SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — In the past, threats of other viruses have led to discounts or deals to faraway places, but the coronavirus is actually driving up airline tickets.
Many major airlines canceling flights to Beijing and Shanghai and grounding flights returning altogether. The fear is causing cancellations over health concerns and increasing travel costs.
As the coronavirus spreads, travelers are taking extra precautions such as wearing masks and wiping down seats.
“Cause we don’t know where the plane has been, and so we was just being safe,” Bridgitte Wiggins, who was traveling from Florida, said.
Calls are also coming in to travel agents to cancel their trips.
“We had a corporate client that had 200 people going to China, close to Wuhan, and they basically changed it and now they’re going to Half Moon Bay,” Trudy Flores with TravelStore said.
In that case, travelers were able to get some of their money back because the airline ended up canceling the flight when airlines grounded planes to China and Hong Kong, but that’s not always the case.
“You can’t cancel because of fear. You can cancel because the State Department has issued a warning to the area and doesn’t recommend that you go, then that would cover you insurance-wise,” Flores said.
Travel agents say worries over viruses like SARS and H1N1 in years past resulted in ticket discounts, this time around, the opposite is happening.
Janak Sidra has run Universal Travel for 25 years, specializing in the Indian sub-continent. He says fewer flights are taking the pacific flight route or travelers just don’t want to risk it.
“In that section of the world the prices actually went up,” Sidra said. “So all that traffic is going through flights via Atlantic, so therefore there is more demand all of a sudden.”
He says ticket prices have jumped from $600 to $800-$1,000, while ticket prices for cruises in Asia are down 70% from $2,000 to $600 in places like Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan with most being canceled entirely in China.
Sidra says all of this is impacting travel to southeast Asia.
“Nobody wants to go there. People even in neighboring countries like Thailand, Laos — a lot of community here from Laos and Cambodia — they’re not even traveling,” Sidra said.
The U.S. is also losing a lot of money as well because the average Chinese traveler spends $7,000 while in the states.