Airlines: Bleeding from Coronavirus, and Worse to Come

Yves here. It’s not looking pretty in the travel industry, particularly for players like airlines that have international business as important. Even casual readers of the press have heard about widespread coronavirus-induced cancellations of conferences, restrictions in some countries and regions of large gatherings, corporate travel bans, and scuppered sports matches, including possibly the Tokyo Olympics.

The Financial Times ran a sober “is there life after coronavirus?” piece that centered on the collapse of air travel. Some vignettes:

I went to Heathrow to see it first-hand. I found the airport eerily empty. “It’s been quiet all month,” said a British Airways attendant, surveying the vast hall of Terminal 5 — a monument to globalisation. BA had cancelled flights to China, Italy and beyond. Other airlines too were reporting a sharp drop in bookings, and a rise in passengers simply not turning up…

There are two ways that disease outbreaks can change us.

The first is through reflection….

The second is structural. The Black Death accelerated the disintegration of English feudalism: so many peasants died that the landlords lost their grip. The first world war accelerated the rise of working women: once they had replaced men in factories, a Rubicon had been crossed. If the 1918 epidemic left an imprint, it was perhaps accelerating the arrival of public healthcare.

Coronavirus has already been claimed by ideologues. Donald Trump said that it justified tighter border controls; Bernie Sanders linked it to free public healthcare. Matt Stoller, a campaigner for corporate regulation, argued that coronavirus marked the end of “affluence politics” — that is, “the politics of not paying attention to what creates wealth in the first place”.

Coronavirus may make us reconsider how many journeys — holidays, work trips, conferences — are actually essential. The threat of terrorism didn’t stop us flying. Since September 11, the number of US air passengers has risen by one-third; global numbers have more than doubled.

The Fed is engaged in the futile exercise of trying to pull monetary levers to reverse real world breakdowns. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pointed out the emergency 50 basis point cut, which looks to have juiced the market for all of one day, may even be counterproductive:

Justified or not, there is suspicion over why the Fed has suddenly acted in this fashion. A week ago it was imperiously dismissive of rate cuts. Yet little has changed that was not already obvious to anybody listening to the world’s infectious disease experts – at least those not being muzzled by one regime or another. What did change was the overnight switch by Donald Trump’s inner circle from attempts to spin Covid-19 as a ‘hoax’ to fear that it could blow up in his face.

Nor is there any consensus that a rate cut is the proper prescription. Monetary stimulus has little traction against ruptured supply chains, factory closures, and a partial shutdown of the tourist industry. Most of it is wasted, and central banks do not have much to spare. Europe and Japan have none.

Even Larry Summers, ex-Treasury Secretary and perennial ultra-dove, said the Fed was “scaring people” with jumpy behaviour. “The benefits of monetary pyrotechnics have to be balanced against the alarm they may cause,” he tweeted.

The market freakout continues, with airlines one of the sectors that are correctly a focus of concern. Again from the pink paper on the ugly look of Friday after a near 1000 point swoon of the Dow yesterday:

Government bond prices rushed to new historic highs on Friday while stocks across Europe and US futures tumbled on fears over the cascading economic disruption caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

With haven assets in high demand and traders raising their bets on the US Federal Reserve cutting interest rates again, the yield on 10-year government debt slid as much as 0.21 percentage points to just 0.6980 per cent — a new record low. Yields stood at 1.9 per cent at the start of this year….

UK government bonds also hit new records, with 10-year yields sinking to 0.246 per cent. German Bund yields of the same maturity, already in negative territory, fell to a record minus 0.738 per cent.

Meanwhile, European stocks slid, with London’s FTSE 100 shedding 3 per cent and Frankfurt’s Dax down nearly 4 per cent in some of the most significant selling action since the outbreak of the coronavirus began rattling global markets last month.

The Stoxx 600 index tracking the region’s leading companies was on track for its third consecutive week of declines, and is now trading at its lowest levels this year….

Futures trading also showed US stocks heading for another significant fall on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 expected to drop about another 3 per cent after closing Thursday’s session down 3.4 per cent as concerns over the spread of coronavirus swept through markets.

Wolf Richter recapped the bloodbath in the airlines. Even the purely domestic Southwest is taking a hit. Needless to say, this isn’t good news for Boeing.

By Wolf Richter, editor of Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street

strong>Estimated hit to global air passenger revenues quadruples to $113 billion. Stocks of top-seven US airlines plunged 30% in 15 trading days, after getting massacred today.

The shares of the top seven US airlines reacted sharply today, with drops as of mid-afternoon ranging from -6.8% for Delta to -16% for Spirit Airlines, which is now down 49% since January 17 before the coronavirus threatened the travel industry. Since January 17:

  • Delta Air Lines [DAL]: -28%
  • Southwest Airlines [LUV]: -18%
  • United Airlines [UAL]: -35%
  • American Airlines [AAL]: -42%
  • Alaska Air Group [ALK]: -34%
  • JetBlue Airways [JBLU]: -27%
  • Spirit Airlines [SAVE]: -49%

But the plunge got going seriously after February 12, essentially forming a straight line down, with the value of the top seven US airlines plunging a combined 30% in 15 trading days (market cap data provided by YCharts):

 

Amid a constant drumbeat of airline warnings of capacity cuts not only on international flights to affected areas but now also within the US – and within the domestic markets of other countries – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its new estimatesthis morning of the potential damage to passenger revenues for airlines. But it has not yet released estimates for the potential damage to the air cargo business.

The IATA’s new estimates see a spectrum between two scenarios for 2020:

  • In the “limited spread” scenario, where the virus is “contained in the current markets with over 100 cases as of March 2,” global passenger revenues would take a $63-billion hit, or 11% of revenues in 2020.
  • In the “extensive spread” scenario, where the virus is in “all markets that currently have 10 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 2 March,” and “with a broader spreading” of the virus, global passenger revenues would take a $113-billion hit, or 19% of revenues in 2020.

This extensive-spread scenario nearly quadruples the prior estimate of just two weeks ago, when on February 20, the IATA saw a hit of $29 billion to global passenger revenues in 2020, most of it relating to markets associated with China. Now it has become clear that the virus has spread far beyond China, and that it impacts ticket purchases on routes far beyond China, such as even domestic flights in the US.

“In little over two months, the industry’s prospects in much of the world have taken a dramatic turn for the worse,” said the IATA report, which pleaded for governments to step in and provide relief for airlines. And it added, “It is unclear how the virus will develop, but whether we see the impact contained to a few markets and a $63 billion revenue loss, or a broader impact leading to a $113 billion loss of revenue, this is a crisis.”

Airlines hanging on by their fingernails will let go or get a bailout.

The first to let go was UK airline Flybe, and its sister carrier Stobart Air, which were grounded Thursday morning and entered bankruptcy administration. Passengers were left stranded. Flybe accounted for well over one-third of the domestic flights in the UK.

Flybe was acquired in January 2019 by Connect Airways, a consortium consisting of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group, and investment advisory firm Cyrus Capital Partners. The airline was already teetering at the time, and the consortium picked it up for a song (about £2.8 million).

The consortium injected some cash into the airline, most recently in January, and the government provided some relief on payment terms of the air-passenger tax. But a hoped-for larger bailout from the government didn’t happen. And given the stress put on the airline industry as a whole by the coronavirus, the consortium decided not to fund the airline further. And abandoned by its owners, it collapsed today.

Other weak airlines will either collapse as well, or will be bailed out. The Chinese government has already taken over HNA Group, the conglomerate that owns about 18 airlines in China and Hong Kong.

Another airline on this list is Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, which has been losing a ton of money with its low-cost international flights. It forced its bondholders last year into what was effectively a debt restructuring.  Today it withdrew its guidance due to the coronavirus. Its shares plunged 13% today to 15.85 Norwegian Krone (= $1.70), having lost 94% since their spike in August 2018.

Top US airlines warn, cut, cancel, and get hammered.

Airlines in the US have communicated that they’re cutting international and domestic routes. United Airlines told employees that it would cut domestic capacity by 10% next month, and that it would cut international capacity by another 20%, on top of the cuts it had already made, such as shutting down its extensive  China routes and many of its flights to South Korea and Italy. These cuts could reach into May.

Other US airlines, in addition to suspending their China routes, have also cut flights to Italy and South Korea.

But it’s the cutting of domestic capacity that is now cropping up in the US and in other countries as well, as conferences get cancelled one after the other, thus shutting down the conference-going circus, and as companies exhort their employees to eliminate unnecessary business trips and switch to online tools, and as vacation trips are being put on hold.

Southwest Airlines warned this morning in an SEC filingthat “in recent days, the Company has experienced a significant decline in Customer demand, as well as an increase in trip cancellations, which is assumed to be attributable to concerns relating to reported cases of COVID-19.” This is US domestic demand– by spooked Americans that are just now starting to practice the art of “social distancing.”

Even for its still pre-coronavirus quarter, Navistar reported that its Truck revenues collapsed by 31%. Read“COVID-19 Added to this Uncertainty:” Orders & Sales of Heavy Trucks & Medium-Duty Trucks Plunge in the US

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56 comments

  1. Jay Money

    Well, I guess instead of not jumping on a plane because it’s the sane, climate-wise thing to do, we must wait until a pandemic comes around for the Earth-gassing mother-(family blog) to meet their reckoning.

    No surprise here.

    Reply
    1. urblintz

      shhhh… you can’t use the word that begins with a “p” or the bond holders might actually lose some money… I feel their pain…

      Reply
    2. campbeln

      On the plus side… those 737MAX planes aren’t being missed any more!

      Maybe those lawn darts can just stay out there in the desert…

      Reply
      1. campbeln

        Best of all… I’ll bet you a shiny penny that the airlines will now be a net negative to Boeing re-certifying the 737MAX as they don’t need that capacity, and right now Boeing is on the hook for those costs while they’re at fault.

        Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    I’d add another problem to the mix for airlines – most have hedged fuel costs so they may have to pay out significantly to the hedgies if there is (as is likely) a complete collapse in the price of aviation fuel.

    I suspect the airlines are desperately hoping that this is just a bad hit for a few months, but all the indications are that the virus will be circulating for at least 12 months. If that happens, expect wholesale cancellation of trips until well into 2021. And people who still want to (or have to) travel will be holding off to buy super cheap discount fares. And I suspect that it will take years to get back to growth if reduced travel becomes ‘normalised’ – for example, if companies realise they don’t have to send their staff all over the world for face to face meetings or conference junkets. And as the car industry found out to its cost after the last crash, once you start super-discounting to keep sales up, it can take years to persuade people to pay full sticker price again.

    So in the short term, its extremely bad news for airlines. In the longer term, its extremely bad news for Boeing and the huge aircraft leasing industry. I suspect Airbus will be ok, as they’ll find themselves with even less competition.

    Reply
  3. Ataraxite

    I flew yesterday from Taipei to Singapore with Singapore Airlines, and the plane was about half full (at most). And this is after Singapore Airlines cancelled their Taipei-Singapore flight earlier in the day and bumped me (and I assume others) on to the flight I actually took. The departures board at Taipei was a sea of cancelled flights, perhaps more cancelled than flying.

    Things were more normal in Singapore, though perhaps a bit muted at the airport. The only cancelled flights were ones to COVID-19 hotspots like Seoul and Milan.

    And this is in countries where things are well and truly under control – Taiwan recorded no new cases yesterday, and almost 100% of people wear masks in public.

    Meanwhile, when I arrived back in the EU, not the slightest question about where’d I’d been, nor any temperature checks like in Asia.

    Reply
    1. campbeln

      Friend just came into LAX from Incheon (Seoul)… nary a question was asked despite being in the Philippines for the last 3 weeks plus 9 hours in Incheon…

      Reply
  4. DanP66

    I work for the DoD in a pretty serious place.

    We got an order to stop all travel not deemed mission critical and to report any interactions with anyone having traveled overseas. Boss warned us that if we had traveled or had contact that we may be restricted from reporting to work for up to 3 weeks.

    Then we were ordered to assure that we have the necessary technology to work remotely for an extended period of time.

    Then, we were supposed to attend a conference in FL. It was a big conference thrown by a vendor and it was supposed to start Saturday. They canceled the conference yesterday. We had already determined not to go but I was kinda surprised. Must have cost them a fortune because it was at a high end resort.

    When I called Delta to cancel my flight I was given a 3.5 hr callback window. When an agent finally called me back after 4 hours he told me that they were buried in cancellations.

    Reply
  5. Wukchumni

    I think we have to look at the entire travel industry being in a miasma, especially in the USA where planes really dominate, and would you want to spend 11 hours on what would be a 2 hour flight, by taking a bus?

    Basically, if it isn’t your own personal conveyance getting you from point A to point B, it’s suspect.

    European tourists in particular will be missing from the scene here, a typical vacation including a flight to LA/SF, rental car/rv, restaurants, motel/hotel, as they used to do a circle route from say LAX to Sequoia-Kings NP, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley, Las Vegas, and then back to LA, and home.

    I’d guess they were about 1/3rd of the 2 million visitors we’d get, so reduce that number by 666,666 for starters, and who knows how afraid Americans will be to go out in public by the summer?

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      p.s.

      From a friend who runs a sightseeing tour, and this time of year is kind of dead. It’s shoulder season with no snow as an attractant, dullsville compared summer.

      “We had our first Corona cancellation. Thankfully they were outside our cancellation policy so they get a credit.

      On a positive note I gave a tour yesterday to a couple from the Bay area that cancelled their trip to Asia and were doing a stay close to home loop in California.”

      Reply
  6. KLG

    Small one-day conference in Atlanta about testing medical school applicants, scheduled for next week. Cancelled. Zoom, WebEx, or equivalent to be used, because we are a small group.

    Next I suppose medical school will be cancelled.

    Funny. Neoliberal globalization and the race to the bottom isn’t supposed to pause, period. Much less end. And certainly not like this. Looking forward to sitting on the quiet riverfront in Savannah and not seeing those gargantuan container ships bringing stuff we do not need from… elsewhere. Hey, it could happen.

    Reply
  7. .Tom

    “The threat of terrorism didn’t stop us flying. Since September 11, the number of US air passengers has risen by one-third; global numbers have more than doubled.”

    I don’t see the parallel. In that case one had to believe that a suicidal maniac might be on the plane with you. With a highly infectious virus one only has to worry that there might be other people on the plane.

    Reply
    1. David

      Yes, I was going to make the same point. That episode, like the similar panic at the time of the 90-91 Gulf War, and some smaller panics here and there, was fed by irrational fears. There’s nothing irrational about deciding not to breath recycled air for a number of hours in close proximity to people you’ve never met, from all over the world. And because it’s rational, it won’t end soon. It’s not just airlines: because globalisation, most of the ancillary and support air travel functions that used to be carried out by state agencies have been privatised, often to multinational service companies with multiple and obscure layers of ownership. (Macron is intending to privatise the French airport system, ha-ha). What happens when a major airport goes bankrupt or a company providing security screening folds, or an aircraft maintenance company goes bust?

      Reply
      1. Oh

        What happens when a major airport goes bankrupt or a company providing security screening folds, or an aircraft maintenance company goes bust?
        Macron will just do the neoliberal thing and bail out the companies while making sure that they cut the pension plans and benefits (as well as jobs) of the working stiffs. Bonuses will then be paid out to the management.
        BTW, I have no pity for the airline executives who kept raising fares, imposing new restrictions on fares and squeezing down on the seats (not to mention the number and size of bathrooms) in the planes. (Family blog) them! However, I feel for the average airline employee.

        Reply
  8. Mr Broken Record

    The threat of terrorism didn’t stop us flying. Since September 11, the number of US air passengers has risen by one-third; global numbers have more than doubled.

    Not the first year or two. It was relatively cheap to go to Hawaii 2002 -2004.

    Reply
  9. Punxsutawney

    Yes,

    The company I work for at the moment, a regional bank has banned all air travel. To get on an airplane it now takes an act of God’s permission, meaning the approval of an executive VP. All conferences are canceled.

    On an aside, here in Portland, the train I’m riding in is quite full. At this time of the morning, before 6am. it’s mostly the hoodie and Carhartt types. But the trains going home at 5:30 pm, more office professionals have been unusually light the last couple of days.

    Reply
  10. Paul

    Lot of anecdotes here so I’ll add mine.

    I travel almost weekly and my company just banned all international travel and all non-essential US domestic travel. I’m WFH through end of March at a minimum. I also had a conference in NYC next week; I let them know I was cancelling, then the next day they canceled the whole thing. Interesting times.

    Reply
  11. Winston Smith

    We were supposed to travel to LA from Boston at the end of March. Highly unlikely now. Airports have to be considered prime transmission hubs at this point. The US government does not seem to be interested in implementing a valid testing scheme i.e. widely available and FREE. Therefore the concept of containment is hopeless and social distancing must be the rule going forward. It boggles the mind that the press (and some “experts”) keep referring to “the number of cases”, a more accurate description would be “known cases” since testing is inadequately widespread and confined to incredibly narrow guidelines.

    Reply
    1. KiWeTO

      Even with the magic results in 3 hours test, it is still at best a thin screening tool. Do you want to report to an airport 8 hours earlier for your flight?

      And that is presuming the test kits are available in abundance, and easily conducted and checked for accuracy.

      Reply
      1. campbeln

        Yet, Korea has been running 10,000 drive-thru(!) tests for well over a week with a circa 10 minute turn around.

        When did we cease being a first-world country?

        Reply
  12. The Rev Kev

    I wonder how long it will take until you get special offers of L.A. to New York for $50? On the TV in Oz they are pumping out ads for people to take ocean liner cruises. Not this little black duck. A massive chunk of the world tourist industry that airlines feed is about to go away so maybe it might be wise to halt aircraft production for unneeded airplanes right now. We may need to set up more boneyards too-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_boneyard

    But another effect of all those grounded planes would be a change in the climate like happened after 9/11-

    https://globalnews.ca/news/2934513/empty-skies-after-911-set-the-stage-for-an-unlikely-climate-change-experiment/

    Reply
    1. Prairie Bear

      I seem to get those 8-panel (counting front and back, folded to roughly 6×10 in.) alumni travel tour ads in the mail every third day or so. I’ve gotten these for years at this rate and never booked a single one, and never will. They haven’t slowed down yet, but I’m thinking there were several in the pipeline already and they maybe will now.

      Reply
    2. lb

      A couple weeks ago I kept thinking of all those grounded planes and the post-9/11 research on climate effects. I then did some digging and found that subsequent studies cast doubt on the contrail-based climate change difference that was initially considered possible, according to some academics. I think I found some other similar articles from other researchers. Anwyay, this is what that paper said:

      By controlling for the air masses present across theUS, we found that the unusual temperatures on 11 and 12 September were a result of a particularly clearweather pattern, not a lack of jet contrails.

      Another experiment sure might be interesting, to re-test the hypothesis.

      Reply
  13. DanCo

    A friend who works as cabin crew for Virgin Atlantic has today been asked to take unpaid leave. No information on how long for though.

    Reply
  14. Jon Cloke

    “The threat of terrorism didn’t stop us flying. Since September 11, the number of US air passengers has risen by one-third; global numbers have more than doubled” – yes, but COVID-19 is the first truly transport-based disease created by globalization.

    Flying now doesn’t just represent a minimally increased/unknown risk, you’re travelling through the transmitter of infection, which is what makes trying to deal with it on a nation-state basis a bit silly.

    Like trying to treat people in your house who’ve got pneumonia, when you’ve left the front door open..

    Reply
  15. curlydan

    My wife has a trip to Sweden planned in June. She found a $570 round trip from Newark. Demand has indeed plunged. If told her if the the ticket is refundable, probably couldn’t hurt to buy it.

    I’m not really sure why any cruise ship is still operating at this point. I feel for the owners and employees, but this is bound to happen at some point. That’s why disease should be listed in 10-Ks as a potential threat.

    Reply
    1. PlutoniumKun

      If I was a cruise ship operator, I’d do what they did in WWI and WWII. I’d offer up my cruiseliners as hospital ships and recuperation wards (for a fee of course).

      Reply
      1. rd

        I thought they already were hospital ships and recuperation wards but with the cruise lines paying the passengers.

        Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        Man, that is a genius move that. Cruise liners doubled as troop transports too so if you have trained medical staff that is definitely doable. Only thing is that you would have to fill it and then allow no more aboard until everybody is cured or otherwise you would have constant re-infections.

        Reply
  16. Carolinian

    I rarely fly so I can look upon the above with a bit of selfish satisfaction. Everyone talks about global warming but the coronavirus is finally doing something about it? Of course I do love to travel by car–just as carbon spewing–but it’s unlikely that all those leisure endowed global travelers who are clogging our National Parks are going to do the same. Driving around this huge country can be a slog.

    And maybe when the dust settles people will reassess the modern jet travel mania. This will be bad for the airlines but perhaps good for the planet.

    Reply
    1. polecat

      I think people will be reassessing more than just jet travel … like whether national break-ups, divorce, secession .. whatever the term are in disorder, in light of our collective govern’mental’ disfunctions … at multiple levels, regardless of who’s at the given helm !

      The waves are starting to roil and fetch.

      Reply
    2. Wukchumni

      I look at it from a speed standpoint, we could hit about 100 mph around a century ago on the way to 25,000 mph with the Apollo missions. We’ll soon be back to 100 mph.

      Most of us got used to going around 600 mph, and I can see the end of the airline industry, in that keep in mind even after this plague passes, peoples’ memory span will be screaming at them not to go into congested spaces, and besides that, the economy as we knew it will be wrecked, a Capitalist domino effect of one business after another failing with cascading results.

      Reply
    3. Shiloh1

      I don’t have the link handy, but aren’t there 7 VLCC (very large cargo container ships) which normally go from China to U.S. west coast regularly powered by bunker oil, emitting more pollution than all U.S. passenger cars combined? Taking them offline is fine by me.

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I remember reading that too. But then I read things that left me confused as to whether the pollution being compared from all the cars and the Big Free Trade Ships was carbon dioxide emissions . . . or if it was sulfur dioxide emissions.

        If somebody knows for sure, it would be nice of them to tell us.

        Reply
  17. Democrita

    My own little report: I work at a publication that gives prizes to bankers. Last night we had an event that we have run for the last 5 years. Normally, we get bankers from all around the world (eg the head of the division winning the award), but this year those that could sent people who work locally and also at a lower level from what we usually get. One CEO decided yesterday morning to send the flack instead. Others people were canceling up to the last minute, and even then a third were no-shows.

    We all agreed that this was the last event for a while. But it was weirdly a nice evening. Yet I would not have gone if I hadn’t had to.

    Reply
  18. Dick Swenson

    I am just finishing Ben Bernanke’s memoir, The Courage to Act.. I found it to be a good read with a single message repeated over and over again. We (the royal we) haven’t a clue as to what to do. Wish us luck.

    He repeatedly pointed out that economists, well paid financial managers, politicians, and all the other economic camp followers don’t have any motive except, “if i lose less than you, then I win.”

    I recommend being a lazy wildebeast. Don’t follow the herd. Sit back, enjoy your favorite ibation, don’t follow the others through the ponds where the crocdiles live or rest where the lions and tigers pick off the weaker animals and enjoy the local grass now that everyone is off running away. Or as they say in the Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy DON’T PANIC.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      be a lazy wildebeest

      Not a good metaphor. Individual herbivores tend to get eaten quite quickly by carnivores. Stay with the herd, there is strength in numbers.

      Reply
  19. Dick Swenson

    I forgot the last comment re the HHGG which is and thanks for all the fish!

    I do hope someone is keeping a diary and will write a memoir about this event. There has to be a message to us all about globalization, the terribly integratd mess in the financial markets, the need for adequate reserves in all credit granting groups i.e., banks and others, the hubris of risk, and all the other issues not treated by classical economics.

    Or will we just see this kind of mess in another 10 years?

    Reply
    1. MLTPB

      Reading about school closing and child care in the other post, I think we add modern living to globalization

      Few multi generational families these days.

      Both parents work, many out of necessity, some (I read) because mothers know now the liberating aspect of being independent, even when there are no financial needs. In these cases, many of those fathers who can afford it dont stay home to keep house.

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I should look it up to be sure, but my memory tells me that ” So long, and thanks for all the fish”. was written by Kurt Vonnegut as the last sentence of his book Sirens Of Titan. But I could be wrong, though.

      Reply
      1. Dick Swenson

        I was concerned, so I did look it up.

        The HHGG came out in many editions and was also on TV in a few different forms. The soures confirmed that the phrase was the title of either the 3rd or 4th volume of the several editonss that came out in individual volumes. There were many differences in the various presentations.

        Being of great age, I’m happy to see that my memory is not completely shot.

        Reply
  20. Prairie Bear

    I flew on one round-trip last year to visit family I hadn’t seen in five years and before that it was, well, five years ago to visit the same ones. I just don’t like travel much anymore, for lots of reasons. Last fall, I decided to book a trip to NYC with my partner for a major event with his family and it is next week.

    So far, coronavirus is, in my mind, a fairly small add-on to my usual mass of shifting OCD anxieties about travel and we are still going. It is a nonstop flight, which helps. One of my fears is getting stuck at some midway point, like a layover airport, when the “Jackpot” happens.* So at least I don’t have to deal with that.

    There is fear of the virus, and then there is the fear of fear, to reference FDR, or panic. Right now it seems like there is more danger of panic. It might be worse than it has been in the past because lots of people don’t seem to trust government, charities, NGOs, etc. very much anymore for some reason. I guess it won’t matter much which fear it is.

    *I just stopped at our local Barnes & Noble yesterday to buy a copy of Peripheral by William Gibson for my takealong trip reading book. That is the one with the “Jackpot,” right? I have seen it referenced here so much that I really wanted to read it. I stopped at the bookstore because I figured there wasn’t enough time to order and get it before we left. That was my first time there in years as well, and it was right before reading the bookstore post.

    Reply
  21. Wellstone’s Ghost

    Wife’s office in downtown Seattle, about twenty employees, just implemented mandatory work from home orders through March 31st. The knock on effects of this are just starting to be seen.
    Small businesses will be going under.

    Reply
  22. ohnoyoucantdothat

    I’m scheduled to make my yearly pilgrimage to Albuquerque from Crimea next Saturday evening. 3 flights over a 36 hour period. Simferopol to Moscow (just under 3 hours) with 12 hour layover then to LAX (12 hour flight) and on to ABQ arriving around midnight on Sunday. No cancellations yet but starting to wonder. Then reverse the sequence in late May. Flights always crammed with extras on standby. Very likely the daily flights between Moscow and LA will be cut to several per week as I think the always full Airbus 330/ Boeing 777 may be now somewhat empty after cancellations. Will be interesting to see if Delta and Aeroflot loosen their stringent weight requirements to keep me happy. They’ve been complete a**holes about this the last few years. I’ll report on my experiences after the trip.

    Reply
  23. Pat K California

    My personal anecdotes are coming fast and furious:

    Was all set to go in to San Francisco to the War Memorial Opera House today to see a ballet. No such luck. Early yesterday evening, the SF mayor issued an edict closing down the opera house AND Davies Symphony Hall for two weeks starting TODAY in an effort to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Can you imagine the bind that put the performing companies in? That’s 12% of a ballet season … up in smoke. Not to mention the effort to warn all of their ticket holders … at the very last moment … not to show up.

    Yesterday evening I had to book airline tickets on Delta to visit my very elderly parents in Detroit in late April. I’d heard that the airlines had been taking a hit in stock prices lately, but I was unprepared for the drop in ticket prices I discovered. Wound up saving almost $250 over what I usually have to pay. Funny, but the planes were filling up pretty good … I couldn’t get what I consider “good” seats on one leg of the trip as they were all taken. Will be interesting to see how many cancellations happen between now and when I travel.

    My brother, who works for Boeing in the Seattle area, has been told to work from home until further notice.

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      1. Pat K California

        Well, I’m not a sports fan … but from what I googled up just now, it sure looked like a lot of NBA and college basketball games were being played throughout the Bay Area today. Interesting though: I ran across an article that said the NCAA had set up an advisory panel to study the coronavirus situation. One suggestion they were considering was to play games in empty stadiums. And I hear Stanford is considering limiting the number of people that can attend its competitions so that “proper social distancing” can be maintained!

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  24. rtah100

    I work in European VC. Just to help test whether the plural of anecdote is data:

    – I had two trips overseas this year, to Scandinavia in early Jan, and then Northern Italy mid-Jan for a fund meeting.
    – I had a couple more weeks in the office but I have been working from home since early Feb, when I shared with the other partners the data out of China and said it rang a three bell fire alarm and declined to attend an Italy meeting in mid-Feb or take the train into London any more.
    – We have since cancelled all non-essential travel and cancelled attending a major VC conference in Berlin. I thought I’d lose the flights but I re-dated them for March and, as hoped, BA just cancelled them and another two return trips to Italy so a full refund is on the way! They must be bleeding cash….
    – Lombardy is about to be locked down, which makes our next fund meeting a videocon, if it happens at all. There’s talk of the UK team doing it together from London but I will lobby for Zoom from our homes. If I have to go to London, I will drive (350 mile round trip) rather than take the train.
    – We are considering pulling the kids out of school tomorrow rather than waiting for the end of term (25th March).

    I compare this to other parents at the school, who have come in with influenza or gone to the Alps skiing and are all still trying to shake hands and I am mystified.

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