There has been a lot of constantly shifting policies and debates as to what airlines are required to do with regard to existing bookings in light of COVID-19. There are lots of nuances and honestly it seems airlines are not being consistent at all. But I thought I’d share my experiences trying to cancel flights and hotels for April and May travel. I’ve been updating this thread and so far its taken about six weeks; I nearly have all of my points/miles/money refunded for April and May travel, just in time to start the process for June and July cancellations… (I thought I was done but then I realized I still am waiting for a fee refund from Aeroplan.) (Updated: 5/12/20)
First, I’ll note that there’s no rush to cancel bookings for May, generally, but I had a reason in my case. Aeroplan had announced it will allow the free cancellation of any award bookings, made at any time and for travel at any time, through March 31. I had been expecting them to push that to mid-April, but since they haven’t yet, I didn’t want to miss my window. Aeroplan was also by far the simplest process. I logged into the website, clicked cancel on the booking, and got a confirmation screen stating that both the miles and the fees would be fully refunded. I haven’t received email confirmation yet, but I will update this post to share how long it takes for the refunds to process. Anyway, toodles to my 55,000 mile flight from Malaga to DC, which was a wacky routing of AGP-LIS-ZRH-IAD, with the first two legs on TAP, and the last on Swiss business class. Hoping ZRH-IAD ends up launching at some time in the future but who knows.
Update: 4/16/20- for some reason, the cancellation from online never took. I tried again, and although I got a confirmation message, nothing ever happened, and it still showed as a valid reservation. I did one call to Aeroplan, though, on April 7, and they canceled and refunded the ticket no problem. The miles returned to my account immediately. I am still waiting for the taxes and fees to show.
Update: 5/6/20– Since a month passed without seeing the fees returned, I called, and a friendly Aeroplan agent investigated, and concluded my request for a fee refund had never been submitted. She sent it was sent over to Air Canada ticketing and I should expect it within the next credit card cycle. I then got an email confirming the request, saying to allow 6 weeks. So, if you dont specifically have an email from Air Canada confirming your fee refund request, keep calling.
My outbound flight was booked using Iberia Avios, on their new IAD-MAD right, connecting MAD-AGP. This booking had been a saga, as I was initially booked JFK-MAD-AGP, but canceled that when IAD-MAD was announced. By the time the miles were refunded, business class was sold out on IAD-MAD, so I settled for premium economy. There was a problem with the system that wouldn’t allow booking the flight as a single IAD-MAD-AGP, despite the fact it was well within the minimum connection time. The phone reps could not help, so I ended up booking a separate MAD-AGP flight using BA Avios (lower cost, because Avios makes no sense). Finally, just before things got nuts, IAD-MAD opened up in business again, and this time it would allow me to book a straight through ticket. So I canceled the BA short leg, losing the $5 in taxes and fees and getting the mileage back, and canceled the IAD-MAD PE flight. Rather than waiting for the miles to be returned, I transferred Amex Membership Rewards points into my BA Avios account, then transferred them to my Iberia account, and made the booking.
I honestly can’t figure out how to cancel now, though. The website only allows modifications of award flights. There is a special webpage to request vouchers for canceling revenue tickets. And when I called, the system just says go to the webpage. So I sent an email through the contact-us form and am waiting. There’s no rush on this one, so, shrug. Again, I will update to keep you posted.
Update: 4/16/20: I got an email back telling me there was nothing they could do via email and that I had to call. The first time I called, I gave up after waiting on hold several minutes. The second time I called, an agent told me she couldn’t help me as I needed to hang up and say “Iberia Plus” to the automated voice system, which I had done. The third time, this morning, I was told Iberia was still going to charge me a $40 USD cancellation fee because the flight was still scheduled to operate. Tis is very dumb. There is no way that they are launching IAD-MAD in May as scheduled. And it would be less of a strain on their system if they would just cancel now rather than wait for a glut when they rollout huge May schedule adjustments.
Update: 5/12/20: Sure enough, on April 21, I received an email that the MAD-AGP leg of my flight was canceled. I called that day and an agent said he was canceling the booking and refunding me. The next day, I received an email that the IAD-MAD leg was canceled. On April 25, I then received an automated email asking me to either confirm I still planned to fly, whether I wanted a voucher, or whether I wanted to change my dates. That seemed odd. On April 30, when I still hadn’t received any email confirmation of the cancellation and no refund of cash or miles, I called Iberia again, and was told to disregard the email I’d received and that my cancellation was in the queue. On May 8, I received a “refund receipt” from Iberia; later that day, the cash posted to my Amex. Sometime over the next few days, the Avios were returned my account as well.
Finally, my love, Delta. When I moved to DC, I left Delta for American for a few years, before returning to Delta despite its lackluster mileage program, because of it’s fantastic customer service both in the air and on the ground. So when my flights for next week to New York were canceled and rebooked to completely different times of day, I didn’t anticipate a problem getting Delta to honor its normal schedule change rules and just refund me the money. I waited until the week before the trip, and reached out to Delta via Twitter. About six hours later, I got this response:
Hello, due to the current pandemic we have been required to significantly decrease the number of flights we normally operate. Your originally scheduled flight was cancelled and consolidated to the later afternoon flight. As this is out of our control we are not able to process refunds at this time. We can cancel your current flights and allow this to be an open credit available for you to use for up to one year from the original ticketing purchase date, we will waive all fees and you will have the full value of the ticket to use for future travel.
I asked if this was a new policy, or published anywhere, 10 hours ago, and haven’t heard back. I have not seen it posted anywhere. Indeed, this is more draconian than the policies for completely *voluntary* cancellations, which would allow a credit to be used for future travel through December 31, 2020. I had purchased this ticket in September 2019. I don’t anticipate booking any more leisure travel for between now and then–indeed, I already have 6 Delta roundtrips booked for the remainder of 2020.
Folks on Flyertalk all agreed this violated Delta’s schedule change rules, and probably the DOT’s cancellation rules. The schedule reduction may have had a good reason, but it still was within Delta’s control. So, I sent an email, and then also followed up with a phone call. To my surprise, the wait was only 6 minutes, and, although it took fifteen minutes on the phone for processing, the agent did not argue at all about my request for a refund. That being said, the language I received in the Twitter DM did not seem to be ad hoc, but more likely form language the airline is using to try and get people to accept credits, i.e., interest-free loans to the airline. I actually support “bailouts” of Delta and other airlines, but not if they do stuff like this.
Update: 3/30/20- I had sent an email to Delta Customer Care. They did not address my concerns that they were not following their published policy/had adopted a new policy, but simply stated “As an exception, the refund request has been sent to our Passenger Refunds team for handling.” An “exception” to what, remains unclear.
Update: 4/16/20– Still no refund to my card
Update: 4/25/20 – Still no refund. When I try to look up the refund status on Delta’s website, I get an error message. So I called, and was directed to text. At first, the representative wouldn’t even check the status, simply stating refunds were taking awhile. I asked her to check, and she told me it was requested on 3/29/20, so I still have to wait awhile because they have had 300,000 requests. So, 27 days still waiting…
Update: 5/5/20– still nothing, so I did the messaging system again. The agent said if a refund had been requested, I would have received a confirmation number. I had not. She said no one had actually ever requested a refund, so now, 37 days after I was told my refund was requested, my refund has been requested, and I have been told it will take up to 30 days…again. So we’re looking at June for a refund that Delta told me was being processed in March. That’s not good. There was no explanation why the agents I communicated with in March and April told me the refund was in process when it wasn’t. It’s dismaying that i had to keep following up, or else I would never get the refund. I had almost given up as the messaging process took nearly *two hours”. So let’s see if I get my refund within 67 days. As with Air Canada, it seems if you dont have an email confirmation with a refund request number, your refund has not been properly processed.
Update (3/31/20): I now have a fourth data point. I had a flight booked as an American Airlines “Web Saver” fare from Minneapolis to DC on my way back from Twin Cities Pride. At the time, revenue prices were insane, so 5,000 miles plus $5.60 was a good deal, even if it was a long flight on a regional jet. There was a schedule change a few weeks ago that was less than ideal, though. Since Delta was now offering a flight for my preferred time for $57 (albeit in Basic Economy), I figured that was a better route. I was utterly confused by the directions on the AA page, which suggested I could “cancel” the reservation now and then request the miles be refunded when I was “ready” to travel again. I clicked the button, but realized I rather have the miles and $5.60 cash refunded to me now. I was also a bit concerned that I might have a hard time doing so later, since this flight was for June and should not have been subject to any special COVID-19 policies , just normal schedule change policies. So I sent AA a message on Twitter and they took care of it. The miles were back in my account the same day, as was a refund of the fees.
Hotel cancellations have been easy enough, as all my reservations for these trips were fully refundable/cancelable. I submitted cancellations on Hotels.com and Club1hotels.com that should go directly to my credit card, although I had used a $100 Hotels.com gift card that I had for part of one of the stays, and will now be getting a new gift card to use (it actually arrived via email within an hour).
Update 4/16/20: The Hotels.com cash refund was returned to my credit card on April 13–about two weeks after I canceled. Still waiting on Club1 Hotels.
Update 4/25/20: Since it had been more than 15 business days as indicated in my Club1 Hotels cancellation email, I sent a follow-up email. They responded that the hotel still hadn’t processed the refund, but they would refund me anyway, and I should expect it on my credit card in 4-5 days. (Update: It arrived the next day.)
I’m still optimistic that my August/September travel will move forward. June and July less so. We’ll see… Hope everyone is safe and healthy, and staying indoors. I know how hard it is to be isolated right now. We will travel again.