When Joe Biden was named president-elect elect Saturday morning, Melissa Band hustled to her computer to price airline tickets from Florida to Washington to attend his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Bland found a few available seats but waited until Saturday afternoon to book her flight. By then, the fares had gone up $100. And the only hotel availability she could find in downtown Washington was at the Hilton Garden Inn in Georgetown for a nonrefundable $700 a night.
“Shoot, it’s worth it,” said Band, a 43-year-old high school teacher from Fort Walton Beach. “I’m only staying there one night. It’s my first inauguration, and it’s such a historic one, especially for women and little girls, especially Brown little girls.”
Thousands of Americans like Bland are racing and contemplating traveling to Washington during the extended Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend to see Biden, along with Vice President-Elect Kamala D. Harris, be sworn in as the nation’s 46th president.
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Harris will be the first woman to serve as vice president. She will also be the first Black woman and Asian American to hold the nation’s second-highest office.
For Democrats and Biden supporters who plan to celebrate the defeat of President Trump and the changing of administrations, the inauguration is a much-anticipated gathering. The event also is expected to draw thousands of alumni from Harris’s alma mater, Howard University, and members of Harris’s sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s first Black sorority, which Harris pledged at Howard in Northwest Washington.
But getting here and finding a place to stay may prove more difficult than would-be revelers expected. Air travel dropped dramatically in March with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing airlines to cut flights. While travel has picked up slightly, carriers are still flying far fewer flights, meaning fewer seats available at lower fares.
Hotels, like most businesses, were hit hard by the pandemic and were forced to cut thousands of employees at their properties as bookings fell. That means at some hotels, in-room dining and other services may not be available, although they say special coronavirus cleaning and other precautions are in place. Rooms that are available are often going for hefty prices because chains see the Inauguration as a chance to recoup some of the revenue lost due to the pandemic, experts said.
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Benet Wilson, a senior editor at The Points Guy, a website that covers the travel industry, said standard travel guidance such as cheaper flights through Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, probably won’t apply and instead travelers will need to be more strategic.
“Airlines and hotels are not stupid,” Wilson said. “They understand the historic nature of this inauguration. Prices will be going up accordingly. They will be trying to get every dime they can get,” she said.
Spokespeople at Southwest, American and Delta declined to comment on if