Coronavirus: Want To Cancel Your Flight? Read This Before You Do So.
We already know that the coronavirus outbreak has put air travel in crisis. Many of us with upcoming leisure trips are wondering if our flights will be canceled by the airlines or if we should be canceling them ourselves. Such uncertainty can drive us to cancel our flights immediately, especially, if the travelers are senior citizens with pre-existing medical conditions like my parents or if you are traveling with kids. For instance, we have an upcoming trip to Mexico in April 2020 and we are booked on Delta airlines for the US-Mexico leg and Volaris from Cancun to Mexico City. At this time, about USD 2500 worth of our flight tickets is at stake.
No cash refund unless the airlines cancel the flight.
Unfortunately, if your flight hasn't been canceled by the airlines, there is a possibility that you may not get a 100% cash refund (if you have non-refundable ticket). However, a lot of airlines (including Delta) are offering e-credits/ travel credits that you will be able to use towards a future flight. Such credits must be used within one year from the original purchase date.
Travel credits may not be an option for everyone.
My parents have come all the way from India to visit me and we planned the Mexico trip to take advantage of their US visit. Honestly, I am not sure if they will be traveling to the US again within a year. Therefore, e-credits won't work for me, I need a full cash refund, which unfortunately may not be possible at this time.
Should you cancel now or closer to the scheduled departure date?
I will get an e-credit whether I cancel early or closer to the scheduled date of departure so I will wait in the hope that the airlines will cancel these flights.
How long should you wait then to cancel the ticket?
Along with the flights, I have already paid for the hotel and the land tours. Thankfully, they are cancellable for a full cash refund. I will make a list of the different bookings and keep a tab on the last dates for cancellation. For instance, the last date for canceling my hotel bookings is 11th April 2020 and tours booked with Viator, Sat Mexico and Amigo Tours are cancellable 24 hours before the tour starts. If I no longer want to take the trip, I will wait till 11th April 2020 to cancel the flight tickets. So set a reminder for a date that is closer to your flight, then make the changes to your reservation.
If your flight is within the next 72 hours or less, this is what you must do:
Due to higher call volume, a lot of airlines have made it easier for travelers to instantly cancel/change their flights through their websites.
When you call up your airlines, ask them for a cash refund. Explain your situation and plead your case. Based on your situation, you may be treated as an exception. If you are not lucky to get a cash refund from one agent, try calling again and speak to a new representative. The other option is to contact your airline through social media.
If your flight departs farther in the future, this is what you must do:
If your flight is in the next 2-3 months, you can also email or call your airlines and see what the reservation agent can do. Keep this information handy and wait till you are closer to your scheduled departure date. However, if you know that you are going to fly on the same airline after the coronavirus situation is resolved, you may want to cancel your reservation now for travel credit.