NSW and QLD floods: How to cancel your travel plans

Posted: 3 March 2022 2:26 pm
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Floods - FTI - How to cancel

You should be able to rearrange your travel plans if you've been impacted by, or are travelling to, a flood-affected area.

Record flooding and heavy rain continues to impact millions of people across parts of eastern Australia.

Both NSW and QLD governments are warning people to avoid non-essential travel. "If you are travelling within and to the impacted locations, consider your travel plans and adjust or cancel your trip," advises NSW State Emergency Service.

If you need to travel locally, you can stay up-to-date with travel alerts in NSW and Traffic QLD.

If you had plans to travel to a flood-affected area of NSW or QLD, or you can't travel because of heavy rain or flooding, here's how to cancel your trip.

How to cancel your accommodation

Third party bookings

Many accommodation booking platforms, such as booking.com and hotels.com, do offer no-deposit, free-cancellation terms up to the day before your stay. But not all bookings made will have been taken out with such flexible terms.

If you've booked via a third party site, start by reviewing the terms and conditions. You'll have been sent these details via email when you made your booking. Look for any wording on cancellations and refunds, and give them a call if you're unsure about anything.

If you took out a travel insurance policy ahead of your travels, find out how to make a claim for trip cancellation.

If you paid by credit card, you could apply for a credit card chargeback – keep in mind this will be denied if you also make an insurance claim.

Airbnb

Airbnb and other homestays also come with free cancellation policies. But the window to cancel will depend on the terms you agreed with the host when you confirmed your booking.

That said, Airbnb's Extenuating Circumstances policy, which gets activated for "unforeseen events", does override the booking's cancellation policy and it may entitle you to a full refund. Read more details here.

Finder has reached out to Airbnb to ask if the company has issued any information regarding the 2022 floods. We'll update this article with any response.

Hotels

Most hotels should allow you to rearrange your booking if you don't want to or can't travel.

"We were due to be flying to Brisbane tonight to head to Moreton Island on Friday to Sunday," said Finder's Jess Easting. "With all the flooding, the beaches are ruined and the sea is brown, so we were keen to move it back.

"We called the resort on Moreton who understood, and the hotel in Brisbane was free cancellation within 24 hours of arriving, so it was easy enough to cancel.

"Jetstar was super helpful as well – they sent us through a credit voucher within 24 hours," added Easting.

How to cancel flights

"If the airline cancels a flight completely, you'll usually be entitled to a refund rather than a credit," explains Angus Kidman, Finder's travel expert and editor-at-large. "But if you want to cancel the trip yourself before the airline itself has acted, it gets trickier."

Whether you can easily cancel your flights yourself depends on the type of ticket you have. Cheaper sale fares often charge a fee if you choose to cancel.

The exact rules vary by airline. Here's the general state of play:

  • Qantas domestic bookings made since 21 May 2021 for travel before 30 April 2022 can change to another date fee-free or be turned into a travel credit. If you change the date, you will have to pay any fare difference between your original booking and the new date. If you choose to cancel outright, any fees associated with your original fare will apply.
  • Virgin domestic bookings for travel before 30 April 2022 can change to another date fee-free. Like Qantas, you'll have to pay any fare difference. There's no automatic provision to get a flight credit. If you choose to cancel, any fees associated with your original fare will apply.
  • Jetstar also lets you change domestic bookings for travel before 30 April 2022, but with a couple of extra restrictions – this only applies for bookings made after 17 September 2021, and you're only allowed 1 change. Again, you'll have to pay any fare difference. There's no automatic provision to get a flight credit unless you've paid for Jetstar's FareCredit option.

"It's often easier to get a credit rather than a refund, since the process is usually automated online," Kidman said. "I was due to fly to Brisbane with Jetstar this week and while my ticket wasn't flexible, the airline offered me a credit anyway, which I'm happy with."

"The key lesson? If you can't get the refund or credit you want, call the airline and ask – they're sometimes generous and will bend the rules, and you have nothing to lose."

Cancelling your trip if you have travel insurance

If you took out travel insurance for your trip, it will most likely reimburse you for trip cancellation costs related to the floods. Floods are considered natural events, which insurance normally covers.

For example, "SCTI's Domestic travel insurance includes cover if something unexpected happens and you need to cancel or delay your journey," said Jo McCauley, CEO of Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

"If someone bought one of our Domestic travel insurance policies before the flooding became a known event, and they since been unexpectedly impacted by the terrible flooding in Brisbane and northern New South Wales, they would be eligible to make a claim.

We strongly encourage our customers to carefully read their policy to really understand the benefits and cover limits available to them, and the circumstances in which they could make a claim," added McCauley.

You might also be able to claim on travel insurance if:

  • Your property has been impacted by the floods
  • It's deemed unsafe by your local council to travel
  • Your airline cancels your flight or the airport closes (the Gold Coast Airport temporarily closed on 28 February)
  • A flood warning or evacuation order is issued for the area you are in or travelling to

However, if you took out insurance after the floods started, you won't be covered. For example, if you purchased cover once the floods had been in the news, you most likely won't be able to make a claim.

This is because insurance only covers unexpected events – not ones you should have known about in advance.

The floods are having a devastating effect across many parts of QLD and NSW. To get help and stay up-to-date with the latest news on relief, insurance and aid, you can head to our Australia Floods hub.

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