A big change is coming for all travelers who wish to come to the United States, due to the pandemic.
As the pandemic nears its first anniversary, it’s time to check the score, dear travelers. Which companies are treating you well during the pandemic? Which are not?
This is important because you usually have a choice between airlines, car rental companies, and hotels. And you want to make the right decision when you start planning your next trip.
For Daylene Guidice, Viking Cruises is a clear winner. She had booked a European river cruise last spring.
When the pandemic started, “they paid it off quickly,” says Guidice, a retired executive assistant from Pleasanton, Calif. “I didn’t even have to ask.”
Then Viking went beyond that. He followed up with emails telling him when the cruises would resume. He also explained the precautions to be taken to ensure his health and safety.
“I was very impressed,” she adds.
Some travel agencies did not treat you well
But for every Viking, there are dozens, and maybe hundreds, of companies that haven’t done the right thing. They either tried to keep their clients’ money or drag their feet to get a refund. Or they didn’t take COVID-19 seriously, cramming more passengers onto a plane.
In a recent survey, 86% of Americans said they prefer to travel with an airline that treats them fairly during the pandemic. The survey, carried out by the consumer site AirHelp, also found that nearly three-quarters of air travelers would pay more for their tickets if they could be sure the airline would treat them fairly.
“Americans had devastating experiences over the past year, struggling with flight disruptions and fighting for what is rightfully theirs, like refunds,” said Christian Nielsen, Legal Director, AirHelp.
So let’s check out this dashboard.
Travelers complain about late refunds, high fees
Ryan Lahurd, a retired non-profit executive from Chicago, is unhappy with the way TAP Air Portugal handled her claim when it canceled her flight to Lisbon last July. He wanted a refund; TAP wanted to issue vouchers.
He appealed to the airline, wrote to its executives and filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation. But TAP has remained silent. Finally, he contacted EU regulators and within two weeks he got his money back. Total elapsed time: seven months.
“Really bad treatment,” Lahurd says.
Airlines like TAP blamed the delays on their internal systems, which couldn’t handle mass refunds.
“There has been a backlog of claims for which TAP sincerely apologizes,” said Carlos Paneiro, TAP vice president of sales for the Americas. “Since then, we have expanded our customer service teams, adopted automated procedures for processing refunds, and established a dedicated team to process refunds.”
Airlines owe you a refund when they cancel a flight: So, did United hesitate during the coronavirus crisis?
But some airlines have also pushed regulators to allow them to issue credits instead of reimbursing canceled flights. TAP says it originally tried to convert all canceled flights to credit, but now allows full refunds. Air Canada passengers have complained the loudest about these controversial non-refund policies. Last summer the American Society of Travel Advisors even launched a public appeal for Air Canada to issue refunds for flights canceled during the pandemic.
Airlines aren’t the only ones trying to save your money. Consider what happened to high school music students in Minnesota who booked a music tour of Europe through Voyageurs, a tour operator from Colorado. When the company canceled its “Music Ambassador” tours last summer, it reportedly kept a “cancellation fee” of $ 1,900 for each participant, who paid between $ 6,345 and $ 9,010 for the program. .
The travelers said they made payments for travel arrangements that they could not recover. In January, the Minnesota attorney general disagreed and announced an agreement with the company under which he offered a full refund for the tours.
Winners are faster and more secure
One of the most popular airlines in the pandemic is Delta Air Lines. Bryan Glazer recently flew on Delta from San Antonio to Palm Beach, Florida. From start to finish, he said he felt safe.
“They strictly followed the rules of social distancing,” says Glazer, the executive producer of a television production company in Miami. “There were no crowded bridges, no crowded aisles when boarding. The gate agents and crew were patient and attentive. And the seats in the center were empty.”
And then there was one: Delta plans to block out middle seats until April to give passengers full confidence
Incidentally, Delta also quickly did the right thing at the start of the outbreak, reimbursing customers whose flights had been canceled.
Ross Copas and his wife, Jean, were just over halfway away on a 128-day luxury cruise on Holland America when the pandemic struck. The cruise line hastily docked in Fremantle, Australia. But that didn’t just leave the couple there. He booked and paid for their hotel and return flights to Toronto, their nearest airport.
Why the hold-up? These cruise customers waited months for their refund
“They also gave us all our money back,” says Copas, a retired electrician. “Half in cash and half as future cruise credits. So basically we got a 78 day free cruise and have the money available to take another similar cruise.”
And that’s exactly what they’re doing: they’ve rebooked the same cruise for 2023.
This may be the best way to reward a business for treating you well: Give your business back to them. Over the next few months, airlines, cruise lines, and hotels will try to woo you with great deals and ridiculous offers of free points and miles. But before you book, it might be worth remembering who treated you well – and who didn’t.
How do you know which companies to avoid?
Read the list of complaints. The most reliable source for airlines is the US Department of Transportation Air Travel Report, published monthly. It details the airlines that have collected the most complaints. The 2020 figure shows that budget airlines attract more than their fair share of complaints. If you ever want to know which business to avoid, read the latest newsletter. Unfortunately, no such list exists for hotels or cruise lines.
Pandemic reimbursement blues: Travelers file record number of complaints against airlines and travel agencies in 2020
Find the company’s rap sheet. Almost certainly every business has one. The worst are afraid that you will search the Internet for user reviews. But you would be surprised what you can find by typing in the name of the company with keywords like “scam” and “scam”. It is quite revealing. But, as with all reviews on the internet, you should take them with a grain of salt and factor reviews from multiple sources into your decision.
Ask a travel counselor. They know the winners – and the sinners. “We have a shortlist of travel suppliers who have been added to our must-not-sell list because of the way they have treated our customers,” says Thomas Carpenter, owner of Huckleberry Tourist attractions. For example, one of his clients had to postpone a wedding during the pandemic. The hotel chain they booked their wedding with got high cancellation fees. “We will never book with this hotel again in the future,” he adds.
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