Raise your hand if you’ve felt personally victimized by COVID-19. Now raise your hand if this pandemic caused you to miss out on a long-awaited vacation. (You can’t see them, but both my hands are raised right now.) If you’re like me, you might be wondering WTF our rights are when trips get canceled for any reason, whether it’s coronavirus related or not. Do we pull a Karen and ask for the manager? Should we accept that voucher credit or fight for a full refund? Allow The Points Guy CEO and founder, Brian Kelly, to fill you in on everything you need to know about canceled trips, especially during this pandemic.
When Are You Entitled To A Refund Or A Credit?
Great news! Thanks to a recent update from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Kelly says, “airlines must refund passengers in the event flights are canceled, significant schedule changes are made, or government restrictions prevent flying due to the coronavirus outbreak.” This means that if they cancel your trip to or from anywhere in America, you’re entitled to get your money back. If you cancel first, you might only get a voucher for the face value of what you paid. So before you call JetBlue to bail on your trip to Aruba in June, he recommends waiting it out as long as you can (in hopes of scoring that $$$).
If you do wind up getting a voucher, Kelly says it’s always worth asking for additional value. I can confirm that I’ve done this in the past and 100% will do it again because it works. So yes, we WOULD like to speak to a manager, TYVM.
What About Canceling Hotels & Airbnbs?
Right now, Kelly says, “most home sharing companies and hotels are being more flexible than normal, even allowing cancellations of no refund, pre-pay reservations.” So if you need to be the one to cancel your Airbnb lake house or Hilton suite next month, NBD. He claims the best way to get in touch with someone is by calling customer service or reaching out to the brand on Twitter.
“You can typically cancel a trip directly on the site, but if you’re looking for a full refund, getting [one] typically isn’t automatic and will require you to call and speak with a representative,” he adds. “Some airlines like Delta allow you to text via app so you don’t wasn’t time on the phone. There are also apps out there, including one called DoNotPay, that will wait on hold for you so you don’t have to.” Whoever came up with that app idea is a genius, just saying.
Are you one of the lucky ones who always reaches the least forgiving associate? Join the club. If you run into any trouble with a certain phone agent, do one of Kelly’s favorite tricks: politely hang up and call back. He says sometimes you can find a nicer agent who’ll be more likely to help after you end the first call and try again… which is a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?
Oh, and as hard as it may be when you’re stressing over potentially lost money, don’t forget to be nice to all customer service members right now. “It’s important for travelers to remember that these airline representatives are going through this pandemic, too,” reminds Kelly. “Try to be as kind and patient as possible.” Fine. I guess I won’t flip out on Susan when she tells me I need to be put on hold for the third time in five minutes.
So What’s The Deal With Travel Insurance? Should You Get It?
Trip cancelations are exhausting. Contacting companies and waiting to see if they’re going to give you back your hard-earned cash is way too much of a hassle. Is travel insurance the tripsaver we all need from now on to save us from these future struggles? Well, better question… WTF is travel insurance?
Basically, Kelly explains that people invest in travel insurance to protect their purchase in the event that they need to cancel or modify their trip for whatever reason. Bad news, though: Epidemics and pandemics are rarely covered under travel insurance policies… because let’s face it, how often do these crises happen? Before buying anything, Kelly reminds to “always make sure to carefully read the terms and conditions of the policy you’re planning to purchase and what it does and does not cover” to make sure it works for you. “If you’re nervous about booking upcoming travel or you just recently booked travel, you may want to consider a cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) add-on policy,” he suggests, “Typically, you’ll get back 75% of your trip and you can cancel for any reason within a set time frame.” That sounds great and all, but just be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for a policy like that. The investment might be worth it for anxious travelers, though.
Can You Get Perks On Your Next Trip If Your Last One Sucked?
Whether you had endless COVID-19-inspired delays on your last flight or your hotel room wasn’t sanitized enough to make you feel safe from exposure, you might be able to score some benefits on your next trip. “If you complain appropriately to an airline about a past experience, you’re likely to get a voucher,” says Kelly. It might be tempting to turn this into a habit if
you’re a thief you keep having mediocre experiences, but try to complain only when you NEED to. “Some airlines who equip their flight attendants with iPads or devices can check to see if you’ve had a bad past experience, but don’t count on it. It never hurts to give feedback regardless so they can work to make the experience better.” From personal experience, complaining about bad hotel stays and flights (when warranted) almost always scores you a free stay, refund, credit, or an incentive to come back, too. If you need help writing a lovely ~feedback~ letter to a company with just the right amount of passive aggression, DM me. I got you.
Does It Make Sense To Sign Up For A Travel Card Right Now?
If you recently had a negative experience but you’re not a big complainer (who are you?) but still want some kickbacks, Kelly also suggests “opening an airline credit card, which will give you perks like early boarding, free checked bags, and/or more legroom seats.” Down to sign up for a new travel credit card to prepare you for future trips once this pandemic is over? He claims your best bets right now are flexible currency cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum card, where you can transfer points to a variety of hotel and airline partners. Once you get enough points and miles, you can redeem them for cash, rewards, trips, or flight seat upgrades so you can be a bougie b*tch in first class while the old you would’ve begged for another bag of “free” chips in Row 26.
Ugh. All I know is I can’t wait to be back in the air in cheap AF Row 26 again. After two canceled trips and being cooped up inside for months because of COVID-19, I’ll never take traveling for granted again. Ever.
Images: @stilclassics / Unsplash; GIPHY (3)