United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby recently sat down with David Ignatius of The Washington Post. Live and Let’s Fly will examine the wide-ranging interview in a series of post.
United CEO: I’m Going To Europe On Vacation!
Kirby talks about pent up travel demand, his first trip with his wife (presumably since the pandemic started, though he did not specify), and his summer trip to Europe with the kids.
Well, after all we’ve been through as a society in the last 14 months, you can clearly see huge pent-up demand and desire for people to get back out and experience the world and particularly as vaccination rates are going up and as individuals get vaccinated.
I can speak personally. Me and my wife took our first trip together a couple of weeks ago. We’re planning to take the kids to Europe this summer, and you just see that pent-up demand from people and I think an increasing confidence. Look, all of us, including the CDC and others, are getting more and more confidence as we get more and more data about how effective vaccines are at reducing particularly severe infections and mortality rates.
Personal angles are important (it is why I asked Kirby about his favorite United destination) and Kirby’s willingness to travel to Europe shows he’s not taking a “do as I say, not as I do” approach to travel.
Some believe that it is unethical to travel to population centers which are not fully vaccinated. That will likely still be the case in Europe in this summer. But safe travel was possible before the vaccination with proper distancing and hygiene and is still safe now. Nevertheless, Kirby’s “confidence” in travel may not be fully shared by those in Europe who will welcome vaccinated American tourists but still not have obtained the vaccination themselves.
Kirby: State Department Travel Warnings Are Not Helpful
I addressed the latest round of State Department travel warnings in a recent post and Kirby picks up anther absurdity. Ignatius asks if United flies to any “do not travel” countries and Kirby makes a very good point:
We do fly, well, especially now where there’s so many countries that are on the Travel 4 advisory. Normally, Travel 4 advisories are countries like Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan. It’s a pretty small list, and so, normally, we wouldn’t be flying there. But in today’s environment where you just put a whole bunch of countries on, some of those countries are on.
But, look, I’ll just take one example. Israel is on the Travel 4 advisory list, and the vaccinations are–they’re really good here in the United States, but the number of people vaccinated in Israel’s percentage of the population is about double. And by the way, the case rate in Israel is one-tenth of what it is here in the United States.
I’m hopeful that those kind of Level 4 advisories are a little rearview mirror looking compared to the forward looking, but at the moment, we’re flying to places like Israel.
He’s so diplomatic, but the translation is clear: the State Department warnings are worthless and ineffective. Beyond the inconsistent approach and lack of clearly-defined methodology, designating Israel as a Category 4 nation is quite perplexing.
Kirby’s planning a summer trip to Europe and not really interested in State Department travel advisories. His attitude demonstrates that the over-cautious State Department approach will likely have the opposite effect as intended and embolden more Americans to travel as they throw up their hands in frustration over the lack of clarity and scope of the new warnings.