Ask Lonely Planet: 'Will flights cost a lot more after COVID-19?'
The global pandemic has upended global travel, leaving people around the world with endless questions about what comes next. We asked wanderlust-filled readers what they want to know most and called in some expert opinions to answer
How much can we expect the cost of plane tickets to increase by when we can fly again?
According to Stella Penso, Senior Director of Pricing at price comparison website Skyscanner, there will be low fares in the coming months as we emerge out of COVID-19, but we should be prepared to pay more to fly next year.
“In the short term, you can expect discounting of hotel rates and air fares as travel providers focus on recovery and stimulating demand. Hotel occupancy and average daily rates are forecast to remain low and we are already seeing early signs of this approach from some European low cost airlines too. However, it is unlikely that this will be a long term approach as this is not sustainable, particularly for air travel where low oil prices will not last forever.
"We expect longer term the focus to shift towards more value based pricing where flexibility, safety and trust all become part of the value equation. In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, these factors will become increasingly important for travellers. There is also scope for innovation in reward and loyalty programmes. Many learnings for future fares will come from domestic travel recovery first, and new travellers to hotel and car rental segments will help to shape what future trends will look like."
Will we be able to travel to Europe this summer?
Tom Hall, VP of Brand at Lonely Planet says that travel will be possible to some places on the continent in the summer months: “Though the picture is changing fast, summer is shaping up to be a fragmented one with a slow recovery. Borders look likely to reopen in early July across Europe which means a summer season of some kind, but it will be much more limited than usual. Caution and quarantine will decide who goes where with domestic travel and short-distance road trips the probably first outings for many. One unknown is how travellers take to a very different experience of getting from A to B and what it's like when they're there.
It may be that the first visitors to Greece or Croatia find it to their liking and word of mouth spurs others leading to a busier than usual September shoulder season. That said, families who have missed out on holidays during the lockdown period may well spur more demands than is currently expected, especially as COVID-19 will lead to possibly the ultimate late booking market. Of course there are so many questions looking 3-4 months into the future that making more predictions feels foolish.
How safe is it to fly this summer with COVID in the air?
The risk of flying is no greater than a visit to a shopping centre or grocery stores, according to Mayo Clinic trained ENT Dr. Shawn Nasseri.
“Socially distancing can be tough going through security, terminals and on crowded flights, and also it is a high-touch activity in general. Many modern aircrafts use HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air), which remove viruses with a 99.97% efficacy rate. Airlines are stepping up and implementing new policies and precautions to make it as safe and non-contact as possible.”
He has given Lonely Planet some helpful tips to practice to help ensure safety:
- Wipe down your immediate area with sanitizing wipes before settling in. This includes your seat, armrests and tray table.
- Use a wipe or paper towel to open and close high traffic, high touch areas like the overhead compartment, tray tables, restroom doors.
- Stick to carry-ons, as it will go through the least sets of hands/contact.
- Keep purses and other small carry-on bags closed and zipped up as much as possible, as this can be a source of exposure.
- Take a protective vitamin with immune boost- doses of vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals have shown definite improvement in immune response.
- Stay hydrated! Bring a water bottle on the plane because your mucous membranes dry out in flight. Your mucous membranes function much more efficiently and effectively when moist and can better repel any viral or bacterial infection. Think of dry, chapped lips or dry, cracked hands as a barrier vs. moisturized lip and skin as a barrier.
- Bring your own freshly laundered or purchased travel pillow and blanket. Many airlines and carriers are reducing the availability of these items.
- Wash your face and hands with soap for a minimum of twenty seconds after the flight. You can also moisten or rinse your nose with a sterile saline spray in order to maintain a moist protective barrier. Think of this as you are washing away much of what you were exposed to.