Travel demand around the world is plunging. With constant changes to border restrictions and new medical advice daily, travel confidence is low and even those undeterred by health effects fear mandatory quarantine, or restrictions or issues getting home. Just like the airlines, one can only hope that solutions, certainty and safety come soon, otherwise the future is quite bleak for airlines all around the world.
However, despite any travel concerns, it generally makes sense not to cancel travel plans until you must, even if you know you won’t travel.
DON’T RUSH TO CHANGE/CANCEL
With so much uncertainty, I have been getting a lot of questions from people inquiring about what they should do about travel plans and airline credits. So, what should you do?
BOOKED WITH USA AIRLINES?
Over the past week or so, the US airlines have adjusted their change fee waiver policies to allow for tickets purchased before their new waivers went into place. In other words, if your trip is set to take place before April 30, you can change that ticket with no change fee at all (but you will pay any difference in the actual cost of the ticket).
NOTE: Different airlines have different cut-off dates as to when you need to change it so make sure you do your research.
PART 1: SAVE ON NEW TICKETS
One reason you should wait is because airfare prices are dropping worldwide right now in response to the virus spreading around the globe. This means that you could change that ticket to a much better travel date (i.e. summer peak dates) and have a much smaller difference in fare to pay or you may even get some money back as a credit if the new ticket is cheaper than your current one.
For example, I am seeing tickets from New York / Chicago / and Los Angeles to Europe much lower than they have been for a while and the tickets are available all the way into January 2021! If you would’ve re-booked when this first started, you would not have saved much money. But by waiting – until today for example – it’s possible you would’ve saved upwards of 50%.
PART 2: SAVE ON NEW TICKETS
The second reason you should wait is because of airline refund policies. It varies by airline but often airlines offer refunds if they have changed your schedule by 2+ hours (this also applies to non-refundable tickets).
At the moment, if you change your ticket, the airlines are offering credit which basically means they still have your money but are “allowing” you to change your dates. That’s not convenient for a lot people. However, airlines are grounding more and more flights everyday. There is a good chance that your flight will eventually be canceled also. Instead of an airline credit, get your money back.
YOU HAVE ONE SHOT!
The aspect that is anxiety provoking is airlines are giving you one shot at the change – if you want to change it again later, you will need to pay the change fee. So, you may want to wait as long as possible to see what the condition of the spread is like before you book a new date.
Let’s say that you had scheduled a trip to Dubai, but now you are unable to enter or exit per their new rule. By just waiting a couple of days for this announcement, you could now leverage that closure to waive any fees or cancel and get a full refund.
With much uncertainty in the air and countries changing entry procedures/travel advisories on a daily basis, it can certainly be difficult to know when you should pull the plug on a trip. At this time, many of the major airlines have policies in place that protect you against change fees if you have bought tickets in the last week (or will buy them this month).
It is very easy to get wrapped up in the panic about traveling right now but there is no reason to rush to change or cancel a ticket (particularly because airline phone hold times on average are a few hours)! Unless you are traveling this week, just waiting could save you hundreds of dollars. But, chances are good that you may be able to get a full refund (and not a credit).
Anyone planning to wait so they can get a full refund?
I have a voucher from last September that expires this coming September. I’m thinking of booking a flight knowing it will likely be canceled just to I could possibly extend my travel window and be issued a new voucher. Do you think that’s possible?
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Very possible. It’s risky but that’s your “money” and your flight was canceled. That’s not your fault.
I have a ticket for Lisbon scheduled to leave Memorial Day weekend. It’s a BE ticket with United and I purchased through Chase. I’m just going to wait to reach out. Hopefully things will be much better in 60 days but who knows. I’m not super pressed about going but I would be cool to maybe just extend out further and go maybe later in the summer. I’ll see. But yes, I’m waiting until much closer to reach out b
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I’m in the same boat and that sounds like a great plan.