Five things to think about before booking a flight as Covid curbs continue

Following a year of (mostly) postponed travel, here are a few tips to follow ahead of your next trip

Due to national lockdowns and shifting travel requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic, one of the hardest hit sectors of 2020 was aviation. Although many airline operators have expressed confidence in a gradual recovery this year, early 2021 remains an uncertain period for air travel. 

While Saudi Arabia has reopened for international travel – under specific conditions – others in the region are banning flights to and from the UK, which has seen a new variant strain of the coronavirus impact demand for air tickets. 

Linus Benjamin Bauer, founder and managing director of Bauer Aviation Advisory, shares five things you should consider before booking your next flight.

1. Keep up to date: Entry rules and restrictions are likely to change in 2021

The constant changing of entry rules and restrictions has destroyed passengers’ confidence in air travel during the pandemic. It is very important to check the entry rules of both the final destination and stopover countries – even those you don’t need a visa for. IATA has created a special COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map where people can check up-to-date entry rules and requirements for every country. Travelers can avoid any surprises at the airport or border if they check the information on a frequent basis.

2. Choose the right airline: Some airlines are offering automatic coronavirus insurance coverage

Over the past few months, more and more airlines have been offering automatic COVID-19 insurance coverage for passengers, often up to one month of travel. However, there is a misconception in this case – the COVID-19 insurance coverage applies only to the coronavirus and would not replace any traditional type of travel insurance policy. Travelers should check the information on airline websites instead of on websites of online travel agencies.

3. Long-haul flights: Prepare to spend more time at airports with paperwork

On international long-haul flights, passengers have to check-in physically in order to obtain the boarding pass for a flight. This is because check-in agents have to manually check the documents (in compliance with the rules and requirements of the final destination country) and will be asking the passengers to sign a health declaration form for contact tracing and health declaration purposes. Therefore it is highly recommended to arrive earlier to the airport than usual. It also applies to arrivals at airports.

4. COVID-19 tests: Plan yours in advance 

The majority of global airlines now have additional travel requirements, such as a negative COVID-19 test certificate (PCR) prior to departure. Passengers need the certificate with them at check-in in order to be accepted for the flight (even a hard copy). Do plan according to the timing of the flight and factor in the time it would take to receive the COVID-19 test result and certificate. In some countries, the entire process from booking a test slot to receiving the certificate might take longer than in others, such as the UAE.

5. Greater flexibility and customer service: Book the ticket directly with the airline

During these uncertain times, it is very important to book the ticket directly with the airline in order to enjoy greater flexibility – for example, through rebooking or cancellation options – and better customer service (though this doesn’t apply to all airlines across the globe!). Booking a ticket through an online travel agency could become very time-consuming for customers and at the end (contract is between OTAs and customers – the airline is just the service provider from A to B), they might need to pay for any additional services like rebooking as well.

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