One of the most common questions I get asked as a travel planner over the last couple of months is, "can I travel yet?"
Since the pandemic, many of us have had to cancel long-awaited trips, put travel plans on hold or cut vacations short. As a result, the need to satisfy our wanderlust has been unsurmountable. Mix in physical distancing rules and having to stay home, even the most disciplined of us are finding it tough some days.
As we go into phased reopening, the temptation of going abroad dangles in front of us like a carrot on a stick. Airlines and other travel suppliers are announcing planned operations resuming as early as June 1st. Air Canada, as an example, plans to fly to popular vacation destinations like Cancun, Punta Cana and Nassau - among others - within the month. Some think it may be too soon, for others it's not soon enough.
What are travel companies doing to protect us?
Canada's largest airline has implemented its CleanCare+ program, some of these changes include:
- Increased screening
- Temperature checks
- Mandatory masks on flights for all passengers (including employees, who are also required to wear gloves)
- Frequent disinfecting of surfaces and high-touch areas
- Blocked middle seats on aircraft
- Extra cleaning measures implemented for overnights
Changes in booking policies have also been implemented with more flexibility to protect travellers when purchasing flights. One-time change fees are waived for bookings made between March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020. Cancelled flights will have the option of a travel voucher with no expiry or be converted to Aeroplan Miles with an additional 65% bonus miles.
WestJet has employed similar changes in rigorous cleaning and enhanced security for operating flights. Currently, the airline is only flying domestically with transborder and international routes suspended until June 25th. Flight cancellations will be issued a voucher with a validity of 24 months.
Charter airlines Transat Holidays and Sunwing Vacations have both suspended operations until the end of June. Transat has similarly allowed for a flexible booking policy until June 30th. Sunwing's terms and conditions, however, will remain unchanged for any new bookings with departures after June 26th.
*Please keep in mind there may be changes to policies. It is best to contact the airline or your travel agent directly for the most up-to-date information.
Just because we have the ability to book travel, does it necessarily mean that it is safe to travel?
This is the question we are all asking. Is it worth the potential risk of exposure for the sake of travel? The truth of the matter is, there is no right or wrong answer. It's a matter of doing what feels right for you.
As long as rules of social distancing are respected and protocols set forth by suppliers are followed, we should be able to do what we are comfortable with. The events over the last few months have been quite bizarre and a first for all. It's tough to navigate and everyone is doing their best to cope with the information given. The same goes for small businesses to large corporations who have to make tough decisions on how to move forward.
Many are ready and willing to pack their bags and be on the next flight out. If that is what they truly need, who are we to discount that? Others think leisure travel should be among the least essential items during a pandemic. That's okay too. Having the option to travel, should we wish, is the point.
How are you feeling about borders reopening? Are you ready to hop on the next plane or do you think it's too soon?