How to book a flight in 2020? “Book a flight to nowhere.” This could be the title of an adventure novel. In a normal world. Unfortunately this could be happening to you if you don’t pay attention. Booking an international flight in 2020 is really a headache since there are so many unknowns. Honestly, I was hoping that soon we will witness Moon and Mars colonisation. Instead we can’t even take a flight to the neighbouring country.
Parts of the advice and recommendations here would have been looked at as ridiculous just 2 months ago. But this is the new status quo.
So here is a list with situations to observe and advice of how to book a flight in 2020.
Make sure that the borders at destination are not closed
First of all make sure that your destination country is open to receive international flights. It may sound ludicrous but some airlines are selling tickets to countries in quarantine. For example at the beginning of May, you can buy tickets from UK to Portugal but the country is closed. Except for its citizens and a few other exceptions. And there are many other examples. You can purchase a flight ticket to many destinations but you can fly to almost none.
How can you check if flights land at your destination and if you’re allowed on the plane? And that you’re allowed to disembark.
- Check with the airline. Most times you’ll have an unpleasant surprise of being turned away by the airline at check-in. Hence do call the airline before purchasing your flight tickets.
- Check with embassy of the country of your destination.
- Check with the Immigration department of the country of your destination. This may be a challenge but there is a chance that they do respond to email messages. Some are even active on Twitter.
- Check the IATA Travel News and Travel Restrictions. It is not guaranteed that all their data is accurate but is one of the best sources of travel restrictions listed by country. And is being update daily.
Get a flexible or a refundable ticket
Do not hope that your ticket will be refundable or extendable due to certain circumstances. It used to be the case but you’ll find that a huge number of would-be passengers are still waiting for their refunds – which they will probably never receive. Make sure you ask and get proof that your ticket can be refunded or changed. If you’re making a flight search through SkyScanner for example, you will see that some flights are marked as “Flexible.” Read on the details to understand the conditions.
Purchase travel insurance that guarantees flight refund or change
Alternatively, you could purchase through various travel agents that offer insurance. The terms of the insurance varies from agent to agent. They usually work independently from the airline and will cover part of the fare. However make sure that you read all the terms and conditions of the offer. As there may be a catch.
Don’t buy a ticket long in advance
With this virus pandemic situation in certain countries changes often; it could be either way. Booking your flight way ahead of your travel date becomes risky. There is no way to know in advance should the borders will be closed.
As the airlines are trying to assess the situation, at the moment flight fares criteria are in disarray. Booking in advance becomes risky since we don’t know which way the market is going. I do not see an advantage in booking a flight way ahead as the cost can’t reflect the reality. You might get lucky but that is another thing. For example, at the moment I am stranded in Bali, Indonesia. Searching for flight options everyday is a habit now. The logistics are incredible for flights of long duration. It is not a problem finding flights to the capital Jakarta. But just to Singapore (which by the way does not allow transit passengers or “short-duration” passengers) one would have to fly through Tokyo or Taipei (which also does not allow transit passengers).