Travel

3/23/2022 | By Emma Patch

Emma Patch of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance takes a look at what travelers can expect if they are planning to fly in 2022.

Travel experts are anticipating a rebound for tourism this summer, particularly in places where borders are just beginning to reopen. That means more travelers will be boarding planes.

What travelers can expect if planning to fly this summer

Fortunately for fliers, major U.S. airlines made permanent changes during the pandemic, allowing flexible bookings for most tickets. That means you won’t have to pay a fee if you need to change your flight – as long as you don’t buy the cheapest fares. And airlines are not expected to go back on their word and change this policy anytime soon, says Scott Keyes, CEO and founder of travel website Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Chances are, if you’ve been traveling during the pandemic, you already have experience with this – you may even have accumulated a few flight credits from canceled trips. Be sure to read the fine print on these credits or vouchers, because not all airlines offer the same flexibility for your new booking. Pay attention to whether travelers are required to make the booking during a certain time frame or whether the new flight must take place during a certain time period.

For new bookings, if you are planning to fly and you want a flexible fare, avoid basic economy tickets. The cost difference between a basic economy and main cabin ticket may be low (recently as low as $20 or $30 for a $200 domestic flight), and it could be well worth paying for the upgrade if you compare that with the cost of changing your flight, which is typically $200. There are workarounds with certain airlines that offer even more flexibility. For example, if you book with United Airlines, you can later upgrade your basic economy ticket to a ticket with flight flexibility. And Southwest Airlines always offers flexibility on all tickets, no matter the price.

Requesting a flight change or credit is fairly straightforward when you book your travel directly with the airline. Once you place your request, you’ll generally be issued a credit for the full cost of the flight. Most airlines let you apply those funds to any new flight, and some, such as American and United, will even allow you to transfer your flight credit to someone else. You’ll always be on the hook for a fare difference for a new flight – unless the airline has made a special exception.

Travelers planning to fly in 2022 can expect continued COVID-19 safety protocols, such as enforced mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing stations, and more contactless processes, such as scanning your own boarding pass. Don’t expect talk about vaccine requirements for domestic flights to gain any traction.

Related: What to expect on a cruise in 2022

Covid-19 travel resources, especially for seniors and the immunocompromised

© 2022 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Emma Patch