Why I’m not cancelling my travel right now
Plans are changing, but timing really is everything.
Life is chaotic for travellers in the age of coronavirus. Loads of flights are being cancelled, international travel bans are in place, and everyone's being encouraged to maintain social distance.
Often I write this column on a plane or in an airport lounge. I'm writing this one from my home office, as everyone at Finder is working from home right now to ensure we're doing our part to help flatten the curve.
One useful thing most airlines have been doing is allowing customers to cancel upcoming flights and receive a full flight credit for the money they've spent, something they're loath to do in normal times. Finder has a handy list of the airlines and other travel companies that are doing that.
Cancelling flights is something I'll need to do in the near future. I have a trip to the UK booked in May, and a round-the-world stint in June. It seems fairly unlikely I'll get to do either. But I'm not changing anything about either of them yet, or the handful of domestic trips I also (possibly) have coming up. There are two reasons for that.
The first is that the situation is shifting all the time. For instance, it's a little bit too early to make a call on my May trip, and I have until 31 March to take advantage of the current Qantas cancel-for-a-credit policy with that trip. (I strongly suspect that deadline will get extended in any case.)
I do know that if the trip happens, I'll be routed through Perth rather than Singapore, but that change hasn't passed through into the actual booking yet. And with Qantas just announcing today that 90% of international capacity is being cut, the trip might disappear entirely (which means I won't have to do anything much other than check I get the credit).
The second reason is that call centres for airlines are absolutely inundated right now, with wait times stretching into hours. As a result, airlines are urging people not to contact them unless their travel is imminent (72 hours or less). Mine is very far from imminent, so there's no point adding further to the queues.
I'd like to think that was obvious and sensible, but it's clear right now that people are panicking and not always behaving sensibly. Come May, I'll be making calls about my June flights if there's not already a clear outcome. But I really don't need to add to the challenge for airlines just now.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on Finder.
Picture: Angus Kidman