Simply wishing that COVID-19 will go away by summer of 2021 will not make it so. No vaccine, even if soon developed and found to be safe and effective, will have been widely enough administered in time. Continued reluctance of the public to travel by air may well devastate the industry, sending some carriers into bankruptcy.
The Transportation Security Administration reports that air travel remains only one-quarter of same-day travel of one year ago. Even the terror attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001, did not have such a devastating impact on the industry, with travel only dropping by about 30%.
It remains very difficult in most places in the country to even get a COVID-19 test if one is asymptomatic. At least one major airline, cognizant of this reality, has now begun offering testing prior to departure for Hawaii in order to comply with travel restrictions to that popular tourist destination.
This must become the universal travel standard to prevent numerous airline bankruptcies, loss of countless airline jobs, as well as thousands of jobs in the aircraft manufacturing industry.
The public simply refuses to resume travel not because of so-called “lock-downs”, but because of legitimate concern for their own safety. It’s just that simple: few want to spend extended time in close proximity with unknown others inside a narrow metal tube.
The TSA budget for 2020, intended to prevent even a single airliner from being commandeered and destroyed, was $7.75 Billion. Yet, we have been suffering the loss of 1,000 Americans every day from COVID-19, but have taken no steps whatever at airports to prevent the equivalent of four or five airliners being brought down daily. Today, the real threat to travelers, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and the travel industry, is not terrorism. It is an unseen deadly pathogen. Too frequently we make the mistake of preparing for the last war. The war we must fight now is COVID-19.
To save our airline and travel industry it is essential that rapid tests be implemented at the point of departure. While some reliability problems remain with rapid tests, they have improved markedly, have become cheap, and more widely available. Testing is the only way to regain the trust of the traveling public, and offers the best chance of survival for a vital industry.
• Mark Roye is a resident of Cordova.