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San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
Consumer ALERT

May 1, 2020

COVID-19 ruined my travel plans. Now what?

SOURCE:  Namukolo Kasumpa, International Fellow, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

If COVID-19 canceled your travel plans, you are likely disappointed and wondering about refunds, credits, or vouchers for plane tickets, cruise bookings, tours, and more. 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. 

Start by reviewing the travel provider’s refund policies and the terms of your reservation to see your options. In addition, many companies are posting information on their websites about COVID-19 travel-related questions. Many are offering refunds or rebooking options in light of the situation. Of course, check to see if you purchased travel insurance and what it covers. Some travel insurance policies may refund your cancelled trip.

Here’s what we know right now:

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.

As with many purchases, your best option is usually to directly contact the company you booked with to see if you can resolve a problem. So, whether you booked directly with an airline or hotel, or you used a travel site or consolidator, start with them. Then, to report a travel-related problem, contact your State Attorney General’s office or tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.


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