Booking Flights in the Times of COVID – A few tips
If there’s one thing we have come to count on in Covid times, it’s that the unknowns are numerous...
So numerous that it’s hard to wrap your brain around all the various possible outcomes of any given decision. Recently Jeremy booked a flight from Florence to California and learned a lot of things about the "new normal" in travel! We believe that his hard earned knowledge can help YOU when travel to Europe opens up again or even with bookings in the US.
When it comes to booking an international flight, uncertainty reigns supreme. However, there ARE some measures that can be taken to limit your flight-related problems. Here are some tips to help protect you against a stressful flight-booking experience.
Always book flights directly with an airline (avoid discount or third party sites).
Better yet, book through a trusted travel agent who can advocate for you!
This was a tough one for Jeremy as he's always been one to seek the best deal possible, gravitating towards these aggregator sites. In the past this has worked out fine… except for the times when his flights were cancelled in advance, or when he had to make itinerary changes. The reason is that when a booking is made through a third-party site, any changes to the itinerary can’t be made directly with the airline; they have to be made with the third-party site. In non-Covid times, this can lead to delays and a reduction in the level of customer service. Nowadays, booking directly with the airline may even be the difference between getting a cancelled flight refunded and only being offered a travel voucher.
Also, more levels of communication create more confusion so, in complicated times, better to deal straight with the source or via a travel agent.
Travel agents can book direct and have access to the number of passengers on a flight allowing you to find those which are closer to being full and thus less likely to be cancelled.
We recommend using www.skyscanner.com or www.google.com/flights to do a little research for the best dates and prices for your destination and then booking the same flight directly on the airline’s website or through your travel agent.
Try to limit your flight connections.
Once again, Jeremy has been notoriously known among friends and family for getting great deals on long flights by accepting itineraries with one or more connections. A few years back he scored a flight from Italy to California during a New Year’s Holiday weekend for under $300!
Unfortunately, with every leg you add to a flight, you add one more flight that can be cancelled, putting your whole itinerary at risk in the process. Flights with connections also tend to involve shorter routes which airlines cancel more frequently.
Airlines are struggling due to the COVID travel stoppage causing them to cancel flights that will not make them money. It is best to reduce your exposure to cancellation risk by minimizing the number of legs/flights in your itinerary.
Always book the same air carrier or its partner airlines for the duration of your trip.
Most of the large air carriers are part of global airline alliances such a OneWorld, SkyTeam, StarAlliance, etc. When booking flights to/from any international destination, it's best to book all of your flights on the same carrier the entire way OR booked on partner/alliance airlines. This is the case for several reasons.
- If any individual leg of your itinerary is cancelled - and you are booked on the same airline or a partner airline - it is up to the air carrier to rebook you. If any single leg of your itinerary is with a non-partner carrier, it is up to YOU to figure out how to get a cancelled flight rebooked, and unfortunately, the airlines are not very helpful in helping you figure it out.
- If one of your legs/flights is delayed and you miss your connection, it is up to the airline to get you on the next available flight without additional fees. However, if you've booked a separate leg on a non-partner airline and that delayed flight causes you to miss your connection on another airline, you are mostly out of luck. You may have to pay a fee to rebook on a later flight.
- Finally, it aids in getting your luggage safely to your final destination! When you book on partner airlines, they have what's called "interline agreements" - meaning they agree to move your luggage between different air carriers (for example, from a United flight to a Lufthansa flight). This allows your luggage to be checked all the way through to your destination – ALWAYS a very important question to ask when booking flights with connections on different air carriers. If you book outside of the airline partnership, you may have to collect luggage at your connection city, go back through security, and then re-check your bags for the new airline! No one wants that headache!! That's a recipe for disaster - both losing your luggage and missing your connection. This is where advice from either your Tuscany Tours Trip Advisor or your travel agent will come in handy. Though Tuscany Tours does not book airfare, we are happy to provide routing suggestions and answer questions as best we can.
As the Italians say “armati di santa pazienza” - “Arm yourself with holy patience.”
Be flexible and be ready to adjust your itinerary (maybe even multiple times!) by a few dates or change departure and arrival airports if need be. In the event you receive a cancellation email, call your airline or travel agent immediately and ask what other options you have.
If you are joining one of our small-group tours, we always recommend arriving 1-2 days BEFORE the tour start date. This allows you some breathing room in case of flight delays or cancellations and gives you some time to adjust to the jet lag and to acclimate to the time change so you can be refreshed and raring to go when it's time to meet up with your tour group!
Travel is on its way back, so be ready to travel smart and (hopefully) stress-free in the post-COVID world!
We can't wait to welcome you back to Italy, France or Spain!
Note: We provide information to the best of our knowledge, but we always recommend that you check with your travel agent or airline for any specific questions regarding booking flights.
By: Jeremy & Karen, Trip Advisors - Tuscany Tours