Opinion: Travel shaming is here — and it’s going to be a problem

Each week in his column “The Critical Points,” TPG Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr presents his opinion on a loyalty program, card product or recent news that he believes is overlooked, unsung or the result of groupthink taking mass opinion in a direction with which he doesn’t agree. His goal is not necessarily to convince you to agree with his position but rather to induce critical thought for each of the topics and positions he covers.

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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

After a period of steep decline, we finally saw a tiny uptick in the number of passengers going through TSA security checkpoints over the last couple of weeks. 171,000 passed through on May 1 — roughly double the low point of 87,000 on April 14. Nevertheless, this still represents just 6% of passengers compared to the same date a year prior — a minuscule amount that clearly shows the lack of travel demand.

That said, it does feel like there’s an upswing in TPG readers wading into future travel bookings, and a few airlines have even noted an increase in searches for 2021.

To be clear … no, it isn’t time to travel yet. TPG CEO Brian Kelly made his thoughts clear this week, and all our editorial coverage — except for one, unavoidable airplane trip — has been focused on a time (not yet known) when travel is safe again. I have one speculative flight booked for October and no other travel plans.

Multiple posts across the TPG Facebook groups have readers asking for advice on future travel booking and, in a few cases, advice for an upcoming plane trip that is unavoidable. So far, when someone asks about future travel or makes it clear they must travel, we’re seeing a common — and unfortunate — trend. Within the first few comments, the inevitable travel-shaming starts.

Sadly, I think this shaming is going to be a problem to the travel industry and the traveler for months to come.

The Traveler vs. The Shamer

At some point in the future, a sizable portion of the U.S. will weigh the risks and decide they are comfortable traveling again. At the same time, there will be an equally-large portion of the population who are not willing to risk travel, and it’s this latter group that will carry a loud voice against those who venture on to planes and into hotels.

Instagram posts of travelers will be filled with disdain and ridicule. Those who do travel might avoid social media entirely when they are on the road for fear of abuse. Direct and private messages along with emails to travelers will be full of vitriol from those who aren’t traveling. I fear the keyboard warriors will be relentless in their attacks on those they deem are undertaking risky behavior. A simple scan of a headline — without reading the full text of an article — will spur the shamer into action.

We’ve already seen that the era of the traveler vs. the shamer is here. It’s just at an insignificant level that’s just a precursor to what’s coming.

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