Currently, a third of the world’s population is under lockdown, and 93% of people live in countries with coronavirus travel bans, but it seems that hopeful travelers remain undeterred, and are actively planning their next trips.
Right now, flight fares are at an all-time low – not surprising considering that, according to the Transportation Security Administration, which screened a record low of fewer than 100,000 passengers worldwide on Tuesday, air travel is down 95% from the 2.1 million travelers that flew the same weekday last year.
Many people are itching to take advantage of these massive price drops and more flexible change and cancellation policies many airlines have adopted during the pandemic. And some travel experts see no reason not to do so.
It’s important to note, however, that nonessential travel is not recommended at this time and travelers should be prepared for ongoing restrictions as the situation continues. It’s currently unclear how long the effects of the coronavirus will be felt in our everyday lives, but the world could still look very different in a few months or even a year.
Despite the current restrictions, some travel agents and experts are planning future trips
Jeffrey Traugot, a luxury travel advisor in Manhattan who has been in the travel industry for 26 years, just booked his own Jamaican getaway for November.
“I believe people should purchase flights now if they plan on traveling. I just purchased tickets for Jamaica for travel in November because the price is good,” he told Insider, adding that prices fluctuate. Traugot says it’s worth jumping on cheap fares as they might not stay that way.
“If there is somewhere you are planning on traveling to and the price is good now, I suggest purchasing the ticket,” Traugot said.
Peter Vlitas, the senior vice president of airline relations at Travel Leaders Group, a community of luxury, leisure and corporate travel advisors, agrees.
“Every airline around the world has modified their policies and will continue to do so. Now is a great time for anyone thinking of taking a trip this year or next year to purchase affordable tickets,” he said in a statement to Insider.
“I, for one, am definitely booking holidays in September and December before the end of this month,” Andrea Crome, travel agency SN Travel’s head of marketing told Reader’s digest in March. “Many of the big sporting events and carnivals have been moved to October, so with that in mind, October travel onward should, in theory, be fine.”
However, more and more events are being canceled as the pandemic continues. Wimbledon, in fact, was canceled for the first time since World War II.
Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of Embark, a luxury lifestyle and travel planning business, told Forbes he’s advising his clients that “any good buyer knows to buy when a market is weak – as we like to say, ‘Don’t waste this crisis.'”
Richard Kahn, a former travel editor and marketing executive with 50 years of experience in the industry, told Insider that airfare is all about supply and demand.
“When the demand is low, pricing will drop. When the demand increases pricing will go up. And that’s the most normal thing to experience” he said, but he suggests that pricing could shoot up should there be a spike in demand post-pandemic.
Some experts worry that struggling airlines could consolidate; since competition is a key force in driving prices down, less competition could mean higher fares
According to CNN, airline executives expect fewer flights and a decrease in demand for the foreseeable future, which would mean that they would have to employ a smaller workforce, fly certain routes less often to fill up seats, and even ground entire planes. This would mean less capacity, and, in turn, higher prices.
Along those lines, Joshua Greenberg, a travel advisor with Ovation Travel Group, told Reader’s Digest: “It’s definitely worth a look at booking now for the future because once this all ‘lifts,’ the demand is going to outpace supply and [it’s] better to be ahead of that curve.”
Erika Ritcher, the senior director of communications for the American Society of Travel Advisers (ASTA), says that whether to book now or not is a personal decision, but adds that many trips, such as safaris or popular wedding and honeymoon destinations, can take between nine and 12 months of planning.
“There’s very attractive pricing right now and flexibility in booking,” Ritcher said.
Elaine Smith, a travel advisor and head of travel agency E-destinations, advises looking at airline and hotel websites before booking, to check out their current change and cancellation policies.
“I’ve noticed that with some of the airlines, if you’re buying your tickets now for future travel, there is some flexibility in the change fees and the waivers,” she said.
In fact, many airlines have created temporary policies that allow you to book new flights now through certain dates, with the ability to change and cancel them for a full refund for the next year or even more.
Many of the agents Insider spoke with said their businesses were suffering.
But travel agents could make a comeback post-pandemic as people begin to travel again. Those who feel nervous about traveling may choose to book through a travel agent to feel more secure about any changes or cancellations that could impact their plans.
As for upcoming trips, Smith suggests rescheduling rather than canceling those plans altogether will help the industry.
“I’m just really trying to encourage people to postpone their plans rather than cancel because I think it will help the travel industry, and really the world in general, get back on their feet,” she said.
Kahn believes that this pandemic will inspire people to finally go on those big bucket list trips they’ve been planning and putting off for years, now fearing that something like this could come back around and interfere with their travels again.