How to Get a Travel Refund

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how to get a travel refund
With the current travel bans and other restrictions amidst the state of emergency in America and abroad, you may have questions about how to get a travel refund. For example, you may have airline tickets for future travel or a hotel booking for a conference that got cancelled. Anyone who was expecting to travel somewhere in the next few weeks has probably done the following two things:

One, cancelled their travel plans.

Two, started researching how you go about getting a travel refund, be it a refund on airline tickets, a refund on a hotel room or some other travel booking that you would like to get your money back for.

Tips for how to get a travel refund

Last week I got a press release from Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and CheapTickets with some tips on how to get a travel refund. I’ve decided to share some of their advice in this blog post. This is in case you might find it helpful.

I’ve also added tips based on my own research. I’m hoping this will help you figure out how to get a travel refund from an airline or hotel.

Cancellation policies in a state of emergency

The truth is, travel cancelation policies are at the discretion of hotels, cruise and airline partners. Online travel sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and CheapTickets follow the policies of their travel partners, which means any credit, refund or change is at the discretion of the airline, hotel, cruise line or other travel provider.

However, when the president declared a state of emergency last week, that may have changed how to get a travel refund–in the consumer’s favor. For example, AirBnB changed it cancellation policy because of what it calls “extenuating circumstances.” Here is what the company had to say: 

“Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 for stays and AirBnB Experiences, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, are covered by the policy and may be cancelled before check-in. Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. AirBnB will refund all service fees for covered cancellations.”

How to get a travel refund for airline tickets

Some airlines are offering somewhat flexible change policies due to the current situation. However, they will vary from company to company. The best way to know how to get a travel refund is to go right to the source of your book.

There are two ways you’re going to go about getting a travel refund in the current state of affairs. First, you’re going to reach out to the third party with whom you booked your reservation. Those third parties are companies like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and CheapTickets.

And, second, you’re going to reach out to the airline you were going to fly with to find out about their refund policies. Rather than stay on hold for hours at a time, check each companies website for their travel refund policies and search for questions like “Can you get a refund on flights?”.

I did a little legwork for you and checked with three popular airlines. Here’s what I found

Southwest

Can you refund Southwest tickets? Well, technically no.

If you’re holding non-refundable tickets on Southwest, like a Wanna Get Away fare, you can cancel and then apply that flight to a future flight for yourself. But you have to cancel within 24 hours of booking your flight. So that’s how a Southwest Wanna Get Away refund works.

I have to be honest. I’m really surprised Southwest hasn’t updated its refund policy in light of the state of emergency. You would think the company would make an exception for non-fundable fares, given the exceptional worldwide situation.

Southwest also has something called No Show Policy. This means if you don’t show up for your flight, you’ll get your money back. But the catch is you must be holding a refundable ticket.

JetBlue

The JetBlue flight cancellation policy is updated to reflect the current state of affairs. Here’s what the airline is saying about how to get a refund from JetBlue:

“Customers with existing bookings now have additional flexibility…we will waive change/cancel fees for customers traveling March 10, 2020 through April 30, 2020.

Customers may rebook their flights for travel through October 24, 2020 online in the Manage Trips section of jetblue.com or contact us prior to the departure time of their originally scheduled flight. Original travel must have been booked on or before March 10, 2020. Fare difference may apply. For cancellations, funds will be issued as a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit, valid for one year from date of issuance.”

What is a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit? It’s basically a credit you can use for a future flight. So your JetBlue refund isn’t cash back in your pocket but at least it’s something you can use for future travel.

American Airlines

American Airlines ticket cancellation policy is much more flexible right now. This includes the fact that the airline is not charging change fees. As they should not be doing given extenuating circumstances.

Like many airlines, unless you’re traveling–or were supposed to travel in the next 72 hours–American is asking that you not call to change your plans. Instead, you can go online to cancel your trip and rebook at a later date. American says you’ll need your ticket number and your record locator (aka confirmation number) so you can apply that to your new ticket.

Here is more from American Airlines

“To provide you with more flexibility and control we have waived change fees for certain dates of travel.

This includes offering customers who bought tickets before March 1, 2020 and are traveling through April 30, 2020, the flexibility to rebook without change fees. Customers who book March 1 – March 31, 2020, for travel through January 30, 2021, can change their reservation at a later date without change fees, too. And for all customers scheduled to travel to Europe, including the United Kingdom, we have additional flexibility through May 31, 2020.”

If you’re wondering, “How do I get a refund from American Airlines,” you can always request one. American Airlines asks that you enter your ticket number into the refund page. Then, it will tell you whether or not your class of ticket is available for a refund.

Like Southwest I’m really surprised that they’re not just letting everyone get a refund in the form of future travel. Hopefully in the coming days every airline will have updated their cancellation and refund policies to be more consumer friendly.

Travel dates matter for how to get a travel refund

You’ll notice in the airline examples above that airline refund policies are naming specific dates. That’s because, right now, if you’re scheduled to fly or travel during this state of emergency, your question for how to get a travel refund may be easy. Because of the state of affairs, you may automatically qualify for one.

Whether your travel plans are eligible for refund or change from hotel, airline and cruise line providers often depends on when you booked, where you’re headed and your travel dates. Have this information ready when researching your cancelation or change options. Not every airline or hotel will offer the same flexibility with changing or cancelling your travel plans. So read up on their policies before reaching out to inquire.

Proactively cancel your trip

In some cases, you can proactively cancel a future trip using an online refund form. While this is not true for every airline or hotel, the folks from Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and CheapTickets say they might be able to help.

They say that if you want to cancel future travel plans that are more than seven days away, you can use online refund forms from those booking site. This will automatically cancel your trip. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get a travel refund. Those booking sites then have to go to their travel partners who will ultimately decide if you’re eligible for a refund or credit for future travel.

How to get a travel refund at a hotel

When it comes to a hotel refund policy, your travel refund is going to depend on the brand. Luckily, in many instances, when you book a hotel room, you’re only providing your credit card to hold your reservation. However, in certain circumstances, you may pay for your hotel room in full, in advance, as I’ve done for upcoming blog conferences in Maryland and Ohio.

When I checked with different hotels and hotel booking services, it seems like getting a refund was pretty straightforward. For example, you may be wondering with a Hotels.com cancellation policy with a non-refundable room or booking.

How to get a refund from Hotels.com

According to the Hotels.com customer service site, cancelling it pretty straightforward. You log into your account, select the booking you want to cancel and cancel it. However, getting a refund isn’t as straightforward.

First, if you paid a non-refundable deposit, it will likely be forfeited. Second, if you do qualify for a refund, it will take up to 30 days. Also,  it sounds like you’ll get refunded when Hotels.com gets refunded from the property–if they refund at all. So Hotels.com is trying to do the right thing. But if the hotel or resort where you booked on the other end isn’t being fair, there isn’t much they can do about that.

Yes, that sucks.

Get a refund from your credit card

If those conferences I mentioned earlier get cancelled and I have difficult getting a hotel refund, you can bet that I’ll be turning to my credit card company for backup. I know, for example, that some VISA cards offer a purchase protection clause that covers travel. 

Mastercard offers trip interupption and cancellations. However, from reading the terms, it looks like you’ll get up to $100.

Many of those travel policies cover terrorist attacks and weather events.I would be surprised if they didn’t also cover a declaration of state of emergency. I hope I won’t have to call on them to find out and that hotels will do the right thing with their hotel refund policy.

Travel insurance and how to get a travel refund

Check your travel insurance policy to see if changes and cancellations due to unforeseen events like a travel ban or state of emergency are covered. Your travel insurance may even be able to help you for a non-refundable airline ticket and how to get a travel refund for your air travel or hotel stay.

A few years ago my youngest daughter had spring break travel plans fall apart. This was after the country she was going to visit experienced a government shutdown. Since then, whenever we book airline tickets, we always buy travel insurance, too. It usually adds between $20 and $50 to an airline ticket. However, I believe this insurance, which ensures a travel refund should travel plans go south, is well worth the money.

Have I answered all of your questions about how to get a travel refund? If not, let me know.

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