Internet Travel With Context
February 15-February 29, 2020
Read all about it! The Coronavirus spreads around the globe. Japan, South Korea and Italy are hit hard and airlines quickly drop their flights. Tourism disappears and companies begin telling employees to curtail business travel. The Tokyo Summer Olympics may be threatened. Airlines begin rolling out gimmicky fee waivers to nervous flyers. Here's how it's happening. New items are at the top; read up from the bottom for full context.

Coronavirus Update for February 29, 2020

With huge chunks of Asia capacity gone, airlines are now beginning to slash service to Italy, the European hot spot for the Coronavirus. Here are the latest developments:
        American Airlines has suspended flights to Milan/Malpensa from its New York/Kennedy and Miami hubs. American says flights will resume April 25.
        Lufthansa is cutting 25 percent of its short- and medium-haul flights. Meanwhile, the number of long-haul aircraft now grounded is 23, up from 13, the airline says.
        British Airways says it is reducing flights to Italy in March. The cuts are to routes to Rome, Bergamo, Milan/Malpensa and Milan/Linate from three London airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and London City).
        Turkish Airlines is reducing flights to seven cities in Italy from its two Istanbul airport hubs. The service cuts are scheduled to last through March.
        The U.S. State Department has advised Americans to avoid unnecessary travel to Italy. It specifically says not to travel in the Veneto (Venice) and Lombardy (Milan) regions. You can read the updated Italy Travel Advisory here.

Coronavirus Update for February 28, 2020

Trade shows continue to be cancelled, more companies are restricting business travel and financial markets continue to plunge. You know, just another day in Coronavirus world. Here are the latest developments:
        United Airlines is slashing even more flights to Asia. Not due to any particularly feeling about Coronavirus, of course, but because the aircraft are empty. Flights to Tokyo/Narita from its LAX and Houston/Intercontinental hubs are cancelled between March 8 and April 24. Flights to Tokyo from the Newark, Chicago/O'Hare and Honolulu hubs are being reduced and/or downgauged. From its primary Asia hub in San Francisco, United is trimming service to Osaka, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei through at least April. Meanwhile, all flights to China and Hong Kong are now cancelled through April 30.
        Amazon said employees should defer non-essential travel, including within the United States. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan Chase says it is "restricting all international travel to essential travel only."
        Marriott says revenue per available room (revPAR), a key measure of lodging profitability, has declined by 90 percent in China. About 90 Marriott-branded hotels have been closed in the country. The chain operates about 375 properties with around 122,000 rooms in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao. February revPAR in the Asia-Pacific region is down approximately 50 percent.
        ITB Berlin, generally considered the world's largest global trade fair, has been cancelled. The fair was scheduled to open Wednesday, March 4.
        Tokyo Disneyland and a related theme park will close Saturday and remain shuttered through April 30.
        Saudi Arabia has banned outsiders from entering the country to visit Mecca, holiest site in the Muslim faith. The decision casts a pall over the upcomnig hajj, one of the busiest travel periods of the year anywhere in the world.

Coronavirus Update for February 27, 2020

As Dow Jones Industrial losses passed 3,000 points just this week, there are some signs that China has gotten the Coronavirus under control. And companies are beginning to curtail business travel. Here are today's other major developments:
        United Airlines and the Lufthansa Group of carriers--Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels, Air Dolomiti and Austrian--have now issued travel waivers for destinations throughout North Italy. Milan, Venice and even Genoa are included. American Airlines has matched as has AA's Oneworld Alliance partner British Airways.
        Nestle, the global food and beverage giant, has told employees to avoid business travel until at least mid-March. The company, based in Switzerland, employs about 300,000 people worldwide.
        Coca-Cola says it has suspended "non-essential" business travel to and from Italy and the Asia-Pacific region. The beverage giant says travel that can be replaced by videoconferences or conference calls is "non-essential."
        Israel now requires travelers who visit Italy to self-quarantine for 14 days. The nation's health ministry had earlier imposed the quarantine on travelers who have visited China, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.
        Venice hotels say 70 percent of their international tourist trade has vanished after the start of the Coronavirus outbreak in Italy's Veneto region.
        MSC Meraviglia has been allowed to dock and disembark passengers in Mexico after being denied the right to call at Jamaica or Grand Cayman. Time magazine has details.
        Airlines are using a variety of heavy-duty solutions to clean aircraft to eradicate Coronavirus germs from their cabin interiors. The Age explains carriers are using everything from hospital-grade disinfectants to solutions used against herpes.
        Shangri-La Hotels, a chain of upmarket hotels predominately located in Asia, has extended its cancellation waiver until March 31 for hotels in Greater China and South Korea. It also extended status benefit for elite members of its frequent stay program for a year until December 31, 2021.
        Starbucks says 85 percent of its stores in China are operating now that the chain has reopened hundreds of stores it closed in reaction to the Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Update for February 26, 2020

This'll have to count as good news on the Coronavirus front: The World Health Organization says the epidemic in China "peaked and plateaued between 23rd of January and the 2nd of February, and has been declining steadily since then." Here are today's other major developments:
        JetBlue Airways will waive change and cancellation fees on all tickets purchased from February 27 through March 11. The waiver is valid for travel completed by June 1.
        Delta Air Lines began slashing service to South Korea a day after it issued travel waivers to the country. From February 29 until April 30, Delta will cancel flights to Seoul from Minneapolis/St. Paul and reduce frequencies from Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle.
        Hawaiian Airlines is cancelling its flights from Honolulu to Seoul between March 2 through April 30. And at least the carrier is being honest about its decision. "We believe a temporary service suspension is prudent given ... the impact the illness has had on demand for leisure travel" from Korea, said Hawaiian president and chief executive officer Peter Ingram.
        Italy has closed the catacombs because the Papal agency that controls the underground caverns is concerned about "high concentrations of humidity, limited ventilation and closed spaces." Also now shut in Italy: the famed La Scala opera house in Milan.

Coronavirus Update for February 25, 2020

A two-day drop of 1,900+ points in the Dow Jones gets your attention and points to the obvious fact: The Coronavirus will have a deep, long-term impact on global business as well as worldwide medicine. And we're closer to the beginning of the story than the end. Here are today's major developments:
        Delta Air Lines issued travel waivers for upcoming flights to Seoul, South Korea, and four airports in Northern Italy: Venice, Bologna, Milan/Malpensa and Milan/Linate. Look for additional waivers, extensions and dropped flights in the two countries outside China hardest hit by the virus.
        The Centers for Disease Control says a major outbreak of the Coronavirus in the United States is all but inevitable. But why listen to scientists and doctors when you can listen to Trump Administration lackeys like Larry Kudlow, who claims everything is fine? In case that name sounds familiar, Kudlow was the genius prognosticator who insisted in December, 2007, that there was no recession coming.
        Korean Air has a flight attendant who has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
        Italy has ordered some Serie A soccer matches to be played in empty stadiums.
        Austria locked down a hotel in Innsbruck after an Italian employee was diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
        Tenerife locked down a resort after an Italian guest was diagnosed with the disease.
        Tokyo Olympics officials are now raising questions about whether the games will be played. The longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee suggests there's a three-month window when officials may have to decide.

Coronavirus Update for February 24, 2020

South Korea, Iran and Italy are the major hot spots for the Coronavirus outside China, so the virus is not quite a medical pandemic yet. But a pandemic of panic has overtaken the world. Here are today's major developments:
        Italy registered its sixth death from the Coronavirus and hundreds more have been infected in the prosperous northern provinces of Lombardy and Venato. Many schools and businesses already are closed in Milan and now the city's iconic Duomo, one of Italy's top tourist attractions, has closed, too. The state railroad is placing hand sanitizers on trains. A bus from Milan and Turin was quarantined in Lyon, France, after the motorcoach's driver became ill. A British Airways flight to Milan returned to the gate before departure when several passengers decided they didn't want to fly. An Alitalia flight from Rome landed in Mauritius only to be told that it should return to Italy unless all passengers agreed to a quarantine at hospitals on the island in the Indian Ocean. Local officials eventually backtracked and let passengers disembark after a medical screening.
        France says its tourism numbers have fallen by as much as 40 percent due to fears about the Coronavirus.
        Air Canada says its flights to China and Hong Kong are now cancelled through April.
        Air New Zealand has cancelled flights to Seoul through June.
        Alabama Republicans have successfully lobbied President Trump to keep Coronavirus patients out of the state. The Trump Administration had originally planned to move patients to a FEMA facility in Anniston. The patients were originally evacuated from the Diamond Princess. Makes you wonder why we have a federally funded "emergency preparedness" center in Alabama if Alabama won't let FEMA do its job. has the full story.

Coronavirus Update for February 23, 2020

We're now in the raging paranoia stage of the Coronavirus. Wherever a case develops, officials begin locking down public places and radicals begin complaining that the officials weren't repressive enough. Here are today's major developments:
        California is battling over where to move dozens of Coronavirus patients previously removed from a cruise ship quarantined in Japan. The patients have been at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, in Northern California. A federal judge blocked an attempt to move them to a facility near Costa Mesa in Orange County. has details.
        Northern Italy is tying itself in knots after two people died from the Coronavirus. The Venice Carnival closed several days early and major soccer games were cancelled. Several small towns in the north have taken extraordinary measures to lock down their villages. In Milan, the mayor shuttered public buildings and closed schools next week. And Giorgio Armani unveiled his latest show at Milan Fashion week to a literal empty house. His show was broadcast instead. Meanwhile right wing firebrand Matteo Salvini, who's angling to become Italy's next prime minister, demanded the country withdraw from the Schengen agreement that allows free movement between dozens of European nations. The current prime minister dismissed Salvini's demands.

Coronavirus Update for February 21, 2020

The focus is still on people infected with Coronavirus, of course, but as the travel industry reports quarterly earnings, a fuller picture of the financial damage is emerging. Here are today's major developments:
        Hyatt revealed during its earnings call yesterday that 26 of its 80+ properties in China and Hong Kong are closed. Revenue per available room (revpar), a key measure of lodging profitability, is down 90 percent in China and 32 percent in the broader Asia-Pacific region. A 1 percent decline in revpar equals as much as $2 million in lost earnings, Hyatt added.
        Marriott says Bonvoy elite status will be automatically extended for one year for members in China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
        Bali says visitor count has dropped more than 16 percent in the first two weeks of February compared to the same period in 2019. That's almost exactly the percentage of Chinese tourism to the island.
        Etihad of Abu Dhabi has cancelled flights to Hong Kong until the end of March. The carrier previously tried flying a reduced schedule between the two destinations.

Coronavirus Update for February 20, 2020

Airlines are beginning to count the cost of the Coronavirus as most have curtailed service to China and other parts of Asia. The financial hit could be hundreds of millions--or billions. Here are today's major developments:
        China may be forced to bail out its carriers as the Coronavirus has all but shut down air travel. There'll have to be cash injections as well as mergers, according to reporting from the South China Morning Post.
        Qantas has slashed its capacity to Asia by 16 percent. That covers Qantas-branded flights to/from China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Its Jetstar subsidiary has cut Asia capacity by 14 percent. The hit on earnings? North of A$100 million (US$66 million) in 2020.
        Air France-KLM says it expects a financial hit of as much as 200 million euros ($216 million) by April if flights are grounded that long.
        Korea has reported its first Coronavirus death. About 20 cases have been reported in the city of Daegu. The mayor of the city of about 2.5 million have urged residents to stay home to avoid risk.

Coronavirus Update for February 19, 2020

The Coronavirus is mowing down travel, especially in Asia. Partially because Chinese tourism is so important to Asia's travel economies and partially because there are long-term and systemic effects whenever flights and hotels are closed. Here are today's developments:
        Marriott is waiving cancellation fees for travelers to and from Greater China through March 15.
        Hyatt is extending the elite status of its customers in the Asia/Pacific region.
        Singapore hotel occupancy has cratered. It was near 100 percent just before the Chinese New Year. According to the Straits Times hotel occupancy in the city-state fell below 50 percent during the week of February 9.
        Tokyo marathon officials say the Sunday, March 1, event will be limited to elite runners and elite wheelchair contestants. More than 30,000 runners had been accepted for the race. Their entry fees will not be refunded, but can be carried forward to the 2021 race.

Coronavirus Update for February 17, 2020

The depth of the damage that the Coronavirus is inflicting on China's aviation sector is surfacing. And more passengers on ships and aircraft have developed the disease. Here are today's developments:
        Delta Air Lines is trying to find passengers on its February 6 flight from Honolulu to Japan. Two passengers on that flight were later diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
        China aviation has essentially collapsed. Five weeks ago, according to OAG, China was the world's third-largest aviation market. Now it ranks 25th, after Portugal.
        London/Heathrow officials have quietly block-booked a hotel and are prepared to use it as a quarantine location if necessary. The Independent has the details.
        MS Westerdam, which was barred from making port in five countries before Cambodia allowed it to dock, did have passengers with the Coronavirus. The Associated Press has the latest developments on the ship, which generated worldwide publicity because of its inability to offload passengers.