I Was Just Thinking…

. . . how different this Fourth of July was from all the other Fourth of Julys in my life.

Every year in July, I broadcast a commentary on the radio remarking on the celebration of our freedoms as Americans. And I note that our freedom to travel often goes unnoticed.

But this year, everything changed.

All my life, a US passport was an “open sesame” ticket to almost any country in the world. Sure, we needed visas to visit a few places such as Russia and China. But generally speaking, if we woke up with an urge to go to Paris or Bangkok, our biggest problems were paying for the trip and finding the right flight.

But thanks to the ability of so many countries to meet the challenge of Covid-19 and our poor showing in that regard, Americans are on the don’t-invite-‘em lists of most countries right now. We can’t easily visit Europe, Asia, or South America. A couple of Caribbean countries will welcome Americans now, but that’s about it.

The number of our fatalities as the proportion of population has made America an object of shock and pity.

The most often-asked question I receive these days is, “When do you think Americans can travel again?”

Politicians, journalists, doctors, and hundreds of talking heads on television can’t predict the endgame, so far be it for me to give it a try. But let’s hope this is the last July that international travel is a problem, not an adventure.


Breath Easy and Step Aboard

The FDA is testing a breathalyzer that can tell if a person is positive for Covid-19 within a minute. You can imagine the benefit to air travel—airlines will be able to quickly test passengers before they board.

The device is the brainchild of an Israeli professor, Gabby Sarusi (pictured), at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and it has reportedly enjoyed a 90% success rate in early trials.

The device is the brainchild of an Israeli professor, Gabby Sarusi (pictured), at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and it has reportedly enjoyed a 90% success rate in early trials. If approved by the FDA, it would be available at hundreds of global checkpoints.

How does it work?

A chip with sensors captures minute particles from an individual’s breath that are then read through a THz spectroscopy. Within a minute, the device can report whether anyone is carrying a virus even if they’re without symptoms. It can process 4,000 people a day, making it handy for passengers boarding cruise ships or for testing workers at large factories.

But for airlines that are working to reassure passengers they won’t get sick by flying, this could be a game changer.


Short Takes

  • Delta resumes serving wine and beer on domestic flights longer than 500 miles. No cocktails yet, though there are cocktails available on Delta’s few international flights. Drinks will be served by tray to minimalize touching.
  • Virgin Australia is now owned by a Boston-based investment firm, Bain Capital. News reports suggest Bain may cut as many as 4,000 jobs, mostly at the airline’s budget carrier, Tiger Airlines. There are also plans to curtail most of Virgin Australia’s international flights.
  • Cash in Hyatt award points and you’ll receive a rebate of 15% of those points through October 8th. If you hold a Chase Hyatt card, you’ll get a 25% rebate. Plus free parking. Register by September 1st here.
  • The CEO of Israel’s main airport warned late last week that the country’s aviation system is “days away from the point of no return.” He says because of a lack of flights for several months now, everyone from pilots to ground crews have had their “operational competency” eroded, and it will take months to get them back on the job.
  • Delta and Southwest airlines promise to keep that middle seat empty through the end of September. United and American, however, are filling up their planes. But if the plane is too full for your liking, you may be able to ask to take a later flight that has more spacious seating.
  • New orders by some states that visitors must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival caused a sharp drop in airline reservations to popular destinations such as New York and California. United announces 36,000 job cuts, almost half its workforce, while American will cut about 20,000; watch for significant staff cuts at other major airlines.
  • Until the end of September, holders of Chase Sapphire Reserve cards will receive five points for every dollar spent at gas stations; Chase Preferred cardholders will receive three points per dollar.


Quotes On Niagara Falls

“Niagara Falls is simply a vast, unnecessary amount of water going the wrong way and then falling over some unnecessary rocks . . . Every American bride is taken there, and the sight must be one of the earliest, if not the keenest, disappointments of American married life.”

—Oscar Wilde, poet & playwright

“Niagara Falls is very nice. It’s like a large version of the old Bond sign on Times Square. I’m very glad I saw it, because from now on if I am asked whether I have seen Niagara Falls, I can say yes and be telling the truth for once.”

—John Steinbeck, author


Care to know how radically different your next airport experience will be compared to the last time you flew? Rick King knows. He’s the chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission in Minnesota, and he’s the first guest on my webcast today, Thursday, July 9th, at noon, Pacific. 

My second guest is a woman who has danced her way around the world. Mickela Mazzolli is creator and host of the PBS-TV series “Bare Feet,” and she’s proof you can follow your passion and travel at the same time.

To join the conversation, just go here to register, and you’ll receive a code for entering the webcast and a reminder email before broadcast time.