FILE - In this Saturday, March 14, 2020 file photo, a Transportation Security Administration agent hands a passport back to a traveler as she screens travelers, at a checkpoint inside an airline terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. The coronavirus pandemic that’s caused many Americans to avoid airports has others booking spur-of-the moment trips at dirt-cheap ticket prices. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Cheap fares luring travellers to fly despite coronavirus pandemic

Airlines are seeing bookings plummet and cancellations

With the coronavirus pandemic escalating in the U.S. and overseas, Dylcia McBlackwell couldn’t justify taking a single spring vacation. Air fares were so cheap, she decided to book three.

Now the 39-year-old food service worker from Chicago has tickets to fly to Denver to visit friends next month followed by a May trip to Charleston, South Carolina. After that, she’s booked a flight to Costa Rica. All for a combined total of $435 for trips that might normally cost $700 or more.

“You have just one life to live,” said McBlackwell, who plans to bring wipes to disinfect the tray tables in front of her airplane seats, and perhaps her own snacks. “Are you going to spend it sitting in your house scared? I’d rather be out enjoying it.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Regardless, airlines are seeing bookings plummet and cancellations soar as fear of infection causes many Americans to avoid flying. Travel to the U.S. has been barred from most of Europe, China and Iran. Domestically, business conferences, sporting events, music festivals and other large public gatherings have been scrapped or postponed.

READ MORE: Worried about your vacation amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s what you can cancel

Airlines have been slashing flight schedules, especially on international routes, to cope with downward-spiraling demand from fearful leisure customers and a slowdown in business travel. One industry trade group has warned the pandemic could cost airlines worldwide up to $113 billion in revenue.

The proliferation of empty airline seats has some travellers making spur-of-the-moment ticket purchases to take advantage of steeply discounted prices.

“Travel is one of my favourite things to do and I’m always looking at flights to different places,” said Nick Williams of Muncie, Indiana. “I have never seen flights this cheap before.”

During his recent spring break, the 22-year-old Ball State University student paid $110 round trip to visit friends in Orlando, Florida. As soon as he returned to Indiana, he spotted a weekend fare back to Orlando for just $65.

“I was in Muncie for less than 48 hours,” said Williams, who hopped right back onto a plane to Florida. “I felt a little crazy doing it. But those opportunities don’t always arise.”

Williams isn’t oblivious to the coronavirus. Since his Florida trips, Ball State has cancelled in-person classes for the rest of the spring semester. Courses will still be held online, but Williams said the campus seems eerily quiet. Unafraid to fly domestically, he’s ruled out overseas trips for now.

And cheap fares aren’t expected to overcome many travellers’ fears.

“If you are scared of flying, you are probably scared at any price,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein said recently.

Asked about younger travellers taking advantage of cheap airfares, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told reporters Thursday that those visiting countries where coronavirus is spreading should avoid contact with older relatives and family with chronic medical conditions for 14 days after returning.

“Don’t come home and then visit grandma in the nursing home,” Adams told a news conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Don’t go hang out around grandpa at Easter dinner and tell him all about the great trip that you just had to Europe.”

READ MORE: Thinking of travelling? Your insurance policy might not cover COVID-19

Yago Ferreira didn’t think much about the virus when he booked two trips earlier this month. The 27-year-old tech salesman from Belmont, California, is set to fly to Brazil in August for $800 — a little more than half what he’s used to paying for his annual trip to see family. He also picked up a $250 ticket for an Easter trip to surprise his mother in New Jersey.

About two days after Ferreira booked his flights, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus’ spread a pandemic. And there was news that three Transportation Security Administration officers at a California airport had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I noticed that it’s starting to get a little bit worse,” said Ferreira, adding he intends to stick to his travel plans. “It’s starting, not to worry me, but it’s keeping me wary.”

For Adriano Mirchou of Orem, Utah, a $250 plane ticket provided an unexpected chance to make an upcoming trip to tour the University of Miami, which recently accepted him into its film school.

Now coronavirus worries have shut down classes at the university, also upending 25-year-old Mirchou’s plans to visit the campus. He still intends to make the Miami trip and spend it hanging out with a friend.

Changing course because of the virus isn’t on his itinerary.

“I don’t think I’d be in harm’s way just by travelling,” Mirchou said. “It could happen to anybody. But at the same time, I don’t think it’ll happen to me.”

___

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

___

Russ Bynum, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirustravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Provincial Election candidates for the North Island riding. (Campbell River Mirror graphic)
Over 4,300 mail-in ballots returned so far in North Island district

Elections BC provides progress report before vote count

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

Campbell River Remembrance Day Ceremony 2019. Campbell River Mirror file photo
Campbell River Remembrance Day Ceremony to go ahead in reduced form

Public asked not to attend; event will be streamed on social media, Shaw TV

Father Charles Brandt, a hermit priest. File Photo
Black Creek environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Two suspects seen outside of Gord Knight Auto on Oct. 27 at around 4:15 a.m. Campbell River RCMP are looking for information on these suspects’ identities. Photo supplied by RCMP
RCMP look for suspects in break-in cases

Two suspects caught on surveilance video

Sooke’s Paul Larouche, aka PioneerPauly on YouTube, uses a metal detector in hopes to find gold flakes along his claim of the Sooke River. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

MNP senior economist Susan Mowbray presents the State of the Island Economic Report on Thursday night to conclude the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s virtual summit. (VIEA image)
Not-so-rosy State of the Island report caps off virtual summit

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s summit took place online Oct. 27-29

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

Most Read