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I’m Still Planning & Booking Travel In The Time Of Covid-19

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Just like a lot of people reading this post, I’ve had a number of trips cancelled thanks to the current pandemic and I expect to see some of my trips planned for July and August to be badly affected too, but that’s not stopping me planning for the future. 2020 may end up being a year in which I don’t get to travel very much at all but I have higher hopes for 2021.

I’ve had quite a few readers emailing in and asking when I think it will be safe to travel and if they should be booking flights for [insert a month of your choice], but the truth is that I have no more insight into any of this than you guys do. I don’t know when (or if) a vaccine will be available and I don’t know when we can expect most people to have built up some degree of immunity to Covid-19 so it’s impossible for me to say when travel will be truly “safe” again. What I can share is what I’m doing and how I’m approaching my future travel plans.

While the current health crisis and the safety issues it causes are clearly key factors when it comes to my travel planning, they’re far from being my only consideration. Economics, practicality, and quite a few assumptions come into play too.

Factors Key To My Travel Plans

  1. I’m assuming that 2020 is going to remain a troubled time for the travel industry and the world as a whole.
  2. I’m assuming that most travel restrictions that are currently in place (non-nationals banned from select countries, quarantine periods, etc…) will have been removed by 2021.
  3. I’m not making any reservations with airlines with whom I have existing bookings that I may have to cancel.
  4. I’m avoiding airlines that aren’t very obviously being backed by their home government.
  5. I’m not planning any trips to destinations that I think may be in denial over the severity of this crisis or that I think may be poorly equipped to keep people safe.
  6. I’m only considering Premium Cabin bookings for long-haul flights.

What This All Means

2020 or 2021?

Since this crisis first began I have made just one new flight booking for 2020 and that was a flight to get me home to LA in late December (I’m currently weathering the storm in the UK) and I have no plans to make any more bookings for travel this year. I already have trips booked for October and November (trips booked well before Covid-19 was something most people knew about) so, as I’m not at all convinced that travel will be a good idea before 2021, I’m not comfortable making any more bookings for 2020.

I have no evidence to suggest that travel in 2021 will be any safer than it is in 2020 but because I’d probably go a little crazy if I didn’t have some kind of target date for when the world will start to return to a semblance of normality, I have chosen to use the end of the year as a cut-off point. Essentially: 2020 bad, 2021 better.

Avoiding Airlines With Whom I Have Existing Bookings

I have a number of bookings for July and August made through American Airlines and British Airways and because I think that there’s a chance that these trips won’t be cancelled by the airlines I’m booked to fly, and because I think there’s a chance that I may have to cancel these bookings myself, I’m not making any more bookings with either AA or BA.

If I have to cancel these trips I’ll have to accept a voucher for future travel from American Airlines and from British Airways (refunds are only available if it’s the airline that does the canceling) so I don’t want to spend any more money with either airline right now if, in a couple of months’ time, there’s a chance I’m going to be left holding travel vouchers that I need to use up.

Avoiding The Less Secure Airlines

This is probably a very obvious thing to say but I’ll say it anyway for the sake of completeness – I’m not considering making any travel bookings that include airlines like Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic or any of the smaller carriers around the world. Avianca’s recent application for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US is almost certainly only the start of a series of measures that we’ll see various airlines taking as the crisis continues to bite. Some airlines will come through this and will continue to fly while others won’t be so lucky so, as I have little interest in being an unsecured creditor of an airline that’s going under, I’m avoiding making any plans with carriers that aren’t very obviously going to be supported by their home governments.

Avoiding Select Destinations

Allow me to be very clear on one point before I go any further: I have no idea which destinations will or will not be safe to travel to in 2021 so I’m just trying to make a few educated guesses and considering where I would feel most comfortable visiting as we emerge from lock-down.

As things stand, I’m not considering travel to any of the South American countries (I’m not convinced that most are even close to getting things under control) or to countries like China and Russia who have very obviously been less than truthful with the world and their own populations about the severity of the crisis they’re facing. I’m a lot more likely to consider travel to countries that have taken a noticeably hard stance when it comes to trying to halt the spread of Covid-19 rather than countries that have appeared to take a more laissez-faire approach to the crisis.

Premium Cabin Bookings

If I’m going to be spending any significant period of time in the confines of an aircraft, I want to give myself the best chance of having control over my immediate environment and the best chance of putting some distance between me and the nearest other passenger. This means avoiding Economy Class and Premium Economy bookings and avoiding Business Class bookings where I cannot secure a single seat on one side of the aircraft.

While I won’t be able to control what’s floating around in the air circulating through the cabin, a solo Business Class seat (like you’ll find on wide-body aircraft operated by American Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, etc…) offers one of the best chances to observe “social distancing” on an aircraft so, although it’s hardly a perfect solution to staying healthy, a nice wide Business Class seat should help mitigate some of the risks that are likely to be prevalent in the more crowded cabins.

My Plans

My plans are currently centering around the assumption that I may remain based in the UK for longer than I normally would, so the trips I have booked or am planning to book all originate in Europe.

Apart from my trip home for Christmas, I have a further trip between Europe and Los Angeles booked for February 2021 (Business Class and flying with Air France) and I have two short trips booked for travel to the Mediterranean as I seek some much-needed sun during the Northern Hemisphere winter.

I’m in the middle of planning a trip to Australia for March/April 2021 (hopefully with Etihad) and I’m considering booking one of the tier point runs I recently wrote about for a bit of fun in late April 2021 (I’m waiting for flights to become available later this month and hoping that the fares will still be available). I’m also on the lookout for great Qatar Airways Business Class fares to Siem Reap or Hanoi for early 2021, but the roundtrip fares would have to be genuinely great (i.e $1,500 or below) for me to be tempted to book right now (Cambodia and Vietnam appear to have tackled the current crisis better than a lot of countries but things can change very quickly so I’m in no rush to book a fare that’s just “good”).

Bottom Line

I don’t know when it will be “safe” to travel again but I have chosen to set the beginning of 2021 as the start point for any new flight bookings I make. I’m being considerably more cautious than I am normally when it comes to the airlines I’m comfortable flying with and the destinations I’m happy to visit but none of this is stopping me from making plans and from looking forward to flying again.

Roll on 2021! 🙂

Are you planning future travel? If you are, when is it for and what are your primary considerations?

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  1. I’m currently – right now- flying every week in the United States. I’m also very much enjoying the experience. Staying at small hotels, and B&Bs, that desperately need the business. They are so thankful to me and the guests spending money.

    Have had four international trips canceled, Peru, Russia, Fiji, and Iceland. That said, I’ve got new travel this year, for almost every week, I am currently traveling now, and today or tomorrow I will book another 5 to 10 flights around the US for June and July.

    I booked New international travel for August, and September. And If Russia is open, I’ll do a trip there in July.

    then I’ve got new international trips just booked for October, November, and December 2020.

    I have yet to see anyone give a good reason to stop traveling, and the more I travel the more I see how vital it is to so many people.

    I’m certainly glad I’m doing it still, and I’m heartened also that each week tens of thousands more people get back on the planes and traveling like they used to.

    So, from someone who is traveling right now. And has been traveling every week since January, not only is it very safe, I’m having an amazing time.

  2. Given that we just don’t know when or where travel will open up, I’ve just decided to keep booking fully refundable award trips that have no cancellation fees, as I usually would, hoping that I’ll have award flights in place once travel is possible again. I’m somewhat doubtful, however, that I’ll actually be able to take the trips that I’ve booked over the next 11 months to New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

  3. I second other commenters that I feel safe with international travel right now. Since I am currently stuck in Istanbul (after leaving Beijing in FEBRUARY), I was looking at Iceland in mid June, hopefully NYC (essential travel to visit family) in July, and then Central Europe by late July. I had to cancel trips to Jeju and Greece for June already. Otherwise, looking at fall at the earliest for non-essential travel outside of Europe.

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