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Cancelling or rebooking your vacation? Current policies of major airlines and hotels

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Government officials reinforce international travel advice for Canadians, say ‘viruses don’t know borders’' Coronavirus outbreak: Government officials reinforce international travel advice for Canadians, say ‘viruses don’t know borders’
On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Health Minister Patty Hajdu spoke about international travel amid the COVID-19 outbreak, specifically between the Canada-U.S. border, stating that “viruses don’t know borders” and that all Canadians should avoid any non-essential international travel – Mar 13, 2020

Editors note: These policies may change and will be updated as they evolve. 

Canadians across the country have been left in a lurch as they grapple with the widespread impact of the new coronavirus.

Canadian health and government officials announced on Friday all non-essential travel should be postponed and air travel will be restricted to certain airports. Cruise ships carrying over 500 passengers will not be allowed to dock in the country.

Travelling outside of Canada may be a risk not only because of the coronavirus, but also due to the possibility that another nation may close its borders and leave travellers stranded, said Canada’s minister of health Patty Hajdu at a press conference.

READ MORE: Canadians should postpone, cancel non-essential foreign travel amid coronavirus: officials

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As of March 13, there are more than 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In recent weeks, airlines have been rushing to keep up with travel and airspace restrictions, especially since U.S. President Donald Trump announced most travellers from Europe wouldn’t be allowed into the country for 30 days.

Airline workers are anticipating layoffs, including the union for WestJet flight attendants who are expecting 50 per cent of its staff to be cut due to flight cancellations.

Changing government restrictions are reducing the number of flights available and travellers are scrambling to change or cancel their reservations. Here are some of the rebooking and cancellation policies recently outlined by major airlines for those who had upcoming travel plans.

Canadian airlines:

Air Canada: Tickets purchased between March 4 and March 31, 2020, are allowed a one time change to the flight without incurring a change fee up to 24 hours before you leave. Aeroplan bookings are covered under this policy.

You also have the option of cancelling your booking for a credit that can be used for a future trip. If the flight is more expensive, you will have to pay the difference and will not be reimbursed if you use the credit on a cheaper flight. The credit has to be used by Dec. 31, 2020.

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If you purchased your ticket before March 4, you can change your booking free of charge if it’s for travel before April 30. The changed travel date has to be completed by Dec. 31, 2020.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses wife Sophie’s COVID-19 diagnosis – Mar 13, 2020


WestJet: Flights booked between March 3 and March 31 will be allowed a one-time change free of charge. This change has to be made more than 24 hours before you leave.

For existing bookings booked before March 3, there’s a $0 fee for change or cancellation if the trip is for March or April 2020. Cancellations will be returned through travel credit.

WestJet Vacation packages now allow a one-time change or cancellation at $0 and money will be returned in the form of WestJet Dollars.

Porter Airlines: Porter is waving any change or cancellation fee for flights booked before March 31, applicable to all fares. Cancellations or changes must be done at least 24 hours in advance and if booked through Porter, a cancellation will be returned as a credit that you need to use by the end of the year. 

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Air Transat: Air Transat states on its website that they will allow you to change any reservation made before March 4, 2020, without charge, for reservations scheduled until April 30, 2020. Those changes need to be made at least three days in advance.

Customers who booked flights to Italy before March 2 or March 9, depending on the city, for travel between now and June 30, 2020, are able to change their date without financial penalty. Cancellation requests are subject to other terms and conditions that apply when the tickets were purchased.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Food shortages unlikely despite Canadians’ grocery panic, experts say

Sunwing: For bookings made between March 4 and March 19, 2020, administration fees will be waved for the first change made. This applies to travel booked from now until June 24, 2020. All changes have to be requested 14 days before travel.

For those who booked before March 4 and didn’t purchase cancellation insurance, a one-time change can be made if you’re scheduled to travel before April 30, 2020.

Changes have to be made at least five days before travel and it must be rescheduled for prior to Oct. 31, 2020. Rebookings can only be made to the same destinations, unless those destinations are unavailable.

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Other major airlines: 

Delta Airlines: Travel purchased in March 2020 has the option of a one-time change without fees. Customers will have to pay the difference if new flights are more expensive and the new travel date has to be booked before your current ticket expires.

Travel before May 31, 2020, in Europe and Asia is eligible for a one-time change without fees. New travel has to be booked before Dec. 31, 2020. Different terms apply depending on where in Europe or Asia your travel was booked.

Any travel booked for on or after May 31 doesn’t qualify for any waved fees currently. 

American Airlines: Change fees will be waved for anyone who purchased tickets before March 1, 2020, for travel through April 30. Customers have until Dec. 31, 2020, to rebook their flights.

New tickets must be issued either on or before Dec. 31 or one year from the original ticket date, whichever is earlier. The same policy applies to the travel date.

American Airlines also released a statement on March 12 telling customers that there will be a 34 per cent reduced travel capacity for the summer travel season and a 50 per cent reduction in trans-Atlantic capacity. 

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READ MORE: How to talk to kids about the novel coronavirus without scaring them

Air France: For any flights booked before March 31, you have until May 31, 2020, to postpone the trip without change fees. But a new trip can’t begin any later than May 31.

Trips can be cancelled and possibly refunded if you purchased a refundable ticket before March 31 for a flight scheduled between March 3 and May 31. Non-refundable ticket cancellations are possible and you will be given a travel voucher to be used within one year. 

British Airways: Bookings made between March 3 and March 31, 2020, can be changed to the same destination without penalties. During that same time period, you can change your destination and receive a travel voucher towards a future flight that takes place one year or less after the date of your original flight.

United Airlines: Flights booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020, can be changed for free within the next year. All change fees have been waived for flights booked before March 2 for travel dates between March 9 through April 30, 2020. Cancellations may depend on the type of ticket you bought.

Emirates Airlines: Fees will be waved for bookings made on or before March 31, 2020. Rebooking or refunds for customers impacted by flight cancellations have some options including travel vouchers. 

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Lufthansa Group: Tickets that were issued before March 5, 2020, with a travel date up to April 30, 2020, can be rebooked for free. Travel can be rebooked up until Dec. 31, 2020. 

It’s also possible to cancel your reservation without having to rebook right away if you made the reservation before March 12, 2020. You then have until June 1, 2020, to decide when to rebook your flight. The new ticket has to be for Dec. 31 or earlier. 

Free rebooking will be available for any new tickets purchased before March 31.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Public Safety Minister says enhanced screening measures implemented at all land, rail, marine points of entry – Mar 13, 2020

Major hotel chains:

Best Western 

There is currently no coronavirus cancellation policy for Best Western. However, the company website says all “Best Western Rewards members around the world will maintain elite status through Jan. 31, 2022.”

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Choice Hotels

The Choice Hotels website says it is offering penalty-free cancellations until March 31, 2020, to guests living in China, Italy, Japan and South Korea with reservations in Canada and the U.S., and to guests with reservations at Choice Hotels in China, Italy and Japan.

Hilton

Hilton owns hotel chains including the Embassy Suites, Hampton, DoubleTree and more. The brand has modification and cancellation waivers in these countries for guests travelling to, through or from: 

  • China between Jan. 23 to March 31, 2020
  • Italy from Feb. 24 to April 30, 2020
  • South Korea with stays from Feb. 24 to March 31, 2020
  • Saudi Arabia from Feb. 27 to March 31, 2020
  • Israel between March 10 and 31, 2020
  • The United States and the following European countries from March 13 to April 12, 2020: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland

Hyatt

Hyatt released a statement saying all existing reservations made before March 13, 2020, that are for arrivals between March 14 and April 30, 2020, can be changed or cancelled at no cost up to one day before scheduled arrival.

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Any new reservation made between March 13 and April 30, 2020, can be changed or cancelled with no fee up to 24 hours before scheduled arrival.

There are special exceptions for Advance Purchase Rate non-refundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8, 2020, for arrivals before June 30, 2020. These guests who cancel can receive 10,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Points compensation.

READ MORE: You can catch coronavirus without travelling. Here’s how

InterContinental Hotels Group

InterContinental Hotels Group includes Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Kimpton and more. The company states on its website that it is waiving cancellation fees for existing and new bookings globally for stays between March 9 and April 30, 2020.

All of the above companies said customers who booked their hotel through a travel agent or an online booking platform (e.g. Expedia, Booking.com), customers should contact them directly.

Marriott

Marriott operates hotels like the Sheraton, Westin, Delta and more. The company is allowing cancellation or full changes without a fee up to 24 hours before arrival for guests with existing reservations, as long as it is made by April 30, 2020.

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If a guest is making a new reservation, including pre-paid rates, it can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date until April 30, 2020. Any changes to existing reservations depend on availability and may have rate differences.

Airbnb: By countries 

The Airbnb website states that reservations can be cancelled without charges, including; guests who are travelling to or from severely impacted areas, hosts with guests from high-risk countries, and anyone who can’t finish their trip because of official travel restrictions, medical or disease control duties, flight or ground transportation cancellation initiated by the provider due to COVID-19, or suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The company also has an extenuating circumstances policy, which protects hosts and guests with reservations who are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

China: If you’re travelling or hosting someone who is travelling to or within mainland China, the extenuating circumstances policy applies to any reservations booked on or before Jan. 28, 2020, with a check-in date of April 1, 2020, or earlier.

For reservations with guests travelling from mainland China to destinations outside of mainland China, the extenuating circumstances policy applies to any reservations booked on or before Feb. 1, 2020, with a check-in date of April 1, 2020, or earlier. 

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READ MORE: Do I have coronavirus? Jammed public health phone lines leave Canadians in the dark

Italy: If you’re travelling or hosting someone who is travelling to, within or from Italy, the policy applies to reservations booked on or before Feb. 29, 2020, with a check-in date of April 3, 2020, or earlier.

South Korea: For travellers or those hosting people going to, within or from South Korea, the policy is for reservations booked on or before Feb. 25, 2020, with a check-in date of March 23, 2020, or earlier.