International flights: cancel now or wait? Refund vs. Voucher?

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May 7, 2020
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This is my first post. In December 2019 (Pre-Virus) I bought two roundtrip non-refundable coach tickets from Portland OR to Amsterdam on Delta, connecting to partner KLM Amsterdam to Bristol UK. The outbound flights are in mid-October 2020 and the return flights are late October 2020. Two tickets = $2,400. No travel insurance. The trip was centered around a concert by a favorite British band in Bath, and I had built an impressive 15-day vacation around it that included Exeter and Dartmouth. Because of increasing concerns over the spread of the virus here in the US and also throughout the UK, and also because of having my retirement financial accounts hammered in the economic downtown, we decided to pull the plug on our trip. We were able to cancel all of our hotel and AirBnB accommodations, now the last thing I'm holding off on are our Delta flights. Obviously these flights are five months away. Delta has not cancelled any of these flights yet. If they did, I'd be entitled to a full refund. But if I cancel them myself, a cancellation is considered a "change" and with that Delta would impose a change fee of $200 per ticket. As of now, Delta is waiving their change fees for previously booked travel up through Sept. 30th 2020 with an E-credit good through Sept. 2022. That time period of waiving up through Sept. 30, 2020 (this year) falls just outside my October 2020 purchased tickets. In a perfect world, Delta would cancel my flights and I'd get my money back. But because this is something I'm voluntary doing, I think my only option right now is to sit tight, hope Delta soon extends that free waiver period through October, cancel my flights at that time and hope with fingers crossed that I'd be OK with an international trip two years from now. Sorry for being so long winded. Hoping to get some practical advice about any possible options I might have. Thank you!
 

Patina

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Dec 22, 2015
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I second that suggestion...wait. You gain nothing by cancelling the flights now but potentially could gain as much as a full refund if the flights are cancelled by the airline.
 
May 7, 2020
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I think that waiting and patiently playing the long game is definitely the best move to make right now. I was just reading a CNN story about how U.S. airlines are going to have to make massive, across the board job cuts Oct. 1 when the federal bailout money runs out. Even as it is now, airlines are bleeding money. So maybe if I just sight tight, Delta will cancel my mid-October outbound and late October return flights from US to UK.... If they don't, hopefully the waiver deadline will be extended by then, so I'd have the additional option self-cancel and get an e-credit voucher good for a year or two? I'm not normally a "wait and see" guy but it makes definite sense now to sit tight.
 
May 7, 2020
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This is a followup from my original post. I've been paying attention to what others have said in here about dealing with airlines in connection with flight changes, cancellations, change fees etc. I've cancelled all of our plans from a trip from the U.S. to the U.K. in October, except for Delta tickets. I bought the Delta non-refundable tickets in December 2019 for October 2020 travel. As of now, Delta is waiving change fees (and cancellations are considered "change fees" for tickets for travel up until Sept. 30th. My flights are after that. So, I'm going to play the long game and wait and see what happens. I'm thinking that major carriers like Delta will have to deal with staggering fleet and staff reductions after Sept. 30 when the U.S. bailout money program ends and they have to slash service and people. Here's my question: what's the best way to approach Delta IF they cancel my flights and DON'T automatically refund my money? In reading Christopher Elliott's advice, and suggestions from other contributors in here, a phone call to Delta customer service would be a huge waste of time. I don't use Twitter, but have been paying attention to how Delta customer service agents are responding to customers on Facebook who either post a thread or private message them. That seems to be one possible route, but would an email to one of the Delta (or a submission through their "Help" portal on their website) be a more effective way of beginning a complaint, assuming Delta drags its feet on a refund and I have to begin a paper trail. Thanks for any advice, much appreciated.
 
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May 30, 2019
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+1 to @Patina. Don't worry about it yet.

As I mentioned in Post #4, Delta doesn't yet have visibility into their October schedule. It will be at least July when they choose to make COVID-related adjustments to the October schedule.

Plus, things are still in a state of flux. For example, UK just announced quarantines for arriving passengers. Delta has twice extended the no-change-fee policy. IMHO, they will again.

The other thing to look at is the scheduled times. If Delta does not cancel the flights but makes substantial changes in the arrival or departure times (generally > 60 minutes), that is also an opportunity to request a full refund.

In my experience with Delta cancelling a flight or changing the travel times by more than 2 hours, one call to get a refund is all it takes. It might take an hour to reach a rep, however they have virtual hold -- meaning they will call you back -- and friendly reps and are very good at following policies.

When you are ready, the first thing to do is to call and talk with a representative. Politely request a refund. Do NOT threaten or escalate until you first talk with a front-line rep. But for now, wait. Be patient.

Just to make sure -- did you book your flight directly with Delta? Because if you used an Online Travel Agency (OTA), then we might have different advice.
 
May 7, 2020
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I've been following the Elliott Forum advice and suggestions very closely. I'd earlier pulled the plug on all other aspects of my trip (accommodations and rental cars) and am hoping that Delta cancels the flight(s) outright which would make dealing with them a lot easier to get a refund. I DID book my trip directly with Delta and bought them online in December 2019. I'm still being patient and understand that October 2020 is still three months away and that Delta may indeed be considering massive route reductions and employee layoffs/furloughs. I'm now wondering how the EU's decision just a few days ago to temporarily ban U.S. citizens will affect my situation because my itinerary involves connecting through an EU country: Portland-Amsterdam-Bristol Bristol-Amsterdam-Portland. I understand that the ban is reviewed every two-weeks....so I guess the best (and really only) strategy now is to still sit tight and be patient.
 

weihlac

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Jun 30, 2017
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I've been following the Elliott Forum advice and suggestions very closely. I'd earlier pulled the plug on all other aspects of my trip (accommodations and rental cars) and am hoping that Delta cancels the flight(s) outright which would make dealing with them a lot easier to get a refund. I DID book my trip directly with Delta and bought them online in December 2019. I'm still being patient and understand that October 2020 is still three months away and that Delta may indeed be considering massive route reductions and employee layoffs/furloughs. I'm now wondering how the EU's decision just a few days ago to temporarily ban U.S. citizens will affect my situation because my itinerary involves connecting through an EU country: Portland-Amsterdam-Bristol Bristol-Amsterdam-Portland. I understand that the ban is reviewed every two-weeks....so I guess the best (and really only) strategy now is to still sit tight and be patient.
The impact of the current EU ban on US citizen travel through but not to the EU is unclear but will become clearer soon. Delta may not cancel the flights you are on because they will be flying people who are allowed in the EU, just not US citizens. The likelihood that the EU will relax then ban on US citizens by October is difficult to assess, but I would not be surprised if the ban is continued for months. Tourism job/money losses in the EU may impact that though.
 
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May 7, 2020
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But in October....let's say the virus here in the U.S. is still out of control and the EU ban on arrivals from the U.S. is still in place? I'm a U.S. citizen with a ticket on a U.S. based airline scheduled to fly from the U.S. to the UK through an EU country. How/what does Delta do as far as dealing with U.S. passengers that would be unable to fly this route as currently scheduled? And remember, I want Delta to cancel me so I can get a refund.
 

Neil Maley

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We aren't genies in a bottle - we can't tell you what might and might not happen or be in effect then or if Delta will be offering waivers. If this happened today and you could not fly but the flight was still going out, you would have to cancel and accept a future travel credit. They are good for 2 years so you would have plenty of time to use it.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
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But in October....let's say the virus here in the U.S. is still out of control and the EU ban on arrivals from the U.S. is still in place? I'm a U.S. citizen with a ticket on a U.S. based airline scheduled to fly from the U.S. to the UK through an EU country. How/what does Delta do as far as dealing with U.S. passengers that would be unable to fly this route as currently scheduled? And remember, I want Delta to cancel me so I can get a refund.
You should not proceed with the expectation that Delta will cancel the flight. You need to establish a dialog with DL cust serv and keep in touch as things progress. You may end up having to cancel and receive a voucher, not a refund, which will probably be good for 24 months, although this is also open to revision between now and Oct.

The EU travel ban for US citizens is new and these issues will be discussed in the next 2 weeks. You should also not assume that the travel ban will or will not remain in place. Predicting the course of Covid-19 and what a US airline will do in 3 months far exceeds the capability of both my crystal ball and Ouija board.

Right now the only way to get certainty is to cancel and receive a voucher which is not the worst thing to do. I canceled 4 UA flights for April, May, and June and have vouchers good until April 2022.
 
May 7, 2020
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Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions. My crystal ball is pretty cloudy, too! I don't see a need to "establish a dialog" with Delta customer service and "keep in touch." Too many variables going on right now, and more to come. I think there will be a huge reckoning in the airline industry after September 30, when the government bail out money runs out and carriers are forced to slash service, cut routes and furlough employees.


I will continue to wait and see, but I think I should definitely have a better understanding on what my options are at the beginning of October, unless the routing is changed enough in the near future for me to be able to demand a refund. Or, Delta extends its change/cancellation fee waiver period another month which would cover October. I've read enough thoroughly researched articles by Elliott Forum staff member Michelle Couch-Friedman to know that there is one strategy to definitely AVOID:

"Finally, the Elliott Advocacy team has been inundated with requests for help from passengers who canceled too soon. We’ve been warning travelers since mid-March that if you cancel your flight before the airline does, you’ll be forced to accept a future credit. This is true even if you discover that later the airline eventually canceled your scheduled flight.
Remember, if you have an upcoming flight and the airline has not canceled it yet, resist the urge to cancel. Once you do, we won’t be able to mediate a refund."

 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions. My crystal ball is pretty cloudy, too! I don't see a need to "establish a dialog" with Delta customer service and "keep in touch." Too many variables going on right now, and more to come. I think there will be a huge reckoning in the airline industry after September 30, when the government bail out money runs out and carriers are forced to slash service, cut routes and furlough employees.


I will continue to wait and see, but I think I should definitely have a better understanding on what my options are at the beginning of October, unless the routing is changed enough in the near future for me to be able to demand a refund. Or, Delta extends its change/cancellation fee waiver period another month which would cover October. I've read enough thoroughly researched articles by Elliott Forum staff member Michelle Couch-Friedman to know that there is one strategy to definitely AVOID:

"Finally, the Elliott Advocacy team has been inundated with requests for help from passengers who canceled too soon. We’ve been warning travelers since mid-March that if you cancel your flight before the airline does, you’ll be forced to accept a future credit. This is true even if you discover that later the airline eventually canceled your scheduled flight.
Remember, if you have an upcoming flight and the airline has not canceled it yet, resist the urge to cancel. Once you do, we won’t be able to mediate a refund."

I agree with you, Delta is not interested in "keeping in touch" with you, or anybody else. They are swamped with work, people are constantly tying up the phone lines to ask irrelevent or untimely questions. Unless you've booked ten first class seats, of course. I'd shelve this topic until two weeks before the flight ... your options will be much more clear by then. You can't get hurt with either a refund or a future credit, and you already cancelled the trip, so just keep reading everything to make sure you don't miss something important to your reservations. That's what I'm doing with a flight across the country in September.
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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I cancelled a o/w flight EWR to Quebec this afternoon on United. Got my 2-year cert for the flight cost immediately, then thought "oh no, I'll have to fight for the seat fees". But no, that cert was right behind the first one. Kinda nice to see United do the right thing; I feel sheepish that I doubted them.
 
May 7, 2020
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I cancelled a o/w flight EWR to Quebec this afternoon on United. Got my 2-year cert for the flight cost immediately, then thought "oh no, I'll have to fight for the seat fees". But no, that cert was right behind the first one. Kinda nice to see United do the right thing; I feel sheepish that I doubted them.

I think you're missing my point. I don't want to cancel myself and get a two-year certificate/credit. If that was my intent, I would have done it months ago. I'm hoping Delta cancels my flight(s) making me eligible for a cash refund. And my thread is about Delta. I'm glad you had a positive experience with United, but it would be most helpful to get input from others who are dealing with or have dealt with Delta.
 
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Neil Maley

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I think you're missing my point. I don't want to cancel myself and get a two-year certificate/credit. If that was my intent, I would have done it months ago. I'm hoping Delta cancels my flight(s) making me eligible for a cash refund. And my thread is about Delta. I'm glad you had a positive experience with United, but it would be most helpful to get input from others who are dealing with or have dealt with Delta.
Delta canceled my flight to Greece two weeks before the flight was to depart in May. We were given the option of a credit or refund. We opted for the credit since we are hoping to travel in
2021. There is a separate page to apply for the refund. We also just did this for clients who had Delta cancel their flights to Ireland.

 

justlisa

Feb 12, 2019
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In your shoes I'd expect a credit and be happy if you manage a refund. No one can say, but after years of working in corporate finance (not travel industry) they're going to want to fly as many flights as economically feasible. Hard to say what happens 3 months from now as others said, but currently October is when any government help ends which adds another wrinkle to the puzzle.
 
May 7, 2020
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Neil Maley...thank you for providing that separate page to apply for a refund. I hadn't been aware of that on Delta's website before. Justlisa, yes I'm aiming for a refund....but flying "as many flights as economically feasible" might be extremely difficult when the bail out money ends and it's every airline for itself. At one point, I thought a career in airline load management might be an interesting one. Now I know what craziness that would be.