Post-Pandemic Flight Travel: Flying 101

Author: Andrew Tang, Graphic: Nina Tagliabue

The BRB Bottomline

Over the past year and a half, commercial aviation has changed substantially due to COVID-19. Airlines are facing massive deficits as a result of the fallouts from the pandemic. To compensate for their losses, airlines are raising ticket prices. If you’re planning on flying anytime soon, read this article to find out how to be a more efficient traveler!

Shadow Looming Over Airlines

With UC Berkeley announcing fully in-person classes for next semester, it seems as if the COVID-19 pandemic is finally behind us. However, some sectors have been hit by the long-lasting and permanent effects of the pandemic. A great example of this is the airline industry. In 2020, the airline sector totaled $328 billion in revenue, just 40% of the previous year’s total. 

Although COVID-19 will soon pass, certain standards within the aviation industry are here to stay. Hygiene and safety standards such as regular disinfection of cabins and increased HEPA filters will remain for the foreseeable future. Further, vaccination cards may soon come into play which could discourage potential travelers from flying. All of these factors will negatively impact airline profit margins through increased labor costs and higher spending on cleaning supplies. Above all, the shift to remote work has led to a significant decrease in business travel. A survey of 45 large global businesses showed that 84% of companies plan to spend less on business travel post-pandemic. McKinsey & Company projects that air travel traffic won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. 

How Should We Book Tickets?

As airlines begin to change aviation travel as we know it, it’s important to note how these changes will affect regular fliers. Being college students, we’re always in search of the cheapest and most reliable flights to take us home for a weekend getaway.

As I mentioned earlier, airlines have faced a massive deficit and high cash burn rates to cope with the consequences of COVID-19. Even with government aid and bond issuances, the airline industry still totaled over $180 billion in debt last year. The most obvious action that airlines will take to recoup their losses is to raise ticket prices. An increase in the demand for air travel would further lead to higher ticket prices. 

So as thrifty college students, what is the correct method to getting the perfect flight?

Be Proactive

The first step to finding a great deal on a flight is to be proactive; by this, I mean to not wait until the last minute to book a flight. Plane tickets will often skyrocket in prices in the final weeks before departure, but this can be avoided if you book at least a month in advance. Search engines like Google Flights also have algorithms that track the price trends, analyzing whether or not you may be overpaying. Another perk to booking your flight early is that you will likely be able to choose a favorable seat.

Which Day Matters

We’ve all heard that booking plane tickets on a Tuesday night can often lead to the best deals. In reality, there really isn’t a set day in the week in which flights magically become cheaper. However, we often underestimate the importance of which day we fly. Flying on off-peak days, like Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, can often save you hundreds of dollars in airfare. 

Check Out Discount Airlines

Discount airlines can either be your worst nightmare or best friend. Although the service and seat quality might not be on-par with other larger airline companies, you can often find dirt-cheap prices in exchange. Especially for domestic flights, airlines like JetBlue or Southwest can help you save a ton of money. Having said that, be wary of last-second delays or cancellations that may arise when flying with budget airlines. I had to learn this the hard way this past weekend when I booked a Spirit Airlines flight back home to Southern California. Just ten minutes before the boarding call, my flight got canceled, so just be flexible.

Credit Cards Help

Last but not least, don’t forget to use your credit card points when booking. Flights are a great way to use up those credit card points that have just been collecting dust in your account. Similarly, if you’re a frequent flyer, get a credit card that has high rewards rates on travel purchases. For example, the Platinum Card with American Express will give you a 5x bonus on flights booked directly through their website. Further, some of these cards provide you with complimentary airport lounge access and TSA-precheck. 

I hope this helps you with all of your future travel needs. Safe travels!

Take-Home Points

Flying will never be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic. Prepare for higher ticket prices and more limited seating arrangements. To be a smarter traveler, be proactive about booking flights at least a month in advance. Departure dates on Tuesdays or Wednesdays can play an instrumental role in getting a cheap ticket.

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