6 Methods Flying Will Be Very Completely different This Vacation Season
The 2020 holiday season is drawing near, a time when millions of Americans typically travel on vacation. This year is very different, however, as non-essential travel is strongly discouraged due to the risk of transmission of Covid-19.
The virus has also rocked the travel industry to the core with mass layoffs and major changes to flight policies. As a result, the experience with airports and airlines has changed significantly – but how?
Flying this year may feel a bit risky, but after a tumultuous 2020, you might find yourself visiting loved ones this year. If you find that flying is right for you, here’s what to expect at the airport and on your flight.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 1: A United Airlines employee works in a check-in area in Los … [+]
1. Flight costs are lower than last year’s holiday season
According to CheapAir.com, which analyzes flight prices during the holiday season, vacation flight prices are down 25% in 2020 compared to 2019. Far fewer Americans are flying in the sky in 2020. In September, TSA’s passenger numbers were 67% lower than in 2019. Because of this sharp drop, airlines are reluctant to increase ticket costs to attract passengers.
With airlines currently operating fewer flights, it is possible that popular vacation flights are close to or at full capacity. If you want to fly during this holiday season, it is best to book your flights ASAP for the best deal and a seat that you are comfortable with.
2. You will find reduced flight options
Airports will have much less air traffic this year as airlines have drastically reduced their fleets due to the pandemic. The three major airlines American Airlines, Delta and United have parked or retired hundreds of planes.
This affects vacation travel as fewer planes mean fewer flights. Considering that some airlines block middle seats, it can be difficult to find an itinerary and seat that is right for you. To counteract this, try to book your flight as early as possible so that you have enough flight options to choose from.
3. Beware of affected travel plans
If you fly regularly during the holiday season, you have likely experienced a delayed or canceled flight. Last year 1,834 flights were canceled due to extreme weather in November and 3,452 in December. If winter weather wreaks havoc at major hubs like New York City and Chicago, swarms of travelers could potentially be stranded due to less available flights and social distancing protocols.
While you usually choose “no” when asked if you would like travel insurance for your flight, you may want to reconsider this year. If your flight is delayed or canceled during your vacation trip, good travel insurance can cover the costs incurred, such as the cost of a new flight, hotel accommodation and meals.
4. Hungry? You may find limited concessions
Make sure you arrive at the airport with snacks in hand or a full stomach this holiday season.
Covid-19 restrictions and significantly fewer flights have resulted in closed airport restaurants and cafes. According to restaurant opening information released Oct. 6 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), of a total of 106 restaurants, only 30 are fully functional, with 13 partially open and 63 closed.
The airlines have also restricted their in-flight dining options. Many have moved from cooked meals to prepackaged meals and snack packs. Several airlines, including Alaska Airlines and Delta, have suspended service on short-haul flights.
5. Airport lounges remain largely closed
Airport lounges are a staple for frequent flyers and those with airline credit cards to enjoy a meal and a comfortable seat before their flights. Many airport lounges are closed to offset the dramatic drop in leaflets and reduce the transmission of Covid-19.
When a lounge is open, many functions are either minimized or eliminated, including showers, naps, and massages. American Express has started reopening its high-profile Centurion lounges at several airports, but has replaced shower and nap pods with an alternative option or closed them until further notice.
If you want to visit an airport lounge, check in advance that it is open. If it is an airline-related lounge, contact the airline directly. If it’s not an airline, use LoungeBuddy as a resource to see if it’s closed.
6. PPE and social distancing
Airlines have uniformly strict guidelines for personal protective equipment (PPE), but guidelines for social distancing vary.
The majority of airlines and airports have policies that require passengers to wear face masks while traveling. Most passengers abide by the regulations, while some have been removed from planes and banned indefinitely for refusal.
Social distancing guidelines vary by airline. Delta and Southwest block the center seats throughout the aircraft, while United and American don’t. Many have adjusted their boarding orders to board the board from the back to the front to minimize contact. And several instruct passengers to remain seated on departure to avoid overcrowding the sidewalk.
If you want to fly, make sure you have a mask or face covering that covers your nose and mouth. Apart from eating or drinking, your mask must be on throughout the flight if your airline requires it.