A lot of vacation plans have been cancelled or put on hold because of the COVID-19 epidemic, which begs the question;
Is now a good time to book a flight or a vacation for 2021?
“A lot of the 2021 deals I’m seeing are excellent. Of course no one knows how the industry is going to be in 2021, but at the same time I would take that gamble and take advantage of some of those sales right now ,” says Barry Choi, a Toronto-based travel expert with Money We Have.
Right now travel agents and airlines are focused on COVID 19 related travel issues.
“At this time the best option for 2021 is to book travel yourself”, says Choi. “But book direct with the big companies rather than a third party. For example Marriott International and the major car rental companies have solid refund options, but a third party might not.”
Choi points out that travel insurance is a must moving forward.
“Obviously it’s important to get travel insurance, but beware some insurance companies aren’t including the coronavirus in their policy. Make sure you find insurance that covers it in the event it’s still a problem in 2021.”
What about booking a flight? Is it even possible to do so at this time?
“It could be months before we’re allowed to fly. Meanwhile a lot of airlines are offering only a credit for COVID-19 related trip cancellations because they need the cash to stay alive,” says Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University.
Dimanche points out that businesses world-wide depend on the airline industry, and it is essential that we get back to flying, not just for the sake of vacations. “Conventions, trade shows, factory supply chains, etc., all of this has been halted.”
At this point the future seems uncertain for the airline industry.
UK airline Flybe announced bankruptcy earlier this month. Norwegian Airlines was close to going bankrupt but it received a small government cash injection to stay afloat. Toronto based Porter Airlines announced a temporary suspension of all flights until June 1st, 2020. The list of struggles continues to grow.
“Airlines make money based on volume of travel, and most airlines operate on a thin margin because of the cost of buying the airplanes, employees, fuel, landing and departure taxes, and so on, so the profits are quite small. If you prevent an airline from generating cash it will go out of business,” says Dimanche. “Many companies are moving their planes to Arizona right now keep them dry. All of this is costing airlines a lot of money.”
Airlines will offer post COVID-19 sales but we’re not there yet.
“The airlines will have to provide an incentive. They will have to provide new marketing strategies to come up with a good reason to travel,” says Dimanche.
“Sales will come but right now the economy and public health are more important.”