Travelling abroad will no more look the same this year onwards, no matter how good or enjoyable and experience you have had in past years. From delays and hold-ups to quarantines and health checks, one can expect anything to throw a spanner in your plans and bring forth surprises that might take off the steam from all your intended revelry.
In view of the current pandemic, sudden alteration in flight schedules, the prospect of procuring and presenting health ‘passports’, and the trend of planning last-minute getaways instead of well-thought-over plans are here to stay. Travel experts say, it might take at least two years for things to get back on track – a new track with new guidelines and expectations. In any case, the exercise of vaccinations all over the world has definitely brought in new hope. Here’s what to expect in coming days:
Airline change fees
Many airlines, including American, Delta, United and Alaska Airlines, looking to get more passengers on planes in 2020, stopped charging customers exorbitant fees (typically $200) just to change or cancel domestic flights. They recently extended that policy to include international flights (with some exceptions). Airline change fee may soon be gone for good among all airlines to get more people on flights, says tour operators.
Before committing to a trip, travelers will want assurance that they can easily cancel their cruise, hotel or tour without penalty. Providers are responding and Celebrity Cruises, for example, is now allowing customers to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before departure and rebook through May 2022. Some tour operators are allowing customers to change departure date upto three weeks before the tour for no fee.
This is another response to the unpredictability caused by COVID-19. Even those of us used to planning our big vacations months in advance may now wait to do so until close to departure. According to a recent trends report from the vacation rental site HomeToGo.com, the average time before check-in between when the pandemic began and the end of September was 50 days.
Proof of a negative test (and may be vaccination) may become necessary for flying. A growing number of airlines and airports are partnering with destinations to develop travel corridors, where people flying between select destinations who show proof of a negative test can avoid quarantine mandates. At some point, say experts, the travel corridors may become less about testing and more about proving you were vaccinated.
Digital ‘health passports’
It’s unclear whether it will become standard for destinations and travel providers like airlines and tour companies to require COVID vaccination for entry, but one tool for doing so could be health apps that can reliably confirm negative COVID-19 test results and proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is developing one, the IATA Travel Pass, that will allow travelers to store verified test or vaccination results on their mobile devices.
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