengers or more, all of whom have to fly in. And even if the cruise line doesn’t cancel, cruise passengers are already making individual decisions not to go. They fear that their home country will prevent them returning home until they have spent 14 days in quarantine in ______ (fill in the blank) because they set foot in _____ (fill in the blank). Not worth the risk, they will go when this all blows over.

  20. My company just emailed and stated no travel to Mexico or Caribbean. My team has an award trip to plan and now must stay within the US.

    I’m not too concerned about contracting the virus; I flew last week and kept my hands washed and sanitizer in my carry on tote. Many people wearing masks sitting in my row on all four segments.

    1. Mexico? Greetings from a Mexico. Hope my post doesn’t infect you. Stay away from Seattle; seems a lot more risky of a place than Mexico at the moment (corona-wise)

  21. While I am not worried about catching the virus as I am healthy, I am cancelling my international trip to the States in three weeks time to visit family and friends. The reason is I was travelling to visit my elderly parents who have health issues so I’m not about to travel on a transatlantic flight, go through customs in JFK and then spend a week with my family and some elderly friends.

    It is not about us healthy people travelling but about who else we might be exposing that concerns me.

  22. Well sort of, but the school closures seem to be just annoying people rather than causing real problems. Besides, they don’t affect everybody (only public primary and middle schools, not high schools, colleges, or any private education) and Spring break for the schools is in 2 weeks anyway so schools closing really is not for as long as it may seem.

    Still doesn’t mean that it was necessary or useful though.

  23. why are we listening to a guy who has skin in the game by pushing people to travel ?

    but then again he was also the same guy who told us absolutely nothing wrong with 737max immediately after Ethiopian crash and had to change his tone a few days later, so why are we surprised ?

    if you extrapolate his way of thinking technically only 0.02545% of Wuhan people died (2800/11million), so that shouldn’t stop you from traveling there either *rolls eyes*

    1. Kinda late for a comment, but…

      Absolutely correct henry LAX.

      I read this blog for info, but when it comes to opinions of course anything Cranky says should be taken with a grain of salt.

  24. China and the Chinese government DID NOT take action immediately!!! they knew in December there was a new virus but did not take measures to contain it till weeks later.. and they still are having issues as their healthcare system(tho may be free) does not work….

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