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Coronavirus and travel: What you need to know if you want to change or cancel your trip

There’s no doubt the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has had a massive impact on the travel industry. As officially announced as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, travel agencies and airlines are expected to make temporary changes to travel policies to give travellers more flexibility.

Below are some of the guidelines and temporary policies to change or cancel trips, if desired. 

Air Canada (including Aeroplan, Air Canada Rouge)

Temporarily suspended or reduced service to more impacted areas such as the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Italy. Enhanced flexible re‑booking policy for existing bookings by allowing a free one‑time change. Change fees will be waived on new bookings. 

Air Transat

Air Transat has implemented a flexibility policy, valid on new bookings made by March 31, 2020, on flights to all our destinations and South packages. Consequently, you can change your travel dates, hotel or destination—or all three—at no charge up to 24 hours before departure. They are also waiving the change fees on existing cruise package bookings so that you can change the dates or destination of your trip in accordance with each cruise line’s policies.

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Porter Airlines

Flight change fee waiver applies to any Porter or Porter Escapes booking made between March 6 and March 31, 2020, for travel within the next 12 months. One complimentary change per flight, applicable for all fares, including Basic. Fee waiver applies to changes made at least 14 days before departure of your original flight. For changes within 14 days of travel, standard change fee rules apply. Standard fee rules apply for cancellations. Plus fare difference and applicable taxes, subject to availability.

Sunwing

For new bookings made between March 4 and March 19, 2020, Sunwing will waive any administration fees associated with the first change. This applies to all new bookings with a departure date from now up to and including June 24, 2020. Any change must be requested at least 14 days prior to travel or normal conditions will apply.

WestJet

WestJet has cancelled all international flights—including the U.S.—for 30 days as of March 22. They will work with the Canadian government to repatriate Canadians abroad.

All new flight bookings made between March 5, 2020 and March 31, 2020 will be allowed a one-time change fee waiver. One-time change fee waiver is available for any itinerary change made more than 14 days from departure. For changes within 14 days of travel, standard change fee rules apply. Difference in fares will apply. Bookings made between March 03, 2020 to March 04, 2020 for travel through June 24, 2020 will be allowed a one-time change fee waiver for itinerary changes made more than 14 days from departure.

Cruise lines offering credit

  • Most companies offering cruise credit instead of refunds for travel through March 31
  • Royal Caribbean – You will be contacted – 48 hours’ notice to get credit
  • Carnival Cruise Lines – Online form is available – 72 hours in advance for cruises until April 
  • Princess Cruises – Cancelled through May 10 – credit or refund offered (online) Beyond May 10-July 31, you can now cancel your vacation up to 48 hours before sailing
  • Disney Cruise Line – You will be contacted – Cancelled through end of month – credit or refund offered 

Hotels 

  • Cancellation fees waived in regions impacted by COVID-19
  • Marriott.com – Changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival Existing reservation changes must be made by April 30
  • Hilton.com – Can be changed or cancelled at no charge online up to 24 hours before  Policy in place for China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Italy (stays until March 31, April 30 for Italy)
  • Hyatt.com – Can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before
  • IHG.com – Cancellation fees waived for existing and new bookings globally for stays between March 9 and April 30

Airbnb.ca 

  • Cancel free of charge for China (through April 1), Italy (through April 3), South Korea (through March 23)
  • Outside of the zones, you may cancel for free (via online claim) if:
    • Needed to comply with restrictions implemented by governments 
    • To perform medical or disease control duties
    • Due to travel cancellations as a result of COVID-19
    • If you are diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 by health authorities

Insurance and booking groups

  • Manulife and TuGo won’t reimburse new customers who cancel because of coronavirus
  • Expedia – Must call them except for low-cost airlines where you must contact airline directly For flights or package, or hotel and car reservations, if fee waiver isn’t available, call Expedia

Winston is currently a freelance technology and travel broadcast journalist, consultant, and is the creator and founder of Master Travellr—Canada’s destination for travel news, guides, and budget recommendations.

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