Canceling a vacation due to COVID-19 can be costly

Woman looks out airplane window
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Many people have started booking spring and summer vacations. However, there is a lot of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jan Ball recently canceled a trip to visit friends due to the spread of the omicron variant.

“We decided because of the virus that we didn’t want to take that risk, bringing something into their home and putting them at risk,” she said.

Ball logged onto Allegiant Air’s website and requested a voucher for future travel, which all major airlines have been granting since the pandemic began.

She got the vouchers, but she was charged $344 on her four tickets for excise taxes, security fees and baggage fees.

“I didn’t know they were going to charge all those fees,” she said.

Ball said she tried to call Allegiant and explain the cancellation but couldn’t reach an associate.

“I couldn’t get through. It was busy, busy,” she said.

Canceling can still mean extra fees

Airlines and resorts have made canceling easier during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean changing plans will be free.

People can still be hit with all sorts of fees, especially if they booked on a discount airline or selected the cheapest fare one a major carrier.

Zac Griff of ThePointsGuy.com says basic economy travelers may be out of luck.

“Those are those super deep discount tickets offered without a carry-on bag or reserved seat,” Griff said. “I avoid those because, in many cases, these cannot be changed.”

Griff offered some tips to make sure people are prepared if they have to cancel a flight:

  • Avoid basic economy fares
  • Check cancellation policies before booking a vacation
  • Consider purchasing “cancel for any reason” insurance — regular travel insurance may not cover someone unless they are sick or injured
  • Pay a bit more for fully-refundable tickets, which are not as expensive as they once were due to a lack of business travel

“Airlines during the pandemic have lowered the upcharge for these tickets,” Griff said. “It used to be hundreds of dollars extra. Now it is tens of dollars.”

Allegiant eventually removed Ball’s fees, saying it was unaware she canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

She is thankful for the refund but worries about what other families could be hit with if they cancel.

“It was ridiculous,” she said.

So check before you book, so you don’t waste your money.

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John Matarese

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