Skift Take

Covid is still wreaking havoc on many consumers' travel plans, but some companies act like that's not the case, considering the loops they're asking travelers to go through to get a refund.

Although much of the travel industry has seen a significant rebound this summer, Covid is still complicating travel worldwide. Dozens of popular destinations — including China — have yet to fully lift travel curbs and major airlines are still struggling to hit pre-Covid staffing levels, a major factor in the large number of flight cancellations that’s plaguing the aviation industry.

And as countries such as the United Kingdom and United States have experienced a surge in Covid cases in recent weeks, are travelers still able to get refunds if Covid disrupts their trip?

In a follow-up to a story Skift published two years ago, we look at how major travel companies anecdotally are dealing with the issues of Covid-related refunds now, such as whether they’re still issuing refunds or credits to consumers whose travel plans have been disrupted by Covid.

It’s an anxiety every traveler lives with now. Will I get Covid right before, or during my trip? And can I get a full refund?

Here are some answers.

Hotels

Major hotel companies — including Hyatt, IHG and Wyndham — have told guests booking via online travel agents or other third parties to contact their booking provider for information about their policies.

However, Hyatt as well as Radisson, are vague on the subject on Covid-related refunds for direct bookings. Hyatt stated “all reservations booked directly with Hyatt, including with legacy AMR Collection brands, are subject to the cancellation and/or refund policy disclosed at the time of reservation.”

Online Travel Agencies

Melanie Fish, head of global public relations for Expedia Group Brands, said Vrbo introduced, early in the pandemic, additional tools and filters on its platforms that highlight properties with hosts offering more flexible cancellation policies.

Vrbo hosts set the cancellation policy for their property, which has not changed during the pandemic.

Airlines

Travelers canceling flights on Southwest Airlines due to Covid-related issues could get either a refund or a future flight credit, depending on the flight they canceled. Meanwhile, United Airlines states that if travelers plans are impacted by Covid, they may be eligible for refund “depending on the severity of the schedule disruption.” However, neither Delta Air Lines nor American Airlines has an official policy about whether such consumers are eligible for a refund.

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on July 10 the U.S. government had completed 10 investigations into airlines over passenger refund-related issues. The U.S. Department of Transportation said it had 18 pending investigations against airlines over complaints they failed to provide timely refunds during the pandemic.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb launched a $250 million fund in March 2020 to support hosts whose guests cancelled stays due to Covid-related issues. But the company announced in late April of this year that starting on May 31, it would be updating its Extenuating Circumstances policy to no longer include Covid-related circumstances as a reason to refund for bookings made on or after the date.

Airbnb paid $77.1 million to customers in refunds in the first quarter of 2022 compared to $50.4 million a year earlier, according to its most recent SEC filings.

Tour Operators

Under its Book with Confidence policy, guests booking G Adventures’ trips scheduled to depart on or before December 31, 2023 are able to cancel and rebook their tours if they test positive for Covid within 14 days of departure.

G Adventures also give travelers who cancel trips for a Covid-related reasons the option of receiving a full travel credit that must be used within two years from the date of cancellation.

Intrepid Travel is another company offering travelers a 100 percent travel credit if they cancel a trip due to a positive Covid test or another pandemic-related reason, such as government-related travel restrictions. The credit has no expiration date unless customers booked an Intrepid Antarctica voyage, for which travelers must use the credit again to go on by the end of March 2024.

Cruises

Royal Caribbean is ending its Cruise With Confidence plan after extending it earlier this year. The program enabled customers to get their money back in the form of a future cruise credit if they choose to cancel for any reason. Consumers who made bookings on or before March 21 for trips departing by September 30 could cancel up to 48 hours before departure and be eligible for a full refund. However, guests who test positive within 10 days of a sailing are still eligible for a full refund through April 30, 2023.

Carnival Corporation and Norwegian both also offer future cruise credits to consumers who test positive for Covid within 10 days of the start of their trip. Meanwhile, Holland America Line — a Carnival subsidiary — announced in late May it had extended its Worry-Free Promise to December 31 for all cruises booked by the end of September. Under the promise’s Flexible Cancellation Plan, guests making a booking can cancel for any reason up to 30 days prior to departure and receive a future cruise credit.

CORRECTION: The article has corrected to say Vrbo implemented, early in the pandemic, tools and filters on its website and app that showcase properties and hosts offering more cancellation policies. An earlier form of this article said the company had changed its refund policy early in the pandemic.

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Tags: coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, Covid, covid-19, refunds

Photo credit: The cruise industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Prayitno / Wikimedia Commons