Airline passengers are up 300% from last month, but …
Where do you plan to go this summer? It’s a question that has been doing the rounds at Memorial Day grills and other gatherings for years. This year, the issue will take on a whole new meaning.
For most people, the answer is still a firm “I’m not sure yet” because the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on security in vacation planning, and almost everything else going forward these days. Most of the big plans for Memorial Day trips were not long ago mixed. Now we look forward to July 4th, Labor Day and “peak” summer travel season which normally runs from mid-June to mid-August.
Will there also be a summer travel season that we know of? Yes, yes, but it will be much different than we have seen before.
If the only summer travel idea that contains any water right now is a road trip. California and other states are slowly moving toward facilitating home stay orders. Although there are not many hotels open, there are many rooms and bulky sofas in private homes available for families who are anxious about some fresh faces, although they will be covered by masks. Some national parks will open again. The gas is cheap – an average of about $ 2.60 a gallon in California, and half as much in some parts of the country. Car rental prices have also hit rock bottom. For example, you can pick up a midsize car or even an SUV in San Francisco for four days in mid-June for about $ 110 all according to Kayak.com. For those who are ready to venture out in the middle of a pandemic, the summer trip to visit friends and family will likely be the first and safest feeling.
How about flying? Well, it’s on a very slow rebound. TSA reported Thursday that 318,449 passengers passed through the airport security checkpoints. This is a healthy increase of 300 percent compared to this time last month. But there are still almost 90 percent fewer travelers than the same day in 2019 when TSA counted 2.7 million travelers. (You can track the TSA Traveler’s throughput numbers from 2020 and 2019 here.)
Airlines are doing everything they can to promote new sanitation methods, such as United’s latest “CleanPlus” partnership with Clorox. (Unfortunately, they will not offer nearly impossible to find Clorox wipes for passengers.) Currently, most airlines promise to help passengers with social distances by easily booking flights, but they probably won’t last too long. Airlines cannot continue to keep 30 percent of their seats out of the market – if they do, they must either raise prices significantly or go out of business.
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If you dare to fly right now, new airline and airport regulations mean that you should wear a mask from the time you arrive at the airport until you leave the airport at your destination, with just a few breaks to eat or drink on board. TSA has announced new procedures for airport screening, such as a new no-touch policy for boarding passes, and changes to food packed in bags. And when we talk about eating or drinking, the airlines have reduced inflight food and beverage service to next to nothing – you can expect water, maybe a soda and a sealed package of dried snacks along with a hand sanitizer on board, and that’s about it . Some airlines have suspended alcohol. Tip: Book a window seat to minimize your interactions with flight attendants and other passengers.
So far, ticket prices are everywhere, and it is difficult to detect any real trends because we are in unknown territory. For the most part, I think the prices are not as cheap as expected given the low demand environment. However, there are a handful of outlier prices that are remarkably good. But like most everything else today, you have to think about a lot of uncertainty. You can book, but when it comes to actually stepping on the plane without the airline canceling your flight, who knows? Thankfully, airlines have reduced or eliminated penalties for last-minute changes to drum up business, but they will soon dry out as well.
Thinking of getting away? Here are the latest on a handful of important destinations:
Hawaii: The state’s requirement that all visitors must comply with 14-day quarantine orders on arrival is now in effect until June 30. “Although pre-arrival visitor testing is unsuccessful, it is the best option we have for protecting our flight attendants, flight crew, hotel workers, visitors and locals,” said Hawaii state legislator Gene Ward. Late summer prices (August) look pretty good – for example, most airlines flying from the Bay Area to Hawaii offer trips as low as $ 259 for basic economy seats and about $ 375 for regular economy.
Mexico / Canada: This week, the Trump administration extended travel restrictions between the United States, Canada and Mexico through June 22. Many of Mexico’s major tourist zones hope to open in June, but there is still much uncertainty for Americans who hope to visit. Southwest Airlines recently announced its intention to start flying to Mexico again in June from Texas. From Bay Area, United and Alaska Air flights to coastal resorts such as Cabo and Puerto Vallarta are between $ 350 and $ 400 round trip for August trips. Air Canada has announced it will resume some flights to the United Statesincluding SFO in June. Remember, the US Department of State’s warning “Level 4: Don’t Travel” remains, and advises all Americans to refrain from any non-essential international travel.
Europe: Traveling between European countries is just starting to open up to Europeans, but there are many restrictions on outsiders. Greece, which was only mildly affected by Covid-19, this week indicated that it could open to outsiders as of June. Italy says it will soon allow travelers from a handful of mostly European countries, but not Americans. On Friday, the UK introduced a 14-day quarantine for all international arrivals, both residents and visitors, which will take effect on June 8. San Francisco International announced that a handful of flights to Switzerland and Germany will grow up again in June, these will be just for essential trips.
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Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t miss out on a lot of important travel news by signing up for his FREE email updates every week!
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