Coronavirus grounds planes; travel comes to a halt

Planes are grounded as travel has halted because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. |

What a difference a week makes.

My column last week said the novel coronavirus shouldn’t keep readers from traveling. Some apparently took that advice to mean I was saying travel now. I wasn’t.

In fact, I recognized that “things can change quickly, which makes it a distinct possibility that domestic or other international travel restrictions could be necessary at some point in the near future.”

Well, things have changed quickly. Things could change even more between the time of writing and publication.

The U.S. State Department issued its strongest advisory against Americans leaving the country only days after Canada and the United States jointly agreed to restrict non-essential travel between the two countries. Similar restrictions now apply to Mexico, according to an announcement Friday by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the White House.

For the conceivable future, any travel will be dependent upon numerous factors, including the given traveler’s personal health, government-imposed travel restrictions — domestic or international — and the actual, on-the-ground situation in the destination.

As of writing, domestic travel is still possible as airlines are flying, though thousands of planes have been grounded. Of the flights remaining, frequencies have been reduced. Many other flights have simply been canceled.

While you can still buy a ticket, it isn’t advisable for anyone to travel. The few exceptions are those needing to get somewhere for essential reasons. Think getting home to family and other loved ones.

Hotels are closing or reducing services as occupancy rates collapse. Restaurants and bars in many states have been ordered closed by governors. So even if you did fly somewhere you may have nowhere to stay or eat. Likewise, some popular stretches of beach and an increasing number of shopping malls are also closed.

But as I previously wrote and reemphasize now, you shouldn’t cancel travel plans for later this spring or summer.

That’s because it is way too early to know the COVID-19 situation in May or June. Let alone July and August.

I also still encourage booking speculative travel. Some of the airfares over the past few days have been incredible values. Worst-case scenario is you end up canceling and getting a refund or credit for future travel.

The bottom line: Eventually, normalcy will return. That includes travel by air, train and car.

Spires and Crosses is a weekly travel column. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter and Instagram.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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