How Has Covid-19 Changed The Way We Book Flights?

It looks like air travel is recovering quickly with domestic and international travel taking off again after Covid-19 – But how much has it changed?

The truth is, it’s been looking a lot different to the last time we dusted off our passports, booked long-haul flight tickets and made our way to the airport. Gone are the carefree days of traveling during pre-pandemic times!

But as Australia completely opens up to the world, travel requirements are getting easier and easier. So what will become the new norm? Lets take a look at how covid has changed the way we book flights.

Changes To Travel Restrictions

In case you’ve forgotten, Covid-19 is still here but we’re learning to live with it. Covid has not only changed the way we go about our everyday lives, it has also changed the way we travel.

You don’t realise how “here" it really is until you plan to travel. Entry guidelines and requirements are different from country to country and is constantly changing, which leaves us travelling in times of uncertainty.

But don’t worry, we have great news! There are going to be some changes in the way we travel to and from Australia and it’s only going to get easier. Some Changes To Travel Restrictions will take place from July 6, 2022.

Qantas has also announced some big Changes to their Vaccination Requirements. The airline will no longer require passengers on international flights operated by the Qantas Group to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. This includes all other requirements such as PCR tests and proof of vaccinations which will be dropped from July 19, 2022.

As requirements change from day to day, we advise that you check on Smart Traveller and Sherpa, as well as the website of the airline you fly with. Usually, airlines email you with all requirements before your flight, so make sure you read those emails as they will have links to more details.

Prices Are Soaring

The travel industry is recovering and demand is a lot greater than supply, especially during peak holiday season where there’s absolutely no seats available. Many people are eager to start travelling again after 2 years of being stuck at home, or being away from family and friends. But air travel is roaring back with a huge spike in oil prices which has now become the airlines’ second-biggest expense after labor.

During covid, the airlines had cut down flight schedules and have not recovered all their previous flight frequency. Most airlines may have recovered only 1/3 of their previous capacity, while international flights demand may be more than 30% of its pre-covid status.

With the rising fuel costs, many airlines need to collect an extra $40-$50 per the average $400 round trip ticket to cover the costs and so far they are having no trouble doing so given a surge in bookings. This is unfortunate news for travellers who have not purchased their tickets yet, as strong bookings have enabled airlines to raise their fares.

Don’t Wait For Good Deals

Before covid, travelling to Europe from Australia was much more affordable with first class tickets costing around $10k, business class tickets from $6-7k, premium economy from $3-4k and economy around $2k.

Today, unless you plan your vacation early – expect to pay around $15-20k for a first class ticket, $10k for a business class ticket, $6k for premium economy, and $3-4k for economy as airfares are soaring.

If you choose a flight but decide to wait a couple more days to see if there’s a special deal, you will find that your fare may go up by another $1000 or more. This happens to our clients every single day.

Ticketing deadline doesn’t mean much. Although we are happy to hold the seats for you, we strongly recommend that you get your tickets issued ASAP as airlines can cancel un-ticketed seats at any time. Special fares still exist but if you want to book a business class flight for under $7k, the rule of thumb is to plan as early as possible.

Some of our clients are asking if this “travel bubble" will ever disappear?
In accordance to our experience and airline system, what is a travel bubble? The prices are only GOING UP, even if you wait a couple of weeks or a couple of months; the chances of fares going up by thousands is a lot higher than fares going down. When we look at our system, there are NO seats! It is possible that the airlines can put up new flights from time to time, but we cannot guarantee this.

Plan As Early As Possible And Be Flexible

Many are eager to travel the world again which makes planning more important than ever! Planning your trip ahead is the key to getting the best value for your money. The misconception here is that you’d think there’d be more seats during or post-covid. Unfortunately, it is the complete opposite… everyone wants to travel now more than ever.

Before covid-19, this was never really an issue. Sure, you may have paid a little more for first class and business class flights, but nothing like the sold-out situations that we are facing today.

Planning ahead means book and pay now. If you find the perfect flight, it may be gone tomorrow or the next hour! Minimise the stress, travel risks and book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Airlines usually release their seats 10 months in advance. So if you’re planning to travel sometime in June/July 2023, you should book your flights now! Send your travel agent a 12 month travel plan, and we will monitor and get the best deals for you.

Changing The Dates After Booking A Special Deal

Think again! Gone are the days when date changes would only cost you an amendment fee of around $100. Unless you are willing to pay thousands, try not to change your travel dates as the chances of getting availability on the same booking class are quite slim. You would then have to book a more expensive booking class and pay the amendment fee, plus the fare/tax difference which could cost you thousands.

The higher the fare class, the more flexibility it offers and less cancellation costs. This makes it generally cheaper if you have to make changes later.

Airlines tend to release cheaper business class seats first (early bird specials), but as the plane starts to fill up, the fares could range from $6,000 to $10,000 for a business class ticket to Europe. Nowadays, we advise that you book your trip in advance as demand is a lot greater than supply and fares are likely to rise between $8,000 to $10,000 in just a couple of weeks.

Quite a few of our clients caught covid while traveling, so they couldn’t return as scheduled. Again, it is difficult to find seats at the same price.

We advise that you get travel insurance and one that covers additional costs if you get covid during your travel – whether its for additional travel costs, accommodation and possible hospital and treatment cover.

Expect Delays And Cancellations

The travel industry is bracing a messy time of the year, with some delays and cancellations happening at the airport.

So far in 2022, there is an average of one out of five flights per day that arrive behind schedule with a total of more than 820k delayed flights and 120k cancelled flights. Many people are missing weddings, funerals and business trips.

Airlines are changing their schedules all the time. Sometimes it is just by minutes, causing you to miss your connection flights without providing you with any other alternatives. This leaves you stranded and having to look for a connecting flight on your own, which can be very costly.

Understaffed Airports & Airlines

Understaffing and a lack of airline crew is one of the reasons for expected delays and cancellations. We’ve had a huge amount of turnover in the travel industry where airline services have dropped.

For the past 2 years, airlines have been in survival mode and even though it was said to take 2-3 years for the industry to go back to normal; the industry is still short of staff. Airports are understaffed, pilots and crew members are understaffed, the air traffic controllers are understaffed – people don’t know this because it hasn’t been widely reported.

Due to understaffing, you could be waiting hours on hold for an airline customer service agent to get back to you. A refund on flight tickets may take over a year to be issued. We’ve had some clients who are still waiting for their refund for flights that were cancelled during the pandemic. If you really value your time, you are in need of a great travel specialist.

Airlines Dropped Travel Agent Commission Down To 0-1%

As travel resumes, many of the airlines that our clients prefer have reduced the commissions they pay to travel agents in Australia in line with markets overseas. As you’re aware, this has been how travel agents make money, which has forced travel agents to rethink their current business model to service-fee based.

From July 1st, travel agents in Australia are charging their clients a service fee for them to work on a quote and plan their trip. While there is no industry standard rate for this work, you can expect to pay a service fee of $50 to $500; depending on the travel agency, what they specialise in and how much work is required. Learn more about the Industry Changes.

You Need A Great Agent To Help You

Travelling requires thorough planning, preparation and a lot of patience.

As there are still a lot of unknowns and things that fluctuate week-by-week due to the pandemic, many travellers are unaware of the industry changes and fine print.

This is where an experienced travel specialist comes in. When you start planning your vacation, use a travel agent to ensure that everything meets according to your needs and preferences.

A travel agency such as FirstClass.com.au, allows you to plan and book your vacation with assurance. Remember, this is something you can’t find with third-party sites.

Our luxury travel specialists at FirstClass.com.au, charge a moderate service fee from $200pp. In return, you will receive our specialised service which includes expert fare and product knowledge. We can book every aspect of your trip which saves you hours of navigating multiple websites and companies for the perfect itinerary. Not to mention, we are just a single phone call away. Even if you’re overseas, you wouldn’t have to wait on hold for hours with an airline.

Overall, using a travel agent is an excellent way to save time and money when booking your flights. If you want to know more about booking your travel arrangements with us, here are Reasons Why You Should Use FirstClass.com.au.

Try NOT to change your traveling dates, it could be very costy.

Although agents may quote a reasonable amendment fee

But you need to know, that is , only if same booking class is available (highly unlikely), if you have to use a more expensive booking class, the airline will charge you the fare/tax differences.

By Kim Mifsud