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With the recent developments in the coronavirus pandemic, many passengers are canceling or modifying their upcoming flights. While most airlines have relaxed cancellation policies, the process can be confusing when modifying flights booked through an online travel agency, or OTA.
When you book with agencies such as Travelocity, Orbitz or Priceline, you essentially agree to both the terms and conditions of the OTA and the airline, and many travelers may feel caught in limbo between the OTA and the airline.
Under normal circumstances, it’s challenging to make changes for non-refundable flights booked through a third-party agency. However, in light of travel disruptions from COVID-19, booking sites have implemented relaxed policies to aid travelers in these unprecedented times.
Things to know about canceling your flight scheduled before May 31, 2020
Don’t bother calling: With an onslaught in call volume and extended hold times, OTAs have sent out a plea for customers to refrain from calling to make changes unless you’re scheduled to fly in the next 72 hours.
Cancel using chat: Agencies like Orbitz have implemented a virtual agent who will guide you through the process of canceling your booking and answer other questions.
Cancel online with My Trips: Most agencies have added new options to change or cancel your trip online. Using "Manage My Trip" or a similar option allows you to make hassle-free changes without having to call.
Submit a Cancel Request Form: Some OTAs, like Orbitz, offer the option of filling out an online form to cancel your booking. Simply include your itinerary number, email and phone number to submit. Once the form is completed, you will receive an email confirmation.
Cancel with the airline directly: If contacting your online travel agency is getting you nowhere, try connecting with the airline directly. You can track down the airline record locator number through your confirmation itinerary email. Even if you booked through an OTA, some airlines are able to help you directly.
Keep in mind that if your flight is canceled by the airline, many third-party sites will give you a refund. Orbitz recently posted on Twitter that if an airline cancels your flight, there is no need to call. They will automatically refund the cost of your flight back to the original form of payment.
If your flight is scheduled after May 31, 2020
Travel agencies are urging you to check back closer to your date of departure before canceling your trip, as standard cancelation penalties may apply. If you’re scheduled to travel after May 31 and still want to cancel your flight, it’s best to contact the airline directly to make changes.
The bottom line
The coronavirus pandemic is changing travel guidelines, and new policies are evolving daily. Therefore, it may be wise to wait until your travel date is approaching to cancel or modify your flight. Make sure to check with your airline and online travel agency for the latest policy developments.
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Check out these articles for more information: Find the best travel credit card for you Coronavirus flight cancellation and change policies: What you need to know Coronavirus hotel and vacation rental cancellation and change policies: Updates