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Canceled trips and coronavirus: How to get a travel refund

Virus Outbreak Holiday Travel
Posted at 5:11 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2021-03-17 21:26:28-04

BALTIMORE — Many airlines are having to refund passengers for canceled flights due to the coronavirus, but travelers are still losing money on their trips.

Piu Chin was looking forward to a cruise with his family through the Mediterranean, then the pandemic forced countries to shut down borders.

"Spain, France they’re all closed, so the airline canceled and said if we go to Spain they’ll quarantine us. And, of course, if we come back they’ll quarantine us, and Royal Caribbean said we’re not coming to port, so everything was canceled," said Chin.

He received refunds from the airline and the cruise line, however, he was told the $580 he spent on travel insurance would be issued as a credit.

"They said we’ll give you credit for one year. I said, 'One year? It’s an epidemic, it might be around another year,'" said Chin.

Different representatives kept giving him different information, but he wasn't issued a refund. He didn't think it was fair, so he contacted WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.

Sofastaii sent his complaint to the Maryland Insurance Administration, and in a few days IMG Global refunded his money.

The MIA helps resolve insurance disputes and protects consumers from illegal insurance practices.

A spokesperson said when it comes to travel insurance, it depends on the policy terms and conditions.

Anyone who thinks they should receive a refund can and should file a complaint with us. The obligation of the insurer will be determined by the content of the insurance policy they purchased. Policy terms and conditions vary from one insurer to the next.

You can file a complaint with the Maryland Insurance Administration by clicking here.

Airline refunds
With airlines, the policies are more consistent.

"When an airline cancels your flight, you are by law owed the option of a refund, period," said Scott Keyes, founder and chief flight expert with Scott's Cheap Flights.

The Department of Transportation has received an increased number of complaints from passengers, and issued this reminder.

The same goes if there’s a significant schedule change.

"The Department of Transportation did not define exactly what a significant schedule change is, they leave that up to the airlines, but the airlines have to set that policy and this is all in their fine print. As a general rule of thumb, a change of at least two hours would be considered a significant schedule change," Keyes said.

Keep in mind though, if you’re the one to cancel, you forego that right.

"I liken it to a game of chicken. If the airline cancels your flight, you are owed a cash refund. If you voluntarily cancel your flight, you’re only going to get a voucher and so this is why it pays off to wait as long as possible to cancel your trip even if you’ve mentally decided you’re not going to take it," said Keyes.

If you're having trouble getting a refund from the airline company, Keyes recommends hanging up and calling again.

"What does every 6 year old who wants ice cream learn at a young age? If mom says no, you ask dad, and it’s the exact same thing when trying to get a flight refund. Rather than argue your case and relitigate it and try to go through it again, say, 'Oh thanks, appreciate your time,' hang up and call again," Keyes said.

If that doesn't work, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation here. Or file a dispute with your credit card company.