What you need to know about changing or canceling your travel plans because of the coronavirus.
Travelers all over the world are working to cancel or rebook upcoming trips due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has many travelers scrambling to cancel or alter upcoming reservations. In light of the crisis amongst us, numerous hotels, airlines, and tour providers have rolled out more lenient change and cancellation policies.
Travelers have recently encountered resistance from airlines when trying to get their money back for canceled flights. Some airlines insist that they will issue only a voucher, despite polices, terms and conditions saying otherwise.
“If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation—even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
On Friday, April 10th, the DOT (Department of Transportation) issued an enforcement notice to airlines that even during this pandemic, the U.S. and foreign airlines must give customers a cash refund if a flight to, within, or from the United States is canceled or has a significant schedule change. Highlights from the enforcement notice are as follows:
"Carriers have a longstanding obligation to provide a prompt refund to a ticketed passenger when the carrier cancels the passenger’s flight or makes a significant change in the flight schedule and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier."
"The longstanding obligation of carriers to provide refunds for flights that carriers cancel or significantly delay does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions)."
The focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the carrier’s control, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger. Accordingly, the Department continues to view any contract of carriage provision or airline policy that purports to deny refunds to passengers when the carrier cancels a flight, makes a significant schedule change, or significantly delays a flight to be a violation of the carriers’ obligation that could subject the carrier to enforcement action."
For those who were given a flight credit for cancellation and would like their money back instead, airlines are also required to honor that request.