If spring break is any indication, more people seem to be willing and eager to hop on a plane than they were several months ago. Over the past week, the Transportation Security Administration reported screening some of the highest number of travelers since the start of the pandemic.
If travel is part of your plans this year, Scott Keyes, the founder of deal-tracking site Scott’s Cheap Flights, told NBC 6 there is good reason to book now.
“There’s a real kind of unique and rare window right now, where travelers have a sort of win-win in their hands,” Keyes said. “They can have cheap flights and have the flexibility to change their plans later if they want to.”
Last year, several major airlines including American, Delta and United announced they were permanently removing change fees for most flights.
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But, on March 31, the fee waiver is expected to end for most basic economy tickets. So Keyes explained you may have few options if you book a basic economy seat after that date.
“Your dates are locked in, you cannot change them,” he said. “This is the airlines, trying to do what they can to try to get people to pay a little bit more to buy that main economy ticket rather than basic economy.”
Keyes recommended booking before that date.
“Even if things don’t look good and even if, for some reason, you’re not able to get vaccinated before your trip,” Keyes said. “You’ve got the flexibility to be able to push your trip back to July, August, September without having to pay the normal…penalty to do so.”
If you received a travel credit or voucher in 2020 for travel that was impacted by COVID-19, make sure you check the expiration date. Different airlines have different policies and deadlines.
It’s also important to keep in mind that if you book a more expensive ticket, you will be responsible for the difference in fare.
These are the policies some airlines shared with NBC 6:
“We’ve extended ticket validity for tickets purchased between May 1, 2019 and March 31, 2021. Those tickets will now be extended through March 31, 2022 to give customers extra time to use for travel. Tickets purchased April 1, 2021 and after will have a 12-month validity from the date of purchase.”
-Flight credits: “Customers who voluntarily canceled tickets that had been purchased by Sept. 30, 2020 for travel between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 will retain the value of their ticket as flight credits that can be used for travel through March 31, 2022.”
-Vouchers: “Travel vouchers that are set to expire between March 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021 will be automatically extended so customers can use them through March 31, 2022 to book future travel.”
-Trip credits: “American also introduced trip credits in August 2020 for customers who may have redeemed their flight credit for new travel and had value leftover to use. Trip credits are available to use for one year after it was issued.”
“For travel impacted by COVID-19, Delta extended many travel credits through December 31, 2022. This applies to tickets booked prior to April 17, 2020 (for travel that was scheduled on or after March 1, 2020).”
“All Travel Bank credits that JetBlue issued in March through June of 2020 came with a 24-month expiration, meaning that they must be booked by March through June of 2022, depending on their issue date. This is 12 months longer than our normal expiration policy, a courtesy we granted due to the pandemic.”
“Customers who booked travel, or who had travel funds that would have expired March 1 – Sept. 7, 2020 automatically received an extension on those funds through Sept. 7, 2022 … Customers with funds not covered by the two-year extension have our everyday flexibility – an ability to use the full amount of their funds for a full year from the original date of purchase, subject to our No Show policy which requires a proactive cancelation of reservations before departure.”
“We’ve extended the deadline for using any reservation credit issued since March of 2020 to September 30, 2021 for booking and December 31, 2021 for completing the associated travel. Credits may be used for any number of flights until they’re used up.”