How To Travel Home During COVID-19By Susan Trudeau
There’s no place like home.
If you, someone in your family, or your friends are abroad and trying to get home right now, life is not just scary, but also frustrating. Trying to change a return flight means a whole lot of waiting on hold, being cut off, or not getting called back all while rumors of “locking down airports” has everyone scrambling.
While we cannot help change a flight that wasn’t made through Lola (we would if we could!), we do have some tips and tricks we’ve learned over time and over the past week helping others in the same boat.
- FIRST THINGS FIRST: Have a back up plan (aka flight)!! We cannot stress this one enough these days. Maybe you were lucky enough to get an existing return ticket changed – that’s awesome, but don’t sit back and relax just yet. Things don’t always go as planned. Maybe you’ve been waiting hours to get through to a provider to have a current ticket changed and you are worried that there won’t be any seats left by the time you get through. It’s happening! But if you take a moment and enact a “Plan B," waiting will be so much less stressful. However, make sure any backup flight you purchase can be voided if your plan A works out (no reason to spend extra money if you don’t have to) AND make sure the two flights are on different airlines. Be careful though: most airline websites require 7 days advance purchase in order to be eligible for void. However, some travel platforms and third party providers have special agreements with the airlines that allow a void within 24 hours of purchase or prior to take off (whichever comes first). Regardless of where you're booking, just double check!
- Try other methods of communication besides calling to change an existing ticket. Some tickets can be changed directly on the airline website – always start there, it will be fastest and easiest. If that doesn’t work, see if the travel provider has a chat feature. In today's time, even some of the airlines do and they might be able to help you there.
- Get creative. If speaking to an agent is your only option for changing a flight, look for other numbers such as reservations, the frequent flyer program, or even try internationally dialing an international help number. Try the middle of the night or first thing in the morning when lines may not be as busy. Right now, most places are all hands on deck, round the clock just to attempt to service their customers. You can even try other avenues like an airline’s social media site to get their attention!
- Divide and conquer. So the airline has a 4 hour wait time but they have a callback option. Which should you do? Both. Borrow your spouses phone (and maybe your kids too) and wait on hold with one while setting up callbacks for the other.
- Don’t wait to bring someone home. Rumors of airports closing and lockdowns are everywhere now. Flights are being cancelled and options are diminishing fast. No one wants to be in the position of wondering if they’ll get out in time or not.
- Choose the route carefully. This is of particular importance if there are rumors of a lockdown in the country of departure. Nonstop flights are always best, but if stopping is the only option make sure you a) pick a longer than normal layover (things are crazy and you don’t want to risk missing the connection) and 2) pick a layover airport that gives you peace of mind should you get stuck. In other words, try to avoid flying through a small airport with few flights or flying into a country that has almost fully locked down. And, if you do have a layover, think about #1 again and consider a back up plan for the second flight)
- Consider carefully the flights themselves. Flights are being cancelled, and some are more at risk than others. Look at: how many people are booked on it? Has it been cancelled at all over the last week? Search your flight number on websites such as www.flightaware.com to view its recent history. Opportunities for social distancing on the plane are good, but picking the route that has been cancelled or is deemed potentially not necessary, is not. There’s no magic formula, but the more info you have, the better decision you can make.
Travel smart, be safe and stay healthy. Lola.com is here to help!