Numerous airports, like New York LaGuardia and JFK, also have testing facilities available to passengers no matter their destination. If traveling internationally, it’s important to know when a test is required to cross a country’s border. PCR tests are usually required for entering a foreign country—although some places, like Iceland, have agreed to admit fully vaccinated U.S. travelers without a COVID-19 test.
To enter the U.S., all travelers, regardless of vaccination status and including U.S. citizens, must show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before travel (or statement of recovery from the virus within the last three months). According to new CDC guidelines, however, fully vaccinated travelers do not need to quarantine upon arrival in the U.S., unless state or local guidelines say otherwise.
Tip: Check, check, and check again. Regulations change regularly with some destinations reducing their requirements while others maintain or increase theirs. When planning a trip, review what is needed as your travel date approaches in case you need (or don’t need) a test or if other requirements have changed.
Premium cabin perks are slowly returning
Airlines are taking varying approaches to onboard food and beverage, ranging from plastic bags with bottled water and cookies for everyone to traditional first-class meals and an open bar on longer flights.
Others are offering their full service, but with a modified presentation. Qatar Airways continues its multi-course, premium cabin meals, but serves dishes with a plastic cover for protection. American, Delta and United offer hot meals on long-haul, international flights, but deliver everything covered and on one tray rather than in separate courses.
Perrella notes that offering in-flight meals is not cheap for airlines, and given the economic hit the pandemic caused, it may take time for them to return to higher levels of service. Today, premium cabin seats are most beneficial for extra space and free checked bags.
No matter where you sit on the plane, if you’re an airline lounge member, you’ll find some clubs still closed or offering restricted hours. Check online if the airports you’re visiting have one that’s open, and be prepared for a more limited selection of grab-and-go or pre-packaged snacks. Most airline lounges will also have capacity limits, increased cleaning of high-touch areas, and additions like acrylic barriers at service counters. American Express Centurion Lounges are offering staff-served buffets, which reduces touch points, but still allows the service of hot, local, chef-driven menus.
Tip: Bring your own in-flight snacks and buy water or a soft drink in the airport. Remember, however, that many airport shops and restaurants remain closed or have reduced hours (especially early and late in the day).
Ticket changes are still (mostly) flexible
Airlines have relaxed policies for passengers changing and canceling flights—a shift that makes buying tickets seem less daunting. Most domestic airlines have permanently eliminated change fees on flights within the U.S., and some have even nixed the fees on certain international routes, too.
This increased flexibility will be especially helpful going into the summer season due to more last-minute schedule changes as airlines add or remove flights to adjust to shifting demand.
One of the only exceptions are for basic economy tickets: Most airlines ended the ability to make fee-free changes to that restrictive fare class at the end of March. Always read the fine print on the airline’s policy before booking.
Tip: Check reservations regularly for changes as airlines may not notify you in advance. Some itineraries between cities may add more than one connection or longer connection times via a hub airport.