Cheap flights abound due to COVID-19

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Anyone who has recently checked flight prices online may be shocked at what they see.

Here are some examples of Halloween weekend getaways from Google Flights, as seen on the site Monday, for flights departing Thursday October 28 and returning Sunday November 1.

  • Los Angeles to Chicago: $ 125 round trip on United Airlines
  • Minneapolis to Orlando, Florida: $ 147 roundtrip on Sun Country Airlines
  • Cleveland to Miami: $ 150 round trip on American Airlines
  • Seattle to Denver: $ 107 return on Delta Air Lines

It’s not just these dates or this platform. Choose any one.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some air fares appear so low that they appear to have been published in error by airlines. Yet glaring good deals can also be seen as a cruel irony: relatively few customers will dare to take advantage of low fares for fear of contracting COVID-19 while traveling, a risk for which there does not yet seem to be general agreement.

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For those who are willing to take a chance, however, these can be one-off offers.

Normal airline pricing mechanisms have been shattered by the travel crater. Planes have averaged about a third full in recent weeks, and carriers have lost about $ 5 billion a month, according to their trade group, Airlines for America. Airlines have responded by drastically cutting prices to fill the seats.

Even at these levels, many travelers don’t bite, especially when some of the biggest cuts are to destinations that have strict quarantine requirements that are sure to spoil all vacations and ban them to everyone except residents of the United States. return.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut maintained one of the country’s toughest quarantine requirements – 14 days for anyone arriving from 35 states and territories who either have a positive test rate for the coronavirus greater than 10 per 100,000 population or a positivity rate 10% test over seven consecutive days average.

If you had booked in the last few days, you could have flown from Atlanta to New York for as little as $ 71 round trip with United, leaving on October 27 and returning on October 31. corn Georgia is one of the states included among those requiring quarantine.

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There is also the issue of personal safety.

Experts say anyone who wants to travel should not only look for low fares, but also try to discern whether the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is on the rise at their destination. COVID-19 rates may be low now, but they could increase around the time of travel.

“Now we really need to start our research on a destination by examining its public health landscape,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst for the Atmosphere Research Group. “You don’t want to buy a ticket to a place that might not be healthy.”

Prospective travelers should also check the entry or test conditions. A popular tourist state, Hawaii, will allow travelers to test for the coronavirus instead of a 14-day quarantine starting Thursday, but there are many rules and warnings.

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As for the trip itself, the experts are divided. Harteveldt is among those who believe passengers who take precautions by wearing masks all the time and trying to get away from others should be fine. There is no evidence that the virus is easily transmitted on airplanes.

Two recent studies, however, have raised the question of whether passengers can catch the virus on an airplane. They were based on examples at the start of the pandemic and did not indicate whether passengers were wearing masks, as all major US airlines now require.

For those who are willing to take a chance, there is always a chance to score even lower prices than the everyday bargains.

Travel is expected to slow in the first week of November as the nation is distracted by Election Day, which translates to even better deals, Harteveldt said. He also noted that passengers might want to check hotel, car and airline packages, which can reduce the total price by 10%.

The prices are so low that some seem to travelers like the rare “wrong fares” in which technological traps lead airlines to post ridiculously low fares for a few minutes or hours until they are discovered, said Darci Valiente, Member Operations Specialist for Scott’s Cheap Flights, an online service that provides members with particularly juicy deals.

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International agreements also abound

It’s not just domestic travel that enlightens bargain hunters.

Valiente points to recent offers from American Airlines to South American destinations that were good until next July, like San Francisco to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for $ 291 round trip; Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Guayaquil, Ecuador, for $ 191; or Washington, DC, in Santiago, Chile, at $ 297. These are the kinds of trips that can normally cost up to $ 1,200, she said.

At one point, Air Canada was offering flights from Pittsburgh to Tokyo for $ 173 round trip, she said. The offer, which like some others didn’t last long, was valid until April, just in time for cherry blossom season.

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No one knows what the COVID-19 situation will look like until the middle of next year or whether countries may close or re-close their borders. Japan is closed to Americans and Canadians. And the CDC continues to warn Americans against travel to much of the world even to countries that allow visitors.

With many airlines having eliminated change fees – charging passengers when they change their routes – booking becomes less of a bet.

“A lot of people look to 2021, and a lot of us are crossing our fingers and toes to get back to normal,” Valiente said.

Of course, when things get back to normal, airfares are sure to increase. Even in the short term, airlines that depended on federal stimulus funds could cut loss-making flights now that relief payments have run out. They are no longer required to keep them as a condition for granting aid. Congress is yet to develop a new contingency plan.

So, for now, there are “a lot of offers,” Valiente said. But “people are very nervous about traveling.”

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