Should All Leisure Air Travel Be Banned?

April 27, 2020, 12:00 PM · A union representing the nation's flight attendants has called for the US federal government to ban all leisure travel by air for now, among other requests in an open letter to two U.S. cabinet members.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA's letter to the Secretaries of Transportation and Health and Human Services calls for the government to provide masks to all passengers entering airports and to require their use within airports and on planes. The union also wants the government to force airlines to provide masks, disposable gloves, alcohol wipes and gel, and other personal protective equipment to flight attendants and crew on all flights.

(Given that taxpayers just forked over several billion dollars to the airline industry, they ought to have plenty of money to pay for that, right?)

The letter goes to on to request that the U.S. Department of Transportation "take further action to limit the spread of the virus
by restricting air travel to only that necessary to continue essential services." The letter acknowledges that lawmakers might have to provide temporary anti-trust exemptions to allow airlines to coordinate schedules.

"We believe that protecting this essential service and ensuring air travel is not aiding in spread of the virus requires a halt to all leisure travel until the pandemic is brought under control according to health authorities," the letter said.

Frankly, if there's any leisure travel going on in America at this point, it's so negligible that one has to wonder if eradicating it would be worth the legal effort. The TSA has reported that airline passenger traffic is down 95 percent from the same time last year. Heck, after this Friday, there no longer will be any scheduled nonstop flights from Los Angeles to Orlando. You can't fly non-stop from Disneyland to Walt Disney World anymore.

While the nation's flight attendants certainly have beef to complain about the lack of PPE on flights, asking for a ban on leisure traffic at this point seems like a classic "the horse is already out of the barn" scenario.

Or is it? A leisure travel ban probably wouldn't do much, if anything, to reduce the number of people flying right now. But lifting a formal leisure travel ban at some point in the future might help kickstart an ailing travel industry.

The only way to lift a leisure travel ban is to enact it in the first place, of course, so there might be a long-term PR play here.

Replies (7)

April 27, 2020 at 12:25 PM

A publicly announced "ban" like this would do nothing but fan the flames of discontent and frustration over the current situation. There are already protests and moronic demonstrations flaunting the current stay at home orders and similar government action to limit the spread of the virus. Capping it off with a leisure travel ban would just make people more angry at the current situation and make them feel like the government is further trying to control their lives.

Such a leisure travel ban would also increase the anger between the classes as rich folks have the resources to either fly private charters or pay their way through the red tape necessary to deem a leisure trip "essential", while the serfs are confined to their homes. Let's face it, CEOs and other white collar business leaders are still crisscrossing the country in the name of "business", and likely find ways to squeeze a few rounds of golf or other leisure activities into their trips in the name of "mental health".

I just don't see the sense in this other than to make people feel even worse than they already do and to make it more difficult to emerge from this crisis with yet another restriction needing to be lifted before life can return to some sense of normalcy.

April 27, 2020 at 12:35 PM

@Russell Meyer is dead right. I'm seeing too many places who buy the "it's just a flu, we don't all need to shut down like New York" and such to the extreme "governors stealing our freedom for power grab' nuts. Plus, as pointed out, actual leisure travel is so low that a ban really doesn't make much sense anyway. Who's going on vacation anywhere right now?

I get the concern of the workers but it seems a waste to try banning something few people are willing to do now anyway.

April 27, 2020 at 12:58 PM

have to be careful about that. Virgin Australia with massively dropped demand at one stage was down to one flight a day. Not one flight per route, not one route. One flight, on what was once onr of the busiest air corridors in the world.

Although it’s now expanded back a bit with government support to run lifeline services to rural locations, it’s also now “In Adminstration” - bankrupt.

Edit: All ticket sales to/from Argentina are banned until September.

I think staff should be more worried about if there is going to be an airline next week, and if there is, what it will look like. This is a great opportunity for airlines to cut unprofitable routes that might otherwise cause some outcry, and simply not recommence flying later.

April 27, 2020 at 9:29 PM

If they're making a big deal about how infection rates are declining and we're getting closer and closer to opening, adding any more restrictions at this point will likely backfire and could result in mass disobedience of existing regulations. Let's face it, we're being asked to trust the guesswork of a government that has been proven to be untrustworthy, and every day more and more are starting to question if they're really doing the right thing. At this point, all effort should be on getting restrictions lifted as soon as safely possible, not adding more that will have minimal benefit.

April 28, 2020 at 6:43 AM

Norwegian air shuttle, known to be a cheap jump across the pond don’t expect to be doing any serious flying until 2021 (only 7 of their 147 birds are flying now) and expect long term to drop 1/3 of their fleet and many long haul routes to secondary airports. That’s certainly going to have a knock on effect to prices generally.

April 28, 2020 at 11:17 AM

I would have to say no, the airlines are going to have to step up and have high level consistent cleaning procedures. The government can step in and move that process along.

In the end, where would you go with everything closed anyway?

April 29, 2020 at 10:26 AM

No need for leisure travel and keeping people in their home state or province or territory would help contain any outbreaks. We have all seen the massive shortage in PPE for hospitals and nursing homes and until we have a steady supply why would we waste in on nonessential travel. This isn't going away anytime soon. As soon as more business opens up cases will flare up but if they can be contained locally that is good. Just remember it took one person flying from China to North America for it to spread. When you have millions of people in the air and a pandemic that is worldwide anyone could be that one person. Gathering tens of thousands of people in airports or theme parks or stadiums just seems like a recipe for disaster.

If we can get other businesses open that will help the economy and we can worry about propping up theme parks and airlines instead of propping up everyone. If we keep people as local as possible that will help local economies. With 90% of businesses back open, we can support the 10% of companies and their people who are suffering hardships. However, we need to make sure the Richard Branson's of the world who live and pay taxes in foreign countries aren't supported by the British taxpayer because they themselves are British. The same goes for the rest of the billionaires around the world trying to scrounge off the taxpayer.

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