Travel forums on Facebook are filled with questions about Coronavirus. People are worried about their planned trips, so a common question is, ‘Should I go?’ Most answers scream, ‘No!’ There are also lots of posts describing the agony of cancelling a trip, of making phone calls for refunds, of fighting for the money that was supposed to turn into a memorable experience. While many airlines, OTAs and hotels have announced their new refund policies in the wake of this pandemic, it’s still a struggle to get it because there are thousands making these phone calls. And then there’s that frustration of not getting that money back because of non-refundable tickets and bookings.
How can we deal with travel disappointment due to Coronavirus outbreak?
Know What’s Happening
Here are the facts: India is under quarantine right now; Delhi and UP governments have announced school closures. Around the world, 49 countries have implemented school closures. The US has banned flights from Europe. Italy and Denmark are on lockdown. If the world is taking such drastic measures to stop the spread of the virus, it is an indication that it’s a grim situation right now.
It’s an unprecedented situation. Coronavirus may not kill us (3.4% mortality rate), sure, but we may become a carrier and pass it on to someone who has compromised immunity (elderly parents, for example). Our hospitals don’t have the capacity to deal with an outbreak, so social distancing is the need of the hour. Read this Time article for more.
This is not to say that you should panic. Just stay cautious and think of this as a testing time for the country. Empathise with brands who have to deal with thousands of angry customers and incur losses on every single booking. The travel industry is tanking–just in India, the losses are estimated to be Rs 8,500-crores, as reported by The Hindu. People will lose jobs; agencies will go out of business. It’s a tough time for everyone.
Claim Refunds (Nicely)
It sucks that you have to cancel your trip. It is a shit situation that you can’t travel and may lose money on your bookings, more so if they were non-refundable and uninsured. But try not to take it out on your agents or airlines or operators. Trust me, they have it worse. Some of them may just go out of business if the situation doesn’t improve. And, they’re trying to help you too. Mostly because once this is over, they still want you to trust them and transact with them.
- Hilton is offering full refunds for regions affected by Coronavirus. The hotel chain is also letting you change your bookings free of charge. Contact them here and they will help you out.
- Marriott is waiving off cancellation fee for individual travellers (not groups) for guests travelling to and from affected areas. More details here.
- Airbnb has also changed its cancellation policies after travellers shared outrage about refunds on bookings. It is still ‘extenuating circumstances’ and a lot depends on the hosts, who would be losing money too. More details about Airbnb’s Coronavirus policies here.
- Makemytrip has been inviting angry messages on forums for not giving full refunds. Ixigo, on the other hand, has promised no questions asked, full refunds on bookings for China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Singapore, and South Korea, Japan and Spain till March 31.
- In fact, all domestic airlines in India are offering free change of dates if you don’t want to take any chances. These include AirIndia, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir. Read this article for more information on what it means for travellers.
It will be frustrating and time-consuming to get refunds, and you might not get all of it back. For some, it will be a huge loss, but things will turn around soon. Hang on tight!
Plan For Later
Think of this as the planet’s resting time. You can plan a trip in the coming months (don’t book anything until things start getting better). What’s on your travel bucket list? Northern Lights or the Great Migration? Even if you can’t go right now, you can start your research for later. Things will get better and there will be a travel spurt. Besides, the industry will need tourists more than ever to revive and thrive.
Till then, wash your hands, follow travel advisories, be kind to people even if you’re disappointed and practice social distancing.
Featured Image: Bloomberg