SARS Could Mean Higher Ticket Prices

By: Jarrod Aldom
By: Jarrod Aldom

Vacation season is fast approaching. With the airlines already losing business from the war, SARS has done even more damage to the industry. And that could impact you as well.

The Centers for Disease Control has released a travel health advisory for people going to certain places in Asia.

"The government is not telling you not to travel there, but they are telling you to be aware of what is going on," says travel agent Brandi Lombardi Simmons. "But as more cases develop, there will probably be more flights canceled or more restrictions."

Airlines like Continental have already started to suspend flights to some areas. If that trend continues, Simmons says low-cost seats will be hard to find.

"It may raise the overall average of the tickets," admits Simmons. "They may still sell discounted tickets and there will still be airfare wars and things like that, but they just won't sell as many."

The CDC has also given airlines guidelines for how to clean and disinfect planes that have just completed international flights. Since SARS can be spread just like the common cold, passengers on jets with recirculated air are at risk.

Airlines are advised to not use compressed air to clean the planes. Workers should wear disposable gloves while cleaning the jets. And they should wipe down any frequently touched surfaces like armrests, seatbacks, and tray tables with germicide.

Airlines are not required to use these procedures now, but that could change if the situation worsens. And Simmons says that might mean more expense for you.

"If the burden is on them (the airlines) to pay for new air systems or whatever, a portion of it would be passed on just like fuel surcharges are," says Simmons.

Many aircraft are fitted with HEPA filters, which would be able to remove SARS microbes from a plane cabin.

Simmons says on average bookings are down at Carlson Wagonlit. But unless the situation gets worse, popular summer destinations like the Caribbean and Disney World shouldn't be affected greatly.

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