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Will Travel Ever Return to Pre-COVID levels? What Will it Take For Us to Travel Safely Again? Are the “Glory” Days Really Over?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

It will soon be half a year since I was on an airplane. I freely admit it is starting to get to me. I really miss everything about travel — even things like the butterflies of waiting to see if your upgrade clears at the gate.

But I am starting to wonder and think about just what it is going to take to really bring things back to the way they were before. There are scary stories talking about the speculation that we will never return to what once was.

I think they are wrong.

But it will take a number of things to have a shot at normalcy again — and it will be more than just a safe vaccine.

I agree with Dr. Fauci that 1) it is going to take some time to find a safe and effective vaccine but also 2) that it will likely not be anywhere near 100% effective. Beyond that, I am sure any number of folks will foolishly refuse to be inoculated slowing down the progress toward normalcy.

So what will we need? IMO even more important than a vaccine is a very effective treatment that will build confidence that if we do get COVID it will not be a death sentence. Like what?

I am sure there are others just around the corner that will show equally stellar results in moving COVID to an infection that results in a “two-week vacation” at home for you but not much more, that is, the mortality rate for the infection drops to very low levels or almost zero (i.e. the drugs prevent long term damage to our bodies as some are experiencing now).

3D illustration of Coronavirus, virus which causes SARS and MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

This is what it will take to give us a shot at a return to what was. After all, airlines cannot fly with so many empty seats. Hotels cannot have 50% occupancy. Cruise ships simply cannot provide the cruise experience if we are worried about getting sick.

How long will it take? I think by spring next year we will have things falling into place. I think by the end of summer 2021 we will see results showing this will end. I think by Q1 2022 the “all clear” to return to what was once normal will be here.

What will remain at that point? That is scary to think about. I hope we can hang on! – René


(Disclaimer: Both Chris and I are long RLFTF and BSGM)


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. American in Europe now. Flew here through AMS on Delta ~two weeks ago. Cruising around, having a delightful time.

    These are easily the halcyon days of travel.
    Everyone who is hunkered down at home is missing the Glory Days 2.0.

    • George: how did you get it/travel in Europe? Wasn’t there a ban on US Passports/citizens from entering?Just curious. Thanks.

      • @Matthewsf – George makes a lot of stuff up. I would not put much stock in anything he says.

  2. Ghostrider5408 Reply

    George you’re wonderful just don’t “bring anything home” Having survived serving in combat, foreign jungles etc in the military I know one thing never get over confident ( cocky) especially when it comes to “bugs” and things out there we can not see. Snakes I could see ! Travel if one must but most reasonable people are not going tempt faith, You just don’t know. As we use to say in the AF Check Six

  3. RENE! I agree things will look a lot more like normal than people think and just focusing on a vaccine is limiting the possibilities. There are so many good ways to handle this on the way!

  4. Yes, it will take awhile as we track how our treatment modalities are working and then hope for a true vaccine.. I just wish we would stop the air traffic back and forth to CHINA… It still goes on with major US cities and China cities!!!!!

  5. I agree with George. Take the necessary precautions, but just go somewhere if you feel the itch. This is such a unique time to travel.

    I spent 2 weeks in Sweden, it was an amazing vacation. No testing or quarantine requirements. Getting great meals in popular but now empty restaurants in Stockholm. Deserted city streets in Gamla Stan. Almost everything is open, but there are almost no tourists, so plenty of room for social distancing. And I didn’t see anyone wear a mask the entire time. International flights are definitely not as fun as they used to be, but the trip was wonderful for my mental health.

    • @Mitch – Considering the disaster Sweden has been with COVID I don’t think that is a good example to point to. BTW Sweden is terrified about wave 2 that is sure to come.

      • I think Sweden has been far smarter with their approach to the virus than we have, and their is a much better argument that our own country is the “disaster”, not Sweden. In April and May Sweden’s death rate was bad, particularly because of nursing home infections, but their numbers look far better than ours now. In the last two weeks they have averaged either 1 or no deaths per day in the entire country. In the US we’ve averaged over 1,000 per day. And keep in mind they never locked down their country.

        Obviously everyone makes their own choices, but I felt much safer there than I do in the US. I am planning another trip soon.

        • @Mitch – By deaths per population both the US and Sweden are complete disasters!

  6. I agree with everything you said, 100%. I’m struggling right now with the idea of needing a vaccine or proof of a medical reason you cannot get one as a travel passport. I rather like the idea, to keep the crazies from infecting the rest of us, but I do understand the arguments contra as well. I just hate the idea of getting on a plane or ship with a bunch of mouth breathing (literally and figuratively, in this case) people who believe in conspiracies and won’t practice good medicine.

  7. I think that some of these changes will be permanent. Masks are probably here to stay. Even before COVID-19, you could lose 60,000 people during a bad flu season. Maybe we could cut that in half if we keep wearing masks? Also, I do not see business travel coming back to anything close to what it was before. CFOs love all the money they are saving. I am not sure we will ever see buffets again. I think that Delta first class meals will be prepackaged for years to come.

    Lately I have been consuming a lot of health and nutrition info related to COVID-19. Most people can reduce their risk of having a bad outcome pretty substantially by addressing their metabolic health. Doing this will also increase the likelihood of having a good immune response to the vaccine if/when we have one. It’s possible to see significant changes in metabolic heath within a few weeks. Just Google “covid-19 and metabolic health.”

    I am actually flying Monday to visit a few friends. We are renting a house in a county that has only had a single COVID-19 death. I am driving to the airport instead of using Uber, I will skip the SkyClub at the airport, Delta has already blocked off the first class seat next to me, and when I land I will go directly to my rental car. Personally, I think it’s time for me to start doing some traveling, while taking reasonable precautions.

    • Dave…I think you make some very good points. My only thought? I would not skip the Sky Club. They are empty and a great place to avoid everyone who is still hanging around the gate. (They always were before but pre-COVID they could be as crowded as the gate…not anymore).

      My tip…hide out in the Sky Club and board about 10 minutes before door time. The gate will be clear (they’re seating back-to-front) and you’ll be in your seat quick with minimal contact.

      • I went to the SFO Sky Club today. At times I was the only one, and at times there was one other person. I counted six employees. They had a nice selection of wrapped foods, but I was not allowed to consume any food or beverages in the club. However, the staff was happy to pack a bag with Sky Club food that could be consumed in the gate area or on the plane. I liked the food from the club better than the food in the Flight Fuel boxes offered in first class, so it was a nice option. It’s also nice that there is beer and wine.

        I am writing this during the flight. The plane is about a third full. BTW, the WiFi works great. I am in row 2 and the front row is open. There were two first class seats listed as open and 16 people on the upgrade list, but nobody got upgraded to first class at the gate. Two of the people on the upgrade list had the last name, so they could have probably could have been upgraded to two seats on one side. The seat next to me was blocked. I used upgrade certificates at booking to get confirmed into first class.

        Both CLEAR and TSA Pre were operating. Overall, I feel safer flying today than I do going to the grocery store. So far, everything is going very smoothly, and I am happy to escape the California heat!

  8. I had to fly 2 segments a few weeks ago (LGA-ATL-DAB) for personal business. Sky Club(s) were empty…boarding at the last minute was a breeze, and my first class upgrade(s) came through the night before.

    Piece of cake…right?

    Well…actually… the whole experience reminded me of running into an ex-girlfriend. You know a lot about them…they’re familiar…but the whole experience is still awkward and uncomfortable.

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