C’mon, Airlines. Cancel My Flights Already. – TravelUpdate


I’m still reeling from the travel restrictions imposed as of a couple days ago. If you would have told me that foreign nationals from the majority of Europe would be prevented from entering the United States for a month in 2020, I never would have believed you. But if you’d also said there would be a pandemic this year, I would have been unlikely to believe that, either.

Airlines are reeling in the wake of the news and decisions being made to combat the virus. United has forecasted a 70% drop in bookings, which is unfathomable. The industry is being shaken, and we will undoubtedly watch even more airlines go under this year. We’ll see what the long-term impact of this event is.

In the short-term, airlines are making adjustments, changing or canceling routes, swapping aircraft, and the like. They’ve also issued waivers, initially for new travel. This was more of a mechanism to keep the bookings rolling in rather than doing their best by customers, since anyone who had already booked their travel was left out in the cold. But things have slowly been changing. However, I’ve still been sitting here waiting to cancel a trip that will be here before I know it.

There’s No Way I’m Heading to Europe This Month

I’ve had a quick solo weekend trip on the calendar for several months. I penciled in the outbound as the return segment of a trip departing Barcelona, open-jaw-ing to Copenhagen. The plan was to spend three days in Denmark, then fly home. I’d even found a great return option, a business class Air New Zealand ticket. This was supposed to be my first fifth freedom flight.

There’s no way I’m flying it now. Several days ago I expressed that I’d possibly go through with it, but the reservations I still had about the trip. No more. Staying home is absolutely the most prudent course of action.

But I’m hoping to get part of my ticket back and also not have to pay the United cancellation fee. I’m going to call United today and plead my case. I can change the date free of charge, based on what I understand about the waiver. Cancellation, however, likely won’t be covered. And with the airline starved for income, every $100 counts.

Getting anything out of British Airways for roughly half of the other ticket is less likely, short of a major schedule change or flight cancellation. Based on what I see in FlightAware, neither BA284 nor BA286 from SFO to LHR have been canceled for the past week or more. Planes are still flying, and it looks like that may continue to be the case. The UK was not included in the Europe travel ban, so British Airways may hang on to their scheduled flights to the West Coast.


I’m going to call and ask what the airlines can do in both cases. In general, I prefer to handle everything online, and I particularly do not like arguing for a refund with phone reps. But who knows, maybe I’ll get a sympathetic one in both cases. I’ve been hearing that United has both waived the award cancellation fee for some people, but charged it to others.

At the end of the day, losing a few hundred dollars is not the end of the world. It’d be nice if the airlines made things easy by canceling my flights, but this may not happen. I still have two weeks, so I can afford to play “wait and see” a little more.

Anyone else out there playing chicken with the airlines with their planned travel?