Peter Answers Your Emails: Round 2 — March 2020
Thanks to all of you who have written me with your travel questions and problems. I will continue answering them in rounds.
EMAIL: Marlee McCormick
We have a Viking cruise scheduled for early May in Egypt With a side trip to Dubai. How likely is Viking to resume their river cruises by then and do you see UAE and Egypt re-opening the tourist attractions by then as well?
Always enjoy your lectures at the Travel &Leisure Show in Dallas and I’ve tried to live by a piece of advice you gave – “just get on the plane”
Peter Says: The answer, in a nutshell…not likely. But wait for them to cancel first and then adjust accordingly (refund or future cruise).
EMAIL: Sue S, Camarillo, California
I was sent your first post by my manager. I have since watched you additional 2 posts. I am a branch manager for a travel agency in California. In the business for 32 years and Yes we are struggling! Like no other struggle before.
I have a very complicated situation. I had a party of 2 booked on a Uniworld China trip for April 28 2020. As we were moving into this virus situation I was struggling with when to purchase my clients Chinese visa’s . Not knowing if they would even sail and for sure knowing that if I purchased their visas and the sailing was cancelled they would not get any money back ! The cruise lines and airlines had not made any determinations yet if they were still traveling as it was too soon to make that decision. Clients did not want to go. I did my due diligence, Because of my relationship with the cruise lines and airlines I was able to get them moved to a Lisbon river cruise. I was able to get AA airlines to let me reticket them without fees and at the same business class rate to London, I was able to move their insurance money to the new date. I then purchased a ticket on TAP to get them in and out of Lisbon. New travel date of April 27 2020.
Now we are into the virus it has hit the world. Client wants to rebook with Uniworld same Lisbon cruise for April 2021. We cannot re book air as of now we are too far out. AA has not yet cancelled flights so I am trying to wait to see if they get cancelled so I can refund. TAP will only give future travel from the date of issue. The problems, I cannot rebook the AA for the new date as it has to be from the original date of issue which was for the China tickets. This was August of 2019. AA says nothing they can do. I am waiting to see if they cancel the April 28 flight this year in hopes of a refund!
TAP is not refunding. Insurance would not be used here to cover this ticket as they wish to use the insurance on the new booking. And TAP Is not open for rebooking in April 2021?
I am prepared to wait and see what the airline will do before the travel date however I may reach out to you again to ask for your help with TAP.
As a travel industry professional I am proud to be able to have the tools to assist my clients day in and day out. In sickness sand in health, however this Virus will take its toll on us for sure. And for a very long time. We ask that when we come out of this please use your travel professionals. We are here, we answer our phones, we resolve your issues and we truly care!
I would like to thank you Peter for your to the point and simplified posts about the virus and how it effects travel and what is really happening. Instead of the dreaded news that helps no one, we need more like you to help us stay focused and prepared!
A sincere thank you,
Sue S, Camarillo, California
Peter Says: Sue, I am presuming that by now AA has canceled the flights, and under the USDOT rules, if AA cancels (and not your client canceling) then they are entitled to a full refund. Please let me know what happens.
EMAIL: Valerie Bielowicz
Hello Mr Greenberg,
My son was scheduled to go to Italy for his Spring break (March 7-14). Of course, he never went. We had booked his airfare through Justfly, bought travel insurance and despite all that, we have not been able get a refund.
Here are the facts:
- Justfly booking number
- Travel Insurance through CSA protection / Generali Travel Protection
- All flights were United Airlines / Luftansa
- Departure, March 7, O’Hare to Zurich, Zurich to Rome
- Arrival, March 14, Rome to Frankfort , Frankfort to O’Hare
After many phonecalls (probably 8 hours worth), and all agencies pushing the responsibility to the other, I have never succeeded in getting a refund. I have since discovered you and I am following you now.
The travel insurance company refused to cover for cancellations due to Coronavirus for all trips booked after Jan 22, 2020. We booked our trip on Feb 5, 2020.
I made multiple calls to Justfly starting 2 weeks prior to the trip. They had the same system no matter what you were calling about. They had to look up your flight to see if it was on their “travel advisory”, and this trip to Italy never was on the advisory (despite the CDC declaring no non-essential travel to Italy). Thus, no refunds. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, I was put on hold for 2 1/2 hours until they told me it was closing time.
Finally, I thought I should cancel the trip. When I went online to JustFly and put in my info to cancel, I received one statement on my computer screen that read: “We’re sorry! Your booking cannot be cancelled.”
In between multiple calls to Justfly, I was calling United Airlines. United kept sending me back to Justfly, which I would do with no luck. Finally, I asked United to cancel all of the flights, which they did on March 5th. I also found a form that I could fill out to request a refund from United, only to get a response that they cannot honor a refund for me.
As I am writing this, I am listening to your latest video, and I realize that I should try my credit card company. I will. I am open to any other suggestions you may have.
Thank you for your passion and guidance!
Peter Says: Valerie, pursuing this through insurance is hopeless, since they have policy language that specifically excludes coverage during a pandemic. However, if the airline canceled the flight, then you are protected under the U.S. Department of Transportation rule that entitles you to a full refund (if the airline cancels, not you).
EMAIL: Phyllis Brunetti
Thank you for your invaluable information.
I have British Airways flight reservations for this June paid by Visa points, Newark to Rome and return from Milan, points of which I hope will be reinstated into my account due to Coronavirus crisis cancellations. Visa told me to call them May 20 – 27 regarding cancelling, etc. I plan to make the same Italy hotel itinerary for September 2021, therefore, am I right to cancel and ask for reinstating my points into my account because this May would be too early to book flights for September 2021?
I would probably use BA again – will they still be in business next year?
I await your kind response.
Peter Says: Phyllis, BA will likely be in business next year, although it may come back as a smaller airline, but I strongly advise you to wait until BA cancels your June flight. Don’t cancel first, then you’re in much better shape to get a full refund or a redeposit of your points without fees.
EMAIL: Joan McHale
I apologize if you receive a duplicate copy of this letter. Not computer savy.
In the fall, I purchased 2 roundtrip tickets to Ireland for July through Expedia, and their travel guard insurance. The flights are British Airways, American Airlines and AerLingus. I used a credit card.
Last week I received an email from Expedia saying I need to contact the airlines re: any refund or rescheduling.
Shouldn’t Expedia be responsible for this since they scheduled everything?
And if the answer is no-how long should I wait to begin my calls and what airlines should I call first?
Peter Says: Joan, welcome to one of the downsides of booking through an online travel agency. But here’s your dilemma, I doubt that BA, AA or AerLingus have canceled their July flights. My suggestion is to wait until they do…and if that happens you are entitled to a full refund so revisit this in early to mid may.
EMAILS: Allison Buchtien
Thanks for answering all of our questions. I just watched your first video for today 3/27/2020 where you mentioned that airlines have to give a full refund if they cancel the flight. Does this pertain to only American owned airlines? My flight was on Air France/KLM and my flights to Paris and on to Copenhagen were canceled and they are currently offering a voucher. My return flight has not been cancelled, but I’m sure it will be.
Peter Says: This applies to any flight operating in, to or from the U.S. — under U.S. Department of Transportation rules where the airlines initiate the cancellation.
EMAIL: Patti Bailey
Hello, Peter. I am looking for your advice.
I have traveled with GoAhead for 10 years and have Globetrotter status with them. Last week I spoke with them about my Canadian tour scheduled to leave April 17 which they had to cancel. I requested a refund but was told that since I was cancelling so late, I would not get all my money back. I instead applied those funds as payment for the balance of a scheduled trip to Scotland in August. I wish now I had pointed out that it wasn’t I who was “cancelling”.
I have now been notified my May trip to Portugal is being “postponed”. I will again request a refund since they can’t give me what I have already paid for in full, but do the DOT rules also apply here? I will also have the option of applying those funds to a scheduled trip to France in September or receiving a voucher for future travel.
Fellow traveler Patti Bailey
Peter Says: Their argument does not hold water. They canceled, and then you responded. Take the same approach with your Portugal trip. Send me specific details, ok?
EMAIL: Ira Fagel Westchester illinois
Hi Mr. Greenberg,
We have 2 tickets to LA. from Chicago for the first week of June using miles on American airlines.
I am assuming that the flight will be canceled. If the flight is canceled will we just lose the miles or is there another course of action we can take?
Peter Says: Wait until mid May to see if AA will cancel the flight then you are entitled to a full refund, or a redeposit of your miles without fee.
EMAIL: Bev Demko Reynoldsburg, Ohio
you said that if you cancel (trip, airfare, etc.) before 60 days has passed you are entitled for refund if paid using credit card. What about us who book way far in the future?
Peter Says: Bev, if you booked that far in advance, you still have an opportunity for the refund… if the airline or cruise line or hotel cancels first, so let me know!
EMAIL: Julie Yankey
Thank you for all your excellent work answering travel questions. My extended family had a trip planned to Carlsbad CA staying at an VRBO rental and individuals flying in on American Airlines in a few weeks, April 2020. obvioisly we cant go with lockdown and flying concerns. What can we expect with moving our trip? Is it true we must use our flight credits by 12/20 to avoid paying change fees? We prefer to move the trip entirely to April 2021 now without losing money on airfare change fees. What is vrbo doing about condo owners who aren’t flexible? Thank you!!!
Peter Says: Many airlines have extended the time to use flight credits. It is negotiable so talk directly with the airline.
EMAIL: Dana Gerberi, Rochester, MN
I know none of us have a crystal ball to foresee how the coronavirus pandemic will play out internationally as the months go on unfortunately (there could be multiple waves, etc.). For many of us who have had to postpone Spring trips (mine was to London in early April), do we just need to wait this out before attempting to re-book independent travel (I was thinking of potentially aiming for October)? I’ve always tried to plan/reserve transportation and hotels months in advance for better rates and options but so much seems unknown at this point and my preferred way of operating may no longer be such a smart thing to do. If working with a shorter time frame, how much time would you recommend to reserve tickets/rooms (should I see where things stand this summer or wait until as late as September?)?
Thanks for your helpful advice!
Peter Says: Dana, as you have already experienced, this is a very fluid situation, and my best advice is to wait as long as you can to make a decision. September and October seem like good months to try, but wait until at least mid June to pull the reservations trigger.
EMAIL: Claire Johansen Tiffin, Ohio
I have a trip to the Baltic’s on Sky Princess May26th booked through Costco. I also booked first class seats on Delta. I purchased trip insurance to cover cancellation for any reason thru Travel Guard. What is my best course of action to get my money back. I have not received any notice from Costco or Delta that anything is canceled.
Peter Says: Claire, you probably won’t receive any notice about your flights yet. There’s a good chance they are still officially listed as operating, but airlines like Delta make cancellation decisions as late as possible. Chances are you’ll hear about late May cancellations around late April, but under no circumstances should you cancel first. Wait for the airline to do it, and then you are much better protected in getting a full refund.
EMAIL: Debbie H
We are supposed to go on a Windstar Greek Island Cruise the beginning of May. This is our second attempt to do this cruise. Last May, we were on the Windstar for one night when a tree fell on our home and caused massive damage. We had to get off the ship that morning and get back home to deal with the fallout. We did have trip insurance through Windstar, with a company called TripMate, but it was a nightmare claiming it.
My husband and I decided to try trip again, but with the pandemic, we obviously will not be sailing. Unbelievable!! Trying to count our blessings, but very disappointed. We also have over $10,000 in Delta business class seats. Neither Windstar nor Delta have canceled yet, but we’re pretty confident they will. We do have trip insurance, but we’ve been following your advice to hold out and wait to see if Windstar and Delta cancel, so we can weigh the best options for us.
Windstar is offering nice incentives if we should decide to rebook . How financially sound do you think Windstar is and will they survive this devastating economic time?
After two failed tries, I’m not even sure we want to try the same trip for the third time!
Thank you for your thoughts as to the financial soundness of the Windstar cruise line.
As a side note, Windstar was helpful and cooperative in trying to help us recoup what we were owed from TripMate. We had prepaid for all the excursions and extra amenities and Windstar refunded us all those charges in a timely manner. I probably had over 40 back and forth phone calls and emails with TripMate to get compensated for the original cost of the cruise and the extra cost of airline tickets to return home early.
Thanks for your expertise. We look forward to hearing your opinion as to whether we should get the money back from Windstar (assuming the cruise gets canceled) or let them hold onto our money for over a year and get a 25% bonus towards rebooking another cruise.
Peter Says: Cruise ship incentives notwithstanding your cruise is probably canceled (and Delta is probably on the verge of cancelling your flight as well). But wait for the airline to cancel first and then you are protected in getting a full refund.
EMAIL: Chris Monico
Good morning Peter –
I enjoy your reporting and wanted to bring something to your attention if you were not aware.
United Airlines is refusing to credit back any money for flights that have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation. They are offering credits only for future travel.
I had booked a flight to Mexico for vacation. The flight was supposed to depart tomorrow, March 28. Obviously due to the CDC recommendations, I am not traveling to Mexico tomorrow.
I had used my United MileagePlus miles to make my reservation back in November. I cancelled my flight on the UA app on Tuesday, March 24 and at that time UA app advised that UA would credit back the miles and the $80+ in taxes. I agreed and cancelled the flight. I then got an error message emailed to me and had to call the airline. After speaking with multiple people with an extremely long hold time between the people I spoke with, I was advised that they had manually credited back my 56,000 miles and they would appear in my MileagePlus account within 24 hours. The miles never appeared.
I called back UA this morning and now, in order to get my 56,000 miles back, I had to pay a mandatory $125USD mileage re-deposit fee. UA advised that there were no notes in my cancelled booing mentioning that I had spoken with anyone on March 24. This is obviously not right and I hope that you will call out UA for their bad business practices during this unprecedented global situation.
I am bring furloughed on Monday, March 30 as my largest hotel in New York, NY is closing today at 12PM. We have not charging our guests any fees over the past few weeks to cancel their reservations even if they were non-refundable. If you need additional information, please contact me
Peter Says: Chris, as of today you are entitled to a full refund from United, and any mileage points will be credited back to your account without a redeposit fee. Sending you all my best of luck wishes for the hotel to reopen and for you to return soon.
EMAIL: Jay Chauhan
Is there any Travel Insurance in the market that will cover you for the entire year and for the entire family for a one time annual premium?
I attended one of your seminars about a month ago and I believe you gave some information on this subject.
Please send me your answer.
Peter Says: What I was talking about is medical evaluation and repatriation insurance. And yes, these policies can be sold as annual policies by companies like Medjet assist and Travel Guard.
EMAIL: James Srail
I was referred to you by Christo. He said I should reach out to you regarding our vacation issue. We booked a trip on Jan 5 to Cabo San Lucas. We booked through a website bookit.com. We received a email march 21 that they cancelled the trip and not issuing a refund (i am pretty sure they are bankrupt). They suggested to contact the credit card company, which I have done. The credit card company is looking into this. I was just curious if there is anything else i should be doing in the mean time.
Peter Says: Yes, your resolution will come in the form of a credit from your credit card company. Be sure and let me know what happens.
EMAIL: Brian Schwartz
I just heard you on WGN AM radio this afternoon. The airline is not returning the money back to my credit card. They offered a credit voucher. I don’t want that. They did not offer me a choice.
Should I have my credit card company dispute the charge?
— Brian Schwartz
Peter Says: You are protected under the U.S. Department of Transportation rule that entitles you to a full refund if the airline canceled first.
EMAIL: Eileen Okoff
Good Afternoon Peter…
As a VERY overworked and overwhelmed Travel Agent
at this time of craziness and uncertainty, I first want to say what a breath of fresh air you are, as I both admire your work and look forward to your videos for a daily dose of reality and sanity…I actually met you on several NCL Inaugural Cruises we were actually discussing the Volunteer Fire Depts on Long Island as my cousins are Volunteer Firefighters in Bayshore and Islip…
With that being said, I want your recommendation/assistance as to who/where we can appeal to with regards to the airline’s rebooking policies (especially Delta)…I have multiple clients traveling in July and August to Europe, mainly to Italy, who are not comfortable traveling and want to postpone their trips…the hotels and tour operators have been wonderful in allowing clients to cancel and/or rebook with no problems…the cruise lines, okay to a point…the airlines (again, especially Delta), unfortunately, are another story…the majority of these clients can only travel during the Summer months (due to work and school restrictions or they are traveling to a Seasonal destination) and are looking to postpone their trips for the same time in 2021…as of right now, airlines are only dealing with trips traveling through May 31st, 2020 (hopefully, that will be extended) and if clients do want to reschedule, they have to start their travel by December 31, 2020…that’s insane! What about Alaska, where cruises are being cancelled because of the Canadian border closure…if the clients want to rebook Alaska, they certainly can’t travel by December 31, 2020 as the cruises don’t resume Alaska cruises until next April/May???
I have spoken to Delta with regards to my specific bookings and was basically told that if the clients cannot rebook within the guidelines being offered, then unfortunately, they’re out of luck and will lose their tickets…most of these clients booked their trips last September through December so as to still be able to take advantage of the 2019 rates, so their tickets would expire a year from original issuance anyway…so that’s not an option…my suggestion would be to allow passengers to rebook their reservations with no change fees, and would have one (1) year from the time that they were supposed to travel to use their tickets…clients would be fine with that…Travel Agents, who are doing all of the work to try and accommodate hundreds of clients, would be fine with that as well…I have one Family of 7, scheduled to travel to Italy on 7/4…they have spent over $8,000 alone just on their flights…the hotels are willing to either refund their deposits or allow them to reschedule and will honor their existing rates to boot…Delta, on the other hand, is not budging…if the clients want to cancel, they can’t get back their money…if they want to reschedule, they have until December 31, 2020 to use the tickets…well, they don’t have vacation time again until next July…Delta’s response was “Oh Well, That’s Too Bad…There’s Nothing Else That We Can Offer”…and you can’t go to the insurance company that they paid over $1000 to for their policy, because they don’t cover Pandemics! So, my clients are basically screwed…people are losing their jobs and the last thing that they need is for these greedy airlines to refuse to work with them…we’re not even asking for refunds at this point, which they really should be offering automatically…clients are willing to change their travel dates, as long as they are given a reasonable amount of time to reschedule their plans (again, I think a year from their original travel dates is a fair offer)…the airlines have made soooo much money and are holding back soooo much of the passengers money, it is absolutely mind boggling to me that they would have the audacity to request and expect a bailout from the Gov’t…and you know, the Gov’t WILL bail them out as they’ve always done, but I think that the major stipulation here should be that before any money changes hands, effective immediately, ALL airlines are required/forced to refund ALL tickets that have been affected by this horrific situation…but will that happen, probably not because the Gov’t doesn’t care about the passengers, the Travel Agents, or the Butchers, the Bakers and the Candlestick Makers…maybe your voice can make a difference…in the meantime, any suggestions…
I look forward to hearing from you…
Be Safe and Wash Your Hands!
Peter Says: Eileen thanks so much for the email,and a shout out to all the volunteer fire departments! At this point, it is my understanding that delta’s position has changed. They have always been required to issue full refunds on flights the airline has cancelled and they were strongly reminded of this on Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation so let me know your progress.
EMAIL: Heather DeAngeli
I sent you an email earlier this morning about United’s refund policy overriding DOT and my conversation with Kay. I think I should also mention our daughter, Claire, who along with my husband had the United ticket Reno to Innsbruck works in the emergency room at Tahoe Forest Hospital, a small community hospital a half from Reno, so United’s policy adds to our already stressful situation.
Peter Says: Heather, on Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation strongly reminded United Airlines of the rule, and it is my understanding that United is now issuing full refunds and not insisting upon future flight vouchers.
EMAIL: Jean Schopf
I Listen to your podcasts with great interest. Thank you.
2 friends and I (one from FL and one from MI) have planned a trip to Norway July 1-22, 2022. Decisions would be a lot simpler if our trip was scheduled for May.
The itinerary was planned and a deposit made with Kimkim, which include a Hurtigruten cruise. We have been informed that this has been pre-payed and cannot be cancelled. They can however postpone the trip for you if you travel within 31 of December 2021.
The travel ban in Norway will last until the 13th of April.
Kimkim tells us that “cancellation greater than 35 days prior to departure: Loss of deposit and the service fee. Cancellation between 35 days and 28 days prior to departure: 50% refund of total trip price, and loss of the service fee. Cancellation less than 28 days prior to departure – No refund. Another option is to postpone the trip up to a year from the arrival date. Than we keep the deposit, minus unrecoverable losses due to cancellations. What will be recoverable is at the moment difficult to say, but as many of our partners are feeling the impact of the situation they may be less flexible with refunding.”
I’m not even dealing with our flights as these were made separately, each of us flying from different parts of the U.S. on different airlines.
I would not be making a decision as yet as I am hopeful things made change in our favor till June 30 but we need to be mindful of Kimkim’s and Hurtigruten’s cancellation requirements.
I have booked my flight with British Air:
Leaving JFK, June 30
Arriving Oslo July 1, 2020
Leaving Oslo on Finnair July 22, 2020
Arriving JFK July 22, 2020
Any information you can give me will be most appreciated.
Peter Says: Jean, thanks so much for your email and all the details. My best advice is to hold and wait. You don’t want to initiate a cancellation. Let it come from the airlines and cruise line first. As for your insurance, most travel insurance contains specific language excluding coverage for pandemics. But your best bet is not to do anything, at least until May 15th – 30th, to see how the world situation develops.
EMAIL: John Lange
My wife and I have a trip scheduled to Ireland beginning Sept 25. We have not booked airfare yet. Would you recommend booking now or waiting to see if fares go down, etc. I am feeling fairly confident that the trip will take place, but am wondering about the airplane booking question.
PS I enjoy your WGN radio program.
Peter Says: John thanks for this. My advice: wait to make the bookings until at least May 30th.
EMAIL: Caroline Edwards
Good morning, Peter.
I’ve just recently started watching your videos and am very appreciative of the information you’re providing.
My recently retired husband and I had planned a trip with Gate One thru our local travel agent to go to Italy on May 16 (our first time). I’m sure this trip will be postponed so we’ll have a credit to travel at another time. We were planning to fly out of JFK on Aer Lingus, connect in Dublin and then on to Venice. Our return is from Naples thru Dublin to JFK (also on Aer Lingus).
My question to you, since you are more familiar with Italy, is do you think when Italy allows people back in that they would be 100% up to speed say in September? Or do you think we should probably give them a year to recover. I know this is a tough question; just asking your opinion.
Peter Says: My intuition tells me that if you’re judging “up to speed” by just the number of foreign visitors, then the answer is no, but that’s a good thing. I’d rather take an uncrowded Italy any day, and September — in terms of weather, is the magic month. So wait until the end of May or even mid June to make your decision for September.
EMAIL: Connie Acra
As we are navigating canceling multiple flights (canceled six week trip to South America) we are seeing that all the airlines (Avianca, LATAM, & Delta) want to issue a credit only & not a refund. What is your advice moving forward? Flights all are occurring between the dates of April 4-18th.
Peter Says: Connie, if your flights depart from, and.return to, the U.S., then you are entitled to a full refund (and not just a credit or voucher). Under U.S. Department of Transportation rules.
EMAIL: Victoria Deaver
We were scheduled to cruise with Ponant starting March 20 from Mauritius through the Seychelles. They cancelled and will not give us our money back. We purchased insurance but they said it does not cover pandemics. We booked the owners suite and between cruise and insurance paid $40,000. Any suggestions??
We met you years ago in New Mexico. We are friends of Jody Scott.
Any help you could give us would be appreciated.
Peter Says: Victoria, this is truly bad behavior on the part of the cruise line. Please send me all the details of your cruise: reservation/confirmation numbers and the names of the people with whom you have spoken, and let me get into this.
EMAIL: Molly Nunnelly
Hello – I am a travel advisor and watched your latest update via the Virtuoso portal so thank you for doing that. I appreciate the concise and clearly presented information!
I wanted to alert you to the fact that I am being charged a fee to redeposit miles in my United Mileages Plus account for an award ticket I need to cancel. (Travel date April 15).
As I understand it, if I cancel this flight United will keep my record locator and keep the miles used for the ticket (my husband and I=66,000 miles) in this record locator. I have until Dec 31 to rebook a ticket with the same record locator without change fees. So I can use the miles then.
BUT if I want these miles taken out of the record and redeposited to my FF account, they will charge me $50 per person to redeposit.
This is really galling as we all know a simple computer transaction would take 2 seconds. And the miles came out of my account, so why would they charge me for 2 people?
Hopefully there will be more changes to the airlines’ policies. I have written to United to complain about this but perhaps you can add this to your list!
Also about the cruise lines seeking bailouts- isn’t it true that all the large cruise lines are registered in other countries and don’t pay US Taxes at all? Or very few taxes. I would think the government would want to get some of that revenue if they are going to bail out the industry.
Thanks for being a great advocate for the travel advisor community!
Peter Says: Molly, some good news: United has now changed their policy and will redeposit frequent flyer miles without fee.
EMAIL: John Szalinski
Hello Mr. Greenberg,
My family of 5 booked a trip to Hawaii last August for travel June 17-27 on American Airlines. Currently, my online account shows there has been a change to ticketing, but to check back to find out what the change is. Do you think this trip will be canceled? How long should I wait before making a decision on traveling or not? Any insight would be great!
Peter Says: It is entirely possible the trip might be canceled, but it is too soon for American to make a definitive decision…in any case, you want the airline to cancel first so your rights are protected. And I expect that decision from American around may 15th to may 30th.
EMAIL: Irene Taira
Hope you can advise me as to what options, if any, do I have. NonStop Travel Agency in Hawaii cancelled our tour to South Korea due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Our tour is suppose to leave on March 29, 2020 and return on April 9th.
They sent us a letter with an enclosed Non-Stop Travel Credit Voucher representing payment made for the Tour. It has No Expiration, No Cash Value and Non-Transferable.
For those of us who purchased Travel Guard Insurance, a Travel Guard Insurance Voucher was sent to us with an expiration date of 03/19/2022. The Travel Guard letter , dated 3/19/20, states that all premium refund requests must be submitted within 15 days of the effective date of the policy. However, they are offering a credit voucher for the amount of the premium paid. It also states, the Voucher must be redeemed through the original travel agency.
Many of us called the Travel Agency and were told NO REFUNDS will be issued! The Total cost including the Travel Guard Insurance is $4,256.00, which is a lot of money for someone like me who is retired and living on a fixed income. I know of 2 friends whose tours to South Korea were cancelled for the same reason. Both were travelling with different travel agencies and both received refunds immediately after the Agency cancelled their tours.
Soon after receiving the letter, the Travel Agency closed its doors until April 30, due to COVID19. So there is no way to reach them.
A friend called the travel agency was told, the Travel Agency had too many people signed up for all the different tours, it was impossible for them to issue refunds.
It has been very stressful just waiting to hear from the Travel Agency. Whenever we called, they told us, the tour was not cancelled. We finally received a tour cancellation letter on March 19.
I would prefer a refund because I am concerned the Travel Agency might go bankrupt, which I hope it doesn’t.
It just isn’t right! Can the Tour Agency refuse to refund us if that is our preference?
I appreciate any information you can provide, whether good ,or bad. I will be looking forward to hearing from you.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Says: Irene, this is a tough one. First, send me the specific details of your trip: names, dates, confirmation numbers, and let me get into it asap.
EMAIL: Von Harrison
We had 6 of 6 trips canceled this year due to Coronavirus. Two of those trips are ones that we would like to do in the future, when this virus threat is over. My biggest fear is going on a land tour overseas or a cruise and being stuck not being able to leave and come home.
We decided to move a trip to Lombardy, Dolomites, Alps (all in northern Italy, exactly where the virus hit hardest in Europe) from June 2020 to May 2021. The tour company (OAT) has all the money we have paid to date, which does NOT include our final payment. My questions are:
- Is it safe to assume flights, cities, and tours will be back to normal by May 2021, and go ahead with this plan?
- OAT offers a significant discount if you pay in full approximately 1 year in advance of the trip. Is it better to delay final payment until the latest possible due date, so we can see how things go with the Coronavirus between now and then?
- What benefits are there to not making the final payment until the final due date?
Peter Says: Von, assumption is the mother of all screw ups, but my experience and history dictates a calculated risk advice that may 2021 should be ok.
EMAIL: Thomas and Patrice O’Connor
My wife and I contracted a travel trip to Greece with Odyssey Unlimited. Due to the coronavirus Odyssey canceled our trip to Greece. They reimbursed us with a full credit for entire trip. Trip date was May 7,2020 to May 20,2020. Odyssey was and is a great company.
For this trip we booked our own airline trip to Greece with Delta airlines. Again, we had no problem with Delta airlines. They issued us a Delta voucher good for one year. We are very satisfied with this Delta Voucher. Delta also put back our miles that we were using to get from Tampa to JFK. We then contacted Generali Global Assistance (formerly CSA) requesting they return our $783.84 protection insurance since this money is no longer needed because we can/t go to Greece due to no fault of our own. They responded that we would need to show proof that
Odyssey refunded our entire amount for the trip. We sent them the proof that the money had been put back into our American Express account. They said we would receive an answer within 24 to 72 hours. That was on March 18, 2020 and we have not received any answer from them. If they don’t return this money and I assume from many other people, this is a complete profit for them. Policy number 20021P0098. Purchased on January 21, 2020 from Generali Global Assistance. Thank you for any assistance you can give us.
Peter Says: Thomas, have you gotten confirmation yet from the insurance company?
EMAIL: Lisa (Mazzillo) Enden
Good morning Peter,
As per Matthew Upchurch’s suggestion, he referred your YOUTUBE video to the network on his Friday call. While most Virtuoso advisors are up on all the current events, I found it very informative and you are very easy to listen to. You said to email you with an issues so here goes. I had a very nice booking to Japan for clients that wanted to experience Cherry Blossom season there. They are due to fly tomorrow, Mar 29th. Obviously, my clients are not going and we actually have moved their trip already to March 2021. I have been monitoring the flight, waiting to see that AA cancelled it. Well, I just hung up with American Airlines and the flight still shows flying. Even the res agent was surprised. At this point, I have several options:
-Wait up to 2 hrs before to see if anything has changed with the status of the flight
-Cancel now and AA will waive the change fee. The problem is that they will need to fly by 12/31/20 and that doesn’t work for them
-Cancel now and use the normal airline rules which are $400 per ticket to change. The problem is that they would have to fly by 6/19/20 since their tickets were issued one year prior
-Cancel now and pay $500 per ticket for a refund. This is totally not fair and not an option. The tickets were $3823 per person.
None of the options are ideal. The ideal scenario would be to either refund now and once the flights for 2021 open, I will buy them again. Or, extend the travel date so they can travel Mar 2021. This is not an unreasonable request but of course, no one at AA is allowed to do this or give a waiver to refund. The AA res agent I recently spoke to recommended waiting until the last minute, cancelling if the flight still show operating and then going to the AA web and emailing about the situation. Since your video said to email w/airline issues, I thought I’d give you a try. Do you have anyother questions that a seasoned Virtuoso luxury advisor wouldn’t have? LOL. Maybe a magic pill!?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hoping your staying safe….and SANE!
Peter Says: Can you let me know what happened? Let me know and thanks!
EMAIL: Claire Doiser
Event was cancelled in May, so no reason for ticket, will they give them back to me, cannot get them on phone easily
Peter Says: You mentioned Skymiles, so I am assuming the airline is Delta. Did Delta cancel your flight yet? If not, wait until the airline does cancel the flight, and then your rights to get a full refund or miles redeposited to your account will be preserved.
EMAIL: Ed Bowe
Southwest Airlines cancelled my flight to Jamaica for April 4 for COVID19.
They aren’t giving me a refund ($3,384). Instead, I get that amount in useless flight credit until June 2021, which I will never be able to use considering my new financial status.
I sent an email to them, where I expected a response within 48 hours. I called a week later-“Oops, no refund-sorry we didn’t respond to you.”
What should I do?
Peter Says: there is a U.S. Department of Transportation rule that protects you – since the airline canceled the flight (and you didn’t) you are entitled to a full refund back to the original form of payment. So call them back!
EMAIL: Ed Beberman
Dear Mr. Greenberg, Jerry Sorkin of Ironic Journeys posted your very interesting and informative documentary on the state of the travel industry due to the Coronavirus. Thank you very much. My wife and I really enjoyed it. At this time I am taking you up on your offer and submitting this question: On February 4th of this year we contacted VRBO/Veeve and agreed to rent an apartment in London for the month of May. At their request we signed an Occupation Agreement and paid the agreed upon prepaid rent of $6,545.00. Veeve’s on line brochure mentioned their cancellation policy of a 50% refund if received within 60 days of occupancy. However their Agreement did not incorporate any mention of a cancellation policy or provision, nor did it contain a force majeure clause. After our mutual governments banned International travel we sent Veeve our notice of cancellation. Veeve contends that pursuant to their policy we are only entitled to the 50% refund. I think otherwise, noting that while under different circumstances such a policy may be enforceable despite not being in the Agreement, the fact that complying now is a legal impossibility not contemplated by either party and would fall under the doctrine of “frustration of purpose”. Unfortunately Veeve is unwilling to change their position after several communications were sent back and forth. Your opinion would be appreciated. Litigating this issue from the States would be very expensive and of course impractical, but your opinion as it applies within the travel industry could have an impact on not just us, but other travelers and vendors as well, giving us all the roadmap on how to proceed. Thank you very much.
Peter Says: Ed, please send me all the details here: reservation confirmations, names and titles of the people with whom you have spoken, and I will get into it.
EMAIL: Sandra Paul
Planning on retirement at the end of April (haha!) and booked a trip to Maui for my family in May (6 of us!).
United Airlines won’t refund my money.
Offered a voucher through Dec 2020 then conceeded to give me a voucher through next may,.
There is no reason to believe I will get my whole family together next May unfortunately. How can I get a refund??
My retirement has been postponed due to all these uncertain conditions.
Peter Says: United won’t refund your money because they have not yet officially canceled the flight. Please wait another two weeks, and then when the airline cancels you’ll be protected under the U.S. Department of Transportation rule that requires the airline to fully refund your money.
EMAIL: Gail Berenson
Peter, after reading your articles for years and specifically listening to your podcasts on coronavirus over the past few days, I decided to contact with you to see if you might have any advice for me. I had purchased three tickets for three separate events and ended up cancelling out on all three. Just a bit of background, I am a Delta Platinum Medallion Member and use their Delta SkyMiles Reserve card.
There are unlikely to be many flights that I will be taking by the end of this year (I had some summer trips, including an international trip, but these events are more than likely to be cancelled). Really, the only trip I might take is at Christmas, IF then.
My question: Is there any way that I can request an extension on these e-certificates? I didn’t ask for a refund initially since I had purchased “non-refundable” tickets. Besides, since I was the one cancelling these flights, I assumed that there was no way for me to request a refund on the tickets. I’m OK with the e-certificates, IF the expiration dates can be extended, although a refund would really be preferable. Should I try calling Delta to see if this is possible, especially given my status with Delta?
Any advice you have to offer would be most welcome. Thank you so much.
Peter Says: Hi Gail, and thanks for all the details. In some cases, Delta will extend the validity of the vouchers…but did you cancel the flights or did Delta cancel them first? If delta canceled them first you’re entitled to a full refund under the U.S. Department of Transportation rules. Let me know.
EMAIL: K.K. Kua
Peter, please tell your audience who are on hold endless phone queues waiting for a representative that there are quicker and more productive ways trying to contact them.
- For polyglots, please consider contacting the foreign language call centers. AA has a Spanish call center in Mexico City. AirFrance and KLM English call centers in N.America are forwarded to Delta’s reservations… so call FlyingBlue (their freq flier program) and they will be able to forward the calls to the service centers in Europe.
- If there’s speaker phone capability, consider using it while you multitask other chores while being on hold.
- Take advantage of the call back feature. They will not loose their place in the call queue.
- For multiple passengers on the same itinerary, use the priority phone number of the person with the highest status. People in the reservation should use the high status person’s phone to initiate the call. Caller ID will identify their status and wait times on the queue will shorten.
Peter Says: Thanks for this! And great advice!
EMAIL: James Slater
We have been listening to your online videos and truly appreciate your advice in these trying times.
We are friends of Jim Phillippi, who co-authored a book about Airstreams with Bob Landau, who we believe is a friend of yours. Jim recommended we share our experiences with you, and that you are trying to keep track of problems people encounter when attempting to get refunds for booked flights and trips.
Our initial plan was to travel to Egypt from February 29 through March 11. We had purchased a “cancel for any reason” insurance policy through iTravelInsured, IMG. We followed all of the rules for full coverage, adding our deposits with the Tour company and payment of our airfare incrementally, expecting at the time the insurance would cover us if we felt uncomfortable with the political climate. We ended up canceling, and unknown to us at the time, travel would have been a nightmare for us on the Nile cruise, not for political reasons, but due to the coronavirus crisis. We filed our claim and were promptly denied for not having covered all costs of our trip. After some back and forth correspondence that was confusing and less than helpful, and a second denial of our claim, it finally became clear that our claim was being denied because of a difference of $200.00. When we added airfare to the policy, we included the full Lufthansa airfare. A year later, when we filed the insurance claim, we included a $200 processing fee by our travel agency Skylux along with the Lufthansa airfare. That is the reason they denied our claim for not insuring the entire amount initially. Our plan now, since we are still within the 90 day period to file a claim, is to file an amended claim and just remove that $200. Our entire claim is less than $8,000.00, after removing the refunds we have already received from Lufthansa and the tour company. If we amend the claim and it is still denied, we will then pursue all grievance options and file any complaints open to us.
When that trip fell through, some family members wanted to travel to Sicily with us to visit where grandparents were raised. So after we canceled our trip to Egypt, but before we had heard of the coronavirus, we purchased tickets and planned a trip to Sicily. Then here comes the coronavirus. We were able to get free cancellation of all hotels, and a refund for the prepaid portion of the rental car. We have been informed that our short flight on RyanAir from Catania to Malta would be fully refunded (a big surprise to us), but our international flights on Delta have become a problem. We booked through Skylux. We have taken their advice to let time pass before canceling, similar to your advice, but we are down to the final days before our flight on April 1. Delta has not canceled our flights, and I don’t know if that’s a game they are playing that we can’t play too well because of how difficult it is to reach them. Our last information was that if you request a refund, they will charge $700.00 per ticket. I talked with someone in the refund department at Delta and they told me we would have to go through our travel agency. We spoke with our agent and they said Skylux is offering this option: To give us a credit to be held by Skylux that allows us to book a year out from the date of cancellation, with no penalty, and we do not have to rebook with Delta and we do not have to keep the same itinerary. That’s a very tempting offer, and we would love to think we can travel again. This poses the risk, however, that we will feel comfortable traveling, and that this company will still be around, and the airlines won’t raise prices so high that we are essentially losing money that way when re-booking. Our Skylux agent said if we aren’t ready to book again in a year or have booked and don’t feel comfortable because of the coronavirus, they would extend that year with no penalties. We discussed these choices – we turn 70 and 82 this year – and we feel we should opt for the cancellation refund, even if we have to pay $700 each ticket. These are business class tickets, so it is a considerable amount of money. Our travel agent told us yesterday that airlines are all doing different things to try to hang on to your money and avoid a refund and that some are even increasing the cancellation fees if you ask for a refund or not allowing any refund. He advised us if that was our decision that he would go ahead and cancel the seats and would be getting information from Delta in the meantime to make sure the cancellation fee is still $700/ticket. We have sent in an authorization for that amount, but he said if the fee is higher we can still change our minds and go with the credit with Skylux.
I don’t expect to hear back on the current Delta policy until Monday or Tuesday.
Sorry for the long story. We just wanted to share our experiences. In the scheme of things, this is just not critical, but certainly disappointing, and trying, and frustrating. Our health is what matters in this crisis. Thank you for your consideration, and please stay well.
Our best wishes,
Marian & Jim Slater
Peter Says: Hi Marian and Jim, as you can imagine I’ve been inundated with emails and trying to answer all of them. Can you update me on your situation since you first sent this email to me? And many thanks.
EMAIL: Nancy James
I canceled a flight to DC for April 2-3. Received a credit. Do you think the airlines may change some of their rules so I can get a refund VS credit. Flight was canceled due to covid19 virus by me and the shut down of the National Museum.
My daughter lives there so there is always a chance I may use credit.
I have another flight on UA to Denver May 6-11. Good advice I will wait to last minute to see if airline cancels.
Peter Says: Nancy, it gets down to this: did you cancel the flight or did the airline? Timing matters. If it was the airline, then under DOT rules, you’re entitled to a full refund.
EMAIL: Marilyn Rynes
If you booked an upcoming trip that gets cancelled and you used miles, will they have to put the miles back into your account?
Thanks, Marilyn Rynes
Peter Says: Yes, in most cases the major airlines will redeposit your miles back to your account without charging a fee
EMAIL: Joan Stewart, Brookfield, IL
With Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), I had a trip in Egypt scheduled to begin 3/26/20. As the Coronavirus crisis started to develop, OAT had a dedication section on their website with frequent updates about their handling of their trips in different parts of the world. Throughout the updates, OAT always posted that if they cancelled any trip, the customer would have the option of rebooking later or full refund.
On 3/14/20, per the website, OAT cancelled my trip. The website still said that customers still had the same options. Later I received both a telephone call and an email from OAT explaining the three options, which were to rebook the same trip at a later date, book a different trip at a later date or receive a full refund. The email states: “Option 3: Receive a full refund of everything you paid to us, including any airfare and/or Travel Protection Plan you may have purchased. If you choose the full refund, it will be processed after May 2, 2020.” I arranged my own airfare (which American Airlines has refunded) and did not purchase their Travel Protection Plan. My total amount paid to OAT was $4,395.00, which I wanted refunded as promised.
Then on 3/27/20, I received another email from OAT saying that they had rebooked the same trip for me for 3/31/2021. They went on to say that “we will apply all existing payments to your new reservation”. I immediately called OAT, worked my way up the chain of command, and was finally told by a supervisor, who would only tell me that his name was Zack, that OAT had changed their policy and would not be giving any refunds. Nothing I said had any impact whatsoever. The reservation section of the OAT website shows me scheduled for a tour 3/31/21, but all I want is my money refunded. Can OAT to this?
Peter Says: Joan, please send me all the details, confirmation numbers, and the people (full names and titles) with whom you spoke and let me get into it.
EMAIL: Craig F. Curran
UNITED roundtrip ROC – SYD round trip via IAH (my myself and my wife.) The IAH SYD flight segment both ways has since been canceled. The Premier 1K desk informed me that DOT rules regarding a refund for canceled flights do not apply to international journeys that originate in the US (only domestic). Is this correct?
UNITED is offering the option to refund the ticket after the validity date passes on 2JAN2021, or of course the option to reissue for use prior without a fee (plus any fare difference.) This is reasonable in my estimation, but want clarity on DOT rules non the less.
BTW, I have heard you speak at a Virtuoso event and enjoyed your comments – I have been watching your videos through the crisis and find them extremely helpful – in fact essential. Virtuoso has been magnificent through this.
Peter Says: Craig, thanks for your e-mail. If united canceled the flight, then under U.S. Department of Transportation rules you are entitled to a full refund.
EMAIL: Dennis Tjaden
Hello, I fly VERY rarely. I had booked a round trip flight on American to go from Orlando to Burbank, CA. I was going to a wedding. I never fly but had to because of the distance for this trip.
I had to cancel because of CV19 and they want to give me a credit for future flights. As I said, I never fly so I will probably not use the voucher. Is there any way to get the money back instead? Is there a way to transfer the credit to someone else who does fly?
Thank you for all the information you provide.
Peter Says: Dennis, the key here is whether you canceled or American canceled, and when the cancellation occurred. Need more details!
EMAIL: Jennifer Thibault
My daughter was to travel with her school to Spain. The school canceled the trip, however arrangements with ACIS and the school to reschedule. Unfortunately my daughter is a senior and is not eligible to travel. We only had the basic insurance, and ACIS has enhanced their policy. We are eligible to get a portion back, and the rest in the form of a voucher which the school will purchase from me and transfer to another student.
I would prefer all of the money back.
Peter Says: Jennifer, can you send me more details? Thanks!
EMAIL: Brian Fitzgerald
I recently retired from UPS after 47 years of service. Over 20 years ago we were only a few years into our next day air business Mon. thru Fri. On the weekends our planes stood idle so to make a little profit we devised a “quick change” operation that would install seats in the cargo plane for domestic flights only. These were cut-rate fares and yes, there was a bathroom on the plane. This only lasted a short while and was eventually discontinued.
Peter Says: Thanks Brian for the history. I remember that, and also remember that it didn’t last very long, but an interesting concept!
EMAIL: John Gallagher
Saw an article on Yahoo:
America’s bailed-out airlines are not ‘playing fair’ with customers, travel expert says
You were quoted:
“In fact, if you go to the DOT’s [Department of Transportation] website, it specifically states in there that, if the airline cancels your flight for any reason, you are entitled to a full refund back to the original form of payment. And the airlines are not playing fair about that right now.”
That’s the situation I’m in. United canceled my EWR/LHR/SNN/EWR trip around two weeks or so before I was due to travel (March 24).
I must say, I waited for United to cancel me, rather than the other way around, as I didn’t want to deal with the “well, it was your decision” response.
I’ve written to United, and requested a refund, but before I get the runaround, it sure would be useful to be able to point to the applicable DOT regulation/policy.
Do you think you could send me a link as I’m unable to find it on the DOT website?
Peter Says: John, you did the right thing. Go to usdot.gov/refunds to see the exact policy language from the DOT.