… I Was Just Thinking

. . . about how time is so elastic. Remember when you were young and the next birthday seemed so far away? And then you hit 45, and a year began to seem like four months?

One of the most frequent comments I hear from folks who, like me, have been pretty much quarantined for more than six weeks, is, “It seems like this has been going on for six months.”

And it does.

On April first, 3,810 Americans had (officially) died of the Coronavirus; today, only a month later, the number nears 60,000.

I picked up an April 16th edition of the Wall Street Journal this week and read this big headline: “Downturn Could Cost Five Million Jobs.” As I write, more than 22 million people have applied for unemployment.

That five million looks like a walk in the park.

There have been several books written on time and its meaning, especially regarding how differently people in different places consider it.

Show up to an Italian’s home on time for a seven o’clock dinner, and you’ll likely find your hosts will be shocked that you arrived so early; show up five minutes late for a meeting in Japan, and your hosts will note that disapprovingly.

But when a body count and world economies are involved, time becomes crucial no matter your nationality. Which is why I was so chagrined to hear one of the country’s most prominent infectious disease specialists, Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, say last week that the US is in the “second inning of a nine-inning game” in regard to Coronavirus.

Second inning? Florida is opening some beaches and parks. Las Vegas casinos are preparing to re-open. Malls in some states are turning on the lights again. Friends are asking each other, “Where will you travel first when this is over?”

I was also shocked to hear from a friend who lives in Thailand that the Thai government is sending messages suggesting Westerners—particularly Americans—might not be welcomed back soon.

“Why?” I asked her.

“Just look at your country,” she answered.

She meant our death count and our number of infections. While I question the accuracy of statistics from Thailand, that country of 71 million people (and a favorite vacation spot for Chinese as well as American tourists) reports about 3,000 cases of Coronavirus and 54 deaths.

Time will be the judge. But for now, a year seems like five years.

Dinner with a View—and a Discount—in Rome

Ever enjoyed dinner on the rooftop of the Hotel Hassler Roma, that well-known hotel atop the Spanish Steps?

Neither have I.

But right now, the hotel will sell you a voucher for a future dinner for two at the Michelin-starred Imàgo overlooking Rome. Normally that dinner at that seventh-floor restaurant would set you back $435; buy the voucher for $270 now, and you’re way ahead of the game.

You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel–though that’s never a bad idea–and it’s good until the last day of this year. Details here.

I wish more restaurants or hotels would do this. I’d be happy to advance cash for future happiness.


Short Takes

  • For an industry that’s largely shut down, there’s certainly a lot of travel news. Beginning May 4th, JetBlue will require all passengers to wear face masks while flying. At the moment, the airline only serves DC, NYC, SF, and LA. American Airlines orders all its flight attendants to wear face masks and as of Friday, May 1st, the airline will give face masks as well as sanitizing wipes or gels to passengers.
  • Last weekend, subscribers to the New York Times may have noticed there was no travel section in their Sunday paper. The Times halted publication of a dedicated section until tourism returns, though editors promises there will be travel stories elsewhere in the paper as necessary. Oh, and the sports section won’t be a stand-alone section, either. Both will be replaced by a section called At Home that will focus on quarantine issues.
  • Tourism officials in Hawaii want you . . . to leave. The state has allocated $25,000 meant to buy airplane tickets for visitors who refuse to abide by the state’s required 14-day quarantine for visitors. On April first, Hawaii’s governor established that two-week, self-quarantine rule for not only out-of-state visitors but also inter-island travelers.
  • The Louvre in Paris says its web traffic has gone from 40,000 visitors a day to 400,000 a day since the museum closed to visitors due to the Cornavirus. The website offers videos and virtual reality experiences here.
  • Best television commercial with a surprise ending is an affecting Uber ad with snippets of people sheltering in place. It’s closing message: “Stay home for everyone who can’t. Thank you for not riding with Uber.
  • Ever wonder what some of recent history’s most reprehensible dictators ate while many of their subjects starved? Pick up a new book titled How To Feed a Dictator by Witold Szablowksi. He interviews the chefs for Uganda’s Idi Amin, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and Albania’s Enver Hoxha. Recipes of favorite dishes are included. If it makes you feel better, Idi Amin’s chef says he never knew the despot to consume human flesh.


United Giveth, United Taketh Away

United frequent flyers cheered when the airline extended elite status through Jan. 31, 2022 and lowered the threshold for achieving premier status this year.

But two United surprise announcements earlier this week drew a chorus of boos. United said it will be harder to earn Premier-qualifying miles on alliance airlines and removed the award chart that allowed passengers to plan award trips on alliance carriers.

That last point allows for “dynamic pricing,” which means the number of United miles you’ll need to score an award ticket on a Star Alliance airline will vary depending on supply and demand. And you won’t know how many miles you need until you research a specific flight on a specific date.

Dynamic pricing isn’t a new invention—United and other airlines have been using it for their own award charts. On frequent flyer message boards, it was the lack of advance notice with a specific date that irked United passengers.


Travel Quotes To Treasure

“Las Vegas was never meant to be seen by day.”
—Peter S. Beagle, author

“I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining.”
—Groucho Marx


Join me today, Thursday, April 30th, at noon Pacific, for my webcast when I’ll talk with television travel host Samantha Brown and airline analyst Henry Harteveldt on the future of travel. Register here for entry and to receive a reminder. Join & participate!