Round trip to Tokyo for $173? Pandemic spawns once-in-a-lifetime airfare deals – if you're ready to travel
Anyone who's checked online flight prices lately may be shocked at what they see.
Here are some examples of Google Flights Halloween weekend getaways that can be seen on the site on Monday, for flights departing on Thursday October 28th and returning on Sunday November 1st.
Los Angeles to Chicago: $ 125 round trip on United Airlines
Minneapolis to Orlando, Florida: $ 147 round-trip on Sun Country Airlines
Cleveland to Miami: $ 150 round-trip on American Airlines
Seattle to Denver: $ 107 round-trip on Delta Air Lines
It's not just this data or this platform. Choose one.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some airfares appear to be so low it looks like the airlines accidentally posted them. The screaming bargains can also be viewed as a cruel irony: Relatively few customers will dare to use the low tariffs for fear of getting COVID-19 while traveling, a risk for which there does not seem to be a general agreement.
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However, for those willing to take the chance, these can be one-time offers.
The normal pricing mechanisms of the airlines have been unbalanced by the crater formation of travel. According to its trading group Airlines for America, planes have been about a third full on average in recent weeks, and airlines have lost a total of about $ 5 billion a month. The airlines have responded by drastically cutting prices to fill seats.
Even at these levels, many travelers don't bite, especially when some of the biggest discounts are for destinations that have strict quarantine requirements that ruin any vacation and basically ban them for all but returning residents.
New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have met one of the strictest quarantine requirements in the country - 14 days for anyone traveling from 35 states and territories who have either a positive test rate for COVID-19 greater than 10 per 100,000 residents or a positive test rate of 10% over a seven day moving average.
If you had booked in the past few days, you might have flown United from Atlanta to New York for only $ 71 round-trip, departed October 27, and returned October 31, but Georgia is one of the states that do belong to those who need quarantine.
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Yes it's cheap, but does it fly safely?
It's also about personal safety.
Experts say anyone looking to travel should not only look for cheap fares, but should also try to see if the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is on the rise in their destination. COVID-19 rates may be low right now, but they could rise by the time of travel.
"Now we really need to begin our research in a travel destination with a look at the public health landscape," said Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group. "You don't want to buy a ticket to a place that may not be healthy."
Prospective travelers will also need to review immigration or testing requirements. In a popular tourism state, Hawaii, travelers can test for COVID-19 starting Thursday instead of a 14-day quarantine. However, there are many rules and caveats.
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The experts are divided for the trip itself. Harteveldt is among those who believe that passengers who take precautions by constantly wearing a mask and trying to distance themselves from others should be fine. There is no evidence that the virus can be easily transmitted on airplanes.
However, two recent studies have raised questions about whether passengers on an airplane can catch the virus. They were based on examples from the beginning of the pandemic and did not indicate whether passengers were wearing masks, as is now required by all major US airlines.
People wearing face masks were walking under the cherry blossoms in Ueno Park in Tokyo in March last year amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The coronavirus pandemic is sending airfares to rock bottom, including some deals to Tokyo.
For those who are ready to take the chance, there is always a chance to get even lower prices than the everyday bargains.
Travel is likely to slow down into the first week of November as the nation is distracted from election day, resulting in even better deals, Harteveldt said. He also noted that passengers may want to consider hotel, car, and airline package deals that can save an additional 10% on the total price.
The prices are so low that some flyers appear like the infrequent "error tariffs" where technology snafus cause airlines to offer ridiculously low tariffs for a few minutes or hours until discovered, said Darci Valiente, member specialist for Scott's Cheap Flights. An online service that notifies members of particularly juicy offers.
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There are also international deals in abundance
It's not just domestic travel that makes bargain hunters shine.
Valiente recalls American Airlines' recent deals to South American destinations that ran until next July, such as San Francisco to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for $ 291 round-trip; Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Guayaquil, Ecuador for $ 191; or Washington, D.C., to Santiago, Chile, for $ 297. Those are trips that could typically cost up to $ 1,200, she said.
At one point, Air Canada was offering flights from Pittsburgh to Tokyo, Japan for $ 173 round-trip, she said. The offer, which like some others did not last long, was valid until April - just in time for the cherry blossom season.
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Nobody knows what the situation with COVID-19 will look like by the middle of next year, or whether countries may close their borders or close again. Japan is currently closed to Americans and Canadians. And the CDC continues to warn Americans not to travel much of the world, even to countries that allow visits.
Since many airlines have eliminated change fees - passengers are charged for changing their travel routes - booking becomes less of a gamble.
"A lot of people are looking to the year 2021 and many of us are crossing our fingers to get back to normal," said Valiente.
Of course, when things return to normal, airfares will go up. Even in the short term, airlines that were dependent on federal economic aid can cut flights with a loss of money after the aid payments have been used up. You no longer need to keep them as a condition of receiving help. Congress has yet to work out a new aid package.
So at the moment there are "a lot of deals," said Valiente. But "people are very nervous about traveling."
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Coronavirus Travel Deals: There are plenty of cheap flights due to COVID-19
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