Air travel remains down nearly 48% (when compared to last year’s numbers) as COVID-19 maintains its trek around the globe. Travel restrictions, safety issues and fear continue to keep the majority of travelers out of the skies. According to industry advocacy group Airlines for America, business travel accounts for up to 70% of industry sales. And since many CEOs — like Delta’s — warn that normal corporate travel might not resume for 18 months or more, it’s likely that air travel as a whole will remain depressed for years to come; many would-be travelers believe the risks are still too great to chance possible exposure to a virus with no viable vaccine yet available. But if you find yourself needing to book a seat either for business or for pleasure, here are five things you need to consider:
Before booking a flight, consider your health. Are you healthy enough to withstand possible exposure to COVID-19 and is there any chance you have already been exposed and might be a threat to your fellow travelers? Answering both questions honestly will help you avoid putting yourself and others in danger unnecessarily; stay home if you’re immunocompromised in any way or have symptoms of a contagious disease.
Pre-boarding and Boarding Procedures Have Changed
Don’t book a flight and think the experience is going to be like previous ones. Just as after 9/11, aviation policies and procedures have dramatically changed. All carriers are disinfecting their aircrafts between flights and requiring that passengers and crew wear face coverings while onboard, but other restrictions are airline-specific, making it hard to anticipate all necessary travel requirements without first doing a bit of research. You will want to take the time to examine the policies and procedures of the airline you choose to ensure that you are complying with any new travel regulations and have adequate time for boarding. Many airlines, for instance, have changed their boarding procedures to better follow social distancing mandates, onboarding via seat numbers and rows rather than boarding groups. This would certainly make it necessary for you to arrive at your gate earlier than you might have otherwise expected.
Flying Private Could Be An Option
According to CNBC, “prices for certain [private] flights are now 30% to 50% cheaper than they were a year ago.” With the passage of the CARES Act, the U.S. government suspended a 7.5%. federal excise tax on air transportation. This piece of legislation, coupled with intensified interest from passengers who want to avoid crowded airports and planes for safety reasons, mean many private jet companies have extra cash on hand to offer discounts to potential clients in order to remain competitive within the private air industry. Thus, taking a private jet to Atlanta or Los Angeles could be as affordable as a commercial one and a whole lot safer since you avoid long lines, crowded airports and hundreds of seatmates.
Amenities Will Be Different
Because of heightened safety measures and mask mandates, many airlines no longer serve food and limit drink service during flights. For longer flights, this could mean you arrive at your destination hungrier and thirstier than you’d like. Furthermore, inflight entertainment and shopping options could also be limited as attendants avoid sharing blankets, earbuds and forms in order to minimize the number of interactions with passengers. Similarly, you could see reduced services in the airport itself before and after your flight, making it harder for you to plan your trip, including your meals and transportation, both before and upon arrival to your destination.
The bottom line: if you have to fly during the pandemic, a little research will help you choose the safest and most affordable option!