I wrote this post last week but wanted to push it out for anyone that is affected with the latest schedule changes or country closures.
With much uncertainty in the air and countries changing entry procedures/travel advisories on a daily basis, it can certainly be difficult to know when you should pull the plug on a trip. At this time, many of the major airlines have policies in place that protect you against change fees if you have bought tickets in the last week or will buy them this month. But, if you have a ticket from way before all of this, do no rush to cancel it – yet.
Why You Shouldn’t Rush to Change or Cancel Your Airplane Ticket Right Now
I have been getting a lot of questions from runners over the last week as one marathon after another cancels or postpones the event. This type of situation has spread beyond the running world too, of course. When this happens, you are left with no event but tickets to that city that may or may not be somewhat locked down when you arrive. So, what should you do?
If Your Ticket Was Booked with a US Airline or Other Airline With Broad Change Waivers
Last week, the US airlines adjusted their change fee waiver policies to allow for tickets purchased before their new waivers went into place. That means that if your trip is set to take place before April 30, you can change that ticket with no change fee at all (but you will pay any difference in the actual cost of the ticket). See this post for all the information on that.
Different airlines have different cut-off dates as to when you need to change it so make sure you review that post above.
Save on New Tickets
The reason you may want to wait a little bit is because airfare prices are dropping worldwide right now in response to the sickness spreading across the globe. This means that you could change that ticket to a much better travel date (like even summertime) and have a much smaller difference in fare to pay or you may even get some money back as a credit if the new ticket is cheaper than your current one.
For example, I am seeing tickets from Europe to LA at prices much lower than they have been for a while and for several months! A trip my family was set to take next month could have saved us about 40% if we waited to book it until now (which, we of course would not have known to do way back in November!).
One Shot at a Change!
Plus, you get one shot at the change – if you want to change it again later, you will need to pay the fee. So, you may want to wait as long as possible to see what the condition of the spread is like before you book a new date.
If Your Airline Is Not Offering a Waiver
This one is especially critical! There is absolutely no reason to change or cancel a ticket right now if the airline is not offering a waiver for your destination. The only exception would be if you are traveling very soon. But, for everyone else, do not make a change yet! You will need to pay a fee if the airline has not issued a waiver!
Instead, just wait. The airline landscape is changing daily and waivers are constantly being put in place. If you were to travel to Israel, now (if you are not a permanent resident) you will be unable to enter for the next 2 weeks. By just waiting a couple of days since, for example, the announcement of the Jerusalem Marathon postponement, you can now leverage that closure to get the airline to waive the change fee since you would be denied entry. Not all airlines have updated their waivers about that yet but talking to a representative should be enough.
The same is true now for travel to the US from Europe and for travel to many European countries – waiting a day or two could have been the difference between getting only a fee-free change and now getting your money back. For example, Turkish Airlines just canceled flights from/to 9 different European countries. That means you go from just a change to an actual refund.
But, there is no rush because all that will happen is you will definitely lose money if you change right now (if there is no waiver in place). Just wait to see how countries are able to work on containment and treatment and watch every day to see if your airline issues a waiver. If they do, that is a good time to go ahead with it!
It is very easy to get wrapped up in the panic about traveling right now. I am certainly not telling you to go or to stay. I am saying that there is no reason to rush to change or cancel a ticket that would require you to pay a change fee for right now! Unless you are traveling this week, just waiting could save you hundreds of dollars if the airline issues a waiver later. If not, worst case, you pay the fee. But, chances are good that you may not have to if it is that bad where you are going…