A LOT has changed over the weekend. So, let’s talk about the changing COVID-19 landscape, its impacts on travel, and my thoughts on everything that’s going on.
Last week Thursday, Trump announced a travel ban that prohibited foreign nationals from entering the US if they’ve been in the Schengen Area in the past 14 days. So, it’s similar to a ban already in place for China and Iran. Curiously, though, the ban excluded the UK and Ireland, while Korea also doesn’t have a ban. Well, beginning today, the ban expands to include the UK and Ireland too. But, strangely, South Korean citizens continue to enjoy unrestricted travel to the US.
Airline Waivers + Capacity Cuts
For tickets purchase on or before February 26, you can change or cancel your flight without a fee for travel through April 30, 2020. Funds from canceled tickets are deposited to your account for use on future travel with Alaska. New travel must be completed by February 28, 2021.
For tickets purchased between February 28 and March 31, 2020, you may change or cancel your ticket through February 28, 2021, without a fee. All other rules discussed above apply here too.
Alaska isn’t planning any capacity cuts at this time but may implement cuts in May.
American’s policy is a little interesting. According to their site, tickets booked on or before March 15 with travel scheduled between March 11 and May 31, 2020, you can change or cancel without a fee. You must rebook AND start your new travel by December 31, 2020. And for tickets booked on or before March 1 with travel scheduled between March 1 and April 30, 2020, the same rules apply.
American is cutting its international capacity by 75% effective immediately. Meanwhile, domestic flights are seeing capacity cuts of 20% in April and 30% in May.
For all customers scheduled to travel between March 1 and April 30, 2020, on tickets issued before March 9, customers can change their reservations without a fee. Changes and travel must take place by December 31, 2020.
For customers that purchased a ticket between March 1 and 31, 2020, for travel through February 25, 2021, you can change your ticket without a fee. However, you must rebook and commence travel by February 28, 2021.
Delta is cutting its capacity by 40% to deal with the dip in travel.
You may make changes to tickets purchased between March 1 and 31, 2020, without a fee. However, almost change requests must be made at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure. Changes must be done by, and travel must start by December 31, 2020.
For tickets purchased before March 9, 2020, for travel between March 1 and April 30, 2020, the same rules as above apply.
Hawaiian Airlines is also offering a Merrie Monarch-specific waiver. If you have travel planned for the event, you may change your tickets or obtain a refund without a fee. If you choose to change, you must rebook before May 31, 2020, and must start travel by April 13, 2021. Eligible travel dates for travel to Hilo or Kona include April 11 – 17, 2020, and travel from Hilo or Kona between April 15 and 21, 2020.
Like many of its larger peers, Hawaiian is also planning capacity cuts. In April, expect to see between 8% and 10% fewer flights. In May, the cuts increase to 15% to 20%.
- Aukland – last flight leaves Honolulu on 3/21, while last flight leaves Aukland on 3/22. The suspension ends on May 31.
- Brisbane – last flight leaves Honolulu on 3/22 and Brisbane on 3/23. The suspension ends on May 31
- Sydney – last flight leaves Honolulu on 3/21, while last flight leaves Aukland on 3/22. The suspension ends on April 30
JetBlue is waiving all change and cancelation fees for travel between March 10 and April 30, 2020. Customers that opt to change their flight can choose dates up through October 24, 2020.
For customers who book between March 6 and March 31, 2020, for travel through September 6, 2020, may change or cancel without incurring fees. For those that booked between February 27 and March 5, for travel through June 1, 2020, enjoy the same waivers too.
Southwest Airlines has an outstanding policy to not charge change or cancelation fees. Granted, you don’t get a refund for flights you cancel – instead, the funds get deposited to your account for use towards a future flight. Unless, of course, you purchased a refundable ticket. Refundable fare types with Southwest include Anytime and Business Select.
Book a new flight with United between March 3 and 31, 2020, and you can make free changes anytime over the next 12 months (from ticket issue date). Cancellations are permitted too, though you’ll get a credit instead of a refund. Your credit must be used within 12 months of your original ticket issue date.
For those traveling between March 9 and April 30, 2020, the same above rules apply. However, you must rebook by December 31, 2020. Further, new travel must commence within 12 months of the original ticket issue date.
United plans on cutting total capacity by 10% in April and 20% in May.
All Disney Parks and their associated hotels around the world have closed as of March 14. They will not reopen till March 31, 2020, at the earliest. Aulani, however, remains open – for now.
Hilton was the first of the big changes to relax its cancellation policies. So, if you’ve got a Hilton stay up through April 30, 2020, you can cancel without penalty – so long as you do it 24 hours before check-in. This applies to non-refundable rates too. Further, the above policy applies to any new reservations made between March 12 to April 30, for all arrival dates available at the time of booking.
For Hilton Honors members, Hilton is pausing points set to expire now through May 31, 2020. Following Marriott’s lead, they’re also pausing the expiration of credit card certificates. Specifically, all unexpired certificates as of March 11, 2020, are having their expiration date pushed to August 31, 2021. The same applies to all new certificates issued before August 30, 2020.
Hilton says they’re going to relax their elite qualifications for 2021 status. However, they state that it’s too early to say what specific changes they’ll make. So, stay tuned.
Initially, Hyatt wouldn’t refund prepaid stays. Instead, they were offering World of Hyatt members 10,000 points as compensation. That’s really weak, in my opinion, especially since 10,000 points won’t get you a single night at many properties. But, after Hilton and Marriott began doing so, Hyatt caved – sort of.
So, now, all reservations made before March 13, 2020, for stays between March 14 and April 30, 2020, can be changed for no charge. For reservations booked between March 13 and April 30, 2020, for any dates, can be changed or canceled without penalty, including prepaid rates. Oh, and that 10,000 points offer? Yeah, that’s still valid if you want to cancel a prepaid stay between March 8 and June 30, 2020. For all of the above, you need to make your change or cancellations 24 hours prior to check-in.
At least Hyatt is delaying the launch of its awful Peak/Off-Peak pricing scheme and award category changes to next year.
Much like its larger peers, IHG is waiving all change and cancellation fees for stays between March 9 and April 30, 2020. However, they’re not offering any waivers for new reservations. That said, IHG is also the first hotelier to commit to adjusted elite qualifications for 2021. Specifically, they’re reducing the requirements by 25%.
Following Hilton’s lead, Marriott has relaxed its cancellation policy. So, now, Marriott is allowing changes and cancellations to all reservations, including prepaid rates, without penalty, through April 30, 2020. However, you must make any changes 24 hours before check-in for this policy to apply. Further, the above policy also applies to all new reservations made between March 13 and April 30, 2020, for any dates of stay.
It’s important to note that certain dates, including special events and peak demand weekends, are exempt from the above policy. Design Hotels are also exempt from this policy. And, for those of you traveling as part of a group block, the original rules of that block applies.
For Marriott Bonvoy members, Marriott is pausing points expirations through August 31, 2020. Suite Night Awards with expirations of December 31, 2020, are also getting an extension, with those now set to expire on December 31, 2021. Further, Free Night Awards with expirations in 2020, are getting an extension to January 31, 2021.
As for elite qualifications, Marriott has also committed to relaxing 2021 qualifications. However, like Hilton, they’re saying it’s still too early to mention specific changes.
MGM Resorts is closing all of its Las Vegas properties indefinitely. Specifically, all casino operations are stopping today, while the hotels are closing on 3/17. Further, MGM Resorts is not taking reservations for stays before April 2.
Unfortunately, MGM also says they’ll be laying off and furloughing staff. Those affected will receive an additional two weeks of pay from their last day of work and will retain all benefits through June 1, 2020.
Wynn Resorts is closing the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas as of Tuesday, March 17, for at least two weeks. Their executive team will evaluate the situation on an ongoing basis and will update as needed.
Previously, Wynn Resorts announced the closure of all buffets, nightclubs, and theaters in Las Vegas and Boston. They also canceled all large entertainment gatherings.
My Thoughts on the Current Situation
Honestly, given the current environment, I think everyone should refrain from traveling unless absolutely necessary. Yes, I know many out there don’t care if they get infected or not, especially for those that are young and healthy. But, you know what? If you think like that, then know that this isn’t about you. Refraining from travel is about protecting others in your family and community by not becoming a vector yourself. And, ultimately, preventing the spread of COVID-19 needs to be the priority here.
I mean, take Hawaii, for example. As of 3/15, we have seven confirmed cases in the state. All of which came about thanks to those that traveled here or traveled out of state and came back. Are there more cases here? Probably. But that’s not an excuse for not making sacrifices as a precaution.
What I’m Doing
Thus far, I’ve decided to cancel all travel through at least August. That means that the quick Kauai trip I was supposed to take next week is off. But, I booked with Southwest, so canceling was no problem whatsoever. Plus, my hotel and car were booked under flexible rates, so those were easy to cancel too.
Looking forward, I’m also in the process of canceling my Las Vegas + LA trip. I can cancel my outbound flight on Hawaiian without issue. I’ve also canceled my Aria Las Vegas stay and am waiting for my deposit refund. Silvercar was also easy to cancel, as was my Marriott stay in LA.
I have yet to cancel my Las Vegas – Los Angeles flight on Southwest, but I want to wait till I get closer to give me more time to rebook. I also haven’t been able to cancel my Los Angeles to Honolulu flight yet, as Alaska isn’t allowing changes in May yet.
The Changing COVID-19 Landscape, Final Thoughts
Again, our priority right now should be containing this insipid virus and defeating it. If that means giving travel temporarily, then, please, for the sake of all of it, DO IT. I’m doing my part. As much as it pains me to cut travel, especially given how awesome my trips were going to be, it’s the right thing to do. Besides, for all those of you thinking of coming to Hawaii because cheap airfare, know that many things are already closing.
For those of us that are being responsible and staying home, it’s important to try to avoid being out in public too much. That said, there are small local businesses and restaurants that need our help. If you’re able to, please order take-out from these places and buy gift cards. These steps will help them maintain liquidity so that we’ll, hopefully, be able to enjoy them when things return to normal.