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Travel Column: Airlines are waiving some fees, but don't count on a coronavirus refund

03:00  04 march  2020
03:00  04 march  2020 Source:   latimes.com

China's travel industry braces as coronavirus outbreak revives memories of SARS

  China's travel industry braces as coronavirus outbreak revives memories of SARS China's biggest online travel agency is waiving cancellation fees for trips to the central Chinese city of Wuhan as a deadly new virus sparks fear in the country. Local authorities in the central China city of Wuhan have delayed the city's 2020 Lunar New Year celebration set to begin Saturday, amid fears that a pneumonia-causing virus is spreading through the city. The decision Tuesday by Trip.com, also known as Ctrip, is one of the first signs of China's travel industry starting to respond to the new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan and has killed at least six people and sickened hundreds.

Several airlines are changing their policies to ease worries as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide. Here are travelers' options. As the coronavirus outbreak spread internationally, global travel has become a topic of concern. U.S. airlines have responded by suspending travel to various

Some U.S. airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees for domestic travel as concerns rise about the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. American, JetBlue and Alaska airlines are offering travel waivers for domestic flights and expanding on flexible change policies that already

Paul Schuster purchased tickets in early January to fly from Los Angeles to Seoul on Korean Air this summer.

a group of people standing in a room: LOS ANGELES CA - FEBRUARY 8, 2020 - Some travelers wear masks in fear of the coronavirus while arriving at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles on February 8, 2020. © Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS LOS ANGELES CA - FEBRUARY 8, 2020 - Some travelers wear masks in fear of the coronavirus while arriving at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles on February 8, 2020.

As the coronavirus spreads worldwide, with South Korea particularly hard-hit, he wants to cancel the trip.

Guess what? Korean Air is slapping Schuster with a $200-per-ticket cancellation fee. On top of that, he's finding he can't even reach anyone at the airline to deal with the matter.

Nervous about buying a plane ticket? American waiving change fees amid coronavirus crisis

  Nervous about buying a plane ticket? American waiving change fees amid coronavirus crisis American joined JetBlue and Alaska in allowing travelers buying new tickets to change them without paying a hefty fee. Fare differences will apply.American Airlines and other carriers, worried about soft ticket sales, are taking the unprecedented step of broadly waiving those hefty ticket change and cancellation fees for new ticket purchases.

COVID-19, the disease caused by a member of the coronavirus family, is spreading rapidly around the world, and airlines are under extreme stress as the With the evolving nature of the outbreak, some airlines have increased their flight cancellations, and have even begun waiving fees for those who

British Airways is offering refunds or waiving the change fee on any trip booked in the next two Andrew Brem, British Airways ’ Chief Commercial Officer said: “As some customers may choose to Is Tenerife safe for travel following coronavirus -hit hotel. The airline has seen a huge drop in bookings

I tried as well. Nothing but busy signals Monday. Contact information on the carrier's website wouldn't even load.

"What to do?" Schuster asked.

Good question. And Schuster is by no means alone in scrambling to rejigger itineraries amid what some health experts say is a looming global pandemic.

"I've heard that reservations are falling off the board, and trips are being canceled left and right," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at San Francisco's Atmosphere Research Group.

"Airlines are trying to be accommodating," he told me, "but they're giving out refunds only on a case-by-case basis."

President Trump tweeted Sunday that new screening procedures will be put in place for people traveling from "high-risk countries."

Airbnb Will Now Allow Travelers to Cancel Their Reservations in the US Free of Charge

  Airbnb Will Now Allow Travelers to Cancel Their Reservations in the US Free of Charge “When a crisis like Coronavirus hits, we know both hosts and guests are affected,” Airbnb said. The policy, which already applies to mainland China, South Korea, and Italy amid the coronavirus outbreak, has been updated following President Trump's recent travel restriction from Europe the U.S.. The updated policy follows the site’s “More Flexible Reservations” initiative, which introduced a slate of revamped cancellation policies for both guests and hosts amid fears of traveling during the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline says it is reducing the volume of flights because less people want to travel amid growing concerns about coronavirus . BA has also contacted customers on cancelled flights and is offering them the option of rebooking with other airlines , a full refund , or a seat on a BA flight at a later date.

United, Delta and American Airlines are waiving some cancellation fees ; some cruise lines are canceling trips. Don ’ t miss: As coronavirus infections exceed 4,500, here’s how the illness has spread across the world so rapidly. The new coronavirus was first detected in China’s Wuhan City, a

Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing America's response to the coronavirus, said over the weekend that the United States is heightening a travel advisory for certain regions of South Korea and Italy.

Cases of the virus have been reported in at least 60 countries.

While airlines worldwide — including American, United and Delta — have suspended or reduced service to some of the most hard-hit regions, they've only gradually started letting spooked travelers off the hook.

American Airlines announced Sunday it will waive its $200 fee to change travel plans up to 14 days prior to a scheduled trip. However, the waiver applies only to tickets purchased between March 1 and March 16.

JetBlue and Alaska Airlines have announced similar moves. Southwest doesn't charge change fees.

Delta said Monday it will waive change fees only for international flights and only for tickets issued this month.

Don't want to fly this summer or fall? United waives change fees through end of year

  Don't want to fly this summer or fall? United waives change fees through end of year On Tuesday, United became the first major U.S. airline to extend its coronavirus travel waivers through the end of the year. Does your flight qualify?The broader waiver applies to travelers holding tickets bought before March 3.Travelers who booked, say, a summer flight from New York to Los Angeles or Europe last fall, can change their flight to another date or cancel their trip and receive an electronic travel credit, all without paying ticket change fees that start at $200 a person.

Many airlines have agreed to refund fares or let passengers rebook free of charge if affected, while major hotel chains are now following suit as more China's biggest online travel agency, Trip.com, is also waiving cancellation fees on all hotels, car rentals and tickets for tourist attractions to Wuhan

These change fees don ’ t include any difference in fare. But for Blue Flex fares, changes can be Airlines are required by law to offer free 24-hour holds or refunds within 24 hours of booking as Spirit Airlines charges a fee for cancellations or changes to paid bookings when the change is

It's unclear at this point how many airline passengers are trying to reschedule or cancel trips because of the coronavirus. Thousands of flights, mainly to China, have been called off by airlines.

The Global Business Travel Assn. said last week that nearly two-thirds of member companies have reported canceling at least "a few" meetings or events. A fifth of survey respondents said they've skipped "many" events.

The trade group estimates the coronavirus could cost the worldwide business travel industry almost $47 billion a month.

"It is clear that the coronavirus is having a significant — and potentially very costly — effect on our members, their companies and on the overall business travel industry," said Scott Solombrino, the association's executive director. "It is fundamentally affecting the way many companies are now doing business."

Industry analysts expect more carriers to forgo change fees as the virus grows in severity. But if you want the cost of your tickets refunded, you may be out of luck.

While airlines and hotels are showing some flexibility with bookings, they've been reluctant to hand money back, even amid a worldwide public health crisis.

American Airlines' CEO said ticket sakes are starting to tick upwards again, despite complete uncertainty about when it will be safe to travel

  American Airlines' CEO said ticket sakes are starting to tick upwards again, despite complete uncertainty about when it will be safe to travel American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said that sales were starting to increase for travel more than 90 days out.During an interview on CNBC's Squawk Alley on Wednesday, Parker said that in recent days, the airline had seen an uptick in sales of tickets for travel more than 90 days in the future.

Travel insurance may not help. Epidemics are routinely listed among exclusions in most policies.

Moreover, travel insurance typically won't cover what the industry calls "foreseeable events" — meaning if you can see a problem on the horizon, your policy may not apply.

Most travel insurers designated the coronavirus a "known and foreseeable event" as of late January, around the same time the Centers for Disease Control issued a warning about avoiding nonessential travel to China.

This basically allows insurers to exclude coronavirus-related claims for cancellations from that point onward. If you purchased coverage prior to then, you still may be eligible to submit a claim.

Most travel insurance plans "contain general exclusions from coverage for any loss directly or indirectly due to any loss, condition or event that was known or foreseeable when the plan was purchased, or due to an epidemic," said Allianz Travel, a leading insurance provider.

Some travel policies include a "cancel for any reason" provision, which would cover you in such circumstances, although you may not be able recover all your travel costs (most, though).

But this level of coverage is generally about 40% more expensive than ordinary travel insurance, so it's unlikely you'll find it in your fine print unless you specifically asked for it.

Passenger Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against American Airlines

  Passenger Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against American Airlines American has become the latest airline to be sued after a passenger did not receive a refund.According to the complaint, the carrier failed to provide Ward and other customers with a refund for their canceled flights, instead “limiting and forcing customers into a rebooked flight or travel voucher instead of returning their money.

"Travelers should ensure that they know what their policy covers and contact the insurance company directly with questions," advised the U.S. Travel Insurance Assn.

Harteveldt, the industry analyst, said airlines know that even as they face declines in ticket sales, they're playing with fire when it comes to passengers' coronavirus fears.

"They realize that it's essential for them to maintain customer goodwill right now," he said.

At this point, Harteveldt said, most carriers will waive fees for people who want to reschedule a flight. Refunds are trickier, he said.

"The airlines have been downplaying this as an option," Harteveldt observed.

He advised any traveler seeking a refund to politely and calmly ask to speak with a supervisor. Explain your situation and make the case in as straightforward a fashion as possible for why you should get your money back.

Your chances will be better if your trip involves a destination with a relatively significant coronavirus risk, such as China or Italy.

"If you're just scared of getting on an airplane," Harteveldt said, "you may be able to reschedule, but you probably won't be offered a refund."

If your airline hasn't yet announced a fee-waiver policy for rescheduling, ask about your options. More than likely, they won't put up a fight.

And don't give up if, like Schuster, you can't get through to a service rep. Airline call centers can be swamped on ordinary days. At the moment, they're overwhelmed.

Oh, and wash your hands. Even if you aren't going anywhere, it'll help.

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©2020 the Los Angeles Times

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Airlines are losing out on revenue from more than just tickets amid travel slump .
The airline industry is going to look different after the coronavirus pandemic. It’s already morphing in response to an unprecedented drop in demand, meaning changes are coming that will alter the way Americans fly. One bit of welcome news for travelers: those change and cancellation fees that have proven especially unpopular with customers over the …One bit of welcome news for travelers: those change and cancellation fees that have proven especially unpopular with customers over the years may not stick around.

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