In the wake of the current Covid-19 crisis, many of you are probably in the midst of canceling or rescheduling your trips, vacations, and summer getaways. Unfortunately, dealing with airlines, travel agents, and insurance companies can often be the most stressful part of traveling - a global pandemic not helping matters. However, the process can be simpler than you may think.
As I have finally completed changing over my upcoming trip to Bali from May to September, I have a few tips to share…
First rule of thumb - Don’t piss off the travel industry workers
Come on, you can do it - you learned how to be nice in kindergarten. Being kind to the travel industry workers you speak with during this process can go a lot further then you may think. Not only are they currently overworked and over-stressed at their jobs, they are also dealing with the pandemic impacting their personal lives as well. Remember, these are the people who control how quickly and seamlessly you’re accommodated, so make sure to be on your best behavior.
Trip booking services
If you booked your trip through a service such as Hopper, Expedia, Orbitz, etc., you’ll want to initially contact them to see what they're offering and how they can help you. Many of these services have added options to cancel or change your flight right on their website or app in order to avoid long wait times for calls and chat rooms.
I went through Hopper while booking my trip and had a really pleasant experience in re-booking. I was able to message their chat center (found within my trip itinerary) and discuss new flights with one of their travel agents. Although I was charged an additional $150 for the new flights, I submitted this price increase to my insurance company and am hoping to be reimbursed. Since Hopper answers messages based on your trip departure date, it took them about a week to respond to me.
The only feature I don’t like about Hopper is that they don’t have a customer service phone number or email, so if you're having trouble with your booking it can be difficult to contact them. Since I have re-booked my trip, Hopper has changed their chat center to include a feature to request new flight dates right on the app. This feature can take up to two weeks to finalize.
While airlines have been pretty accommodating during this time, many people are still dealing with refund and cancellation request problems. If your flight is set to depart after April 30th, many airlines are asking you to contact them at a later date for more details, with some airlines asking people only to contact them if their flights is set to depart within the next 72 hours.
Of course, the likelihood of you wanting to wait a month or more to know the fate of your expensive vacation are very slim. Instead of calling, try reaching out to airlines through email, or see if they have a cancellation/change form on their website. Each airline has their own rules, so make sure to read up on your specific airline’s Covid-19 emergency policies. Luckily, the US Department of Transportation requires flight companies to issue a full cash refund on flights that are cancelled by airlines. You may have to fight a little to get your money back, so make sure you know what your owed before doing so.
The leg of our flight from New York City to Singapore was actually canceled by Singapore Airlines, however we personally chose to re-book opposed to requesting a full refund.
Dealing with vacation rental companies; a “I want my money back” love story
Companies like Airbnb and VRBO are taking their part in helping people re-book and cancel their stays. While VRBO cash and credit refunds are based on each homeowner's policy, they are waving their service fees and strongly urging property owners and managers to issue at least a partial refund or full credit options. Find VRBO's full Covid-19 cancellation policy here.
According to Airbnb, “Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and May 31, 2020, are covered by the policy and may be canceled before check-in. Guests who cancel will have a variety of cancellation and refund options, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit that includes, all service fees for covered cancellations.”
Find Airbnb's full Covid-19 cancellation policy here.
Personally, we decided to cancel our Airbnb lodging and find a new one for our new date due to price increases in September and a portion of our group not being able to travel on the new dates. In canceling, we received a full refund issued back on our credit card minus our service fee, which was issued to us in a coupon code to use in a future booking.
If you’re staying at a hotel or a resort, you should be able to work with them to come up with a way for them to either issue you a refund or reschedule your stay. If a hotel is offering you points opposed to a refund, try talking to someone in customer service. Many times it just takes talking to someone and explaining your personal situation for them to accommodate you.
Canceling excursions - Do monkey sanctuaries give refunds?
If you're anything like me, you have a trip itinerary with excursions, transportation, and activities booked prior to your trip. I was able to easily reach out to each company privately and discuss refund or rescheduling options. Luckily, I was able to adjust our reservations to our new date without any penalties.
If any companies refuse to issue you a refund, you may be able to file these charges under your trip insurance (if you have it), depending on your plan.
Filing trip insurance; A fucking travel nightmare
If your airline either gives you trouble with re-booking or canceling, or charges you any fees in doing so, you can file these to your trip insurance company (only if you bought this at the time of your original flight purchase). While each insurance company offers different services based on your plan, if your state is currently under quarantine, make sure to mention it in your claim - it is often one of the reasons for them to accept your filing.
In addition to flights, you can also file a claim for accommodations that didn’t offer you a refund along with any costs from non refundable excursions or other trip costs. We worked with Aon and are still awaiting a response.
For more information on flight insurance, check out this article by HuffPost.
Still need help? Here are some more helpful articles:
Have you had to cancel a trip due to COVID-19? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!