I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my last trip to the South Pacific. This craziness started right after I came back from that trip. Then the pandemic began just right after I moved into my new house, and we all have been working from home since.
Besides not being able to travel, I’m doing ok. I wouldn’t mind staying home as much as needed. While it would be nice to enjoy summer weather outside, I’d do anything it takes to keep safe for myself and the community — that is to social distance, wear a mask, and stay home.
In the past months, travels start to recover slowly. We’ve seen more countries start reopening their borders, with restrictions, of course. What’s really tempting is amazingly cheap airfares. But as tempting as it is, there are several reasons why I am hesitant to book my next trip.
Let’s go through them one by one.
COVID-19 cases in the United States are terrible. But it is not at all surprising given how poorly the administration handles the pandemic. Because of that, most countries do not want any visitors from the United States — we are not welcomed, and I don’t blame them for not wanting us. We have the most COVID cases and COVID deaths in any country at the moment.
Technically, I could travel domestically, but it doesn’t excite me at all. I’d rather stay at home.
Some countries are actually started reopening their borders for tourism. Still, some restrictions, such as mandatory quarantine or a negative COVID test result, are valid for x number of hours.
For me, I wouldn’t mind getting tested, but the problem is, I don’t even know where to get tested, or what type of test I should get. Not to mention, some COVID tests take days to get the result back.
Consider this scenario. Let’s say I get tested before my outbound flight, and everything is good to go. I can board the plane and fly. How about the inbound flight? Let’s say I’m visiting Serbia for a week. How am I supposed to know where and how to get a COVID test in Belgrade, before my return flight? Most airlines do require a negative COVID test before you fly.
It’s such a complicated process, and frankly, I’m not sure if it’s worth the hassle. What’s worst is that if you contracted COVID while traveling abroad — so think about it.
More and more airlines have made adjustments to their in-flight service and catering. As you know, I’m a big fan of Turkish Airlines. What stands out is their in-flight catering by Do&Co — one of the best in the industry. However, they currently only serve a packaged cold meal in business class for flights over 2 hours, including long haul flights — why would I even bother flying with them? Though some airlines like Qatar Airways still maintain their meal service, so that might be an option.
I love cheap fares — who doesn’t? But that usually involves positioning and having multiple separate tickets for the trip. Today, it’s virtually impossible to do so since travel restrictions are in place in many countries. Forget about transit without visa (TWOV) because most airports that still allow transit passengers require you to have all your flight segments in a single booking.
Many airlines now offer the “No Change Fee” option on non-refundable tickets. It looks good on paper, but read the fine print before buying and remember:
- No change fee doesn’t mean you can cancel the ticket and get a refund. It means that you can change the date free of charge. But most the time, when the same fare class isn’t available, you’ll likely have to pay the fare difference. For example, say you were booked in “Q” fare and paid $100. You want to change the ticket to a later date, but the only available inventory on the new date is “Y” fare, and it costs $1,200. That means you don’t get penalized for changing the ticket, but you need to pay $1,100 in fare difference.
- Similarly, once you booked a ticket and paid, you won’t get a cash refund should you wish to cancel the ticket. Some airlines may allow you to cancel the ticket and give you a travel voucher, but you won’t get your money back.
- Airlines are supposedly obligated to refund your money if they cancel the flight. Most people won’t read the contract of carriage. Even so, airlines will find loopholes in their contract and update their term and condition in a way, so they don’t have to refund you the money, even if they cancel the flight.
- From what I’ve observed, airlines won’t cancel the flight ahead of time, even if they intend to cancel it. What they do is they zero out the inventory so that it’s not bookable anymore, but they won’t cancel the flight until days before, or even until you show up at the airport. The reason is simple – they can keep your money as long as they can. But even after they finally cancel your flight, it can take months to give your money back, and sometimes you still have to fight for it.
Cash is King
Cash is king. I wouldn’t tentatively book a future trip unless I know for sure I will make it. It is not surprising given the unprecedented time we live in, and airlines are financially troubled. But at the same time, I have no sympathy for them because they would charge you arms and legs for changing your ticket in good days, even if it’s an honest mistake at booking.
As much as I miss traveling, it looks like I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. I am considering a few places to visit, such as Serbia, Morocco, and Turkey, but it’s still up in the air. I know Serbia and Turkey are both open, and Morocco plans to reopen their border sometime soon. I guess I have to wait and see.