In light of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), we know that many of you will be wondering how this affects your planned travel. We’ve put together this guide to help you know what your options are, where you can check for updates, and what to expect now that we’re starting to see travel open up again. Here are some resources to check into, depending on your booking method, and what to expect now that we are able to book more confidently for the future:
Note: While we have compiled the most recent updates from the sources mentioned, the situation is changing by the minute. Please be sure to confirm with the companies on their websites directly for the final word on this situation and verify entry restrictions before going on a trip.
For all updates on the situation with COVID-19, please check the World Health Organization here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I do if I booked with an airline rather than an OTA?
Different airlines have different policies now in place to help with bookings, depending on when you booked your trip. Below is a list of airlines with links to their specific policy pages to help you search for correct information regarding your trip.
It is very likely that customer service lines will be slower than normal than in responding when trying to contact them directly, so an email is the best way to reserve a place in line to receive a reply when a representative is available. For updated details on your rights with cancelled flights, please check your region here: EU Air Passenger Rights (also valid for UK residents) and the U.S. Departure of Transportation.
What do I do if I booked with an online travel agent (OTA) rather than airline?
Online travel agents, or OTAs, will all have individual cancellation and rebooking options depending on how and where you booked. What your first steps should be, should you find your plans affected and you have booked through an OTA rather than directly with the airline, is to read the Terms & Conditions of the company you booked with.
If you've booked a holiday package, you may also be covered under ATOL & ABTA policies, which provide more protections for travellers. Your first step when determining what your options will be is to read your T&C’s as well as double-checking the cover provided under your travel insurance policy. Many OTAs are offering rebooking options in line with the policies of the airlines you are travelling with, so it is always worth contacting them to see your choices.
Since nearly all travel agencies are experiencing a very high volume of customer service requests and some are still having their teams work from home to follow isolation guidelines, you’ll get better results using the online contact form (or emailing) to get in touch with agencies over calling. This will create a record of the request for you to track, as well as allow the agency to regularly update you without getting stuck on hold. We also recommend emailing or filling out their form only once, in order not to clog the queue with repetitive support requests and allow representatives to reach you quickly.
If you've filled out their contact form or have sent an email and you've not received a response and are seeking a refund, it may be quicker for you to phone your bank to pursue a chargeback option on the original charge. With many companies having furloughed employees and customer service responses much slower than normal, this is the fastest option for many bookings.
What happens if the airline or OTA I booked with goes bankrupt?
Depending on how the bankruptcy is handled, ticket-holders may or may not be in the clear (sometimes called going into administration). Often companies use bankruptcy as a legal tool to restructure its debts — in other words, an airline that goes bankrupt won’t necessarily be liquidated.
There’s no guarantee that a liquidated airline will directly reimburse would-be-passengers for the cost of their airfare as shareholders always get their investments back first.
In lieu of refunds, the vast majority of airlines have provided travellers who proactively cancelled trips because of coronavirus with vouchers or credits for future travel. Travel vouchers don’t actually have cash value and in the event of bankruptcy, these credits may not be worth a monetary amount. If you are worried about an airline going under before all is said and done, you may be better off booking a trip immediately using their voucher and then taking out a travel insurance policy on that trip that covers bankruptcies, that way should the worst happen you’ll be covered (and best case is you get a holiday in the end).
You can request a refund or charge-back from your credit card company if the airline files for bankruptcy, but remember, so will hundreds of other people so it's not guaranteed you would get it, so act fast if the company does file for bankruptcy.
I have been offered a voucher for my cancelled flight but I would prefer a refund.
One fact that has become very clear in recent days is that the options being offered by airlines for cancelled flights are changing constantly, sometimes daily. In order to streamline the process and help plan for future routes, some airlines have stopped offering the choice of a refund and are only allowing vouchers (some with very attractive bonus options after rebooking is confirmed). Should you be open to a later date, we'd certainly recommend taking the voucher option as it can come with some great extras included. Many vouchers are also valid for up to a year from the issue date, which leaves you with a wide-open date range.
In case you are not interested in a voucher, though, you do still have options for receiving a refund. Under both EU air passenger rights and the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines, many cancelled flights are eligible for a refund, depending the route cancelled. If this is your preference, definitely let the company know rather than accepting the voucher, if needed do reference the guidelines you are due a refund under.
As a case of last resort, you can always contact your bank to see if a chargeback is an option, which would return your money until an investigation by your bank can be completed. Under many circumstances, cancelled flights would fall under this option due to services not rendered.
What should I do if my flights have been cancelled?
Travel restrictions for the past few months have meant many of our trips were cancelled but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to abandon your visit completely. If your flights have been cancelled, either due to the airline suspending routes or your destination or departure country having restricted access, you should get in touch by email to your booking agent or airline via email or an online message form.
Remember to include some identifying information from your reservation (your booking confirmation is perfect) so they can find you and help you out. Many airlines and OTAs have expanded their fee-free rebooking policies and voucher availability, so the virus does not necessarily mean you have lost your holiday forever. Should travel restrictions return, we expect these policies will be extended to account for it. Due to the specifics of your booking and regularly updated policies at the moment, only the company you booked with will be able to answer questions about your options.
What flight deals will Jacks Flight Club be sending out in light of the situation?
With the uncertainty around travelling at the moment, we’re focusing on sharing deals with availability later in the year and in early 2021 when, with luck, the worst of the virus will have passed and it will be safe to travel again. Should airlines and countries change guidelines for more immediate travel and safe travel to be possible, we will include deals earlier than August 2020 as well.
Where possible, we will also focus on those carriers offering flexible booking options so you can book directly with the airline for more surety.
Should I be looking to book a new trip now?
It is not recommended that you travel unnecessarily in the coming months as it increases the risk of contracting, then unknowingly spreading, the virus. This is true even if travel is technically possible, at least for the time being. You should follow your local government and medical officer’s advice and wait for a clear signal that it’s safe to travel and, while in public, follow directions for wearing protective equipment and social distancing.
While travel during the first half of the year was restricted, we are seeing more airlines return to offering their standard volume of routes and countries opening up their borders for visitors in the foreseeable future. As some airlines are at a higher risk of going into administration due to the downturn caused by the virus, it’s safer to book with a credit card for extra protection if possible and hold off booking any accommodation or tours that can’t be cancelled with a refund for as long as possible. We do expect travel during the last half of 2020 to be more available and flights for 2021 to be even more so.
Help! I contacted my booking agent/airline and I still haven't had a response
Travel companies were understandably overwhelmed by people calling in looking for more information or changing their travel plans because of the virus when it first hit. Most airlines are starting to catch up though. Make sure you are emailing them as well as calling, this creates a trail of all communication, but try not to submit the same emails more than once as this backlogs the system. A single message will save your place in mind and a representative will get back to you once they catch up.
Is it urgent you reach them with a departure date fast approaching? We recommend reaching out over social media, which can get you a more immediate result (but it's not fail-proof).
What if my flights haven't been affected but I have decided I don't want to fly?
It’s very sensible that you may not want to travel, for the next few months or coming year. Fortunately, many companies have put in place policies allowing you to change your flight dates or even receive vouchers for future travel for flights travelling during specific time frames. It’s best to send an email to your booking agent or airline to find out what your options are.
Many airlines have put together automatic portals to help you with changing your departure date, do check out the options on the airline website before phoning in as this may be faster.
What can I do to protect myself if I choose to book a new trip?
We always recommend choosing travel insurance when booking any new trips, no matter who you book with, even when they don’t explicitly cover illness due to COVID-19. There are many levels of coverage you can choose, but we do recommend seeing whether ‘disruption’ coverage is offered on future bookings and whether it will apply if COVID-19 affects your plans. Many insurance providers have stopped covering for COVID as it is a known risk these days, but there are some out there still offering policies. See a full guide on how to choose an insurance provider and plan here.
In addition to travel insurance, we also recommend making new bookings with a credit card, which can provide charge-back coverage should the company go out of business or suspend the route you’ve booked with.
Finally, choosing to book directly with the airline rather than OTA will usually get you a more generous flexible date booking policy. As a courtesy, many OTAs are providing the same options in their bookings to members so you won’t necessarily be without options, but booking with an airline gives you access to the widest range of rebooking choices. See our guide here for an overview of the pros and cons of different booking methods.
What to know before you travel:
While some countries are opening up their borders for limited travel, most are still observing limited travel guidelines and many local amenities will remain closed for a while longer. Be sure to check your destination country's travel advisory information before you fly as well as confirming any flight is still valid at least 2 hours before you depart for the airport. Keep in mind that your destination country may have a mandatory quarantine period for all new arrivals depending on where you’re travelling from. The UK has also announced its 2-week isolation period for returning UK citizens will remain in effect for a while longer.
Before you fly: Many airlines are releasing more flight schedules as countries open their borders again, but many are requiring safety measures for all travellers. Face masks, closures of lounges and limited services while onboard, as well as an extended sanitation schedule, may impact your travels. Remember to account for extra time spent on these (and other safety) measures.
Here are direct links to some of our most widely featured airlines and their COVID-19 help pages along with their cancellation and rebooking policies:
Air Canada (link)
Aer Lingus (link)
Air France (link)
American Airlines (link)
British Airways (link)
Cathay Pacific (link)
Qatar Airways (link)
Southwest Airlines (link)
Turkish Airlines (link)
United Airlines (link)
Virgin Atlantic (link)
Have questions? We'd love to help! Contact us at [email protected] for more information, and safe travels :)