8 things to know to help you get a refund for travel that was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Some airlines and hotels have been quite generous with their refund options, but others are in “survival mode” and refusing to issue refunds. Call volumes are heavy with wait times of hours… but there are other options!
1. Go online and read your airline/hotel/cruise cancellation/refund policy
2. Try cancelling/refunding online. Many airlines have added cancellation options to their website that they didn’t have before. Can’t find one on the website? Try from their mobile app… or try filling out a customer service form and request a refund. Twitter and Facebook too.
3. If you do have to call.. try calling at off hours… 1am US time…. Or call off-hours to a different regional call center. UA has a call center in Singapore. Sometimes the numbers are published on their website, if not you might have to dig a little bit to find these numbers. Use something like Skype to call these international numbers for cheap.
If it’s a hotel.. Try their front desk instead of the general reservation number. I cancelled one of my Marriott reservations just by leaving a voicemail and I got a cancellation 2 days later.
If you booked via a 3rd party you probably have to call them. Expedia/Booking.com/Travel Agent
4. Wait. If your trip isn’t until May.. there’s no rush to cancel right now. In general cancellation/refund policies are getting more generous, not less. Airlines are cancelling flights left and right… yours may get cancelled too and an automatic refund. If they’ve already issued you a “credit” and you want a refund… wait.
5. Be nice / humble / pitiful. Make the phone agents want to help you… don’t try and order them around. Thank them. Times are stressful for them too.
6. Don’t accept credit if you don’t really want it. American Airlines is offering 20% extra credit bonus if you take a credit instead of cash. But if you accept a voucher, you’ve given up your right to a refund. Per DOT rules, passengers with cancelled flights to and from the US are entitled to a full refund. This is also the case for flights to and from the EU.
7. Hang up and call again
8. As a last resort… call your credit card company to dispute the charge. Most banks require you to make “a good-faith effort” to resolve a problem directly with the merchant first. Document your calls to the airline to show you’ve tried to resolve it with them first.