What the h*ll are they thinking?
Some companies are acting like there's no pandemic. Let's talk about that.
You've probably heard about passengers who refuse to wear a mask because they think COVID-19 is a hoax.
But what happens when airlines, travel agencies and hotels take a similar attitude? They encourage dangerous activities like flying long distances, hanging out in a sports bar, and attending a food and wine festival.
That's shameful and irresponsible — and it has to end.
Stories you probably missed
This mint is hard to swallow
Consider last week's big news in the airline world. JetBlue introduced its new all-suite premium cabin called Mint Studio. It features "all-aisle access," lie-flat seats and what it bills as an "exclusive" sleep experience.
These opulent flying cabins will debut in June on JetBlue's New York-to-Los Angeles flights and later this year on its London flights.
Now, forget for a moment that JetBlue started with a promise to treat all passengers with dignity, eschewing the legacy airlines' class system that many passengers found unfair. Or that to create space for these airborne suites, JetBlue almost certainly cut a little legroom from the passengers in the back.
None of that matters.
How could an airline roll out a product like this at a time when the CDC is telling people not to travel? And when hundreds of thousands of Americans are getting infected every day?
What are they thinking?
Sorry for the interruption ...
If you're not signed up for Elliott Confidential, I hope you'll accept my invitation to become a subscriber now. You'll get access to subscriber-only content. Plus, your subscription supports the random acts of consumer journalism I commit in each issue of this newsletter. Here's how to subscribe.
Et tu, Caesars?
Equally tone-deaf is last week's announcement by Caesars Palace in Las Vegas that it's opening a new bar called Stadia this spring. Caesars describes its latest upscale watering hole as a "next-level sports viewing experience" featuring lavish amenities, numerous large HD TVs, a menu overflowing with high-end and unique cocktail selections "and more."
"Guests can casually hang out or catch the big game in style with Stadia's rentable spaces to create an intimate viewing experience for small groups," it announces in a press release.
Caesars doesn't say anything about the raging pandemic, or that going to a bar right now is stupid. It waits until the final paragraph of its press release to note that it will ensure that Stadia will meet its new health and safety protocols, which are focused on the well-being of employees, guests and the community.
Well, that's a relief.
Caesars should be ashamed of itself.
A "fan favorite" returns to Busch Gardens
Can it get any worse? Yes. Last week, Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., announced the return of a "fan favorite": its food and wine festival.
Seriously. "Flavors are in bloom at Busch Gardens," the theme park proclaimed. The fun gets underway on Feb. 20.
Are they kidding? No, they are not. Busch Gardens says it will feature "fresh twists on classic cuisines from around the country that pair perfectly with more than 80 wines, brews, and cocktails."
Do I really need to tell you that attending a food and wine festival during a deadly outbreak is a terrible idea?
Leading the way in this folly is a reckless minority of travel agents. Their attitude is that they'll sell travel to anyone who wants it, regardless of the risks. I argued with them last year — and won.
This is the right thing to do
Not all travel companies are acting irresponsibly. For example, Amtrak last week told me it would encourage all of its employees to get a vaccine by paying them.
"Amtrak is allowing excused absences for employees receiving the vaccination during their regularly scheduled work hours and paying employees an allowance equivalent to two hours of straight time pay when they submit documentation of receiving the vaccine," Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin told me.
Also, Amtrak employees who miss work because of vaccine side effects will have that absence excused and receive up to 48 hours of paid absence after the vaccination.
United Airlines' CEO Scott Kirby went even further. In an employee town hall meeting, he said every employee should get the vaccine — whether they want it or not. "I think the right thing to do is for United Airlines, and for other companies, to require the vaccines and to make them mandatory," he told workers.
Qantas has said it plans to make vaccines a requirement for passengers on international flights, although it hasn't been specific about a timeline.
I don't need to tell you that these are responsible decisions. But maybe JetBlue, Caesars and Busch Gardens could use a refresher on the meaning of good corporate citizenship.
Sending the right message
My friends, we're so close to getting the green light to travel again. Some of us have received our second doses and we're already making plans. Others are waiting patiently for our turn to get our shots. We don't need anyone telling us to visit a sports bar, fly to LA, or — God forbid — go to a food and wine festival.
Let's get this pandemic out of the way and then take a vacation. I think we deserve one.
And finally …
A few weeks ago, I promised that I would face my needle phobia and get a vaccine as soon as possible. That opportunity came yesterday because, for a variety of personal reasons, I'm in group 1b.
After that, I sat down and cried. They were tears of joy that we were a step closer to putting this horrible pandemic behind us.
I'm fine, by the way. I just have this inexplicable urge to buy Microsoft products.
Do you think companies should be promoting travel in the middle of a pandemic? If so, where's the line? If not, what should they be saying? The comments are open. Please be nice to each other. And don't make fun of me or I might cry again. Just kidding.