Saturday, 14 March 2020

Opportunities of the Corona crisis for a travel hacker

This might sound cynical, and maybe it is, but the adage 'never waste a good crisis' applies to the travel hacker's universe as well. I found myself with a lot of planned trips with nonrefundable flight and hotel bookings. I'm still trying to sort out the mess, but many waivers issued by airlines and hotel chains might provide chances to recover some of the damages.

My wife's repeatedly asking to contact the Hilton hotel we booked in Italy actually led to a full refund for a non-refundable booking at the Venice Molino Stucky (many, many thanks for that!). easyJet kept on flying to Italy way beyond what could be considered responsible, but at least allows you to ask a refund for government taxes. Other airlines, especially legacy carriers, allow rebooking.

Anyway, it's all in the game and if travel insurance won't pay out, it's just a loss - remember that a lot of people suffer from their businesses stalling or even from health issues or death. One or more trips forfeited is not the main concern these days. Think of the full hospitals in Italy and health care personnel working very hard to save lives.

Now back to the cynical part. Can you actually take advantage from the current crisis (of course without making others suffer)? Yes, you can. Travel companies need cash, loads of it, and are trying to convince you of booking trips even now, in the middle of the crisis. Because people tend not to look to far into the future, they need to be convinced that this is still a good time to book trips.

Convincing occurs in two ways: through a considerably lower price point, and/or by flexibility of travel arrangements. Hotel chains and airlines allow you to book rooms and tickets for the same low prices you would usually not receive any flexibility for. Many of these opportunities are offered past the near future in which it would not be wise to travel at all.

In fact, in a few months' time, the situation with Corona may well have stabilised. Travel plans for summer, autumn or even the winter of 2021 can be made now, and with flexilibity added there might be some real steals to be had. Today travel-dealz.de mentioned business class tickets from Budapest to New York and other US cities from only 680 euro - I think that's the lowest fare I ever saw from Europe.

I doubt it's an error fare, I think it's Skyteam (Air France/KLM) trying to collect some cash. Remember that airlines can go bankrupt so always pay with a credit card with decent protection. Also book directly with the airline to avoid hassle in dealing with an online travel agency (they're a real pain to deal with in case you have to change your plans, or the airline does, so you'd better pay slightly more at the airline itself).

Making bookings these days may involve some risk for you (again, reduce the risks by paying with credit cards only) but it also may provide you with some fantastic deals, and provide the travel industry and their employees with some very much needed cash to survive these difficult times.

One more incredible deal can be found at Lufthansa.com. Starting from Strasbourg, taking an obligatory bus to Frankfurt, you can fly business class to South-East Asia under 1,000 euro or for slightly more you can even reach Australia.

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