A World Without Short Plane Rides

March 9, 2020


As more and more countries impose mandatory 14-day quarantines on arrivals from any country, not just those with large Covid 19 outbreaks, regular travelers now working from home will be starting to think about what travel will be like once cases have peaked and started to die down. 

Be aware that for “post peak” countries like China and even specific cities like Hong Kong, the majority of new cases are now imported. In the past week of Hong Kong’s 57 new cases, 50 came were imported. 

My belief is that it is likely that cases of the virus will continue to occur around the world for many months if not years to come. Will governments keep blanket quarantines in place? How will they decide to roll them back? No government is going to want to take a risk on allowing a new peak to emerge, far better to have fewer and 100% quarantined arrivals than risk another spike in cases. They have to show their citizens they are being active.

Almost certainly many countries will require arrivals from anywhere that has more than trace numbers of cases to self-quarantine on arrival for the foreseeable future. Countries may not rely on looking stamps in passports and self-reporting but require access to where your mobile phone has been in the prior 2 weeks. More countries may seek to borrow China’s newly rolled out app that gives the phone owner a green/yellow/red rating and QR code that they must show before entering a building. A spike in cases in your country of origin could lead to your rating going red during your trip requiring immediate self-quarantine.

For the individual business traveler this means that things wont return to pre Covid 19 practices any time soon. How many business trips can you justify if you need to quarantine for 14 days at the start of the trip? Or if you might be quarantined for 14 days if while you were on the trip a few cases emerged in your home country?

No quick meetings to work with the team on the new product launch, to meet with a new distributor, to source new materials, no flying around the world for the big pitch meeting with the possible new client. Within national borders it might feel that activity is largely back to normal but the barriers to crossing the border have become infeasibly high. 

Quarantining could even become politicized, with government A telling government B “we don’t trust your testing regime to uncover all cases, so we have to maintain the quarantining”. Very hard for a government to prove that it has no cases. 

I have focused here on business travel, but tourism would be just as impacted. No tourist will take a trip that requires 2 weeks in isolation at the start of the trip. Tourists will be significantly restricted in where they travel, many staying within their own national borders

We will of course adapt. Even the client who had always always always insisted on meeting you face to face even in only for an hour, is grudgingly accepting that a meeting can take place over one of the myriad of business communication apps. 

And in the end, all the quarantines may be cancelled, but not anytime soon. A government’s duty of care to its citizens will mean they last much longer than we expect.