A sobering article in the National Geographic shares a quote from Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Assocation. He claims “the impact on travel is six or seven times greater than the 9/11 attacks”. British Airways alone are suspending 30,000 staff and Heathrow has shut down one of its two runways.
When the COVID-19 outbreak reared its ugly head I thought okay, we can deal with this. Let’s stay safe and all will be over by the summer. Two months in and this virus continues its terrifying reign, far outstaying its welcome. Of course this has many implications on many aspects of our life. But here at Jetlag & Mayhem we like to focus on all things family travel. So I thought I’d share what’s going on in the land of cancellations, refunds and travel insurers like AA Travel Insurance.
Did you have a holiday booked for the summer? I did. I plan my trips a year in advance to take advantage of air miles and advance price discounts. I had booked practically all of our two week US roadtrip to Utah. From glamping in Zion National Park to tickets for a show in Vegas. At this point, I don’t think we will be able to travel in July. So should I go about cancelling what I can and getting a refund? Or try to put things on pause and reschedule for another time? My feeling is that if you are offered the chance to reschedule, particularly for the small businesses, this is your chance to help keep them afloat. That said, rebooking a trip is an unknown entity, none of us can truly be certain when we will travel again.
Refunding Your Airfare
It’s important here to know your rights (although these are changing as airlines are lobbying for greater leniency). The airline industry is on its knees. Therefore they will try anything to avoid giving you a full refund e.g. credit vouchers or the option to rebook.
I have a flight booked with Scoot to the Philippines in July. I received an email to say they are offering a one-time free date change on my existing booking. This must be made by May 31st 2020. Yet we have no idea when all this will be over and it will be safe to fly. So how can I possibly rebook? I’m much better off waiting for the flight to be cancelled, in order to receive a full refund.
For flights with BA, Easyjet and Ryanair, check out Simon Calder’s piece for the Independent
Refunding Hotel Rooms
I have all of our accommodation booked for our summer trip to Utah. This is a mix of airbnb, big hotel chains and small guesthouses. I’m sure most businesses will be reasonable, particularly as they want to retain your business. I am most concerned about the small operators here, it will be very hard for them to survive this.
I have a non-refundable room booked at the Courtyard Marriott LAX. Marriott’s latest update is that ‘including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, will allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival,* as long as the change or cancellation is made by June 30, 2020′
For refundable rooms, I will make a call closer to the time, although my gut feel is that we won’t be doing any summer travel.
For airbnb, the latest update is: Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before 14 March 2020, with a check-in date between 14 March 2020 and 31 May 2020, may be cancelled before check-in. My reservations are for July, but I think guidance will be revised weekly.
Does Travel Insurance Cover COVID Cancellation?
As with everything travel insurance related e.g. AA Travel Insurance, this is rather complicated. You will need to read the fine print to see if you are covered. Typically if your policy was bought before end Jan 2020, you might receive some cancellation coverage.
I have an annual policy with Allianz, which was renewed in Dec 2019. It would seem they will cover me for cancellation on this. Unsurprisingly ‘For travel tickets and similar booking purchased after 20 Mar 2020, we will not be covering any claims arising from the COVID-19 pandemic inclusive of medical expenses & medical assistance cases based on the terms and conditions of our Policy Wording‘.
Supporting The Travel Industry
Whilst it all looks quite grim, there are some things you can do to support the travel industry. Much of this involves us ‘traveling’ locally to our doorstep e.g. ordering food from your favourite local restaurant. Travel blogger, Dangerous Business, has a super list of 9 things we can all do. In the meantime, I will continue to read all of my favourite travel bloggers and add to my every growing travel bucket list!
It is also worth having a fantastic travel agent on hand to book your trips. Typically I do it myself as I love it. But if you usually find it a hassle, a decent travel agent will be worth their weight in gold during this current climate. You make the key decisions and they will follow up and do all the hard work for you. Check out my good friend Caroline at Travel Counsellors for all your future trips!