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As more and more cities and states issue and extend “stay at home” orders as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. travel industry is sinking deeper into crisis. And consumers are realizing the money they spent on a planned vacation could be better used for day-to-day expenses.
Getting that money back isn’t as easy as it might seem, though. If, for instance, you booked through a third-party site, that could complicate things (and slow down any refund you might be eligible for). Even if you booked directly with the airline, hotel, or resort, though, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to get a refund.
Here’s a look at how several travel-related companies are handling those requests.
Is Disney World refunding tickets? What about other theme parks?
To ensure the safety of guests and employees, major theme parks across the country have closed their gates and, for now, don’t have estimated dates on when they’ll reopen. Disney, in early April, furloughed 43,000 employees (who will keep their insurance benefits), and the Orlando Sentinel reported that the company is poised to furlough most of its 77,000 Disney World employees. Universal Studios, meanwhile, has furloughed part-time workers and reduced the pay of full-timers.
And the parks are handling the situation in different ways.
Walt Disney World
Disney has waived all change and cancellation fees through June 30 for guests who booked a room or vacation package. And if the park is closed during your planned trip, Disney World will automatically cancel it for you and refund your original form of payment. Unused tickets that remain on a multiday pass have been extended until Dec. 15, 2020. And wholly unused tickets can have their value applied toward any future date.
Annual pass holders who have paid in full will see their pass extended for as many days as the parks are closed. Those who are on a monthly payment plan will see a refund for the March 14 to April 4 period, and payments have been suspended. (The passes will expire on their original expiration dates.)
Guests can modify or cancel room and package reservations with no penalty or fee. You will need to cancel hotel reservations 24 hours before your scheduled arrival, however. New reservations made before May 31 can be modified or canceled with no fee at least 24 hours prior to arrival.
The resort is not offering refunds on tickets, but says unexpired single-day tickets can be used on any day 365 days from the purchase date. That’s also true of multiday passes, but it’s unclear where people who were in the midst of using a multiday pass when the shutdown occurred stand in terms of a credit or refund.
Like Disney World, Disneyland has waived all change and cancellation fees through June 30 for guests who booked a room or vacation package. Guests who are unable to reach the park before their arrival date will not be penalized or subject to fees for modifying their reservations. Single-use tickets and unused multiday tickets can be used at a later date, with some exceptions. The policy regarding annual pass holders is the same as that of the Orlando park.
Reservations for vacation packages booked before April 19 can be rebooked on any date through Dec. 31, 2021, with no change fee. Expiration dates on tickets are being extended, but the park is not offering refunds for those.
Will my airline refund my ticket price?
Refunds are unlikely, but most major carriers have waived their change fees, meaning you can reschedule your flight to a different day without paying an additional fee of several hundred dollars. However, you will likely have to pay the difference in the cost of the ticket. So, if you paid $300 for a flight that was scheduled for late April and reschedule the trip for August, but the price of that ticket is $500, you’ll still have to pay the additional $200 out of pocket.
How about hotels? Are they offering refunds?
Because people’s travel plans have been blown out of the water, major hotel chains are altering their change and cancellation policies. In general, the dates and forward-looking changes are the same, but there are some subtle differences.
Here’s what some of the major chains are now offering:
Guests with existing reservations for any future date (even prepaid rates) can change or cancel their trips without charge through June 30, as long as they give 24 hours notice. (Note that if room rates are different for rescheduled trips, you will have to pay the difference.) If you make a new reservation between now and June 30, you’ll be able to change or cancel that up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival with no penalty as well.
Hilton, also, is relaxing its cancellation and change policies to let guests adjust their reservations through June 30 at no fee with 24 hours notice. And new reservations will have that same 24-hour notice window if booked by June 30. Guests requesting refunds may see delays of up to 30 days, though, the chain warns. Hilton Honors members who cancel an advance purchase rate reservation may be eligible for a free-night certificate for each canceled night.
Reservations through June 30 can be changed or canceled for no fee, including advance purchase rate reservations. And future reservations will also have the 24-hour window in which to do so. Hyatt will refund your money if you’d like, but you can choose to have 10,000 World of Hyatt bonus points added to your accounts instead, which can be used toward a future stay.
Like other chains, any changes or cancellations to reservations made through June 30 will carry no penalties if made within 24 hours of scheduled arrival. And that protection will be extended to any future reservations made before that date. Best Western notes that a more restrictive cancellation policy may apply to a limited number of high-demand dates at individual hotels.
IHG Hotels & Resorts
Existing bookings made before April 6 at all IHG hotels can be changed or canceled with no penalty through June 30. This encompasses Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, Avid, Staybridge, and more. Be aware, though, that refunds might take up to 90 days to be processed. The chain has a number of options for future travelers, as well.
What is Airbnb’s refund policy?
Guests were told March 11 they could cancel reservations made through May 31 and receive a full refund, including all Airbnb fees. (That didn’t sit well with some property owners, who weren’t told the announcement was coming.) The organization has since vowed to pay $250 million to help its hosts cover COVID-19 related costs and created a $10 million relief fund for certain hosts who rent out their own home and now need help with their mortgage.
Note: The policy does not cover any bookings made after March 14. Those will all be handled according to the listing’s cancellation policy as usual, so buyer beware.
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