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Cheap flights are everywhere because of the coronavirus

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Domestic and international airfares continue to drop as airlines face a drop in bookings and rise in cancellations amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Delta Air Lines said Tuesday that travel demand has fallen so badly in the past week that it expects one-third of seats to be empty this month on flights within the United States – previously the market most immune to virus fallout.

Here’s an example of sample roundtrip airfares we found on Google Flights for travel in April and May:

  • San Francisco to New York City (JFK): $192
  • San Jose to Austin: $157
  • San Francisco to Denver: $150
  • San Francisco to Los Angeles: $87
  • Oakland to Los Angeles: $80
  • Oakland to Seattle: $177
  • Oakland to Houston: $137
  • San Francisco to Honolulu: $269
  • San Francisco to Chicago: $237
  • San Jose to Boston: $257
  • San Francisco to Nashville: $318
  • Oakland to Orlando: $215

While it may be tempting to take part in these deals, keep in mind that the CDC has issued a warning for “vulnerable populations” to avoid nonessential travel, especially long plane trips, and crowded spaces.

This warning is issued especially for those who are elderly and sick people.

The CDC has issued travel alerts for South Korea, China, Italy, and Iran.

Also due to the outbreak, some airlines are enforcing stricter refund policies but easier waive change fees.

For example, United Airlines changed its refund policy regarding schedule changes. While their policy used to state if the airline couldn’t find you a replacement flight that was within a two-hour window, you would be eligible for a refund, as long as it’s in that 25-hour window.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue have all also announced changes to their ticket fee change and waiver policies.

Still, some airlines are cutting back on flights in the face of the outbreak.

Delta, the world’s biggest airline by revenue, said it will cut international flights by 20% to 25% and reduce U.S. flying by 10% to 15%, roughly matching cuts previously announced by United Airlines. CEO Ed Bastian said the airline is “prepared to do more” if the outbreak grows.

The airline is cutting spending, including putting a freeze on hiring, delaying voluntary pension contributions and suspending share buybacks.

American Airlines announced it will cut international flying by 10% this summer and reduce U.S. flying by 7.5% in April. It has delayed training of new pilots and flight attendants.

United said it has arranged $2 billion in additional bank borrowing to preserve financial flexibility – raising liquidity from $6 billion to $8 billion.

The airlines are also evaluating their assets – planes, engines, spare parts and other items – to determine what could be used as collateral for more borrowing, if that is needed.

The demand drop-off that began in Asia picked up steam in the U.S. about two weeks ago, when the virus spread outside Asia, notably to Italy. It has been felt equally among business and leisure travelers.

Hauenstein said demand has fallen more sharply on the West Coast – Washington state and California have suffered larger outbreaks – than on the East Coast. He said younger people have been more willing to keep flying; people over 55 less willing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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