The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the travel industry for over a year but there is hope in sight. A third vaccine has now been approved by the FDA to be distributed in the U.S. and the country is currently administering over 2 million shots a day. If you’ve been itching to start traveling again once the world reopens, you may want to start looking at booking your post-pandemic trip now.
President Biden stated, “We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May.” While time will tell if this holds true, it’s a good indication that the majority of Americans will be able to get a vaccination by mid-to-late 2021. We’re by no means out of the woods yet, but there are some reasons to be optimistic about travel towards the end of the year. And if you want to take advantage of some incredible deals and flexible change policies, it could be beneficial to book a flight now.
Airfares Are Low
The pandemic sent airfares down to historical lows in 2020 and prices have remained consistently low for several months. For example, upon doing a quick search from a few major cities, I was able to find these incredible deals for travel towards the end of 2021 or early 2022.
Note: These prices were found on March 7, 2021, and are always subject to change.
- Minneapolis to San Diego $157 round-trip, nonstop on Delta
- New York to Santiago, Chile $311 round-trip, nonstop on American
- San Francisco to Lisbon $355 round-trip, nonstop on TAP Air Portugal
These are just a few of the unending flight deals you can currently book — even for peak summer travel. It’s likely that we’ll continue to see great airfare deals throughout 2021, but I’d expect a general rise in prices as demand picks up again.
Related: Can Immunity Passports Really Work for Air Travel?
No Change Fees
Possibly the best reason to lock in that low airfare now is the fact that most of the major airlines are allowing you to change your plans without a fee for new bookings. This even applies to those pesky Basic Economy fares that normally don’t allow any changes once you buy your ticket.
Exact policies vary by airline, but most U.S. carriers are currently offering this perk for all fares purchased by the end of March 2021, regardless of travel date. It’s possible that these policies will extend again for purchases made beyond March, but there is no guarantee. Since several airlines have also made permanent no change fee policies for their standard Economy fares, I would guess that this policy will soon not apply to the lowest available Basic Economy fare class once bookings start to increase.
Prices May Rise
The pent-up demand for travel is very real. Fully vaccinated seniors have been increasingly booking flights since the beginning of 2021. And the airlines are ready to adjust prices once it’s clear that enough people are ready to travel again. In January, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby predicted that leisure travel demand could reach as much as 90 percent of 2019 levels once there is widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines.
This may be a bit optimistic, but other airlines are hopeful of a large increase in demand as well. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the carrier may be able to actually make a profit this summer after a year of net losses. And Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie stated that the airline plans to restore flying to pre-pandemic levels this summer. If the demand truly picks up to the levels these airlines are hoping for, expect prices to rise as the airlines try to recoup the losses incurred during the pandemic.
It’s no question that there are fewer flights in 2021 than there were pre-pandemic. Therefore, the number of available seats to certain destinations will be limited. For example, you used to be able to fly to Iceland nonstop from places like Dallas and Philadelphia. In 2021, the airlines have drastically cut flight schedules to Iceland and you’ll likely have to route through another airport in the Northeast or elsewhere in Europe. This is true for many other international destinations as well.
Flights are far from being sold out at the moment, but once travel restrictions are eased and people start becoming more comfortable booking flights, planes could start to fill up. By booking now, you can almost guarantee a wide-open seat map to choose your favorite seat on the plane.
Related: How to Avoid Paying Airline Seat Fees
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Last, but certainly not least, booking a trip can give you something to look forward to once the pandemic is over. Of course, the world is not going to change overnight, and there is always a chance that you’ll have to reschedule your trip in the future. But, it could give your mental health a boost just knowing you have plans to see something new either later this year or early in 2022.
Travel will likely not be the same as it was before coronavirus for quite some time, but it will come back in some form or another. No one knows exactly when travel restrictions will be lifted, but with the positive news of increasing vaccine distribution, we can hope that sometime this year we’ll start to see a return to normal.