As soon as borders started to close, airlines began grounding their fleets. This meant travellers were left with no option but to cancel their vacations. Social media soon flooded with protests about airlines who refused to refund airfares in full.
When flights started to cancel and movement between countries became more restrictive, travellers soon learned that their travel insurance was not going to cover them against those cancellations.
However, the airlines were a little more understanding.
In most situations, it was the policy of airlines to offer a credit for you to rebook later. Only a handful of airlines refunded its customers, either in full or less a small fee. This is if you booked through the airline direct.
For those who book with a travel agent, there will almost always be a cancellation fee imposed. This is for the travel agent’s service of arranging and managing your booking.
For me, I had a trip booked with Singapore Airlines for flights to South East Asia. When my trip was cancelled due to COVID-19, they fortunately gave me a full refund. They had changed their refund policy due to the pandemic to waive the cancellation fee for its customers.
The second trip I had booked with my Australian airline, Qantas, which only offered a credit to rebook within the next year. Which I will once travel opens up again.
Of course, no-one can predict the future. Every week things can change at a moment’s notice.
So what does this mean for future airline bookings once restrictions start to remove?
Each airline has its own policy, which is fine, but it also means that travellers need to be more conscious of how they choose which airline to fly with. Travellers will be more aware of reading the fine print on their fare conditions moving forward. Cancellation policies will be scrutinised in more detail.
Low cost-no frills airline carriers were once the most sought after mode of transport for budget conscious travellers. But their fare conditions were often, not always, the most restrictive. If you wanted to get from A to B quickly and cheaply, they were the way to go.
The main airline carriers were the most expensive, but fare conditions were a little more flexible. You were paying for that flexibility in case of the need for a sudden change of flight.
As the world starts to understand what the new normal means, some airlines will offer flexible booking options. Singapore Airlines are Emirates are just two that have started to promote their new booking conditions. Airlines are keen to start flying again and getting travellers to and from their destinations, whether that be for leisure, business or family needs.
We have to be patient as everyone adjusts to the new way of travelling. It will take time, but if we all work together, the way forward will be a much smoother journey.