There’s Huge Financial Risk Traveling Internationally As Pandemic Flexibility Policies End

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:

  1. Covid testing requirements
  2. 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.

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The Brandon administration must immediately repeal testing requirements so that travelers can make their own assessments about their fitness to fly.

  2. Keep writing the White House and also let the airlines know this pointless testing is costing them money. If enough people complain it’s harder to ignore.

  3. I just returned from a 10 day trip to Florence and Rome. Italy didn’t seem to care about testing negative before I left although I took rapid and PCR tests on my own. The U.S., however, did want a negative test taken within 24 hours of the return flight. At checkin and security, I had to show the document. I also bought pretty expensive travel insurance, just to be on the safe side. On the plane over, BA, by the way, I was told that I didn’t need to wear a mask. I did so anyway except when I was eating.

  4. Ridiculous testing requirements for US citizens to return back to their homes in the US!

  5. Brandon end stupid covid policies??? Look Bal, we’ve moved on to killing babies immediately after birth. Try and keep up with the priorities here will you.

  6. I’ve used the guided binax now tests successfully for my international re-entries in the comfort of my hotel. The website was glitchy about both my tablet and PC meeting it’s qualifications. I’ve never gotten it to work on a phone. Sometimes the advisor doesn’t ask to see the result—it’s a joke—but I’m sticking with it.

  7. alternatively, you can change the pdf on a PCR like millions have been doing for a year now

  8. The other option is to just stay home and enjoy Brandon’s $7/gallon gas. This requirement for a vaccinated US citizen to test before returning home defies logic at this point, especially when non citizens pouring across the southern border have no restrictions. What a total loser this guy has turned out to be.

  9. Don’t worry, the corrupt Democrat members of the house and senators won’t be taking any test when returning home from visiting Europe or the Ukraine. Remember, testing is for serfs only.

  10. @ CHRIS — Leave it to Trump supporters to lie whenever convenient. That’s the only quality now required to be a Republican.

  11. @ Ed — You missed a couple key words. That should be “Donald Trump is a big, fat, orange troll paid for by Putin.”

  12. This woman’s an idiot. It’s not AA’s fault herkids tested positive.

  13. Wow, trolls just flooding the comments under different names to attack Gene. Not even bothering to change up the style.

  14. The US negative test requirement to fly to the US has provided me a meaningful public health benefit by reducing the risk of exposure to Covid-19 on international flights to the US.

  15. The policy was a somewhat understandable panic (“We have to look like we’re doing something”) reaction when cases began soaring last winter. Now that they’re off more than 90% and, more importantly, hospitalizations and deaths are equally reduced, it is only bureaucratic inertia and/or willing spitefulness that keeps the rule in place. But this is the same government (under both Presidents) that banned Brits and Euros from entering until November, long after it was abundantly obvious that banning specifically them was pointless and perverse.

  16. Actually it’s a great way to get a decent vacation not just the 5-10 days Folks here take

  17. Meaningful health benefit? I didn’t think it was possible to get COVID from your Mom’s basement.

    Sometimes it’s just too obvious…

  18. I traveled SNN-JFK earlier this week, and did a proctored self test the day before. I didn’t use Verifly. Nobody asked to see it, not EI or customs/immigration.

  19. Flying back to the USA from Italy next month with an overnight in Helsinki on Finnair with an AA award ticket. Will I get free rebooking with AA on an award ticket if I test positive in Helsinki?

    Can anyone recommend a travel insurance policy if I get stuck in Helsinki and have to pay for hotel nights and pay cash for a new ticket?


  20. @Gary, I suggest a letter writing campaign by your readers. How many readers do you have. We can have an effect on this policy if we put energy into it. My letter to President Biden: “I would like you to rescind the COVID testing requirement for US citizens returning to the United States by plane. Canada, France, Italy, Australia, UK – almost all of Europe and Western industrialized countries no longer have a testing requirement to enter their countries. It is time for you to drop the testing requirement for US citizens returning to the United States. If you do not drop this requirement, please tell me the scientific basis/reasoning for keeping it place – i.e. following your promise to make decisions based on science. Thank you very much.”

  21. Yes most people know the risk. Now the real question is what travel insurance companies are available that WILL cover covid? That would be incredibly useful information to know.

  22. @Rico. I spent the night in Helsinki a couple of weeks ago before dying FinnAir to DFW. I had to fill out a health declaration given to my by a FinnAir agent but nobody asked to see the COVID test results…

  23. Covid is over. Only people who still fear it don’t understand the science, they are the same morons that still wear masks despite the fact its been proven they don’t work.

  24. Mr. K (you had to pick a name that spell check hates, darn you!).
    The right mask HELPS you limit exposure. Oh, is Joe Rogan your researcher? Condoms help limit exposure to pregnancy, of course NOT perfect. Are they morons??
    I seriously have to ask you, do you have to call people “morons” because they differ in their view of prevention? COVID is “not over” and maybe the chance of infection is about the same as being arrested by Hertz, and guess what?
    Really sucks to lose either lottery.
    This virus will be here forever and I have had healthy friends who have died or have been long term messed up-recently. It just not “news” anymore. I respect your right to your opinion but why does it matter to you what other people do? Why call them names? People in East Asia have been wearing masks for 20 years when the original SARS-2 appeared. Seems to work for them.
    Are they morons?
    I’m just trying to understand where your anger comes from? Maybe because your world (and my world) has been turned upside down? I welcome your thoughts but please, the name calling does not help your cause.
    OK, I am ready to be mindlessly insulted by you. It saddens me to think that is my first reaction…..

  25. Ah, the calls for Brandon and the hilarity within the party of the dumb that follows…how the use of a word/a name became a dog whistle for uneducated Trumpers!

    So glad to exist as a veteran of the US Army outside of the US and all of its political inbred nonsense. Travel policies are being reconsidered, masks are still a good thing, tests are a necessary inconvenience for a short while, but only extremist far-right “Patriots” have a problem accepting rules that overall benefit the greater good. Only able to identify maybe 2-3 amendments in full, these are the “true patriots” saving us from themselves…Great time to live in Thailand.

  26. Doug – I have a friend who just returned from a week in Europe. He had symptoms for about 12 hours the afternoon of arrival in Europe & tested positive. (He is double boosted & continued to test positive for 10 days, i.e., 4 days AFTER he returned to the USA). He masked when traveling & had his “negative” covid test ready 3 days prior to returning to the USA (a friend made his test by altering a PDF).

  27. I flew FCO>CDG>IAD yesterday on AF. No one actually checked our test results, just had to sign an attestation form.

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