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)

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

Just Posted

Area A Director Ali Grieve (right), Village of Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette (front), and Village of Montrose Mayor Mike Walsh (left) held a congratulatory ceremony for Beaver Valley students who are part of the Class of 2021 graduates of J. L. Crowe Secondary at Beaver Creek Park on Thursday. Photo: Jim Bailey
Beaver Valley Grads of 2021

Beaver Valley mayors, RDKB Area A director celebrate their 2021 graduates with gift ceremony

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

A report shows nine West Kootenay communities are have more low-income persons than the provincial average. File photo
Study casts new light on poverty in the West Kootenay

Nine communities in region have more low-income residents than provincial average

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read