Airlines have lost billions of dollars this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, as travelers stayed home and planes flew virtually empty.

Even as cities and states have relaxed quarantine measures, 75% of flights are running half full (or less). The average U.S. flight had just 23 passengers as of early May.

Demand for air travel is picking back up — but airlines are reducing services. Things are changing quickly, and there are plenty of reasons you’ll want to buy a plane ticket right now, even if you’re not ready to get back on a plane.

Here’s what you need to know:

 

Flights bought by June 30 can be changed to a later date with no fees.

This is a way to take advantage of lower prices while still feeling out the coronavirus situation.

Normally, airlines charge $200 to change the date of a flight, but in the age of coronavirus, they’ve been waiving those fees. Rewards members who get free flights, and then cancel them, usually have to pay a “redeposit fee,” but airlines have waived those costs, too, for a limited time.

Here’s what each major airline is doing:

  • Alaska: No change/cancellation fees for tickets purchased before June 30, 2020, for travel taking place through May 31, 2021. Customers have one year from the original travel date to take their rescheduled trip.
  • American: Waiving change fees on new/existing tickets bought by June 30, 2020, for travel through Sept. 30. Rebooked travel must be completed by the end of 2021.
  • Delta: New/existing tickets bought before June 30, 2020 may be rescheduled with no change fee up to a year from the original purchase date. If you bought a ticket before April 17 — for flights between now and Sept. 30 — change fees are waived, and your Delta credits may be used through Sept 30, 2022.
  • JetBlue: Waiving change/cancellation fees for customers with existing bookings made before June 30, 2020. Customers making changes will receive a JetBlue credit they can use up to 24 months for any flight on JetBlue’s schedule.
  • Southwest: They’re known for having no change fees, ever.
  • Spirit: Waiving change and cancellation fees for tickets purchased before June 30, 2020.
  • United: No change fees on bookings made now through June 30, 2020, made within 12 months of the original purchase date.

 

Travel experts say airline ticket prices will rise 50% this summer.

The reason for the price hike, according to travel expert Pauline Frommer, is because airlines are capping the number of seats available for purchase, due to social distancing.

Not being able to sell as many seats will make flights more expensive for airlines, and the cost will get passed to travelers.

Flights from L.A. to New York City were as low as $41.20 in April, according to FareDetective.com, and have already risen to $121 in June.

The good news? That’s still lower than the average price of $358.

 

There are going to be fewer flights overall this summer, as demand goes up.

Record-low customer demand in the first half of 2020 has moved airlines to cut the number of flights they’re making nationally and internationally.

For example, American Airlines announced 70% reduction of domestic flights, and 80% fewer international flights for June 2020, as compared with June 2019.

 

Airlines are flying to 60 fewer airports to cut costs.

The federal stimulus bill requires airlines to keep flying to the same airports as they did before the pandemic, but the Transportation Department gave them exceptions to reduce the number of destinations by 5% or 11 airports — whichever is greater.

Fifteen airlines recently got exceptions to stop flying into about 60 different airports.

 

Some discount airlines are leaving 16 major airports.

Southwest isn’t reducing any of their airports, but some other discount carriers are, according to The Points Guy.

JetBlue Airlines is suspending service to:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Detroit (DTW)
  • Houston Bush (IAH)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)
  • Nashville (BNA)
  • Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Portland (PDX)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • Seattle/Tacoma (SEA)
  • Tampa (TPA)

Spirit Airlines is suspending service to:

  • Charlotte (CLT)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Portland (PDX)
  • Seattle/Tacoma (SEA)

Don’t get too concerned; JetBlue averages 1.4 departures a day at those airports, and Spirit averaged less than 1 departure a day.

 

 

Most airlines are leaving dozens of small-market airports.

Fifteen airlines recently got exceptions to stop flying into about 60 small-market airports. Here’s where airlines are making cuts:

Alaska Airlines

  • Charleston, South Carolina (CHS)
  • Columbus (CMH)
  • El Paso (ELP)
  • New Orleans (MSY)
  • San Antonio (SAT)

Allegiant Airlines

  • New Orleans (MSY)
  • Ogdensburg, New York (OGS)
  • Palm Springs (PSP)
  • San Antonio (SAT)
  • Springfield, Illinois (SPI)
  • Tucson (TUS)

American Airlines

  • Aspen, CO (ASE)
  • Montrose, CO (MTJ)
  • Vail, CO (EGE)
  • Worcester, MA (ORH)

Delta Air Lines

  • Aspen, CO (ASE)
  • Bangor, ME (BGR)
  • Erie, PA (ERI)
  • Flint, MI (FNT)
  • Fort Smith, AR (FSM)
  • Lincoln, NE (LNK)
  • New Bern/Morehead/Beaufort, NC (EWN)
  • Peoria, IL (PIA)
  • Santa Barbara, CA (SBA)
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA (AVP)
  • Williston, ND (XWA)

Frontier Airlines

  • Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina (GSP)
  • Mobile, Alabama (MOB)
  • Palm Springs (PSP)
  • Portland, Maine (PWM)
  • Tyler, Texas (TYR)

United Airlines

  • Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton (ABE)
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee (CHA)
  • Fairbanks (FAI)
  • Hilton Head, South Carolina (HHH)
  • Ithaca (ITH)
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan (AZO)
  • Key West (EYW)
  • Lansing, Michigan (LAN)
  • Myrtle Beach (MYR)
  • Rochester, Minnesota (RST)
  • St. Thomas (STT)

 

Your credit card may be able to help you get refunded for unused travel reservations.

If your credit card includes travel insurance, it’s very possible that could be the best avenue for getting fully reimbursed for an unused or canceled trip.

Check with your credit card company if you don’t have any luck getting a refund with your airline.

RELATED: Flight Refunds and Cancellations During COVID-19.

 

Don’t forget to save even more with discount airline gift cards.

Raise.com sells gift cards for less than the value on the card, which means instant savings.

Raise also has gift cards for Hotels.com (5% off), Airbnb (2.5% off), and Royal Caribbean (5% off) — so keep that in mind, too.

 

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Even If You Aren't Ready to Fly Yet, You Should Buy a Plane Ticket by June 30