As the Covid travel fog lifts

December 14, 2022

It’s difficult to grasp that, soon, three years of unprecedented travel uncertainty will have ticked by.  In December 2019 I was wondering whether 2020 would be the year when RDU got a Delta nonstop to China.  I was just returning from the Kruger National Park in South Africa in early March 2020 when Covid changed everything.  Suddenly, my travel future was an impenetrable fog. 

By early May, RDU airport was virtually closed in the face of almost no demand.  In June, finally, I boarded flights to Montana, but did no international flying until the summer of 2021. Talk of a direct flight from Raleigh to Beijing or Shanghai died instantly.  What had seemed a real and bright possibility in December was an absurd and foolish notion not worth discussing by July.

As this year closes, I’ve been reflecting not only on 2022 but on the past thirty-six long months.  Looking back, I’ve done (to my surprise) a great deal of overseas travel despite the challenges: Back to South Africa three times, taking friends and family each trip; Italy; Slovenia; Croatia; and Dubai.

We’re soon off to Spain and Portugal, with one day in Morocco, with posts along the way. 

Then I will visit old friends in Madison, Wisconsin for a few days in late January.

In February I’ll fly with two more friends to the Kruger National Park and to Cape Town in South Africa once more—with more posts from there. 

My wife and I will spend some time in Thailand beginning in late March after a few days at a fine Japanese hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan. I will certainly report on the flights and how we find both New York City and Thailand in 2023. 

And all that by early April.  Making up for lost time, I guess, made sweeter by taking advantage of short-lived fare deals:  Thank you, Singapore Airlines.  Much appreciated, United.  Danke Schoen, Lufthansa (UA codeshare).

Looking locally, the Raleigh/Durham Airport has sprung back to life with a vengeance.  So crowded was it on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving that traffic was snarled way, way outside the loop road to the two terminals.  In fifty previous Wednesdays before fifty previous Thanksgivings at RDU, I’ve never seen anything like that.

Airfares from RDU are all over the place.  I got a great SkyMiles award travel deal RDU/JFK in March, yet Delta’s ticket prices from Raleigh to most places on most days, particularly overseas, are just stupidly expensive.  Much as I hate United, I’ve been booking UA for international (or their codeshare partners) because the fares from RDU to foreign lands are dramatically cheaper than DL in Premium Economy and Economy.  Not so to domestic destinations via UA. 

I’ve also compared American Airlines fares to places both here and abroad, but I can’t find fares and schedules that are competitive.  Besides this, my measly one million AAdvantage miles no longer imbues me with sufficient elite benefits to induce me to buy an AA itinerary.  I’m always seated in the back of beyond on American and boarded fifth or sixth after paying more than I would have on Delta, which automatically upgrades me.

New service abounds at RDU, as I’ve previously commented.  Avelo and Breeze are nibbling at the big carriers’ market share the way jackals make a good living snatching morsels from lion kills on the African plains.  I have yet to fly either carrier, but my cousin reports after using Breeze to SFO last week that its “Nicest” class (like domestic first class) was comfortable, cheap, and friendly. I look forward to trying both new airlines next year.

Despite the astonishing rebound in flying, there is no longer even a dream of a nonstop RDU/China flight.  Xi has effectively declared China off-limits to leisure and most business travelers to the point that even St. Petersburg may be a more enticing destination. Although last I heard, Raleigh/Durham has no plans for a direct connection to Russia.

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