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Tickets: Check before you cancel!


While the news has been thick and fast with airlines and cruise companies offering to waive change fees and other kinds of restrictions, savvy travelers need to live by two rules: Check and re-check with your particular carrier and its changing rules, and think carefully about whether to cancel at all.

The reason for the second caution is this: Most flights are being cancelled by airlines, up to nearly all international flights and a majority of domestic flights. If the airline cancels the flight, you can claim a refund rather than a voucher or credit for future flights. Airlines don't publicize that; they'd rather keep the cash and give you a future flight. 

But, some travel writers are warning, don't wait too long for a cancellation, since airline phone and online service lines may be super-busy, and if the plane does fly, and takes off before you get through to cancel it, you may have lost your chance for either refund or credit.

If you do find the time has gotten tight and you're on hold forever, find the Twitter, Facebook or other social media contact for the airline's customer service, notify them that you are trying to change your flight and cannot get through on their phone lines. That will give you a paper trail in case of a dispute.

If you do decide to go the change routes, check very carefully with your carrier; some early versions of waivers were more restrictive or applied to fewer classes of tickets; even newer ones may require you to complete travel within a fixed period, usually one year from the original date. For people with plans to travel to weddings or other one-time events, that may not be very helpful.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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British Airways are trying their best to hold on to their customers' money. We have had 4 flights from Frankfurt to London cancelled by them (on two separate bookings). Whilst by law they should simply refund the money to the credit card, they send you links involving only 'travel vouchers' and phone numbers with automated messages directing you to the same vouchers. It is extremely difficult to find anything to do with actual refunds, but I am persisting. I also am pursuing claims under EU 261/2004. So far BA have claimed 'extraordinary circumstances', when it is crystal-clear that the cancellations were financially motivated.

Lufthansa got us back safely in the end - and (unlike BA) they even give you a sandwich and a beer or wine.

I suspect BA are close to collapse. Hence their stance. It won't be the only airline biting the dust, of course.

On  the other hand, some airlines are offering bonuses for holding onto tickets and accepting vouchers; that would be a less objectionable practice!

As for BA, I take the decision to postpone Willie Walsh's retirement as NOT a sign of smooth sailing, or flying, ahead...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

I fully agree.

You might expect this sort of con from a few of the budget airlines, but it seems it has now become BA's policy to lure people into accepting something that might prove utterly worthless:

I can always ask the credit card company to charge the amounts back to my card, but I should not have to do that. As to EU 261 compensation, they obviously assume that few people will bother to take things further. They might just be wrong about that in my case!

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