Reader “rick in boise” asked us an interesting question the other day:
I remember a transatlantic flight (AF prem economy) and the guy next to me was coughing the whole flight. I finally asked him why he flew when so sick… he said that he didn’t think he was contagious (?) and besides, the cost of changing flights was prohibitive. Can you get a waiver to delay your flight if ill? Or would people abuse that?
Thanks for the question, Rick!
If you have a refundable ticket, you’re fine. Contact the airline, ask for a refund, and start shopping for your new flight if you’re so inclined.
But those of us who almost always purchase discounted non-refundable tickets are most likely out of luck.
Sure, you can change your reservation to a flight with available seats. But you’re responsible for paying any fare differences. And, of course, those pesky change fees.
Delta, for example, considers these “voluntary” decisions:
Most tickets issued by Delta are nonrefundable. Delta will not refund any portion of a fare that is nonrefundable, and Delta will not refund any taxes, fees or charges collected upon nonrefundable tickets. Delta may permit a portion of the fare paid for an unused nonrefundable ticket to be applied toward the purchase of future travel on Delta, or to upgrade or downgrade those tickets after purchase, as set forth in the applicable fare rule. Delta may charge an administrative service charge for processing any permitted changes to nonrefundable tickets, which will be deducted from any credit toward the purchase of future travel on Delta, or collected at the time the change is processed, as applicable.
Check out this story about a family whose son developed mono — just before their non-refundable trip to Tahiti. They asked French Bee SAS to refund their baggage and seat selection fees. Then they got television station KGO involved. “French Bee and the company agreed to a partial refund of the fees and taxes totaling $1,000,” Renee Koury and Michael Finney report.
So What Are Your Options?
There’s always a chance (especially if you hold elite status) that an airline rep will take pity on you and waive your change fees should you move your travels to a different day or offer you a credit voucher toward future travel with the airline (note: these tend to expire in 1 year). So it is worth calling and pleading your case. What else can help?
Schedule changes! If the flights you booked have had schedule changes, especially big ones, you may be able to either get your money back or change your flights for free.
There are also a couple of preventative measures worth considering, too.
Also, purchase your airfare with a credit card that includes trip cancellation coverage. Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and Chase Ink Preferred all have good coverage and require only a portion of your airfare be paid on their card. American Express also added trip coverage to several of their premium cards — but require you to charge your entire airfare to the eligible card. So the Amex cards aren’t necessarily great options for award ticket fees and taxes, Pay with Miles tickets, etc.
Best choice? Stay healthy!
Now as to the question of should you travel if you are sick or not and potentially risk giving what you have to others? That is maybe a question for another Sunday post.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/RyanKing999
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