What to consider…
Many of us have had to cancel – or at least rearrange – our summer vacation plans. Whether you’d arranged to take the trip of a lifetime, fly across the country, or take your annual summer trek, it’s important to take every possible step to get any refunds you’re eligible for. And until we know more, travel plans may need to stay on hold or be modified.
Flying right now is uncertain. Many flights have been canceled while airlines are instituting social distancing procedures. If you’re unsure where you stand, contact the airline right away to discuss your options.
Afar travel media notes that “… airlines have been steering customers toward the option of obtaining a future flight credit – versus a refund – if their flight has been canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. But in early April, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice to U.S. and foreign airlines reminding them that they remain obligated to provide ‘a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.’”
If you’re interested in the specifics, the Afar site also breaks down cancellation options by the individual airline, including American Airlines, United, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, and Air France. Many are offering vouchers for future travel or honoring standard refund policies. Much depends upon the designated times you’d planned to travel.
CNBC also reports that while most major airlines are allowing cancellations for nonrefundable tickets, many are waiving their cancellation fees as well and giving a voucher for future travel. However, if you receive a voucher, do your homework to understand the fine print – and the date you need to use the voucher by. These may vary.
Hotel & Cruise Reservations
The Afar site reports that hotels are working with their customers during the crisis, showing flexibility in cancellations or the rearranging of travel plans. The site breaks down your options by hotel chain (or cruise line).
- Marriott & Hilton – They are allowing customers to change or cancel existing reservations for no penalty within 24 hours of the stay, if completed by June 30, 2020. Hilton is also waiving its ‘change fee’ through June 30, 2020.
- Intercontinental Hotel Group – Is relaxing its cancellation policies and are offering some flexible ‘future travel date’ options.
- Airbnb – Reservations made after March 14, 2020, will not be covered unless the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. Otherwise, the host’s standard cancellation policy will apply. Contact your Airbnb host for clarification.
- Cruises – Most are offering full refunds and some ‘enhanced value’ refunds, some are 125% of the trip’s original value.
These are subject to change. Contact your hotel for the latest information.
Most travel insurance carriers are designating a date between January 21-27, 2020, as the Coronavirus ‘known event’ date. So, travel insurance bought before that date will qualify for reimbursement; insurance bought after that date will not.
However, there may be some exceptions, such as purchasing ‘Coverage for Any Reason’ or CFAR insurance. While more expensive, this coverage offers more liberal guidelines and may reimburse a portion of your trip expense even if purchased after the known event date.
There may also be assistance available through the travel insurance carrier’s ‘employment layoff benefit.’
Kasara Barto, PR manager for SquareMouth, a company that reviews travel insurance products, tells CNBC that “the employment layoff benefit can reimburse prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs if a traveler has to cancel their trip due to an involuntary layoff or termination of employment.” Barto notes that policies must have been purchased prior to the layoff, and “most policies do require that the traveler has worked for the same employer for a specific period of time as well, typically one to three years.”
Being proactive regarding your travel plans is imperative. Don’t wait for travel companies to contact you!
For the most current travel information during the COVID-19 crisis, we recommend that you visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization websites. The web address the WHO is https://www.who.int/ and the CDC is https://www.cdc.gov. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to the airlines or hotels for help.