With nearly every airline removing change fees “forever” (rolls eyes), do we still need travel waivers? Yes, yes we do.
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Travel Waivers Are Good For Travellers, Airlines
In cases of severe weather, natural disaster, or even civil unrest, airlines (and sometimes other travel providers) issue travel waivers that allow guests to cancel or re-book their reservations without the normal penalties. Giving customers an option in advance avoids customer relations issues at the airport which can be costly and distracting for carriers.
Passengers also remember and appreciate flexibility in an otherwise bad situation.
In The Era of No Change Fees, Why Do We Still Need Them?
Nearly every US airline has removed change fees “forever.” Considering that carriers now allow passengers to move their flights without a penalty, why issue any travel waivers at all? Yes, we still need them for very good reasons. Changing a ticket is not the same as refunding a ticket which travel waivers allow.
Consider the case of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina. It would be inconceivable to move trips to a date in the future considering the utter devastation the city experienced. Further, additional otherwise non-refundable purchases associated with the trip are refunded under travel waivers but are not during the normal change of flight rules.
The Case of California
Governor Newsom of California has issued multiple “State of Emergency” orders for the state due to wildfires. A colleague had an upcoming to Napa by way of Sacramento. None of the major carriers have issued travel waivers for the state at all. As much as 80% of the wineries in the area, the main source of tourism in Northern California, have sustained damage many of which have said they may never rebuild.
In this instance, moving a trip to later in the year wouldn’t solve the issue. First, because moving the trip may still leave it as a trip in vain (if the area is destroyed.) Second, ancillary purchases like upgrades, bonus miles, or meals remain non-refundable. In my colleague’s case, she could move her coach seats but not the purchased upgrades. In her specific example, reaching out to United resulted in a full refund, as a courtesy but not as a policy. They were good to do it for her, but others may find themselves in similar situations.
Travel waivers still have a place even in an era of eradicated change fees. Airlines should be diligent in applying them especially for customers that may have additional cost considerations ineligible for change or refund. United did the right thing for my colleague in this instance, but generally all carriers really should have a waiver in place for California widlfires, I was shocked they didn’t.
What do you think? Are there other examples of when travel waivers help customers but changing the dates wouldn’t?