Rebooking, postponing travel plans during pandemic difficult to navigate

It can be challenging for people to navigate travel plans and flights and that have been left in limbo due to COVID-19.

When it comes to refunds or credits from airlines, each scenario is different, said Boecker – who operates TravelBoecker Adventures – depending on when you booked, your travel dates and your destination.

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Canadian carriers such as Air Canada and WestJet are only offering credits for flights, regardless of whether the customer or the airline cancelled the flight, said Boecker. Air Canada’s credits are valid for up to 24 months and WestJet anywhere between 13 to 24 months. Many airlines have also pushed the validity of those credits further and further out, she said.

“Initially, (the airlines) said we could have a credit for up to 12 months from the date that you purchased the ticket. Then they changed that to up until 12 months after the date of your return ticket,” said Boecker.

“And now some airlines have actually even offered credits up to 24 months from the date of original travel.”

Air Canada’s website notes that flights booked on or after March 1 can be changed without a fee and the 24-month credit can be used for the same destination or somewhere else.

Many U.S. airlines are offering cash refunds for flights cancelled by the airline but credit only if the customer chooses to cancel. That credit is usually valid for anywhere from 12 to 24 months.

“Some airlines offer a one-time free (flight) change within that time, where other (airlines) have to be rebooked by a certain date for the free charge,” she said.

“Most airlines allow the credit to be used anywhere in that specific airline’s network, but some are only for the original destination.”

Boecker believes bookings will pick up again fairly quickly once restrictions are eased – although the travel may not happen immediately.

“I have a feeling that as soon as the doors are open, people will start wanting to plan for the future – not for the day the doors opens, or the day after the door opens or the travel advisory has been lifted. But it gives us the opportunity to dream about travel again and to plan for the future,” she said.

For example, said Boecker, if the travel advisory were lifted next month, she believes she will be “very busy in the middle of May with clients who want to make travel plans for the end of this year or for 2021. 

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