Put your pitchforks down. This isn’t an argument about the health, merits or fears raised by the global pandemic. This is entirely about helping you get the best possible solution – aka money back in your pocket – when your travel plans change due to concerns, or avoiding missing out on travel when the world returns to normalcy.
It’s not nearly as simple as you think, it’s changing by the day and there’s actually a good reason not to proactively cancel your travel plans.
In the last week, nearly every travel brand around the world sent out emails to customers detailing flexible options for new bookings, refund options for existing bookings and news about how they’ve finally decided to start actually cleaning.
In the same week, the landscape of where and when you can actually travel in the near term changed dramatically. Stop proactively cancelling your travel reservations, until you absolutely need to, because each day brings new, often better possibilities and outcomes.
By letting a government or travel brand make the decision for you – aka a cancellation or new travel restriction – your opportunities and chances to get a full refund or a positive result are wildly better than proactively cancelling before you absolutely need to, or any group advises to. As harsh as it may sound, if your destination isn’t part of a government imposed ban – it’s technically your choice.
If you were a European no longer wishing to visit the USA last week, with a ticket booked months before, you’d likely have been out of money for cancelling an airline ticket last week. In some cases, you might not have received anything back.
Fast forward to…
Today, that same person would be eligible for a full refund, or at least a voucher for the entire amount, since the United States Government initiated a restriction against anyone who’s been to a Schengen area country in Europe, or the UK and Ireland within 14 days of proposed arrival in the United States, effectively banning US – Europe flights for 30 says.
The US Government isn’t the only brand with evolving policies. In the last 72 hours, Hilton, Hyatt, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American, United, Marriott and more all changed, relaxed or modified cancellation or change options.
Similarly, if an airline cancels a flight, particularly involving travel to or from the European Union, your rights to a refund, re-routing or other outcome are far greater than if you initiated the change.
With such a dismal drop in travel demand, the likelihood of a flight getting cancelled anyway goes up daily, and when your flight is cancelled, rather than you proactively cancelling, it’s a totally different situation.
Again, if you panic cancelled weeks ago, you’d likely have no recourse for getting any change fees, cancellation fees or money back, since you did so voluntarily due to your own concerns. If you legally can’t travel because of a government restriction – it’s an entirely different ballgame, and those restrictions are happening daily.
Whether you used points, miles, or cold hard cash – the best thing you can do is to wait to make a decision until you absolutely have to. In most cases, if a government bans all non essential travel, your options for getting money or miles back will be far greater than if you’re just panicking right now and know you don’t want to go.
Yes, even if you know in your heart that you won’t be going, it’s still better to wait to cancel, just to see if any new restrictions or developments force your airline, hotel or other travel entity to offer better or more formal refund, or exchange options.
Best case – a vaccine is rushed out, order and safety are restored and you can get back to exploring this big beautiful world.
For people worried about getting points back, wait until just before the day your travel reservation stipulates you must cancel before losing out on something. Hopefully, before that date, the travel brand will offer more relaxed options, or a government will force them to and you’ll have a better outcome!
It all makes perfect sense. There’s hardly ever been a more fluid, ever changing situation in modern travel, and proactively cancelling only makes you less likely to recover your expenses. Wait it out while they play it out and hope for the best. You just might get it.