Airlines See Pandemic-Era Record High Travel — How Can You Save On Your Next Flight?

traveling girl with backpack waiting for adventure in airport
@justin_02 / Twenty20.com

Sunday saw nearly 1.67 million people screened at U.S. airport checkpoints, AOL News reported, citing Transportation Security Administration data. This was a record number since the pandemic hit, first virtually halting air travel and then slowing it to a crawl. The 1.67 million figure still represents 35% fewer than on a comparable Sunday in 2019, AOL reports, but it points to a return to normalcy.

See: Fully Vaccinated Americans Will Be Able to Travel to Europe this Summer – How Much Will It Cost?
Find: How to Save Money on Rental Cars for Your Upcoming Trip

The TSA reported that vacation travel is on the rise while business travel remains reduced, an indication of the new remote work culture that has developed since the pandemic.

All U.S. airlines have made middle seats available to travelers, with Delta Air Lines as the last U.S. airline to open all their seats, according to AOL. The TSA has extended its mask requirement on all flights through mid-September 2021.

See: Expedia Group Launches COVID-19 Travel Advisor Online Travel Tool
Find: COVID-Safe Travel Plans to Make Now to Save Money

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Book Your Flight Now Before Prices Rise

If you’re looking to book air travel, now could be the time to do it. Prices for domestic flights are still 30% to 35% lower than last year, CNBC said, citing Airlines Reporting Corporation figures. Prices will almost certainly rise as more people get vaccinated, tourist destinations open up and people book vacations. If you are considering a summer trip, book refundable tickets now to get lower prices. Many airlines are now offering more flexibility than they did pre-pandemic, according to CNBC experts. Some airlines are eliminating change fees, which can total hundreds of dollars if you need to change a flight. You might still have to pay more if the new flight is more money, but you won’t have to pay additional fees beyond the cost of the new ticket.

Additionally, consider if you have any travel credits to cash in from flights you may have scheduled before the pandemic hit. Cheap Air reported that as many as 55% of airline credits were set to expire on Jan. 1, but many airlines have granted extensions. If you aren’t sure if you have travel credits or when they expire, call your travel agent or airline to find out.

See: The Best and Worst Airlines for Cheap Flights
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Know the Best Days to Fly

Just as before the pandemic, knowing the best times to book your flight — and the best times to fly — can save you hundreds of dollars on every round trip. Travel site Expedia discovered that Sunday is the best day to purchase airline tickets, while Friday is the best day to fly for your vacation, CNBC said.

You may also be able to save money by purchasing a round-trip ticket, choosing a flight with a layover and being flexible in your travel times. Shop around on different sites, too, before making your decision. But be ready to act fast when you find a good deal because it may not last.

See: Why Now Is the Time to Spend Money on a COVID-19-Safe Getaway
Find: How Much It Costs to Visit These Isolated Locations

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Leverage Your Credit Card Rewards

If you’ve been racking up credit card travel rewards points through online shopping throughout the pandemic, you may have enough to splurge on a trip now. Frequent flyer miles aren’t always directly tied to airline ticket prices, but watch your rewards site until you see a price that you’re willing to pay. Sometimes new seats open up at better deals due to cancellations, especially if it’s getting close to your travel dates.

The same tricks still apply for finding the best airline prices. And with pricey beverage service still not available on many flights except in first class, you might even save a few extra bucks during your flight.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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