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President Joe Biden | How The First 100 Days Will Change Travel Forever

President-Elect Joe Biden and VP-Elect Kamala Harris

The Biden administration will, no doubt, be a complete reversal of what we have been experiencing the last 4 years. This means drastic change for the travel industry. And no other industry has been hit harder by the pandemic.

Hundreds of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and millions of possibilities have been decimated by the pandemic. I, myself, have been facing a continuous furlough threat at my airline since July. Biden’s presidency could save an industry that supports 4.2% of the US GDP and 6.5M jobs. It could also allow it to continue its spiral downfall. Here’s what the Biden campaign promises the future under his presidency will look like.

In this article:

Government vs. Recovery

Governments around the world have collectively helped and hindered the recovery process. This year, they’ve gone from travel bans to payroll support to poor domestic strategy to lockdowns. Some countries, such as China and New Zealand, have been able to bounce back to near normal levels. As a result, domestic travel has recovered to 90+% of 2019 levels.

Will Air China dominate the air carrier field in the next decade? Hopefully the Biden administration can keep that from happening.
Air China in Beijing. Photo: Greg Baker | AFP | Getty Images

Related: Here’s how you can travel safely and responsibly during COVID-19.

Biden’s First 100 Days

Biden’s campaign mostly centered on the efforts to contain COVID-19. The proposed path Biden intends to take entails a nationally coordinated strategy. It would encompass enhanced tracking and tracing, national mandates, and more cohesion between the states.

According to the Biden campaign, he would start by “Amending the Public Health Service Act to immediately cover all testing, treatment, and preventive services that are necessary to address a Public Health Emergency for an infectious disease. Once triggered by the HHS Secretary in consultation with the CDC, all commercial plans in all markets will be immediately required to cover such services as COVID-19 testing and any eventual vaccine with no copayments and deductibles, including for the visits themselves.”

The only kind of test I hope I don't pass.
PCR COVID test. Luckily, they no longer probe deep into your nose. Image: aamc.org

Long-Term

A unified strategy amongst the states could lead to states not needing interstate travel restrictions. The tough restrictions that New York forces on everyone, for example, would become unnecessary.

Ultimately, we could follow in China’s path to recouping domestic travel up to 90+% of 2019 levels, hopefully by the middle-end of next year.

Mandated Face Masks

Face masks, particularly well-woven cloth masks, medical masks, and fitted N95 masks, are thoroughly and repeatedly proven to reduce the transmission of viruses such as COVID-19. In China, Japan, and Taiwan, they have already been used successfully for decades for a multitude of non-pandemic illnesses.

Why, hello there. Nothing can mask your beauty.
Airlines are getting crafty these days. Image from thestar.com

Biden’s First 100 Days

An immediate change Biden vows to make is to mandate face masks on all forms of public transportation, including airlines. All airlines in the US already mandate this anyways, so this change would only serve to increase the public’s awareness of the rule and overall confidence in air travel.

Long-Term

The mask mandate will eventually become unnecessary and repealed. For any future pandemic, we’ll likely be able to quickly re-enforce it.

Travel Bans

The first travel ban on China we enacted in early March arrived too late. We were the 46th country to ban travel from China, and already had hundreds to thousands of cases on our soil. The second travel ban, on Europe, was even worse. These travel bans only served to create was a chaotic rush to return back to American soil. Travelers were flying sick in mass – all prior to social distancing and mask wearing. These bans, in effect, had the opposite effect they intended – they only increased our COVID-19 numbers.

DFW Customs/Border Patrol shortly after travel bans went into effect.
This is what airports looked like in early March, when travel bans pushed tens of thousands of Americans, many sick, to return from abroad, well before “face mask” became a household term. Picture: npr.org

“The United States is not the only country where travel bans against China proved ineffective in stopping or slowing the spread of this virus. Some of the countries with the most reported coronavirus cases, such as India, Iran and Italy, also implemented travel restrictions against China on the same day or earlier than the United States. Before this pandemic, the World Health Organization had warned that travel bans contribute to “a false impression of control” — the misperception that a ban would stop the spread of disease. The reliance on travel bans over domestic readiness, in the United States and elsewhere, suggests the WHO had a point.” (Washington Post)

Based on our response to the virus in the US, it’s clear that these travel bans were used more as political weapons rather than a valid reaction to the pandemic. By June, Europe had the pandemic well under control, just as we were struggling with record cases. Nonetheless, despite multiple promises, the travel ban on Europeans remained, inflicting damage on our already weakened tourism industry. Now, we’re still imposing this same ban on China, even though they have virtually complete control of COVID-19.

China: aggressive handling of the virus works.
China’s currently reported cases.

Biden’s First 100 Days

We can expect Biden to repeal some of these unnecessary travel bans enacted by presidential proclamations. We will see more of a science-based response to curbing COVID-19, which entails enhanced and comprehensive testing and tracing rather than rudimentary and ineffective travel bans.

Long Term

As we continue to pursue a science-back approach to the virus that aligns with most world experts, and vaccinations become a factor, our case numbers and hospitalizations will start to come down. If we are able to curb this virus effectively, other countries that follow similar science-based methodologies will start to open up to American visitors.

For example, Europe has long allowed residents of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Rwanda, and Thailand to enter the EU. With a great plan of action and result, we could soon be added to the list. A systematic decrease in case numbers would put us on the “green lists” of other countries, freeing up travel across the globe (including to Europe).

I 'red' about this website. Looks like Europe isn't doing too well.
The official re-open EU website, detailing levels of spread and travel restrictions in Europe

Richard Fowler is a Fox News contributor and political analyst. “The (travel) industry is hurting. The only way we’re going to get to some type of recovery in the pandemic is by getting this virus under control or flattening the curve. If you look at both candidates and their plans or lack thereof. There’s only one candidate who is taking this pandemic seriously, and has been a follower of CDC guidelines — former VP Joe Biden.”

Related: How to Visit the USA as a European, Brazilian, or Chinese Citizen.

Cruises

We all remember when the Diamond Princess harbored the first major outbreak of COVID-19 just off the coast of Japan. Cruises are an obvious source for the propagation of COVID-19, but new certifications aim to mitigate the risk of spread in the future.

Biden’s First 100 Days

If Biden aligns himself with science and what the CDC suggests, he will most likely continue to enforce the newest “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order”, which replaces the No Sail order. This doesn’t mean you can expect to go on a cruise anytime soon – cruise lines must prove themselves using only crew before passengers are allowed onboard.

The future of cruises: more comfort?
Image: businessinsider.com

Of course, recent surges of COVID-19 have already force cruise lines in Europe to trim their schedules and cancel sailings. This will very likely be the case here.

Long Term

Once the risk of COVID-19 is mostly mitigated, we can most likely expect an increased number of cruises alongside higher demand. This will happen under a comprehensive plan that includes mandated mask wearing and improved testing, and under a lot of scrutiny.

With enhanced measures and the guidance of health experts, the safe resumption of cruise lines should help the ailing tourism industry in the US and around the world. Hopefully, cruises will retain some of the new sanitation measures forced upon them as part of the pandemic.

Trains

In terms of transportation, no modes beat the safety of airline flying. Massive jet engines continuously bring in airflow and run it through huge air conditioning kits. Industrial-grade HEPA filters continuously clean that recycled cabin air so that it no longer has any contaminants. All of this means that there is no safer place to be indoors. Trains have nowhere near the same cadence of air purification that airplanes do.

Biden’s First 100 Days

After the national mask mandate is put in place, trains will likely prove safer than grocery stores and indoor restaurants. Though not as safe as airplanes, this should be sufficient to improve the public’s confidence in travel by rail.

We'll just call it "ridin' with Biden"
High-speed rail. Coming to a time near you. image: pixabay

Long Term

Biden’s campaign states that he intends to improve rail service between DC and NYC, reducing travel time by half. This may very well decimate the airline shuttle service between DCA and LGA (or EWR).

Support for Airline Employees

As I mentioned in a previous post, airline employees are critical to the infrastructure of the airline industry. If we allow airlines to furlough their employees, we allow our entire industry to fall behind.

Biden’s First 100 Days

Until now, a divided congress has failed for months to reach an agreement on relief funding—including additional aid to the travel sector.

Let's save our fellow US workers!!
Image from iam41.org, an American Airlines Flight Attendant union signaling to Congress a need to save 40,000 airline employees from furlough.

Pelosi and Mnuchin have both said they intend to get back to work during the lame-duck session. With Trump contesting the election and all of the fraud cases going about, it’s not obvious that the stimulus bill will be a priority.

Unfortunately, with both houses of Congress and the White House split, we can expect a lot of back-and-forth in our future. As we distance ourselves time-wise, the chance of the airlines being remembered in the funding become slimmer and slimmer.

Long Term

Internationally, airlines have not been as fortunate as the ones here in the United States. In fact, over 40 airlines have failed so far this year, with more coming.

Delta in particular parked over 600 jets during the crisis.
1000s of airplanes parked due to COVID-induced loss of business. image: foxbusiness.com

Airlines in the US, particularly United and Delta, have had huge financial success in the last 5 years. Clearly, they have business models that work (outside of huge pandemics). With 40 airlines less to compete with, there will be additional international market share to capture. Even if there is a smaller flying public, US airlines should be able to dominate the world market. This is especially true if the CARES pt.2 stimulus bill is passed.

Green New Deal

The Biden campaign promises to target airline emissions. Biden’s campaign website states that “aviation accounts for nearly 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that percentage is expected to increase. Today, few low-carbon technologies or fuels have been developed to tackle this challenge. Biden recognizes that must change and will pursue measures to incentivize the creation of new, sustainable fuels for aircraft, as well as other changes to aircraft technology and standards, and air traffic management.”

Biden’s First 100 Days

If the Biden administration is able to pass the Green New Deal, it will have a huge ramifications on Airbus and Boeing. The Green New Deal will change airplanes and flying forever. Airbus already has designs for the hydrogen airliners of the future. Boeing, falling way behind after the 737MAX catastrophe followed by the slaughtering of their order book, just cut 7,000 employees. The Green New Deal will likely come with government subsidies that will lessen the economical strain on Boeing. This will enable Boeing to grow and capitalize on the new demands of the government.

A plane I flew in, at Salt Lake City Int'l Airport. Airbus A220-100.
Delta’s long-awaited Airbus A220 – the most fuel-efficient airliner in existence.

Long Term

A cleaner earth! This will also lead to airlines having nicer, newer airplanes for the flying public. It will also minimize the public perception that flying is bad for the earth. Overall, this will be a good (great?) thing for the entire planet. The Boeing Company and airlines will end up needing financial support – but ultimately, the people of this planet will reap the benefits.

What Could Go Wrong?

We all know that each election, presidential candidates make dozens of promises that they don’t end up keeping. In this case, with a split congress, the Green New Deal has very little chance of passing. The payroll support program (PSP) will be tossed back and forth like a volleyball, but with bi-partisan support, will probably end up being passed. States will continue to do things “their way”, limiting the COVID recovery efforts.

Ultimately, I believe that Biden’s win is a great thing for the transportation industry. Time will tell if I’m right.

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