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8 considerations for flying smart during COVID-19

As travel restrictions ease and the opportunity to book trips returns, what should travelers consider before heading to the airport?

Cirium has identified eight considerations for flying smart during COVID-19, to help travelers better manage the risk of travel disruption and stay safe when flying during the pandemic.

  1. Check airline change policies for new bookings
    If your flight is canceled, check whether any tickets you are holding are eligible to be used on a new flight with no change fees. Travel waivers have been issued by airlines around the world to cover flight delays and cancelations during the pandemic – but these travel waivers are only available for a limited time. Cirium data shows 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 directly contact their customer care team.
  2. Sign up to real-time flight updates
    Register for notifications for your trip. While passengers are beginning to return to the skies, travel disruption and near-term flight cancelations 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 enables proactive monitoring of updates about your trip, avoiding unnecessary travel to the airport in the event of a last-minute flight delay or cancelation.
  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’ which are beginning to emerge among countries with low infection rates are a good place to start. Also known as air corridors, these bubbles allow travelers to move freely between countries where coronavirus has been contained, thereby mitigating the risk of flight delays and cancelations as a result of travel restrictions.
  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? For how long? 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 traveling.
  5. Pre-book your seat
    Choose your seat before you fly. Of the many things to consider before flying during COVID-19, pre-booking your seat is one of the easiest. 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. 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 traveler confidence, some carriers and hubs are facilitating a mobile-enabled journey, as well as offering self-service and contactless tools minimizing 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 flight delays and cancelations as the air travel industry adjusts to a new way of flying.

If you find our guide on points to consider before flying during COVID-19 helpful, we’d love to hear from you.

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