WRAL NEWS – Travel and the Pandemic

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I think it’s safe to say that people are not jumping to book trips for the immediate future, but the people still have a lot of questions. Travel Expert, Francesca Page, attempts to answer some of the bigger questions below.

At what point do you go ahead and pull the plug on an upcoming trip?  We can assume April and the early part of May but what about summer trips?

The travel industry is extremely shaken right now and no one can predict when this pandemic will pass.  What we do know is that non essential travel during the present time is NOT recommended. Since most of the country is ordered to shelter in place, I think it’s best to plan trips many months ahead towards at least the end of the summer rather than rushing to the airport as soon as the restrictions are lifted. Also keep in mind less exposed travel ideas, like a road trip to visit the family. It will give everyone something to look forward to after months apart from one another.

How are the airlines doing when it comes to responding to customers?  Is there a work flow you and other industry insiders are noticing is working better than others?

I think that most airlines are struggling to handle the mass amount of communication requests they are receiving from travelers regarding changes or cancellations to upcoming trips. A lot of people are complaining of not being able to reach airlines. But the good news is that many airlines like Delta, for instance, are aware of how jammed the call centers are and are automatically issuing refunds or credits on missed or cancelled flights. Of course, this policy varies by airline. Failing all this, The Federal Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute a charge for services not provided, SO if you cant reach anyone, contact your bank – who is required to protect you.

Reimbursement or travel credit?  Which are airlines offering and which should consumers go after?.

Remember that airlines want to keep your business. When a flight is cancelled, airline systems usually re-book you on the closest available flight  and assume you accept the changes, unless you state otherwise.  For noncommittal travelers, they’ll offer credit vouchers for future flights. While all of these options provide far more flexibility than the standard change and cancellation fees that customers are used to, REMEMBER that despite the added flexibility, these options are still in the best interest of airlines. By re-booking you or offering vouchers for future travel, airlines hold onto your business and keep your cash. Instead of accepting a voucher or date change now, I recommend to hold off until 72 hours before your trip, in case you eventually qualify for a refund.

What do you do if your flight is NOT canceled?

Cancellation and refund terms very much depend on the individual airline, with some being more consumer-friendly than others. Now as the number of COVID-19 cases rise, I would assume that the current travel waivers in place will continue to be extended, and offer more favorable terms. If you hold onto your reservation SO THAT the airline calls the cancellation BEFORE you do, this will increase your chances of being entitled to a refund. So if the current policy does not appeal to you, wait it out.