President Biden signs new travel-related orders. Airlines that filed for bankruptcy in 2020

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the March 2021 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 540th issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine — our 45th anniversary issue!

The May 2020 and January 2021 issues had to be published online only (no mailed copies) due to the drop in supportive tour company advertising resulting from the COVID-caused shutdown in travel worldwide, but travelers are looking forward to the day when they can get back on the road and in the air.

I want to once again thank the many people who responded to the Travel Resource Challenge posed by ITN subscriber Evenyl Roemmich (July ’20, pg. 26). Every bit helps!

Along with their response to the challenge, Marion and Jim Durham of Tempe, Arizona, wrote, “ITN has provided us with all sorts of things: envy at some travel reports; information on B&Bs and hotels; suggestions for packing; humor; insurance and medical information, and, above all, a feeling of connection to our fellow explorers of the world.

“In a time of pandemic and isolation and no travel, it has also given us dreams for future adventures. Age and health may restrict our future travel overseas, but we will gain ideas from others facing the same issues, and that will give us motivation.

“So thank you for MANY years of enjoyment and stimulation. The years have passed quickly, but the travel dreams ITN generates live on and on.”

Thanks, Marion and Jim. As ITN now heads into its 46th year of publication, it’s good to know that subscribers like you have our back.

This is the March issue, but, since our staff is always working two months ahead of the issue date, I’m writing this is late January. There’s a new administration in the White House, and already there is travel news to report.

In one of his first acts as president, signed the same day he was inaugurated, President Biden revoked the ban on citizens from 13 countries entering the US, informally called the “Muslim ban,” that former president Donald Trump had enacted in January 2017, which affected people mostly from Muslim-majority countries.

Initially, that ban included seven countries — Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen — but it was later expanded to include Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Citizens of those countries still could, with difficulty, visit the US but not settle permanently.

The ban did not cause many problems for naturalized US citizens, aside from Iran and North Korea both canceling entry visas for US travelers in response, but it did cause difficulties for permanent US residents and dual citizens of those nations.

Even with a green card, a dual citizen attempting to enter the US using a passport from one of the banned countries was subject to further examination by US Border Patrol officers. The ban also prevented asylum seekers from those countries from entering the US, many of whom were hoping to join family already living here.

Two other travel-related orders were also quickly signed by President Biden. In his second day in office, he signed an order reinstating COVID-19 restrictions on incoming international travelers that Mr. Trump had loosened as one of his last acts in office.

Those restrictions, as of press time, require that everyone entering the US, even US citizens and permanent residents, present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of arrival, as well as quarantine for 10 days. A traveler who tests negative for COVID three to five days after arrival may shorten his quarantine period to seven days.

Another executive order created federal requirements for everyone to wear a mask in airports and on all public transportation in the US, including planes, trains and intercity buses, all of which already were requiring the wearing of face masks, as mandated by the individual transportation companies.

In fact, before the federal regulations had even been signed, more than 2,500 people had been banned from various US airlines for refusing to wear masks.

CDC guidelines strongly recommend masks be worn in taxis and ride-shares as well.

Between these practical precautions and the promising vaccines, travel is sure to pick up more quickly.

At the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the skies will look dramatically different, however.

With so few people flying these days and so few countries even admitting travelers, it should come as no surprise that the airline industry struggled in 2020. In fact, 2020 was the first time since 1999 that the number of air passengers for the year decreased — and it wasn’t by just a little.

Within the last calendar year, TSA agents processed an average of about 880,000 passengers per day in US airports. Back in 2019, that average was 2.2 million.

With little revenue coming in, pretty much every airline in the world was forced to reduce flights and destinations, some drastically. Some ceased operations altogether.

Three of the larger airlines to completely shutter their doors in 2020 were Air Italy (not to be confused with Alitalia), Level Europe, based in Austria, and British airline Flybe. All were low-cost airlines that focused on inter-European travel, so they wouldn’t have been used by Americans making the trip over, but within and between the countries of Europe, they completed a lot of flights per day.

In North America, low-cost Mexican airline Interjet ceased operation in November.

A lot of other airlines, in order to restructure their debts, filed for bankruptcy as well, though it appears that many will continue to operate or will resume operating once the dust has settled. These include Virgin Australia Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Avianca Airlines (which completely dissolved its Peruvian division), LATAM Airlines (which closed its Argentinean division), Thai Airways and South African Airways.

One noteworthy airline change involves Norwegian, the super-low-cost airline that was known for selling one-way tickets from the US to destinations in Europe at prices starting from just $99. It ended all long-haul flights, meaning it will no longer serve US airports. Its routes between Norway and European destinations will still be flown.

While 2021 is likely to be better for airlines than 2020 was, it is estimated that air traffic will not return to pre-2020 levels until 2024. It is almost certain that some airlines barely surviving right now won’t make it that long.

Focused on travel outside of the US, this magazine prints articles, trip reports, thoughts on travel, info requests and travel photos from its subscribers. For the time being, we’re also soliciting notes and short write-ups on travel within the US (see page 30).

If you have something to share, email or write to ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Keep the conversation going!