When to Rebook your Covid-19 Ticket?

Summary

For most people, AirTreks recommends to wait to rebook most international travel (Many reasons – see below)

For adventurous, non-time constrained travelers, go for it.  Be prepared for many cancellations, delays, quarantines.

Unfortunately, our friends at the airlines, will sell you tickets and tell you “all systems go” and take your money even though they have little certainty if they can deliver on the product.

The last thing we want to be saying to the people who were not able to travel as planned in 2020… we don’t think time constrained or tense travelers try to take or rebook an international or complex multi-stop trip for a while. 

Your Flight is Cancelled/Changed 

We are seeing record-breaking numbers for flight cancelations and percentage of flights operating. United is currently operating at just 33% of their normal volume, and Qantas has stopped 100% of international flights until “at least the end of October”. This is “the largest grounding of commercial aircraft ever”, as airplane storage facilities fill in the deserts of Arizona, Australia, and Spain. The International Association of Travel Agencies predicts that the airfare industry will not return to 2019 levels until 2024. 

Can you go there?

Travel restrictions are in place, and they are changing. It’s challenging to get reliable entry requirements information for booking flights more than a few days in advance. Some areas of the world are more accessible than others. A few countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Chile, and Argentina are totally closed. Others, like French Polynesia, Mexico, and the Caribbean are encouraging travel.  The European Union is gradually opening, but based on their criteria for relaxing restrictions, we should not expect US travelers to be able to visit until the country has a better control of the virus. The Points Guy has a pretty good re-opening guide that is updated often as well as our friends at Skift

So, flights MAY be operating, but it’s hard to know if you can enter your destination country. Restrictions can and often will be changed at the last moment. Quarantine may be required. Complex multi-stop travel on the scale we have been planning for the last 33 years is exponentially more complex. 

People are still traveling.

Some countries are open, others plan to open soon. It’s unclear how requirements will change when they do. It’s unclear if plans will change. This is the perfect time to travel if you have a lot of flexibility and are comfortable with uncertainty. There are numerous facebook groups like this one dedicated to sharing tips and swapping stories/experiences of crossing borders during this time. 

If you want to go now, here are two ideas: 

  1. Take a short trip to a vacation destination like Mexico, Caribbean, Tahiti.  These areas of the world are really wanting to see their tourism dollars flow back in, so a week or two or more! on the Mayan Riviera or in Bora Bora is a lot less expensive than in normal times. If you have limited time and are comfortable with the viral risk, this might be just the break you need. 
  1. Take a longer trip to fewer destinations. This gives you more options on where to go because if you are staying for a while, a 14 day quarantine won’t eat up your whole trip. This is a great option if you are able to work remotely right now, like much of the world. Why not do it from Croatia? We recommend a slower approach and a buy-as-you-go strategy for securing your flights. Instead of booking a multi-city trip, buy one or two legs at a time as your plans evolve. This is usually more costly than booking all of your flights together, but it’s the best advice we can give you to reduce flight cancelations and extra flying stress  if you want to hit the road right now. 

What if you don’t want to travel now, but you want to get ready for travel next year? Many of the people who had to cancel their 2020 trips are wondering if they can rebook now for travel in 2021. Our answer is yes, AND we still recommend waiting, just because things can and are changing.

This has always been the case, but we expect major changes to airlines routes and schedules as the pandemic continues to unfold and as the industry recovers/ changes as a result.  Not all airlines have enough cash to process refunds right now. This makes it less certain they will be able to operate in the future. We can see mergers, route cancelations, flights operating less frequently… it just doesn’t make sense to rebook now with the high likelihood that you will need to adjust some aspect of your reservations later. 

We are planning to continue to see major changes in the airline space. This is an industry which has weathered a few major storms in the last 20 years, from 9/11 to the 2008 financial crisis. The 2020 Pandemic is worse, by a lot.  Airlines, travel agencies, tour operators and all concerned are going to need to adapt or die if they haven’t already.  

We see a lot of cognitive dissonance in the travel industry right now that things are going to get “back to normal”.   AirTreks disagrees that it ever will. Nothing goes back to normal as the world is in a constant state of change.

This feels like an opportunity to rebuild travel as we know it. Make it more sustainable. Make it more meaningful and less commoditized. Make it more digital and accessible for people to get out there to experience the world.  We want to challenge ourselves and fellow travelers to be the leaders in shaping how the world travels in the future.

What would you do, if you could rebuild the way the world flies? 

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