Canceled flights. Masks required. Temperature screens. Air travel is simply not the same since the COVID-19 outbreak. We fly in a strange and often confusing world. So what are the new rules for air travel after the pandemic? There are changes that everyone sees, like new airline reimbursement policies and mandatory face coverage. But the significant changes – those taking place behind the scenes – suggest passengers have an edge they haven’t had in years. How has the flight changed since the coronavirus? Behind the scenes, the balance of power has changed … [+] toward you. getty How has air travel changed since the pandemic? But first, let’s talk about the changes you noticed. When it comes to air travel, here’s what has visibly changed since the pandemic: ticket change policies are more flexible. If you cancel a flight, you don’t have to pay a change fee. If you accept a flight voucher, you may be able to use it for up to two years from the date you booked your original ticket. Screening is contactless. The TSA has adjusted its screening procedures to eliminate contact with passengers, and some airlines also monitor the temperature of their passengers. Masks are mandatory. Although no federal rule requires passengers to wear masks, many airlines require it as a matter of principle. Cabin service has been reduced. Food and beverage service has been reduced on many flights. Your flight attendant is more likely to hand you a bottle of water in a plastic bag than to offer you a can of soda. These changes are quite minor and in some cases for the better. Airline change fees have become punitive over the past decade. The pandemic brought them back to earth. And the TSA was getting a little too delicate with their punches, thrusts, and pats. Please note: This is the first part of a two-part series on the new travel rules after COVID-19. Look for part two on the new rules for hosting tomorrow. But the new air travel rules that really matter are the ones no one is talking about. This is because not many people know them. After the pandemic, you can negotiate better terms with your airline. getty Almost Everything is Negotiable One thing that has largely escaped the attention of the flying public: everything is negotiable. Think about ticket refunds. The rules are clear: if your airline cancels your flight, you get a full refund. But if you cancel the flight because you’re worried about getting infected, you get a voucher. Unless you’re Beth Cooper-Zobott. She had to cancel her United Airlines flight from Chicago to Toronto in August after the border closed. Cooper-Zobott and his sisters were traveling to Canada to see the Chicago Cubs take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Her sisters received theft credit, but she persisted. “I felt like this was a real force majeure situation and United should offer a refund,” says Cooper-Zobott, an event planner from Bartlett, Ill. She reached out to United on Facebook and was surprised by the response. “By looking closely at the entry conditions [for Canada], we may ask you to refund your ticket with the original payment method, as you would face a 14 day quarantine upon arrival, “a representative told him. And just like that, United refunded his ticket from $ 500. Airline rules have become more flexible since the start of the pandemic. Getty New Air Travel Rule # 1: Change is the only constant Air travel after the pandemic is changing so quickly it’s difficult to keep pace. “The most effective strategies for solving travel problems in the pandemic have been shown to watch, wait and keep an eye on ever-changing policies,” says Louisa Gehring, Travel Advisor at Gehring Travel, affiliate to Virtuoso. “If you think you will need to cancel or postpone your trip now, but the cancellation conditions are not yet flexible for your planned travel dates, at strain. And keep an eye out for how those policies change. “I couldn’t keep up with all the changes in the first few weeks after the start of the pandemic. But even now, airlines continue to make smaller, unannounced adjustments. They are tweaking their transport contracts – the legal agreements between you and the carrier – usually to their advantage. The many changes United Airlines has made to its refund rule come to mind. Don’t assume you know a rule, even if you are sure you do. a more negotiating mood after the pandemic. Getty New Airline Rule # 2: You Get What You Negotiate I deal with reimbursement issues almost every day on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site. just had a woman with the same problem It was a dead end situation on LOT, the Polish company She could not get to Europe because of the ban one to travel, and the airline did not even respond. She used the same strategy as Cooper-Zobott. She posted a private message on LOT’s Facebook page. within minutes, a representative offered him a full refund. I have seen this over and over again. The old “no waivers, no favors” attitude was abandoned during the pandemic. It was changed to “you get what you bargain for”. And the airlines are certainly in the mood to negotiate. Air travelers should expect discounts and more flexible terms as airlines struggle to take off … [+] after the pandemic. getty New rule 3 on air travel: it’s a buyer’s market for air travel. You don’t know what else is on the table when it comes to stealing. Indeed, for the first time in a generation, the balance of power has shifted to consumers. According to the Official Airlines Guide (OAG), the capacity of domestic airlines this week is just under 56 million passengers – less than half of what it is in low season. It would be naive to think that airlines can charge you whatever fare or fees they want in this kind of market. And while they can try, passengers should know they have the upper hand. And they will do it for a long time to come. We are talking about months, even years. The balance of power has shifted to passengers after COVID-19. getty New Air Travel Rule # 4: Power Games Work Now It wasn’t that long ago that airlines didn’t care who you were. Flashing a platinum card when trying to get a stupid free waiver would only invite sneers from the ticket agents. Today you can do power play. But there is a right way to do it and a not-so-nice way. Gentle negotiation from a position of strength is Clark Mitchell’s preferred method. He is a travel consultant for Strong Travel Services. “The best way to resolve a problem with a seller or supplier is to leverage your affiliation,” he explains. By that, he means using the power of your travel agency buying consortium to get what you want. A consortium like Virtuoso, to which his agency belongs, makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year in business with a company. You can also rely on Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, which state that if an airline cancels your flight, you deserve a refund within seven business days if you paid by credit card. But DOT regulations are not applied evenly, and airlines are pushing to weaken consumer protection laws in Europe, saying the extraordinary circumstances mean they shouldn’t have to issue refunds. “These short-term circumstances cannot be an excuse for long-term changes in passenger rights,” noted Christian Nielsen, legal director of AirHelp. “Especially not at times when one of the primary goals of aviation survival is to regain the confidence of passengers.” The not-so-nice way is what I call the nuclear option. It leverages the power of your bank and federal law to extract money from an airline and return it to you, as I explained in a recent Washington Post column. And it’s especially useful for Canadian and European airlines that falsely claim they can’t offer refunds for flights they’ve canceled. Under the regulations of the Department of Transportation, not only can they, but they must. What if they don’t cooperate? You can deposit a chargeback on your credit card and ask your bank to reimburse you. I have seen this power game work many times since the start of the pandemic. Important new rules for air travel are largely invisible. Of course, some airline policies have changed. Screening is a bit different and you have to wear a mask on the plane. But the real changes have happened behind the scenes, where the balance of power has shifted towards you. My suggestion: enjoy it while it lasts. .
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