OpEd: The Skies Are Opening Up Again

2021-11-16T162352Z_109509630_RC2NVQ95M299_RTRMADP_3_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-TRAVEL-NEW-YORK (1)
Air travellers wearing protective face masks, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, walk at JetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK International airport in New York, U.S., November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Bob Nesoff

Anyone who has the gumption to be listening to the evening news may have noticed an item sandwiched between apartment fires, politics and traffic jams that European airports have suddenly become jammed with passengers waiting to board aircraft that had been waiting for the for more than two years.

Is the pandemic over? Are all the passengers suddenly vaxxed? What’s going on?

While United, American, Delta, Air France and British Airways are licking their jobs and eyeing the newly enriched bottom line of their profit and loss ledgers, American hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations are doing the same.

The American government has opened travel from recently prohibited countries as the pandemic begins to level off, fewer people get sick and the fear of spreading the virus has lessened. That does not mean everything has returned to normal.

Passengers will still need to show proof of vaccination and must wear masks while on board the aircraft. There are no exceptions. Some passengers have become belligerent when asked to mask-up. They take it as an affront to their personal freedom without thinking of those they may infect.

When that happens, and it was on more than one occasion, the pilot will make an unscheduled landing to be met with local law enforcement. The recalcitrant passenger will be on his/her way to be a guest of Club Fed. Or they may be at the receiving end of a heavy fine that may exceed the cost of their airline ticket.

Belligerent in the air has too often gone beyond refusing to mask up. A First-Class passenger was accidentally bumped by a stewardess…uh, excuse me, a flight attendant. She immediately apologized and went on her chores. Moments later the “Bumpee” walked to the gallery where she was preparing for service. Without warning he hauled off and punched her in the face, fracturing some bones. He will have a long time to consider what he did before being released.

In several cases other passengers have jumped into the fray to support and protect the flight crew. They have restrained these aggressors until they could be duct-taped into their seats and the, after another unscheduled landing, turned over to authorities. Fortunately, these incidents are on the wane. On several recent flights to the West Coast, even with extended delays, passengers were more understanding and rolled with the punches.

With many flights still taking off with empty seats, especially in business and first class sections, we’ve seen passengers in coach (or as it is sometimes called “cattle class), try to convince the flight crew to give them an upgrade. They have even offered tips. Unfortunately flight crews have no authority to upgrade anyone. That must be done with the gate personnel. They can do it, but come in with an aggressive attitude or “Do you know who I am?” and you’ll find out that even if the front cabin I empty, you will not get moved. Sometimes a little sugar attitude might pay off.

If you have been chomping at the bit for a vacation, check out your local newspapers. Several resort destinations, even exotic one, are offering terrific deals to try and earn back some of the money they lost over the past two years. As an example, one company specializing in the Maldive Islands and those over he water villas are offering deals almost difficult to refuse.

You can get a villa that includes all-inclusive dining, free flowing drinks, round-trip domestic flights with speed boat transfers from the airport to the resort. The price for two adults range from $2,999 to $5,319 for five nights. Hard to bet. Check with a local travel agency.

If you fly first or business class, cut-backs on food and service will not be as harsh as it will be for those in the back cabin. The airlines, after losing a combined $35 billion after years of profitability, are working to satisfy the bigger ticket passengers.

The airlines want to limit interaction between flight crew and passengers. So the front cabin, instead of having food served over a period of time will find everything served at once on one big tray instead of the individual plates. Depending on the reaction of these passengers, that will determine how things are done as we go along.

So don’t hesitate to make plans for a great vacation. Just be aware that things are a bit different. And, whatever you do, wear a mask and don’t punch the flight attendant.

This oped first appeared on QNS.com.

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