Should I Cancel My Trip Due to Coronavirus Concerns?

Feb 14, 2020

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If you’ve read the news recently, you have likely seen that illness caused by a novel coronavirus is now a major outbreak that has sickened more 60,000 individuals and caused more than 1,300 deaths (at the time of this writing). The illness was first identified in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, and its spread in China has caused major U.S. airlines to temporarily cease service to the entire country.

With an upcoming trip to Taipei, Taiwan, I wanted to start thinking through what the cancellation process would look like if I decided this trip was no longer in the cards. Here are the things I considered, which you can use as a road map if you have upcoming travel planned to Asia.

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What’s happening with airlines?

Highlighting how seriously the airlines are treating this coronavirus outbreak, Delta Air Lines has suspended flights from the U.S. to China from February 6 through April 30. American Airlines and United Airlines have also announced that flights to China will be suspended until late April.

Despite major cuts in service to mainland China and Hong Kong, U.S. airlines have yet to suspend flights to Taiwan. Though U.S. airlines are still flying there, Taiwan’s proximity to China makes me nervous, as I plan to travel to Taipei from March 6-10.

And other countries have made service changes to the island: Italy has banned flights to and from Taiwan through April 28, and the Philippines has implemented temporary restrictions on Taiwanese residents entering the country.

Italy’s decision to suspend flights to Taiwan makes me particularly nervous, as I am currently set to visit Italy in early April and would hate to be denied entry based on my trip to Taipei.

My current trip details

For my trip to Taipei, I’m set to fly over on United. Although I booked this flight in economy class, I was upgraded to Polaris business class using my friend’s PlusPoints.

For the trip home, I used 85,000 Delta SkyMiles to book China Airlines business class. I am set to stay in an Airbnb with a gorgeous skyscraper view in a central area of the city, and have been very much looking forward to my stay.

I purchased the itinerary using my Capital One Spark Miles for Business, which only offers restrictive trip cancellation/interruption insurance to some cardholders depending on their account type. Generally, if your Capital One Spark Miles for Business account has this coverage, “covered reasons” will only include injury or death that prevents you from traveling, or the carrier going bankrupt.

Deciding whether to cancel

Although I’m still unsure about whether I’m going to cancel my trip, I have United Premier Gold status, so I called the Premier Priority Desk to learn about my options for my inbound flight.

I was told that although my ticket is nonrefundable and Taiwan is not affected by United’s current travel waiver, if I wanted to cancel my flight, United would apply the value of the ticket to a future flight (which I would need to take within a year of the date when I purchased my original flight). Additionally, the PlusPoints used to upgrade my flight would be credited back to the original account.

I was very happy to hear that United would, essentially, refund my flight — since I won’t have any issue at all applying the value of the ticket within that time frame.

I am less concerned about my Delta Air Lines award ticket, as I can cancel my ticket and get my SkyMiles back simply by paying a $150 redeposit fee.

If I canceled my Airbnb, I’d get a 50% refund per the terms of my reservation. Although if I did decide to ultimately cancel my trip, I would reach out to them and try to get the full amount refunded.

The bottom line

While I am still undecided about canceling my trip to Taiwan, knowing that I can receive the value of my United ticket if I do cancel will definitely factor into my decision.

Right now, my plan is to keep paying attention to the news, see if any additional countries decide to suspend service to Taiwan and make a decision about a week or two before my trip.

If you have cancellation fees with your airline or hotel that will take effect or increase at a certain time, make sure to account for those when deciding how long to wait before making your own call to cancel. Keep tabs on news around the coronavirus, and check with your doctor if you are planning a trip to Taiwan (and potentially anywhere in Asia) within the next few months.

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