Fact Finders: I don’t feel comfortable keeping my travel plans with COVID-19. Can I get a refund?

Fact Finders: I don’t feel comfortable keeping my travel plans with COVID-19. Can I get a refund?

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - COVID-19 has caused cancellations for many things over the last few months and may be impacting your Memorial Day weekend plans. But, is an attempt at changing your plans because of the virus also impacting your wallet?

One viewer emailed our KOLD News 13 Fact Finders after trying to get a refund for a reservation that totaled more than $800.

“... in light of the coronavirus our group (some older some immune compromised) decided it would be prudent to stay home, when I called to cancel my reservations I was told I could not get my money back because their policy is not to issue refunds for holiday weekends. Can they do this? Keep all my money for all four nights and all four sites? Even during a national emergency?”

“It’s really up to them, in the most part - unless you purchased travel insurance," said Sean Herdrick with the Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Arizona.

The “them” Herdrick referred to are the campsites, businesses or rental companies you made reservations with. He said, when it comes down to it, if you signed a contract or waiver, or agreed to policies, when making the reservation, those can still be in place with COVID-19.

“They are not required to give you the money back at all, even if it is a national emergency,” said Herdrick. “So, what we try to do is reason with them, call them, talk to them, make sure they know where you are coming from and they may bend the rules. But, the rules haven’t changed, unfortunately.”

If you are in a similar situation or considering a cancellation, the Federal Trade Commission says the first thing you need to do is review the travel provider’s refund policies and the terms of your reservation to see your options. Many companies are posting information on their websites about COVID-19 travel-related questions and are offering refunds or rebooking options in light of the situation.

If you purchased travel insurance, check to see what it covers. Some travel insurance policies may refund your cancelled trip.

Here’s what we know right now, from the FTC:

Airlines: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines must offer refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for cancelled or significantly delayed flights, even when flight disruptions are outside their control. If your airline isn’t doing that, you can report it to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Cruise Lines: If you booked a cruise, your options will vary by cruise line. Your ticket contract lays out cancellation policies and your rights. For example, you may be offered a refund, or a credit or voucher for a future cruise. If you opt for a credit or voucher, make sure the expiration date is far enough out that you can use it. Read more from the Federal Maritime Commission about your rights and the recourse that might be available to you.

Trains: Amtrak is waiving change fees for reservations made before May 31, 2020; you can make changes online at Amtrak.com. For cancellations and refunds, call 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Lodging: Some hotel chains may be loosening their cancellation policies, waiving change and cancellation fees that would normally apply to non-refundable rates. Check with the hotel for your options.

“We really fight for the consumer when we can and we really want to protect our businesses as well. It’s in their best interest to make everything right. If they do or not, that’s up to them," said Herdrick.

Even if your scheduled travel is months away, you might be weighing your options. And many travel service providers seem to be working to address concerns about upcoming trips.

Both the BBB and FTC said the best thing to do is directly contact the company you booked with to see if you can resolve a problem.

If you can’t reach a solution, you can file a complaint with the BBB and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. You can also share your travel-related problem with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

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