The Travel Industry has been hit very hard due to the Coronavirus with millions of trip cancellations, passengers quarantined on ships, long lines at airports for Americans arriving back in the U.S., spring break trips being called off, and so much more. Not since 9/11 has there been this much chaos.
Since the outbreak in China and the Diamond Princess quarantine, the situation with the virus has escalated, first in Italy and then throughout the entire world. This has caused numerous cancellations of cruises, tours and virtually every type of travel!
Many travelers have been on the telephone for hours trying to cancel their plans, inquire about refunds, figure out next steps, etc. via online travel providers. Giving a plug and accolade to the professional travel agents, we have been available to answer questions, cancel reservations, relay policies and give reassurance for refunds to our clients.
So the question is, what you should do about current trips that have cancelled or are about to cancel? What about trips that are several months away?
As of now, all cruises have been put on hold for about two months. Many cruise lines are scheduled to resume sailings in early April, depending on the status of COVID-19 at that time. These dates may need to be set back further if conditions don’t improve.
Air travel has been cut off to International destinations and many domestic flights have been reduced. Some airlines have reduced service as much as 60% or more.
Hotels in many destinations, including many in Las Vegas, have closed.
There is a lot of information out there and the questions are many: Should I cancel my trip? How do I get a refund? If I get a refund, is it going to be a full refund or a Future Travel Credit? What if the tour operator cancels the trip? Is Coronavirus covered under Travel Protection Insurance? The questions go on and on.
To help, amid the chaos, here are some facts.
First, if cruise lines cancel on their end, you will, in most cases, have an option of obtaining a full refund or a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) which is good on many of the cruise lines until December 31, 2022. Some cruise lines even give additional incentives if you choose the Future Cruise Credit by increasing the value of what you paid by a higher percentage, adding additional amenities like additional on-board credits, shore excursions and more. Each company is different and you would need to find out the exact policy of the company with which you have a reservation. Some cruise lines give you the option of cancelling in advance of your departure date, if you have already made full payment. In this case, most are offering the Future Cruise Credit as well. In some cases, you may be refunded for everything except your initial deposit and the cost of Travel Protection.
When it comes to the airlines, if you have already been ticketed for air travel, most airlines are offering the ability to use your ticket for future travel. International travel must begin at least 1 year from the date the ticket was issued and domestic travel must be completed prior to the 1 year anniversary of when the ticket was issued. Usually when you cancel an air ticket the airline will charge a fee to reissue a new ticket, but due to the circumstances most airlines are waiving this fee. However, the new ticket may be at a higher fare then the value of your cancelled ticket, depending on date/destination/etc. This policy is constantly changing, so it is best to check with your agent or carrier.
Most travel insurance policies taken in conjunction with a specific trip provide cancellation due to the traveler’s or travel companion’s health issues; and, also usually covers if an immediate family member of the covered guest has an illness that requires the insured traveler to cancel. The policy also covers many other items in addition to cancellation. These policies, unless they cover “cancellation for any reason,” do not cover cancellation for the Coronavirus in the event you want to cancel a trip because you are afraid of exposure. However, some travel companies are offering additional Travel Waiver Policies (an additional cost) that will allow you to cancel after you make your final payment in full, to receive a Future Trip Credit.
So what should you do for your concerns about your trip(s)?
If your trip is in the next 60 days, I would think that in most cases they have been or will be cancelled. Trips beyond that time are on a “wait and see” basis and you should remain patient. Everything depends on the situation with the virus and what the travel vendors and governing agencies decide!
Most professional travel providers are open for business, but working from their home-based offices. Professional agents are there to help you and assist with making new plans and much more. This all will pass, as it did with 9/11, the Gulf War, Ebola and other situations that have confronted us in the past.
In the meantime, stay healthy and take caution as suggested by our health providers. We will get through this together.
If you have any travel questions for Herb Reisenfeld, The American Israelite’s travel columnist, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org