Road Scholar would not be a university of the world were it not for the team of expert air travel specialists who make it possible for our groups to fly to thousands of destinations, from Ushuaia at the tip of South America to Reykjavík, Iceland. To get the scoop on the latest in air travel, we interviewed our own Carol Ferullo, who heads up our air team.
Road Scholar: What should people expect when they begin to make their air travel plans? Fewer flights? Less crowding on planes?
Carol: In 2021, there are fewer flights available in our airline reservation system than in previous years, because the airlines have “parked” many of their planes in order to reduce operating costs. Some airlines began to block the middle seats on flights to ensure there is proper safe distancing, while other airlines have decided to fill their flights to 75% capacity to address the issue of safe distancing. These decisions are reviewed regularly by the airlines and change frequently.
Road Scholar: What safety measures are they putting into place? Are masks required?
Carol: Masks are required in order to board any flight. All of the airlines have upgraded their air ventilation systems while in flight, which continuously purifies the air, not unlike what is done in hospital operating rooms. Several airlines have changed their services on board, as well, opting to either not serve food or to use alternate methods to offer food and beverage. It is strongly recommended to visit an airlines’ website for the most up-to-date information about in-flight services.
Road Scholar: Will airlines require proof of vaccination? How will that work?
Carol: No, not all airlines will require proof of vaccination—at least not yet. It depends upon the airline and the destination country. Airline requirements are based on the requirements of the destination. As an example, a negative COVID-19 test is mandatory in order to enter Hawaii. Qantas & Air New Zealand have some of the more strict policies in place because no travelers from other countries are being allowed to enter Australia or New Zealand. Their borders are closed at this time.
Road Scholar: How are prices now? Are all flights cheaper? Or are just certain destinations?
Carol: Our negotiated rates remain low but the availability is affected because of the limited number of flights programmed into the airline reservation system. If someone is looking for a Sale Fare or a Published Fare, there are low fares in the market, but those fares are much more restrictive.
Road Scholar: What’s the long-term outlook on the number of flights and pricing?
Carol: Road Scholar Air Services books negotiated, private fares that change each year. The number of flights in 2021 are less than in previous years, but in 2022 the number of flights should increase so there will be more availability. I would not expect the airlines to increase flight schedules to 2019 levels, but there will be more flights available to book in 2022 than in 2021.
Road Scholar: What advice would you give to someone who wants to travel within the next 9-12 months?
Carol: The airlines continue to improve their safety protocols in order to ensure passenger safety. Passengers need to adhere to all of the pre-flight and in-flight travel requirements. The larger airports are also looking into ways to help travelers navigate through the check-in process and the baggage process. It is best to review all airline safely guidelines prior to traveling. The airline websites are updated frequently.
Road Scholar: Are airlines refunding if people change their minds and don’t want to fly?
Carol: No. Most airlines have waived change fees, which allow you to postpone your trip, but full refunds are not typically an option on most tickets.
Road Scholar: What are the benefits of using Road Scholar air?
Carol: There are eight reason someone should select Road Scholar air:
- Airport transfers are included if you purchase Road Scholar air.
- Your airfare is covered under our travel protection plan.
- Emergency After-Hours Service. We assist you if/when issues arise on the day of travel. And, we will ensure that your transfers are rescheduled to meet your new arrival times.
- We book the best air routings at the best value based on airline availability at the time of booking.
- You do not pay for your airline ticket until your final payment is due.
- Our airfares give you the flexibility to make changes or upgrade your booking up to the final payment due date.
- Discounted Upgrades. Fly in comfort and take advantage of our great discounted rates when upgrading to Premium Economy or Business Class.
Road Scholar: What else should people know about?
Carol: The airlines continue to work very hard to ensure air travel is safe. Many airlines are exploring using biometrics to help with pre-flight airport procedures. This will make it easier for travelers to understand the travel restrictions of the countries they will visit while helping them to prepare and upload the appropriate documentation to meet a countries’ travel restrictions. Passenger safety remains the top priority for the airlines.