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In this time of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: Post-pandemic travel will look different. Already, we’re seeing significant changes in the way we experience air travel. For example, airlines such as JetBlue are requiring that passengers wear face masks from the moment they check in to when they deplane.
While it’s impossible to know for certain when people will begin flying again, travel advisors and their clients should be ready to adjust to certain changes.
Keeping up with these adjustments to how we will fly is Scott Mayerowitz, executive editorial director of The Points Guy (TPG), a consumer media brand specializing in hands-on travel advice, credit card points and airline reviews. Below, Mayerowitz shares his thoughts about the future of travel and what travelers can expect in the coming months.
What are the biggest changes to policies around air travel, cruising and hotel stays that you see happening post-pandemic? After the pandemic has passed, airlines, hotels and cruises are going to need to work hard to convince travelers that it is safe to take trips with them.
Cleanliness is going to be the central theme. It might be hard to distance travelers from each other, but initially there won’t be a ton of people traveling, anyway. Some airlines are already blocking middle seats unless a flight sells out.
Compared to online travel agencies (OTAs), how do you think travel advisors will come out of this?Many travelers were burned by online travel agencies (OTAs) when they tried to cancel trips because of the coronavirus. We expect more travelers to book directly with airlines and hotels, or use high-end travel agents who are empowered to help travelers out of difficult situations.
We expect more travelers to book directly with airlines and hotels, or use high-end travel agents who are empowered to help travelers out of difficult situations.
Are there any updates to airline ticket change fees that indicate when air travel will ramp up again?Airlines are extending change policies for months, signaling that it could be a long time before travelers begin flying again. The carriers are all trying to encourage people to book by allowing flexible changes throughout most of 2020.
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Should travelers consider purchasing cheap tickets right now?Most of the country is still under orders to stay at home and avoid nonessential travel. Nobody should be racing off to Hawaii.
People can start looking for good deals later in the year, but I would suggest only booking flexible tickets. We don’t know how long travel restrictions will be in place or where the virus might pop up again.
Many travelers have had a hard time getting money back for canceled flights. Do you have advice for those looking to obtain refunds for upcoming flights?Cash-strapped airlines are doing everything possible to offer vouchers instead of cash refunds. Travelers need to know their rights and push the airlines. If your flight touches the U.S. and is canceled, you are entitled to a full refund. If the airline refuses, file a complaint with the Department of Transportation.
Airlines are extending change policies for months, signaling that it could be a long time before travelers begin flying again.
In your opinion, what should travelers should know about travel insurance?Many travel insurance policies won’t cover global pandemics. The best type of policy to get is a “cancel for any reason” one. However, even those policies don’t refund the full amount of the trip.
Travelers need to look carefully at their costs and decide if it’s worth it to purchase an insurance policy. For example, for a big African safari that is nonrefundable, it might be worth it — but it’s probably not worth it for a cheap domestic flight with a hotel that can be canceled within 48 hours of arrival.
How has staying at home changed the way you view your own future travel plans?The longer lockdowns continue, the more appreciative folks will be. I've personally spent seven weeks with my family in our Manhattan apartment. Once we are able to finally travel again, we are going to be looking for places with lots of space and time to relax. We are going to focus on different priorities. There's no need to check off a list of must-see sites. We just want to make good use of our time and recharge.
Read more from TravelAge West about the COVID-19 outbreak.