As travel restrictions begin to ease, travellers up and down the country are easer to book their next trip… but with new health and safety measures in place across the travel sector, what should you keep in mind before heading to the airport?
1. Check airline change policies for new bookings
If your flight is cancelled, check whether any tickets you’re holding are eligible to be used on a new flight with no change fees. Policy exceptions have been issued by airlines around the world to cover trips disrupted by the pandemic, but these waivers are only available for a limited time. Cirium data shows that by July 31, 2020, half of the special change fee exceptions created in March will have expired globally.
Many airlines are offering a self-serve process to rebook or refund a reservation online. If you have a new trip you want to book, it’s best to call your travel agent, or the airline and give them your old reservation information to be changed for your new trip. If the airline hasn’t posted a full list of travel waiver exceptions on their website, you’ll need to contact their customer care team directly.
2. Sign up to real-time flight updates
Register for notifications about your trip. While passengers are beginning to return to the skies, flight disruption and near-term cancellations are likely to continue as the travel industry adjusts to the ‘new normal’. As airlines ramp up their services after a period of hibernation, the best way to stay one step ahead is to sign up to real-time flight updates. Cirium’s web and mobile app, FlightStats is one example of a service that can enable you to proactively monitor updates about your trip, avoiding unnecessary travel to the airport in the event of last minute changes.
3. Look at emerging travel bubbles and air corridors
Consider destinations based on their speed of recovery. If you’re wondering where to travel and how to do so responsibly during COVID-19, so-called ‘travel bubbles’ beginning to emerge among countries with low infection rates are a good place to start.
4. Know your destination
Do your homework. Above all, you have to know your destination before booking a trip. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I need to quarantine when I get there? How long for? Is the advice likely to change? And how could that affect my flights or return from the country? If you don’t know the answers, don’t book. Remember to check the advice of your government and be aware of the risks before travelling.
5. Pre-book your seat
Choose your seat before you fly. Respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 spread via person-to-person contact and through airborne water droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. Research shows that passengers sitting in window seats may be the least likely to come into contact with a virus if there’s an infectious person onboard. Meanwhile middle and aisle seat passengers are more likely to be exposed due to frequent use of overhead bins, proximity to the aisle and lavatory use in flight.
6. Choose business class
Upgrade your travel experience. Business class flights offer additional personal space and enhanced privacy. On short-haul routes the middle seat is often blocked off, while many airlines offer fully lie-flat beds and enhanced personal protection on long-haul routes – especially if suites are equipped with doors to the aisle. What’s more, airlines are offering extremely competitive business class deals to encourage people to start booking again. If your chosen flight doesn’t offer business class, you might be able to find it on a slightly different route with a similar flight time.
7. Look at airline health & safety protocols
COVID-19 has changed the way we travel forever. So it’s important to find out what health and safety protocols airlines and airports are putting in place to make your travel experience safer and more seamless. As the industry seeks to reassure passengers and restore traveller confidence, some carriers and hubs are facilitating a mobile-enabled journey, as well as offering self-service and contactless tools that minimise person-to-person contact during your trip.
8. Be patient
Practice patience in the new normal. Many flights historically known for being on time are currently being affected by the additional time needed for health and safety processes, including aircraft cleaning, passenger screening and social distancing. Cirium’s live view of travel disruption shows the percentage of flights that are on time at the world’s major airports – expect to see a higher number of delays and cancellations as the air travel industry adjusts to a new way of flying.