Why it might not be safe to book a flight this fall

Is it safe to book a flight this fall?

Is it safe to book a flight this fall? Andy Fine wants to know, and he has every reason to be worried. Under the terms of the federal airline bailout, airlines may start laying off staff or cutting pay Oct. 1.

Fine and others are concerned that their flights might not exist after that date.

Fine, a retired financial services manager from Concord, Calif., is loyal to United Airlines. But United recently ended its contract with regional carrier ExpressJet, which could put that carrier out of business. United also says it may cut up to 45 percent of its workforce after Oct. 1.

“I realize that cutting back staff by half doesn’t necessarily mean that half their flights will be canceled,” says Fine, who is making travel plans for later this year. “But prices seem better than usual now. Should I find a ticket on another airline?”

Oct. 1 is a day of reckoning for airlines

Oct. 1 will be a day of reckoning for the airline industry: Airlines will then be free to start downsizing. American and Delta are also reportedly planning layoffs this year, as are smaller carriers like Alaska Airlines and JetBlue. Only Southwest Airlines has said it doesn’t expect any layoffs or furloughs through the end of the year.

Air travel this fall may cost less, but it could be risky to book this far in advance, industry observers say. The busy holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s — loom large, with lots of potential for disruption. The best way to avoid it is through careful planning now.

“Travel later in the year will certainly be an adventure for passengers and airlines alike,” says Dean Headley, an emeritus professor of marketing at Wichita State University and co-author of the Airline Quality Rating. “Booking now carries a clear risk of having your flight not being operated when the time comes to travel as airlines downsize.”

Is it safe to book a flight after Oct. 1?

So is it safe to book a flight after Oct. 1? Yes and no. In the near term, passengers may notice few or no changes. But later in the year, you may see a reduction in the number of flights, and some airlines could go out of business.

Booking a flight after Oct. 1 has its risks — and rewards. Eugene Levin is considering a flight this fall. He thinks fares will be low, and that’s not just a hunch. As the chief strategic officer at SEMrush, a Web analytics company, he has seen online searches for airfares plummet an astonishing 45 percent since the start of the pandemic. “This is going to be a buyer’s market,” he says.

The risks are obvious, and they’re not just tied to the health of the airline. They’re tied to your health. Projections suggest that coronavirus cases will spike in the fall, says Onyema Ogbuagu, a Yale Medicine infectious-disease doctor and associate professor at the university.

“I’m wary of booking any flights to travel in October or until the end of the year,” Ogbuagu says.

A chaotic holiday season?

But what happens when you have a ticket for, say Thanksgiving, and your airline decides to cancel the flight?

Things could turn chaotic quickly. An airline that’s aggressively downsizing over the holidays could unleash hundreds of thousands of displaced air travelers on the other airlines, wreaking havoc the likes of which we haven’t seen. What’s more, airlines have done their best to avoid paying out refunds for canceled flights, despite being required to do so by federal law. It’s not a question of whether this scenario will unfold, but of how catastrophic it will be.

The best way to deal with it is to avoid it. Flying during the holidays is pure folly, particularly this year. But if you go, you’ll want to review your itinerary carefully to make sure it’s cancellation-proof, experts say.

Erik Shor, a vice president at Travel and Transport, a corporate travel agency, says you should check the desired flight to see whether it’s operating between now and your travel date.

“In the covid environment, airlines are adding flights back to schedules slowly and based on firm demand,” he explains. “If a flight is scheduled to return to operation in October and demand is weak, it could very well be pulled from the schedule several weeks out.”

For flights operating regularly in the months leading up to your departure date, you’re probably okay. But if they cancel, you should ask for an immediate refund. Otherwise this could happen to you.

Should you cancel your fall flight?

If it isn’t safe to book a flight this fall, should you cancel? No, say industry watchers like Shane Chapman, the senior vice president of airline industry relations for Ovation Travel Group. He says airlines have already reduced their schedules to meet the reduced demand.

“Passengers booking for October and beyond shouldn’t see a huge reduction in flights as the airlines are currently operating a much smaller fleet than in the past,” Chapman says. But later in the year, he expects some schedule adjustments, as the airlines try to figure out when and where to increase or decrease service.

His advice: Always check your flight on the carrier’s website two to three weeks out for any schedule changes, and, again, two to three days before departure. This will give you time to adjust other arrangements to a new schedule. And if the airline cancels or reschedules your flight, and you decide not to travel, remember that it owes you a prompt and full refund.

For his part, Fine is determined to continue with his vacation plans. He wants to visit his kids and grandkids on the East Coast this year and to collect his United reward miles, if possible. If the experts are correct, he’ll be just fine.

Remember, we’re always here for you!

If you run into any problems, my advocates and I are always here for you. Here’s how to contact us if your fall flight hits a snag.

Posted in On Travel Tagged , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: