Nick Ewen, editor at SmarterTravel.com, is traveling from Orlando to New York this weekend – and he plans to do it in style.
At the Orlando International Airport, he will visit the Delta Sky Club lounge to relax and enjoy the amenities. And he’s considering an upgrade to a First Class seat on his flight. After all, the change will cost him less than $ 200, or roughly 16,900 air miles.
âAirline clubs and first-class cabins are usually packed with business travelers, but for now they may be a bit more empty compared to pre-pandemic levels,â he said. declared.
Ewen’s next trip is a prime example of the options available to vacationers and tourists as the travel industry continues to face setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly contagious delta variant.
“Large conferences are canceled due to the delta variant, leading airlines and hotels to offer discounts“
Earlier this year, it emerged that airlines and hotels were set to flourish as vaccinated Americans packed their bags and splurged on ‘revenge trips’ after a year of social distancing and mask warrants . But then came the delta variant – a more contagious strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 that may be able to evade some of the protections offered by vaccines.
The variant caused a fourth wave of the virus, crushing hospitals across the country. And now, with the end of summer, an expected upturn in business travel may run out of steam.
Business groups like the Financial Planning Association, the National Rifle Association and the Specialty Food Association have canceled scheduled meetings and conferences that draw thousands of attendees over public health concerns. Other big events like the New Orleans Jazz Festival and BravoCon are also victims of this trend.
This is bad news for airlines and hotels that were relying on an upsurge in business travel this fall to keep them going until the holiday season. But that’s good news for savvy travelers who are still hoping to book a long-awaited getaway – if they know how to play their cards right.
Here are five tips for people looking to book travel this fall:
Consider traveling to major cities
You don’t have a destination in mind? Book a vacation in a big city like New York or Los Angeles.
âConsider trips to destinations that are normally popular with business travelers, especially large cities,â Ewen said. âYou are more likely to find cheap flights and hotel rooms. “
For example, a flight search by Ewen revealed multiple dates with round-trip flights from Los Angeles to New York for as little as $ 137 per person, well below normal.
There are other perks to visiting a big city right now as opposed to a smaller town further off the beaten track. “It can also help avoid any lingering issues with the rental car shortage that has been so well documented over the summer, as many large cities have better public transportation and more extensive transportation options. “said Ewen.
Business and first class seats benefit from significant discounts
Business demand for flights is down 64% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Willis Orlando, member operations specialist at travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights. And that’s the perfect recipe for premium seats at a reduced price.
âWhile corporate sales before the pandemic helped keep prices high for luxury front-end seats, without this demand airlines have had to cut prices to try and meet some of these. seats, âOrlando said.
On transatlantic routes, you can find fares of $ 1,200 in Business Class to Spain and $ 1,800 to other destinations in Europe. That’s less than half the cost of those same seats before the pandemic, Orlando said. The reductions are even more pronounced with domestic travel, however.
“Demand for corporate flights is down 64% from before the pandemic.“
Nowadays, airlines generally use larger planes for their domestic or international short-haul routes. âThis means not only a greater supply of business class seats, which naturally brings prices down, but also better product quality in business class for these short-haul routes,â said Orlando.
For example, you can buy a return flight ticket from the United States to the Caribbean in business class for only $ 500 to $ 800. And there’s a good chance you’ll get a reclining seat. âRegular consumers have a rare opportunity to try a fairly sophisticated product at a great price,â Orlando said.
Reserve your airline miles at work
Waiting until the day of your flight to try an upgrade may still not work, even nowadays. But for the seasoned traveler, there are still ways to make the system work.
A better strategy, Ewen said, is to use credit card points or airline miles to book a first or business class ticket with the star. He used a partner program to reserve first class seats on a domestic flight with Delta for himself, his wife and his daughter. âIt is rare to see a single Delta DAL,
seat available for partners in domestic first class – not to mention three on a flight, âhe said.
Especially for anyone who has walked miles in the past year, this can be a winning approach. If you have flight vouchers that you canceled due to the pandemic, you can even try braving the long waits to see a customer service representative combine those with stored miles to save on your bookings.
Flexibility and discounts go hand in hand
Finding the best deals now is all about flexibility, travel experts said. For example, reserving a room in a conference hotel might be a way to get a discount considering all the recent cancellations, but you have to be very careful with the timing.
As Ewen noted, the Orlando Convention Center still has a number of major events booked in the coming months, which means discounts are not guaranteed.
One way to play with the system is to use the cancellation policies to your advantage. Most hotels allow free cancellations and many airlines have maintained their free flight change policies (other than basic economy tickets). You can make multiple reservations at different times and then see if you can find better rates later. âJust be sure to set a calendar reminder to cancel the ones you ultimately won’t use,â Ewen said.
Take precautions – health and financial
Certainly, the reason business travel has not returned is the health risks associated with travel. Venturing far away can increase the chances of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19 or of contracting it on their own.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, short car trips with your household or fully vaccinated people are safer than flights or bus rides.
Plus, changing guidelines – both overseas and here in the United States – can easily ruin a person’s travel plans if they aren’t careful. Not to mention the fact that getting sick could leave someone stranded away from home.
âConsider a travel insurance policy that provides coverage if you become ill during your trip or need to cancel due to illness,â said Sara Rathner, Travel Expert at NerdWallet. âCancel coverage for whatever reason is expensive, but could be worth it for this unique vacation. “
Another tip from Rathner: Pack an abundance of masks, more than you’ll need, including surgical-style masks in case airlines or destinations don’t allow sheet masks.