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

PHOTOS: Residents showcased as ‘companion’ sculpture unveiled

Amica White Rock welcomes bronze guardian, celebrates resident talent

Homemade explosives detonated in South Surrey

Police asking public for help identifying those responsible

Surrey students paint mural, paying homage to First Nations, at SkyTrain station

Artwork to showcase ‘positivity and racial inclusivity in the city’

White Rock highrise on hold after workers exhibit ‘severe’ overexposure symptoms

WorkSafeBC issued stop-work order at 1588 Johnston Rd. site on July 24

More than 50,000 checks: Surrey COVID-19 compliance, enforcement team’s role has ‘evolved’

Joint bylaw, RCMP team created to help with coronavirus education, support

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Fraser Valley egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Most Read