Times have certainly changed. The pandemic has wreaked its havoc onto virtually everything it has touched. Perhaps no other industry has seen the damage so clearly as that of travel and tourism. For the most seasoned air travelers, the days of easy and frequent flying are gone. Even though the light has started to flicker at the end of this tunnel, the flashing words “delayed” or “canceled” on the airport ticker seem to drown out that flickering light anywhere you go. Sure we can book flights now. But the likelihood of those flights actually getting off the ground is still shaky. And even though some of us have already done enough successful travel in the past few months (maybe an uneventful trip or two), the persistence of Covid reminds us that life is different now—and air travel is not the same.
Flying during the pandemic
Travel is happening now. Restrictions are far less restrictive today compared to the summer of 2020. However, air travel right now is totally entropic. You’d be brave to book flights weeks ahead of time, let alone months. Whatever steadfast and dependable airline company you might’ve patronized in the past is no longer the reliable fleet it once was. These days, we all book whatever is available, whoever is flying. That kind of uncertainty is nothing but a reflection of the times, and it’s just the pandemic talking. On the grand scale, Covid has affected airline operation in every way imaginable. However, the pandemic has affected—and continues to do so—all our lives. It has affected families, businesses, communities, and so forth. There’s an ongoing surge of Covid cases nationwide and globally, and that is reason enough for anyone to want to cancel a booked flight. Cancellations are warranted by a number of personal reason, but we believe it’s worth it to be patient when it comes to changing travel plans during this season.
Cancellations and refunds
The good news is this: many fees related to changing flight reservations have been permanently removed by most airlines. This is incredible news for necessary travel bookings that you know you still need to take but just must change. However in the world of air travel, cancellations and modifications are two different things. Modifications without fees is easier now so to speak—if you can find another flight to your liking. Plans are likely to change these days. But if you’re just going to change your reservation, you shouldn’t come across too much of a hassle moneywise. Cancellations are a different story. It’s true that it’s sometimes easier to just cancel a booked flight if you can no longer take the trip. Refunds back then were simpler. These days not so much. Many airlines have amended their cancellation policies and adopted strategies in order to avoid financial loss due to the obvious implications of excessive cancellations from customers. That doesn’t take into account any operational logistics that might suffer due to staffing issues or any other pandemic-related problem. If you are planning on cancelling your flight, take your finger off the press button for a second and find out why you should wait.
Flight changes—voluntary vs. involuntary
All travelers should understand the different types of cancellations in order to see how it can be beneficial to be patient sometimes if you want a refund. There are two kinds of air travel cancellations you might experience: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary cancellations are those made by the customer for personal reasons. When a customer initiates a cancellation, it’s considered to be voluntary. This includes any kind of emergency, sickness, or even a change in itinerary. If any of those happen to you and you need to change or cancel your flight completely, you might not see a refund unless you do a little waiting. Involuntary cancellations are those that are initiated by the airline companies themselves. There could be a plethora of reasons why an airline might cancel a flight—weather, staffing, mechanical issues, computer meltdowns, and so many others. There are obvious ones such as weather that you can account for on your own. You might see weather forecasts changing around the time of your trip and decide to reschedule your flight. Rescheduling wouldn’t be a problem, but if you decide to just cancel altogether you’ll likely lose your money.
Why wait to cancel
Whatever involuntary reason an airline is canceling a flight for is something they simply won’t be quick to divulge. In fact, airlines will purposely wait up until the very last minute to cancel flights in order to give customers a chance to cancel on their own—eliminating the need for refunds and allowing their company to issue vouchers instead. It may sound sinister, but it’s really just business. With flights getting canceled left and right these days, there’s a high likelihood that yours will get canceled at some point as well. There are a few signs to look for to see whether your flight might get canceled. For one, airlines might lock out further bookings of a virtually non-full flight. If you find that your flight is unbookable any longer, the airline might be looking to cancel that particular flight. Also, airlines might make changes to your flight without notice, routing you to different layover airports than originally booked. This is another sign of a future involuntary cancellation you can prepare for. The bottom line is this: patience pays off in the end. If you have to cancel a flight completely, wait until the very last minute to do it because there’s a high chance that your airline might have to cancel it anyway. If they don’t cancel your flight, at the very least you tried and can get a voucher for another flight later on. If you want your full refund with no issues, play the waiting game. You might find yourself glad that you did.