“The biggest issue is that we do not have a coordinated response from the federal government,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, told me over the summer.
The whole travel industry has been devastated by the pandemic. Nearly 40 percent of all travel jobs, 3.5 million positions, vanished between March and November. Six months into the pandemic, the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that most hotels across the country were struggling to keep their doors open and were unable to rehire all their staff because of the historic drop in travel demand.
In addition to livelihoods, the industry has lost something less tangible but still fundamental — the ability to shake hands, hug, see smiles. Hospitality employees are possibly the friendliest people out there, and for them to not be able to share that has been the source of its own kind of devastation.
Over the summer, Americans were afraid to get on planes or sleep in hotel beds made by strangers, and yet as they grasped for control, they began to itch for adventure. Many went on road trips. First-time road trippers rented R.V.s, tried “van life” and embraced the outdoors.
Others missed traveling so much they booked cruises and flights to nowhere. “Some people just want to drag their bags through the airport and go check them in,” Loveleen Arun, a Bangalore-based travel agent who organizes luxury trips mostly for Indian travelers, told me in September.
Now many are booking trips for the latter half of 2021, in anticipation of things being some kind of normal by then. Dozens have told me about the first trips they’ll take when a vaccine is widely available.
Dinishia Wolford, a casino employee and writer who was furloughed this year, says that as soon as she can, she and her cousin are heading to Nintendo World in Japan to celebrate their 30th birthdays. She will, of course, dress like Princess Peach. Lindsey Unger, a marketing specialist in Seattle, told me she’ll be going to Egypt to visit her best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in two years.