Air travel is back on and recovering quickly with domestic and international travel taking off—but has COVID-19 changed the travel experience?
As we dust off our passports and Australia opens up to the world, travel today looks very different from the pre-pandemic era. Many wonder what will become the new travel norm? Let’s look at how covid changed the way we book flights.
Changes To Travel Restrictions
Although many of the restrictions of Covid-19 are no longer, some remain—you might not realise how much until you start your travel plans. Entry guidelines and requirements vary from country to country and are constantly changing so the reality of travel today remains in a cloud of uncertainty.
Putting the uncertainty of travel aside, it is getting easier, with most airlines no longer requiring PCR tests for vaccinated travellers. We highly recommend checking Smart Traveller and Sherpa and your airline’s website regularly as requirements change periodically.
As airlines will email you their travel requirements before your flight; we recommend you read them carefully and follow the links for further details—in short, stay informed.
Prices Are Soaring
The travel industry is recovering, and demand is significantly greater than supply, especially during peak holiday season, when seats are rarely available months in advance.
After being stuck at home for two years away from family and friends, many people are eager to start travelling again. Air travel is roaring back—but with a massive spike in oil prices, fuel has become the airline industry’s second-biggest expense after labour.
During covid, airlines significantly reduced the number of flights and, as a result, current flight schedules have yet to recover and unlikely to do so for some time. Most airlines are running at roughly 1/3 of their previous capacity, while international flight demand has soared by more than 30% of its pre-covid status.
Rising fuel costs have resulted in many airlines increasing fare prices. Given the surge in bookings, the public seems well-equipped to absorb rising costs: the public’s eagerness and need to travel continues to fuel price increases.
Don’t Wait For Last Minute Deals
Before covid, travelling to Europe from Australia was much more affordable—you could expect to pay around $10k for first class, $6-7k for business, $3-4k for premium economy and $2k for economy class.
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 class.
Playing the waiting game won’t work either, with those selecting a flight and hoping for a better price are often frustrated to find their fare has increased by $1000 or more—scenarios like this are occurring daily.
Ticketing deadlines hold little value. Although agents can hold seats for you, airlines can cancel non-ticketed seats at anytime. We strongly recommend that you get your tickets issued ASAP.
Special Fares Still Exist
Special fares still exist but disappear fast—with some of our clients asking if this “travel bubble" will ever burst. For at least the next couple of years, if you’re looking for a business-class flight under $7k, a good rule of thumb is to book as early as possible.
From an experience perspective and keeping our ear to the ground, our view is that fare prices are only going up, and fares will unlikely return to pre-COVID norms. Although airlines periodically add new flights, seat availability is scarce, and prices remains high.
Plan Early And Be Flexible On Travel Dates
With so many eager to travel the world again, planning is crucial. Planning is the key to getting the best value for your money. When you find suitable travel dates within your budget—we recommend immediate payment. Securing your flight is the best way to minimise stress and avoid disappointment.
Just how far ahead can you plan? Airlines usually release seats up to ten months in advance. With 2023 already underway, book your flights asap if you plan to travel this year.
For business travellers, sending your travel agent, a 12-month travel plan is a good idea; it enables us to monitor prices and flight availability and get the best deals for you as they arise. With July and July almost fully booked in the lower booking classes, spring is filling up fast.
Changing Travel Dates After Booking A Special Deal
Think again! Gone are the days when date changes were possible for as little as $100. Avoid travel date changes like the plague unless you are willing to pay thousands for the privilege. The likelihood of you securing a seat in the same ticketed booking class is slim.
Most travellers fail to foresee the implications of switching travel dates. Changes can be very costly when factoring in changes in booking class, airline and agent amendment fees, and tax differences per passenger.
Booking class significantly impacts the cost associated with cancellations and changes; the higher the fare class, the more flexibility it offers and the lower the cancellation costs. We discuss this in more detail in our upcoming article, “Booking Class—What Every Traveller Needs to Know When Booking Flights“.
It’s impossible to foresee what lays aheads—sickness, flight cancellations, and schedule changes can significantly impact your travel plans. Finding alternative flights or seats at the same price can be very challenging.
We advise all travellers to get travel insurance that covers additional costs—such as accommodation, hospital treatment and even Covid during their travel.
Expect Delays And Cancellations
As expected, the travel industry is bracing for delays and cancellations. Since travel re-opened, roughly one in five flights have arrived behind schedule—with over 820,000 delayed and 120,000 cancelled flights in 2022, and the trend is continuing in 2023. Many are missing weddings, funerals and business trips.
Airlines regularly change flight times and all too often neglect to provide alternatives. At times changes in flight plans might range from a few minutes to hours, with passengers missing connecting flights, leaving them stranded. The frustration, stress and cost of finding a connecting flight can be harrowing.
We suggest to aim to purchase direct flights unless a stop-over is part of your travel experience. The chance of a flight schedule changes is exceptionally high with more than 50% of our booked flights experiencing booking changes. While these changes usually do not affect your travel plans, occasionally, they do.
Understaffed Airports and Airlines
Understaffing and reduced airline crews are responsible for most of the delays and cancellations we see today. We’ve had a tremendous turnover in the travel industry, resulting in a drop in airline services.
Airlines have been in survival mode for several years; slow recovery and staff shortages combined with global uncertainties are impacting passengers hard. Pilots, crew members, air traffic controllers and baggage handlers are in short-supply and the crisis goes largely unreported.
With staffing shortages extending to airline customer service staff, resolving flight cancellations and date changes could mean waiting hours on hold for an airline agent to get back to you. Refunds on some flight tickets take up to a year to process, with some still waiting for refunds for flights cancelled during the pandemic. If you value your time, an experienced travel specialist is a must.
Airlines Reduce Travel Agent Commissions To 0-1%
When travel resumed, many airlines reduced commissions paid to travel agents in Australia to zero in line with overseas markets. As you’re aware, commissions are the travel agents’ bread and butter. The decision from the airlines forced travel agents to rethink how they do business and resulted in the introduction of a service-based fee.
From July 1st, travel agents across Australia have commenced charging travellers to prepare travel arrangements. There are no industry-scheduled rates—how much you pay varies on the complexity of your travel booking and the after-sales support offered by your travel agency.
As a guide, travellers should expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $500 for a consultant to organise their travel arrangements.
At FirstClass, our service fee includes after-sale service to make your trip as stress-free as possible. From flight schedule changes or cancellations, we have you covered—professional assistance when you need it the most.
Overcoming Schedule Changes and Flight Cancellations
Are you thinking of booking online and saving yourself money? Can you handle frequent flight schedule changes and cancellations?
The best way to guard against travel disruptions and retain peace of mind is to have a travel professional ready to assist when flight changes occur—an agent who understands the travel industry and airline regulations well. With a First Class travel professional, you can rest assured when travel disruptions occur; our consultants deliver creative solutions by coordinating with airlines to find the best alternative and minimise impact.
At times itinerary changes by your airline can provide you with an opportunity to improve your itinerary and secure seats on better connections or airlines—with First Class your plans never miss a beat. We handle all of this at no further cost to you.
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, things fluctuate week-by-week due to the pandemic, many travellers are unaware of the industry challenges.
An experienced travel specialist will help plan your vacation and ensure everything meets your needs and preferences, and in most cases, will find you deals you won’t find online.
FirstClass.com.au allows you to plan and book your vacation with absolute confidence, should something go awry, our team is here to help—something online booking engines do not offer.
Our luxury travel specialists at FirstClass.com.au charge a moderate service fee starting from as little as $300 per passenger. In return, you will receive our specialised service, competitive fare pricing and product knowledge.
We can save you hours, painstakingly navigating, filtering and compiling results from multiple websites. We take awake all the hassle and we are just a phone call away, and best of all you won’t wait on hold for hours like with some airlines.
If you would like to know more about booking your travel arrangements with us, we have compiled a list of Reasons Why You Should Use FirstClass.com.au.
By Kim Mifsud