Internet Travel With Context
March 1-March 7, 2020
Read all about it! Italy emerges as the new Coronavirus hotspot so airlines begin making huge service cuts there. Meanwhile, Chinese airlines resume some flying. The chief rabbi of Israel says don't kiss the mezuzah. The travel industry starts tallying the financial damage. Here's how it's happening. New items are at the top; read up from the bottom for full context.

Coronavirus Update for March 7, 2020

News broke late this evening that Italy was planning to quarantine several provinces, including the cities of Milan and Venice. The quarantine would effect 12 million people. Here are today's other developments:
        United Airlines has unilaterally changed its refund policy when it alters a passenger's itinerary. The carrier now claims it won't refund unless the involuntary change is more than 25 hours from the original flight. This should be interesting to watch. Brian Sumers uncovered the internal memo.
        U.S. carriers are rushing to rework in-flight service to minimize human interaction and possible Coronavirus contamination. Reuters covers the story from the macro level. Gary Leff of the View From the Wing blog got hold of an American Airlines memo detailing its specific changes.
        Amtrak has suspended its New York/Penn-Washington/Union Station nonstop Acela train. The service launched about six months ago. The nonstop train will stop March 10 and the suspension will last until May 26.
        Ryanair, a huge player in the Italian market, is cutting its Italy flight service by 25 percent. The cuts will last until at least mid-April.

Coronavirus Update for March 6, 2020

Airlines and hotels continue to run from the market rather than battle to convince travelers to keep traveling. Result? Transport panic atop a general Coronavirus panic. Here are the latest developments:
        SXSW, the huge arts festival in Austin, Texas, has been cancelled.
        Qatar Airways is waiving change fees and will also give a voucher valid for up to a year for long-term changes. Details are here.
        Global airlines lost a fifth of their market value--about $40 billion--during the month of February, according to British investment firm AJ Bell. Meanwhile, Bloomberg aviation reporter Justin Bachman says U.S. airlines have suffered stock declines from 16 percent (Southwest) to 47 percent (Spirit) since the beginning of the year. That was based on yesterday's market close. Among the mainline majors, American was down 44 percent, United was down 41 percent and Delta down 23 percent.
        Lufthansa joins airlines now offering some kind of fee waiver. It includes previously purchased tickets. Details are here.
        Air France and KLM now offer a fee waiver on changes, including previously booked tickets.
        British Airways confirms two of its employees have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
        Korean Air now conducts temperature checks of all passengers departing from its hub in Seoul.
        Chinese airlines will be subsidized to resume flying. Of course, it'll be hard to tell new subsidies from old. has details here.

Coronavirus Update for March 5, 2020

Airlines are beginning to assess the cost of the Coronavirus as they ground aircraft and count empty seats. The numbers won't be pretty. Here are the latest developments:
        Southwest Airlines says it "experienced a significant decline in demand as well as an increase in trip cancellations." The slowdown "in recent days" will mean first-quarter revenue will take a $200-$300 million hit due to Coronavirus fears.
        Norwegian Air says it is cutting around two dozen specific flights between the United States and Europe between March 28 and May 5. The carrier had substantially reduced capacity before the Coronavirus crisis began in an attempt to reach profitability.
        IATA, the airline industry trade group, says the Coronavirus could cost airlines more than $100 billion in a worst-case scenario. has details.
        Grand Princess, another ship owned by Princess Cruises, is being held off the Pacific Coast. State and federal officials believe two shiploads of passengers may have been exposed to the virus. has the details.
        Amtrak says it will waive the change fees it didn't even have until recently. The policy is slightly better than the airlines' versions, however, since it covers new and existing travel through April 30. Here are the details.

Coronavirus Update for March 4, 2020

Now come the systemwide capacity cuts. Without ever trying to stimulate traffic with a publicized fare sale, airlines seem willing to put planes on the deck rather than discount to stimulate business. Here are the latest developments:
        United Airlines is cutting April capacity by 20 percent on international routes and 10 percent on domestic runs. Similar cuts are planned in May, too. The reductions were announced in a letter to employees that also prepared them for furloughs and other cost-cutting measures.
        JetBlue Airways says it will reduce capacity by at least 5 percent in the coming weeks.
        Lufthansa will be grounding the equivalent of 150 aircraft. That's about a fifth of its global capacity as measured against its schedule late last year.
        Delta Air Lines extended its change-fee waiver to some previously purchased tickets. It's the first airline to make that move. Separately, Delta says it will trim capacity to Japan through April and will defer the launch of seasonal summer service between Seattle and Osaka, Japan.
        An LAX screener who was testing passengers arriving from China last month has contracted the Coronavirus.
        Italy has closed all schools until March 15, the first nation in Europe to make that move. It also urged Italians to limit contact with others, including kissing.
        Saudi Arabia has banned pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina by Saudi citizens. Saudi officials had previously banned foreign travelers from visiting the holiest cities in the Muslim faith.
        Don't kiss the mezuzah, says Israel's chief rabbi. The Jerusalem Post has the details.
        James Bond's latest film will not open in April as originally scheduled. Fearful that moviegoers will avoid theaters due to the Coronavirus, producers have pushed the film's release back to November. Ironically, the movie is called No Time to Die.

Coronavirus Update for March 3, 2020

Airlines continue to slash flights and deploy generally meaningless public relations gestures like change-fee waivers rather than make any real efforts to fill their aircraft. Because airlines are gonna airline. Here are the latest developments:
        United Airlines is waiving change fees for flights booked until March 31. Of course, it's the same marketing gimmick as the others: You can change for free--but not if you bought tickets a few days ago. And even if you can change for free, you'll get socked with the huge fare difference when you do.
        American Airlines is dropping flights to South Korea until at least April 25.
        Singapore Airlines and its SilkAir regional subsidiary are slashing many flights in the Asia-Pacific region until late May.
        Tokyo Olympics officials are now admitting that the summer games may be delayed due to fears of the Coronavirus. Ironically, critics have long claimed the scheduling of the games in July put athletes and fans at risk because of Tokyo's hot, humid summer weather.
        Macao gaming revenue, which is largest contributor to the city's economy, fell 87 percent in February.
        Twitter has urged its 5,000 global employees to work from home. Meanwhile, more companies--including Amazon, Google and Ernst & Young--are severely restricting business travel.
        U.S. airlines are squabbling with the Trump Administration over the amount of personal data the carriers will turn over to government officials. The Washington Post has the details.

Coronavirus Update for March 2, 2020

A new week has brought many more Coronavirus cases reported and additional deaths around the world. Financial markets continue in turmoil, too. Many are swinging wildly between early-morning optimism and late-day sell-offs. The obviously exception: The U.S. Dow Jones opened strong and then rallied to a four-digit gain. Given the expansion of the virus in the United States, it could be a "dead cat bounce," but only time and history will tell. Here are the latest developments:
        Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees for flights booked until May 31. The one-time waiver covers international flights as well as flights to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
        British Airways is now waiving change fees for tickets purchased until March 16. Of course, as with all fee waivers, passengers are responsible for any fare difference. That essentially neutralizes the value of fee waivers on most routes.
        Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong flag carrier, has grounded around half its global fleet and cut about three-quarters of its daily schedule. This is far more drastic than its actions during the SARS outbreak. The South China Morning Post has the details.
        The Louvre in Paris remains closed with no word of a reopening. Paris news sources report museum employees refuse to work while Italian curators are at the facility to break down the recently concluded Da Vinci exhibition.
        Delta Air Lines is delaying the launch of seasonal flights between its New York/JFK hub and Venice. It will now begin May 2 instead of the originally announced April 1.
        El Al, an unaligned carrier, continues to slash its flight network. It had already dropped flights from Tel Aviv to China, Hong Kong and Italy. It has now deferred its scheduled March 11 launch of flights to Tokyo and cancelled some service to Vienna, Budapest, Brussels and Frankfurt.

Coronavirus Update for March 1, 2020

Today seems to be the day of a worker's uprising and major events revolved around service disruptions created when employees refused to work. Here are the latest developments:
        American Airlines is joining JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines and now offers a fee waiver for flights booked in the next few weeks. American will offer no-fee changes on any tickets purchased before March 16 and scheduled until the end of the year. But there's a catch: The changes must be made at least 14 days before departure to qualify. Frankly, it seems even more like a marketing gimmick than the JetBlue and Alaska moves.
        Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have joined American and will suspend flights between Milan/Malpensa and New York airports. The final flights until at least May 1 are due Tuesday.
        American Airlines, which last night announced it would cancel Milan flights (see below), was also forced to cancel yesterday's Flight 198 from JFK to Milan/Malpensa. The airline confirmed to the Milan-based Corriere della Sera newspaper that crews refused to work the flight. It's unclear whether American launched the wider cancellation policy before or after this incident.
        The Louvre in Paris did not open today because staff apparently refused to work. Future hours for Paris' best-known museum are unknown.

Coronavirus Update for February 15-29, 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. Click here for the day-to-day details.

Coronavirus Update for February 1-14, 2020

Read all about it! The spread of the Coronavirus is still mostly affecting mainland China, but Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are losing flights and visitors, too. As Chinese tourists stay home, however, the travel industry learns how much they mean to airline traffic, cruise ships and hotels. Click here for day-to-day details.

Coronavirus Update for January 23-31, 2020

Read all about it! As the Coronavirus worsens, airlines have reacted by slashing service to Hong Kong and mainland China. Retailers and food-service giants such as McDonald's are closing locations, too. And neighboring countries are closing their borders. Click here for the day-to-day details.