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Cancelling and Postponing Travel Plans Due to COVID-19

Jessica Nabongo Walking from an airplane in Serengeti, Tanzania

If you are  anything like me you had a ton of travel plans for March, April and even in May that have to be either cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19. As a frequent traveler this is probably my biggest nightmare, but we all have to do our part to slow the spread of this global pandemic. So even for trips that have not been formally canceled, we should all be postponing non-essential travel. 

Below I will share  a bit about my experiences of cancelling and postponing plans during this unprecedented time and then I’m going to offer a few tips on how you can cancel and postpone your plans for upcoming travel!

Three imperatives that we have to remember during this time is to be kind, be patient and be flexible.

  1. Be kind 
    When you are cancelling your plans, whether you are calling an airline, hotel, booking website and other travel related  companies, it is really important to be kind. We are all in this together. No one could have predicted what is going on and none of us could have predicted the global shutdown, also, information is changing daily! Maintain kindness when you are talking to people on the phone or when you are sending emails. Remember, it’s not their fault, it’s not your fault, it’s no one’s fault, so be kind to the customer service representatives because they are dealing with thousands of people every day who are in a similar situation. 
  2. Be patient
    You are very likely to have to wait on hold for very long amounts of time when you are calling these companies, you may also not get an immediate response to your emails. Keep in mind that the priority is going to be on customers, flights and travel that’s happening within the next 72 hours. If you are not travelling within 72 hours, you have to be patient and wait a little bit.
  3. Be flexible
    Right now, we have no clue when international travel is going to resume, we don’t know how long different countries are going to keep their borders closed and unless you have a magical crystal ball, no one can predict it, so be flexible. Once we are all out of this, we can go back to living our best travel lives. I can’t wait to get back out there!

My experiences

Let me tell you a bit about my experience during the last few weeks, having to cancel and postpone both personal and business trips. I have received a variety of credits and refunds as a result. 

When I arrived back home on March 10th from Orlando after visiting my sister my Delta app had eight trips and now I’m down to only two, because that’s the reality of what’s been going on. 

For example, that weekend I was going to travel to New York with my nephew to take him to see his first ever Broadway play! He just turned 12, he was going to be travelling to New York by himself and I was so excited, but once Broadway went dark we cancelled our plans.

I was able to get my sister a refund by calling immediately. She used miles and they didn’t charge a redeposit fee. She was also able to get a 100% refund for the unaccompanied minor fee. For me, I was able to get a waiver for my mileage ticket, because I had an “open ticket”, meaning I had already flown one leg of it. I wasn’t able to get my miles redeposited, but it’s fine because those miles will be available for me to spend for one year.

My second trip was my return to Detroit after going to New York with my nephew and again I just received a credit, because the flight was not cancelled, I was voluntarily cancelling my travel plans, in the interest of public health, even though I really really wanted to just hang out with my friend in NYC that weekend!

I also had a business trip coming up to Jordan. I was hosting a trip with my company, Jet Black, with 10 clients and a photographer. It is a trip that I was looking forward to, and I’m still looking forward to it because we are postponing it until the fall!  

I was scheduled to fly AirFrance through Paris, so when Trump announced that they were putting a ban on travel through Europe I immediately called and tried to cancel my ticket and get a refund. But they told me I can only have a credit because the flight was not cancelled. The second time I called because the Kingdom of Jordan announced that they were not allowing any international arrivals anymore. I called on March 16th, the ban went into effect on March 17. I still was not able to get a refund, because the flight had not been cancelled. Third time’s a charm! I called back on March 20th, the ban had been put in place in Jordan and because the flight was cancelled they sent me an email which prompted me to call and I was able to get a 100% refund! Be patient, yet persistent!!!

Tips for cancelling 

Many airlines are still only offering change fee waivers or credits for future travel, but if refund is your goal, the best thing to do is to wait until you see that the flight has been cancelled and then you should be able to get a refund. Not in all cases, but definitely call your airline to see what you can do about it. Bonus: If you have status with an airline, call the priority line directly to get through quicker. I am Diamond Medallion with Delta and I have not waited more than three minutes anytime that I called in.

The same thing goes for hotels as well. Many hotels are giving credits, but some are giving full refunds if you can prove that you cannot travel into the country because of various restrictions. The US State Department has put together comprehensive country specific information regarding travel and confirmed cases of COVID-19. If you are calling before your flight is cancelled they are only likely to give you a credit because they do not know that the flight is gonna be cancelled yet. So being patient is definitely key here.

Hotels.com has also been amazing. In the beginning it was difficult because I booked a non-refundable hotel room, but given the current situation, we called the hotel directly, they told us that they would give us a refund. Now what Hotels.com is doing with all of my other bookings is they are sending me an email saying “do you want to cancel?”. This is great, because at that point I do not need to call them and wait on hold, I can just go on the website, click cancel and I get a 100% refund.

Here are some links so that you can read how different companies are handling postponements and cancellations.

Airlines 

Air France

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

British Airways

Delta Air Lines

Emirates

Frontier

Hawaiian Airlines

JetBlue

KLM

Lufthansa

Norwegian

Qatar Airways

Ryanair

Southwest

Spirit

Turkish Airlines

United

Hotels 

Marriott

Hotels.com

Airbnb

Booking.com

Expedia

When can I book another trip?

Many people are wondering when they will be able to book travel again. Unfortunately, right now we do not know when we will  be able to travel. If you see a flight deal and you are really excited about it, you can try booking for several months out and cross your fingers. In the event that we are still not able to travel on your scheduled  travel dates, you can have peace of mind knowing that most airlines are not charging change fees for flights booked through the end of March, though many airlines are extending this!! That means if you have to change your flight at a later date they are not going to charge you the $200-300 that it would typically cost to change your flight.

For those of you who have trips coming up who have to cancel or postpone, I hope this post helps you. Please remember: be kind, be patient and be flexible. We are just postponing travel for now. One day, this will all be over and we’ll all be able to travel again but it is really important that we all globally work together to stop the spread right now. So stay home, let’s all be alone together and practice social distancing!

What has been your experience with cancelling or postponing travel?

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