Throughout the pandemic what’s been standing in the way of international travel isn’t just restrictions on whether people are permitted to travel, but also regime uncertainty, which involves the changing rules. There have been huge hoops to jump through for many destinations but the rules also change.
You could buy a ticket and find that the destination you thought would be open to you isn’t anymore. We’ve even seen cases where travel rules change while passengers are inflight, and people suddenly found themselves subject to quarantine they weren’t expecting.
This mostly involves international travel, but not only. One case of unexpected quarantine involved a flight from Brisbane to Perth in Australia (Western Australia had some of the most draconian rules in place throughout the pandemic). But it even happened in the U.S..
New Yorkers would buy tickets to travel domestically, only to find that the states they were visiting were added to the restricted list (quarantine on arrival required) before travel – or even while they were traveling.
Things are better in terms of stability now, with rules largely becoming more liberal for most destinations, but that isn’t guaranteed to continue (just ask San Francisco) and there seems greatest risk in China and places where China has the greatest influence.
However the U.S. regime requiring a negative test to return to the country, which provides no meaningful public health benefit, creates significant expense risk – and not just for extra nights of lodging and meals on the road.
Traveling internationally remains a real risk thanks to:
- Covid testing requirements
- airlines re-faring tickets when passengers must delay their travel home after a positive test.
Here’s one passenger told a positive test meant they’d be facing an additional $2500 to get home.
Fares are subject to availability and can change at any time. Please keep checking back for a rate that works for your son.
— americanair (@AmericanAir) May 3, 2022
This is what many travelers now expect, or at least soon should be expecting, as much of the nation returns to travel but the Biden administration says they have no intention of eliminating testing requirements.
Consider that Airbnb no longer allows positive Covid test refunds, and United Airlines no longer runs APUs during boarding and deplaning. The travel industry is moving on from its pandemic policies.
Fortunately, American Airlines policy actually does allow for travel changes within 7 days in the event a passenger is ineligible to travel due to inability to meet pandemic rules (‘DHTV policy’ covering ‘implemented document health travel restrictions’).
Prompted by aviation watchdog JonNYC I asked American if this only applied when actually being denied boarding at the airport? Or if the policy had quietly ended? An airline spokesperson confirms “The policy is still in effect. We’re reaching back out to the customer to get her son reaccommodated per policy.”
Still, American’s good policy here notwithstanding, you need to consider the costs you’ll incur if you can’t travel home when planned. These include not just airfare changes, additional meals, and extra lodging costs. It may mean job interruption and pet sitting.
There’s travel insurance, but many policies being sold now exclude pandemics or Covid-19 specifically, don’t cover all relevant costs, and can be an extreme hassle to get to pay out. Pandemic travel restrictions mean a risk-adjusted additional cost that needs to be factored into travel. That makes travel more expensive and therefore holds back international travel.