A few weeks ago, I sent a newsletter to my blog subscribers in which I shared my personal experience with dealing with travel refunds in this COVID-19 pandemic crisis. As I wanted this to reach more people, and eventually be of help to them, I am re-posting the email here.
Many people struggle with getting their travel refunds and that path is very chaotic and individual for each of us. Because of that I’m going to share my experience and hope it will help you in some way with your refund situation.
Qatar Airways Travel Refunds
After a long wait, I got travel vouchers for the two tickets we initially bought for me and my husband to travel from Australia to Europe. When I tried to use them to book a flight to get back to my Australian home from my European one, it came out that they are nominal and names can’t be changed. Which was a big blow because the air ticket prices have now doubled.
I flew back to Australia in the first week of June. Despite some changes in the flight time, and even flight operation (I flew with Lufthansa to Frankfurt as Qatar Air stopped their direct flights from Sofia to Doha), the trip was smooth. The company was quick to react and inform me about the changes and the transfer times were appropriate. I even got my Silver Membership status of their Privilege Club after being a Burgundy Member for ages. I’m not sure if it was just about time or they give incentives to the people who still use their services in these uncertain times.
I would say that Qatar Airways was one of the most reliable airlines in terms of travel refunds during the COVID-19 crisis.
My initial travel plans included flights from London to Dublin. The company was the first to confirm with an email that a travel voucher will be issued. However, so far, I haven’t received any news from them and I can only guess that a travel voucher is not coming my way any time soon. I tried to get more information but the only way to contact them from abroad is with an online request to which I haven’t received any answer. Anyway, the sum was not significant and I’m not going to spend time to mourn this loss.
This is probably the only real loss for me. The flight I had to take from London to Sofia wasn’t cancelled. Although Bulgaria was already in a State of emergency and the COVID-19 cases in the UK were rising, I couldn’t apply for any compensation.
Hotels.com Covid-19 Quick Reaction
The online booking agent Hotels is the big winner in my eyes. Within a month, they had negotiated with their accommodation partners travel refunds policy for the coronavirus emergencies. They gave me the option to cancel my stay and to receive a refund which I got into my bank account within another month. They had the only adequate reaction and I am sure they think about the long-haul business here. Because, as you can guess, I will continue to use them in the future. As well as the hotel that agreed to the refund.
Airbnb – Inadequate and Late
That’s not the case with Airbnb. Although I am not only a guest but also an Airbnb host, I am not sure I will continue to use them in the future. If there is another good-enough alternative to Airbnb, I will jump in. The reason is that the company didn’t adequately react to the fast-developing travel situation. They held guests and hosts hostages to its mercy and offered refunds or free cancellations piece by piece after the online community was already in a rage because of this unprofessional and very sneaky behaviour. As hosts, we were left on our own to deal as we can. Hope at least for the guests this was not as bad experience.
Travel Incentives and re-openings
I’m going to end this email with good news. While some countries are still caught in a crippling battle with the virus, others start to re-start the economic and social life with the hope that it will get better, not worse. As a result, some of the best tourist destinations think about how to get back people visiting, as soon as possible. One of them (and one I love dearly) is Sicily. The island is considering to cover half of the flight and cover third of the hotel expenses. Read more about it in this article. If you are not sure what to do and where to go, have a look at my blog post about the best places to visit in Sicily. As for travel re-openings, the NY Times had summarised well the situation in this article.
I truly hope this email will give you at least a pinch of hope to season these difficult days. The COVID-19 situation is far from ending and I believe that only the companies that become flexible in their travel refunds policies will survive the economic turbulence.
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