BLOOMINGTON — Many Hoosiers are having to cancel their travel plans for spring break and even into the summer—and some are finding it downright difficult to get their money back.
Carol Derheimer, of Bloomington, and her husband were supposed to be leaving for Arizona and returning next week.
"We were going to go to Tucson,” Derheimer said. “We planned this is in January before anything ever happened."
But like many Hoosiers, they canceled their plans amid coronavirus concerns.
They made their reservation through Hotwire, but have had a hard time getting through. They just want their $730 refunded.
“It’s so scary because you’re trying to do the right thing with not doing non-essential travel,” Derheimer said. "We can't go through the hotel, we have to go through Hotwire. Hotwire you can't even get through-- we've sent emails but we've heard nothing back from them."
Call 6 Investigates found many traveler’s insurance policies do not cover pandemics.
So, what can you do?
Call and email the company and ask for a refund, and if they do not give you one, request a credit to be used for a future trip.
You can also dispute the charge with your credit card company and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
As for Derheimer, she finally got a response from Hotwire after 6 days and after RTV6 started asking questions— they agreed to provide a refund.
The following statement was released by Hotwire:
“Thanks for reaching out. We are actively monitoring the current and potential impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on our customers, and our customer operations team is working hand-in-hand with our hotel, car and flight partners to help make trip changes and cancellations as simple as possible.
As always, Hotwire follows the policies of our partners, which means any credit, refund or change is at the discretion of the travel provider. We’ve been working closely with our supply partners to allow cancelations for bookings that are normally non-cancelable, and many of our partners are offering flexible change policies due to the current situation. The quickest way to find out if travel plans can be changed without a penalty will generally be to check the airline, hotel, or car website directly, which we urge our customers to do before contacting us.
We strongly recommend that travelers visit our FAQ page to see our most recent guidelines and to submit a request to cancel their booking through our self-serve form. Refunds will be issued for Hot Rate hotel or car suppliers that currently have a flexible cancellation policy published. If a customer’s hotel chain or car agency is not listed, we encourage them to check back later as many of our partners are updating their policies daily to align with changing travel restrictions.”
The Better Business Bureau offered the following tips amidst a global pandemic.
· Check with airlines and cruise operators about previously planned trips. As the number of coronavirus cases rises, travel to and from some destinations, such as China, Iran and most of Europe, has been restricted. But even if your destination isn’t on that list, you may still be hesitant to make the trip. In either case, check directly with the company you made travel arrangements with. Although you may not get a full refund for your trip, many travel companies are willing to waive rebooking fees and change trip dates.
· Consider your risk. Research has shown that those most at risk for being severely affected by the virus are people over 65, people with a compromised immune system, or those with underlying health conditions. If you are in the higher risk group, you may want to cancel your travel plans, even if this means losing out on money you’ve already spent.
· Research travel companies’ cancellation policies before you buy. If you were hoping to travel somewhere later this year, be sure to find out what kind of cancellation policy is available for the tickets you would like to purchase. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, cruise companies and airline cancellation policies are rapidly changing. Make sure you understand whether or not you can cancel and get your money back if the pandemic continues long-term.
· Consider buying travel insurance but read the small print. Travel insurance is a great way to receive a full refund if you need to cancel a trip, but not all policies have the same coverage. Read the fine print of any plan you are considering before you buy. Most policies won’t cover a cancellation simply because you are now afraid to go. Purchasing a policy that allows you to “cancel for any reason” is the best way to ensure coverage in this rapidly evolving situation.
· Consider hiring a travel agent. If finding travel insurance, contacting airlines and cruise companies, and making last minute travel plans doesn’t suit you, consider hiring a travel agent. A good one will be able to do all the legwork for you.
· Think twice before buying a bargain ticket. As the coronavirus restricts travel for many, flight and cruise deals are popping up everywhere. If you want to take advantage of these deals, keep in mind that, realistically, any destination could become compromised as the virus continues to spread and you may need to cancel or reschedule your travel plans. This could result in your paying additional fees and make your trip less of a bargain.
· Watch out for scams. In addition, scammers are never below taking advantage of a crisis, so make sure any deals you consider are legitimate before paying or offering up your personal information