The rise of COVID-19 across the globe has caused major disruptions to the travel industry. Hotels, Cruises, Resorts, and Tour Companies are feeling dramatic effects to their bottom line. The unilateral cancellations of most major sporting events and conferences have rattled communities that were prepared to handle thousands of visitors. This is normally a time where the travel industry is booming, instead most hotels are well below their capacity, restaurants and bars are closed, and most major attractions remain shuttered as the world deals with a terrible pandemic.
Along with the rest of the travel world, the lifeblood of the industry, airlines are also being impacted mightily. We all hope that the impact of COVID-19 will dissipate in the near term, but I know that the effects of the virus will linger in the airlines and travel industry in general for many months and maybe years to come. If the economic impact of this pandemic is as far reaching as some are predicting then people may be reluctant to spend their earnings on non essentials such as travel.
The airlines are preparing for what will certainly be a significant reduction in passenger traffic over the coming months. Most major US airlines have already reduced their schedules significantly for domestic travel. We can expect international flight availability cut by around 80% by US airlines. There will be less flights, fewer seats, and airline layoffs in the weeks to come.
Airlines will be doing everything that they can possibly do to survive on the limited amount of revenues they will be generating, and that will impact travelers as well. If you will be traveling in the next two months then you will want to pay close attention to what the airlines are doing. You may have schedule changes that impact your schedule, and I would be prepared for limited services, long lines, and a possible rise in delays and cancellations as the airlines may have limited staffing available to service and operate aircraft.
Considering the probable impact to airline passengers over the next few months, anyone traveling on an airline should make sure to be well prepared for interruptions.
Steps to Take for Successful Airline Travel
**- Periodically monitor your reservation for changes. **Airlines may make adjustments to their flight schedules, even after taking reservations, you will want to confirm that your scheduled flight is still operating before showing up to the airport. If the airline does make a change that impacts your schedule then they will allow you to make adjustments without extra fees.
- Book Early Flights. Delays and cancellations are more prevalent in the afternoons and evenings, leaving affected passengers few options. If you end up delayed or canceled on a morning flight then you will typically have more flight options available to you to get where you need to be.
- Plan to Carry On. I always recommend that travelers avoid checking bags whenever possible. Traveling without checked bags saves time and can allow you to be more flexible with flight changes.
- Check In Online and Arrive Early. There may be limited airline staff available to assist with the check in process. This could lead to long lines at the counters. Use an airline APP to get boarding passes to avoid the lines. TSA checkpoints may also be swamped as we may also see a cut in TSA agents at airport security checkpoints.
**- Give Yourself Options. **It's important to have a backup plan in a case where you have been delayed, canceled, or missed a connecting flight. Consider alternate airports to fly into that may be close to your destination. If you miss a flight, the airline may not have flights to your destination available on the same day, you could even have no options for several days to some destinations.
I expect a couple of tumultuous months for the airlines as we recover from the devastating effects of the Coronavirus. Travelers should be prepared for difficult travel conditions. Thankfully, we will still be able to fly, and in time we will be back to normal travel conditions with an abundance of flight options.
The good new for those of us who can't wait to get back to globetrotting is there will be some great travel deals available! Once the health authorities make it clear that air travel is once again safe we will see some cheap airfares and amazing hotel deals around the world as travel companies will be eager to fill their planes and rooms as soon as possible.
Until that time comes we will have to wait for the impact of this disease to be limited. I hope everyone is staying safe, and I look forward to a robust travel schedule as soon as I can get back on a plane!
All images are from my personal collection and were taken by me.