Time Travel

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I admit I’m a bit of a throwback. I still read daily newspapers. I was a journalism major many years ago in college and I’m not ready to give up reading newspapers and magazines. Many of my generation and just about all of the younger ones have pushed the newspaper industry one step shy of payphones.

In fact I read three hard copy newspapers every day and scan eight more online editions every morning, most of the time before 5 am. Throw in three weekly newsmagazines and it gives me a pretty good overview of the things I feel I need to know.~

Every now and then you come across something you have to read at least twice to fully comprehend. It happened to me in the Money section of USA Today on May 18, 2009. The headline said, “Fewer people expected to fly this summer.” Nothing really startling about the header until you read the body of the piece. The Air Transport Association (ATA), the airline industry trade group, estimates that air traffic will be down by 150,000 passengers a day in the United States this summer- June 1 through August 31. That’s a day. Or if I read the story correctly (the third, fourth and fifth time) an estimated 14 million less people will be in U.S. skies this summer which is down 7% from last summer. And the summer of 2008 was off 3.6% from the record of 2007 when 213.4 million people flew on domestic routes in and out of the USA.

Is it me or does 14 million fewer fliers this summer than last seem like an astonishing number? How about 150,000 fewer a day! As a regular business and leisure traveler and involved in a business that centers around travel, I’m trying to find a silver lining in those statistics somewhere, anywhere.

As far as our business- MedjetAssist– is concerned there is nothing good about those numbers. Our model depends upon people traveling and a reduction in travel is not a good indicator for any part of the travel industry. We know our members value our program and we take much satisfaction in our very high renewal rate but the entire travel industry is dependent long-term on people getting back on airplanes and cruise ships.

Personally as I travel for fun or on business, there is a big part of me that can take this news and relish the related thought to move quicker through security and have more room on airplanes. But, I realize that is not going to happen.

The airlines of course have cut back not only on capacity but counter and ground service as well so despite the decrease in the number of actual fliers not much will change. Airlines have cut routes, flights and moved to smaller economical airplanes to be able to accommodate the 195 million people that will fly. So in this case less isn’t more (room), less is the same.

Airport security lines are liable to be just as long as summers past- not necessarily with the number of travelers trying to get through- but with TSA and related personnel cutbacks — our wait may be just as long or maybe just a fraction shorter than days of yore.

Same service issues with airport stores, cafes and restaurants. And of course your pre-flight baggage check and counter help. Less help, same time crunch.

The ATA projects international travel to be down 6% this summer from last. Travel to and from Europe will see 32 fewer flights a day. Don’t be too quick to have visions of stretching out over that empty middle seat.

I write this on a Delta 767 to Europe during the last week of May. Schools in most of the country are still in session. This aircraft has 224 seats. Not one seat is empty. Less demand equals less capacity which equals same old, same old.

So as long as we are battling the same issues with fewer players, I’m ready to return to the travel maze full bore. Get me back to those record 2007 levels when as a country and an economy we were fat and happy and spending our money on recreational ventures. When our airports and our skies are full once again and aircraft is taken out of storage and stretched with that combustible combination of business travelers and screaming kids, then I know we have economically recovered.

And when that happens don’t listen to my complaining about being on the road. I’m ready for it today!

Safe travels~~

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