The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is major, and there’s a lot to cover. But let’s first continue with a post about an important mistake to avoid right now. While canceling trips scheduled for the next few weeks is the thing to do, the same simply can’t be said for trips scheduled for later.
As we said in our coronavirus message Saturday morning, it’s best not to leave on a trip now, even if we love traveling ourselves and are saddened by this… and even if Flytrippers is greatly affected, being in the travel industry.
However, this is only true for trips that are planned for the short-term. If your trip is further away, despite what some are tempted to do, canceling right away just isn’t the right course of action. It’s really not in your best interest at all, for these 4 reasons.
This doesn’t even have anything to do with whether you choose to travel anyway or choose not to travel once your trip is near: that’s irrelevant. You should still not cancel right away, in all cases (well, there is one exception, but we hope it doesn’t apply to you if you are a traveler).
We’ll have more about tips and info about this unprecedented crisis, including a list of airline change policies this week.
Yesterday, we shared an explainer about the travel advisory, that many people confuse with entry restrictions. To give you the facts about both concepts—and what to do for those who need to modify flights that are planned soon.
But for trips planned in April or later, it’s important to remember to remain as calm as possible, since impulsive, emotional reactions rarely help—as is always the case in all situations (see: toilet paper hoarders).
Here are 4 good reasons to wait before canceling trips planned in April or later.
1: To help others
First of all, let’s face it: the reason why most people will take a travel break now is to help others who are more vulnerable, to flatten the curve and slow the spread so that our already chronically-overcrowded healthcare system can keep up (and that’s why we have to act this way even if it’s a mostly mild virus for a vast majority of those who do get infected).
So in that same spirit of thinking of others, you should think of those who are stuck abroad now, or those scheduled to leave this week. They are much more in need than you are if your trip is not in the next 3 days.
Help them by not calling airlines/booking sites/insurers now. It’s a simple way to help, just like social distancing, since you don’t have to do anything at all. Just don’t call. Simple.
In short, overcrowding the customer service lines for trips that aren’t happening now is very damaging for those who urgently need to get into contact with airlines, booking sites, or insurers: those who have travel planned in the coming days, who need to get through right now.
You can share our infographic so that many who simply don’t realize that this is harmful can know.
If you’re not traveling now, it’s not urgent. So remain calm and just wait a while before canceling. Airlines seem to be recommending calling only if your flight leaves in the next 3 days.
Customer service is overwhelmed and should be able to concentrate on helping those with immediate needs/immediate travel plans, and there are many now due to:
- the travel advisory
- the entry restrictions being put into place (well, in most places at least, but not in Canada)
- the flights being canceled left and right
- the fact it is peak spring break travel season
- the general panic this is causing
For example, Aeroplan, Air Canada’s rewards program, is pretty much unreachable now—although to be fair, that’s essentially been the case for months because of an IT upgrade gone wrong, but I digress.
I am in the US now, and since the event I was here to facilitate was canceled, I wanted to take advantage of the free flight change, but I couldn’t get through… probably because Karen, who is worried about her April trip, is wasting the employees’ precious time.
2: There’s no benefit to you, and it can even make you lose money
If you don’t care about others, do it for yourself.
The best reason not to cancel is that there is simply no upside to canceling right away versus waiting closer to your trip’s planned date. It’s a great reason to not do anything, no matter the situation: when there’s no benefit, don’t do it.
You won’t get more of your money back by canceling now. In fact, you might shoot yourself in the foot, because maybe by waiting, you’ll then be able to avoid fees, since airlines might offer more flexible change policies closer to your trip date, as they just did.
Many airlines at first were only offering refunds or changes in very specific cases. And those who canceled early for absolutely no reason instead of waiting closer to their trip lost money for nothing and would have been refunded if they had only waited. See reason #4 for more details.
So even if you have decided that you won’t travel in the future, wait until closer to your trip to cancel:
- If you are traveling in March or April, most airlines are offering free changes for flights in those months. But wait closer to the date, as to not crowd phone lines right now. We’ll share a list of airline policies this week.
- If you are traveling in May or later, most airlines do not offer free changes yet anyway, so why cancel? By waiting maybe they will extend their waivers past April 30th. Again, see reason #4.
There is one exception though.
But it is only for you if you are 100% sure you’re done with traveling unconditionally, which hopefully is no one’s case, as most of you are here because you are travelers and love to travel!
The only upside of canceling right now is that currently, with the government travel advisory issued, you can get a refund for any trip thanks to trip cancelation insurance if you paid with a good travel credit card—as you should always do anyway to get free insurance and get hundreds of dollars in free travel, too. That’s the wonderful world of travel rewards! We’ll have a post specifically about trip cancellation insurance this week.
Best Cards For Trip Cancelation / Trip Interruption Insurance
Once the advisory is lifted, you will no longer be able to invoke your trip cancelation insurance. But then if the advisory is lifted, that means you shouldn’t cancel and should simply go on your trip right? So that’s why it’s only for you if you don’t want to travel at all anymore.
If that’s your case, please still give it a week or two so that insurers can deal with those who have urgent travel issues. The advisory that allows you to cancel won’t go away right away, that’s for sure. Remain calm and reevaluate things in a few weeks.
3: Things change very fast
The fact is it’s way too early to cancel trips that are planned for later. No one knows what will happen. Things change very quickly, as you’ve probably noticed.
Just a few days ago, it was closer to business-as-usual than anything else, and now there’s the near-unprecedented advisory against all international travel and all of society has basically shut down. It’s surreal how quickly it has changed.
With these extreme measures, who knows? If we’re lucky, maybe in a month, the worst will be behind us… and you’ll have canceled an amazing May or June trip for absolutely nothing. Maybe they come up with a vaccine more quickly than expected, maybe the virus’ spread slows down as the warm weather arrives. Let’s keep hope.
The point is that this crisis is completely crazy and there’s not much that can be considered impossible, apart from running out of toilet paper of course. It is so volatile, so why cancel now?
Hopefully, the measures work, and we can get back to traveling more quickly than we all thought. That is still very realistic.
It’s just too early to tell, and therefore too early to cancel.
And since you get absolutely no advantage by canceling now, you should wait a bit to see how things evolve.
Both of us Flytrippers co-founders just bought tickets for October, for our first Flytrippers trip together in a long while, and it makes no sense to cancel that this far ahead. I’ve got tickets for Europe this summer, and it makes no sense to cancel those this far ahead either.I have hotels booked in April and May, why cancel now? There’s just no benefit as we’ve seen in the previous point.
4: A full refund might be possible
This last reason has two parts:
- airline waivers
- my pro tip
As I said above, at first airlines only offered free changes for China. Now they offer free changes for anywhere (in March and April). These are called waivers.
These might be extended for those traveling in May or later, so wait and see. You would have to pay the change fee if you cancel now anyway. So it would make no sense to do that, since that change fee won’t go up.
We’ll cover these airline rules, how to get refunded, and more about cancelation policies in a separate post.
But first here are 2 tangible examples:
1: A traveler said he canceled an April flight in February and paid $1,000 in change fees (for 4 passengers). Had he waited, he would’ve paid the same $1,000 change fee in the worst-case scenario. It couldn’t go up, it could only go down or stay the same. Now his airline offers free changes. So by waiting, he would have paid $0 instead of $1,000. Ouch. It makes no sense to cancel early.
2: I was supposed to fly to Sri Lanka in 8 days. I hadn’t even decided to cancel, because again: no point in canceling early, things change quickly, and I could decide to cancel closer to the date. Well, this weekend, the airline canceled the flight. So instead of overreacting and canceling early and having to pay a change fee (or in this particular case with the waiver, get a voucher that is restrictive and expires), since the airline canceled the flight, I’ll get a full refund in cash.
Again, being impulsive never helps. Understand that example of mine? Even if I had decided 6 months ago not to go to Sri Lanka, why would I cancel it early? Because I was patient, I will get a full refund. And if the airline hadn’t canceled the flight, I could’ve just as easily canceled it for the exact same change fee today compared to 6 months ago, in the worst-case scenario.
That is my pro tip that sometimes lets you get a refund for nonrefundable tickets, coronavirus or no coronavirus. I’ve used it before to save hundreds of dollars in other situations unrelated to this crisis: it is always valid.
When an airline changes a flight’s schedule, you are owed a full refund if you no longer want that flight. Yes, even just a schedule change—it doesn’t need to be canceled.
And these schedule changes happen regularly, even in the best of times, for operational reasons. Now it is only more likely, with the drastic schedule cuts and changes caused by this aviation industry crisis. It’s not just hard for us at Flytrippers, it’s brutal for anyone remotely close to the travel industry, and airlines are the hardest-hit.
Your flight may even be canceled outright like my example. But in all cases, they won’t do this right away, so give them time.
By waiting, if a schedule change occurs or your flight is canceled, boom: full refund. Some airlines are more restrictive and require a change of a few hours, but some will refund you even if the change to the schedule is only 5 minutes.
Another one of my true stories that was very lucrative, and one for a detailed post: in short, after some of my flights that I didn’t want anymore had a 5-minute schedule change (departing at 8:05 instead of 8:10 for example), I called the airline and said: “Yeah, this doesn’t work for me, it’s too early and that’s not what I booked”. Got a full refund. Multiple times.
Anyway, that’s why for any nonrefundable flight (not just during this coronavirus episode), if you’re not going to fly it for whatever reason, always wait closer to the date to cancel it. If the schedule changes, you’ll get a free refund. However, some airlines only offer a travel credit because of the exceptional circumstances, but as mentioned, the fact is that in the worse case scenario, by waiting you still get the same thing or better, never a worse refund.
The only warning is that some airlines do charge a higher change fee closer to the departure date, but they are rare. Just double-check with your specific airline to make sure, if you adopt this strategy.
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This is an outbreak that is changing very, very rapidly. Monitor the situation, but there’s no reason to overreact and cancel a trip planned for this summer today. It harms others, there’s no benefit to you (and you won’t get more of your money back today versus closer to the trip anyway), the situation can change quickly, and you might even be able to get a full refund. In short, if your trip is not right now, don’t cancel right away. Let’s all hope that the situation gets better fast, and if it doesn’t, you can cancel your trip later— and make sure you don’t miss out on a trip for no reason!
What would you like to know about COVID-19’s impact on travel? Leave us a comment—we’re here to help!
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