Airlines and hotels are still booking travel months away, but experts caution against making any reservations you can't cancel



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  • All non-essential travel is off the table for now, but airlines and hotels are still accepting reservations for the future – often at deeply discounted rates.
  • If you’re considering booking travel for several months out, consider sticking to refundable tickets and reservations made with points or miles so there’s less risk of losing money if your plans need to be canceled.
  • You should also prioritize having an emergency fund of savings over booking a future vacation.
  • If you’re in good financial standing, you could open a new rewards credit card now and earn its welcome bonus so you have a stash of points ready to go when you’re ready to book a trip.
  • See Business Insider’s list of the best travel rewards credit cards.

As a result of the coronavirus, our lives have become very small in scope. If you haven’t had to cancel an upcoming trip, at the very least the current situation has likely put your vacation plans on hold. But while the world is largely housebound at this time, travel brands continue to sell flights and hotel rooms for dates in the future, and prices can be extremely low.

With airlines and hotels offering cheap rates and carriers such as JetBlue letting you book as far out as January 2021, you may be wondering whether it’s worth jumping on any of the current travel deals to book vacation in the future. If you’re considering pulling the trigger on a cheap flight or hotel room now for travel dates in the future, here’s what you need to know.

Booking a trip for the early fall may seem like a safe bet now, but no one knows when life will be back to normal. Given this uncertainty, you’ll want to treat any travel reservations you make as subject to change.

Many travel brands have released customer-friendly change and cancellation policies. For example, American Airlines will waive change fees for travel through May 31, 2020, and it will waive change fees for travel booked by April 30, 2020.

Hotels generally let you cancel a few days before check-in without any penalty, but be sure to double-check a property’s policy before you make a reservation.

Zach Honig, Editor at Large at travel website The Points Guy, recommends steering clear of nonrefundable tickets and hotel stays. “Personally, I’m not purchasing any nonrefundable travel right now, though I have booked several award flights that I hope to take, since I’ve found business-class availability to be outstanding, for travel later in the year,” he tells Business Insider.

Refundable tickets and hotel stays are often more expensive than their nonrefundable counterparts, however, which leads us to the next point …

While most travel brands have adjusted their cancellation policies for paid reservations, if you have points or miles, consider booking any speculative flights or hotel stays with your rewards.

It’s usually easier to cancel award tickets than cash reservations, and Honig notes that United is waiving award redeposit fees for the rest of 2020 as long as you cancel more than 30 days before departure. If you’re looking to book through another airline program, check to see if they’re offering award redeposit fee waivers as well.

If you can’t resist pulling the trigger on booking an expensive trip for the future, buying supplementary travel insurance could be a smart idea. While travel rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and the Platinum Card® from American Express offer strong travel coverage, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, their coverage limits the reasons for which you can cancel and receive a full refund.

While the urge to book travel is understandable given that we’re all cooped up at home, it’s wise to balance that wanderlust with the need for financial security.

GALLERY: How to cancel your trip during the coronavirus pandemic 

a person in a blue suitcase:   Airlines are waiving cancellation and rebooking fees, but  getting a full refund is unlikely.    Amtrak train tickets are refundable, but canceling without a  fee requires speaking with an agent.    Many hotels are waiving cancellation fees and refunding  trips, and Airbnb is fully refunding reservations made before  March 14.    Many rental car companies are waiving change and cancellation  fees, but there are some restrictions.    Most cruise lines have suspended all upcoming trips and are  offering different refund and credit options.       Visit   Insider's homepage for more stories.     The coronavirus  pandemic has devastated the travel industry and upended  travel plans for people around the world. Whether you were set to  travel for vacation, an event, or to visit family, chances are  you've had to rethink your itinerary.   Here's how to adjust your travel plans with minimal financial  losses.

“Given the vast amount of uncertainty that we’re dealing with at this moment, my advice as a financial planner would be to focus on what you can control,” says Eric Roberge, CFP and founder of Beyond Your Hammock. “Right now, that comes down to your personal saving, spending, and investment contributions.”

“My priorities before spending on travel would be to pad my emergency fund (even if it was ‘full,’ having a little extra cash right now only adds security and stability), maintain or even increase my investment contributions, and do what I can to support others in my local community who may be struggling,” Roberge continues.

That’s not to say you can’t book future travel and save money, but it’s hard to overstate the importance of being financially prepared for any unforeseen circumstances during this uncertain time – especially as unemployment claims continue to skyrocket. 

If you have travel points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards, keep in mind that you can redeem them for cash back. This won’t get you maximum value in most cases, but if you’re short on cash, this is an option for building your emergency fund.

 

You don’t have to stop dreaming about an exotic vacation, even if you ultimately decide to hold off on booking future travel for now.

In fact, this is a great time to start earning points and miles so you’ll be ready to go whenever we return to normalcy. Signing up for rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and earning their welcome bonuses will put you in a perfect position to book award travel in the future.

Consider cards that earn transferable points (like Amex, Chase, or Citi points, or Capital One miles) as opposed to those that earn rewards with an airline or hotel program, so you’re not locked into just one option for redeeming them. And remember that many cards offer bonus rewards on purchases such as online shopping, food delivery, and groceries.

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American Airlines Reduces Summer Schedule Again

American Airlines announced Thursday it would be forced to cut capacity again this summer as record-low customer demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak continues to devastate the aviation industry.

The airline revealed it would suspend more than 60 percent of international capacity for the peak summer travel season when compared to the same period last year and delay the launch of new routes until 2021.

The new flights impacted include service between Philadelphia and Casablanca, Chicago and Krakow, and Seattle and Bangalore. In total, 25 summer seasonal flights will be suspended until summer 2021.

The reduced summer schedule will be reflected on American’s official website on April 5.

In addition, the carrier announced several routes scheduled to debut in October would now debut winter 2021, while several flights originally slated to resume in early October would return at the end of the month.

Airlines around the world have been impacted by the viral outbreak, as Southwest Airlines announced a new flight schedule earlier this week that would reduce flight activity by more than 40 percent, limiting the low-cost carrier to approximately 2,000 flights per day.

The aviation industry is also on high alert after United States President Donald Trump said he is reluctant to shut down airlines, but did acknowledge that asking carriers to cut back on flights between cities hardest hit by the coronavirus is an option.

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Hawaiian Airlines Gives Free Flights to Medical Personnel Fighting Coronavirus

Hawaiian Airlines announced it would provide free flights between islands to medical professionals battling the coronavirus outbreak.

As part of the airline’s partnership with leading healthcare providers in the state, Hawaiian will be sending personnel and equipment to impacted communities as the tourism industry grinds to a halt. Partner organizations include the Hawaii Emergency Physicians Associated (HEPA), The Queen’s Health Systems and more.

The carrier also announced a new flight schedule designed to provide vital connectivity in April between the Hawaiian Islands as the state continues its 14-day self-quarantine requirement.

“This virus has presented an unprecedented test for all of us who call Hawai‘i home, and we are glad to be able to support the exceptional and important work our medical providers are carrying out across our islands each day to meet our state’s healthcare needs and help us overcome this challenge,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said in a statement.

Starting April 4, Hawaiian will be providing a total of 16 daily roundtrip flights between Honolulu on O‘ahu and Hilo and Kona on the Island of Hawaii, Kahului on Maui and Lihu‘e on Kaua‘i.

The airline will also keep serving both Moloka‘i and Lana‘i from Honolulu, but suspended service between Honolulu and Pago Pago for at least 30 days at the request of the American Samoan government.

Other airlines have been forced to make drastic changes, as officials from easyJet announced the decision to ground its entire fleet until further notice due to heavy travel restrictions and self-quarantines caused by the viral outbreak.

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Senators urge U.S. airlines to issue ticket refunds after bailout


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nine Democratic U.S. senators on Tuesday urged the chief executives of 11 major airlines to issue full cash refunds to customers canceling flights during the coronavirus pandemic after Congress approved $25 billion in cash grants for the hard-hit industry.

a plane sitting on top of a tarmac: FILE PHOTO: Delta Air Lines passenger planes parked in Birmingham
Ed Markey wearing a suit and tie: Senator Markey (D-MA) arrives as the Trump impeachment trial continues in Washington.

“We believe your company has a moral responsibility to provide real refunds, not travel vouchers, to consumers, and to support State Department efforts to repatriate any American citizens trying to come home,” Senators Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Sheldon Whitehouse and Bob Casey said in the letter.

Elizabeth Warren wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Senator Elizabeth Warren talks to reporters after telling her staff she is withdrawing from 2020 U.S. presidential race outside her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Most U.S. airlines are temporarily waiving coronavirus-related change and cancellation fees but are not issuing cash refunds.

“Americans need money now to pay for basic necessities, not temporary credits towards future travel,” the senators wrote.

Economic stimulus legislation passed by Congress last week included the cash grants to the passenger airlines.

American Airlines said in response to the letter that its “comprehensive travel waivers we’ve put in place are designed to meet the full range of our customers’ needs.”

Kamala Harris wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: FILE PHOTO: Kamala Harris appears on stage at a First in the West Event at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas

Southwest Airlines Co, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – which were also among carriers receiving the letters – did not immediately comment.

The senators said they want the airlines to disclose “the total value of all travel vouchers and credits you have issued during the coronavirus pandemic” as well the total number flights canceled.

A group representing major airlines has warned about the impact of a potential 30-day domestic flight ban because that would require them to repay consumers for all tickets purchased within seven days if the service cannot be provided even for non-refundable tickets. That could boost liquidity losses by $7 billion to $10 billion and make it harder to obtain credit, the group added. No such flight ban has been imposed.

Bernie Sanders wearing a suit and tie: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Washington

The U.S. State Department last week said it was tracking 50,000 Americans abroad who might seek help to return to the United States during the health crisis and was helping to arrange dozens of flights to assist people in returning.

U.S. airlines are collectively cancelling hundreds of thousands of flights. Southwest said on Tuesday it will cut more than 40% of flights from May 3 through June 5 amid a sharp decline in travel demand from the pandemic.

Other U.S. carriers have said they are cutting 60% or more of their flights, including American, United, Delta and Alaska Airlines.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Covid 19 coronavirus: Attendant’s tearful farewell on final Virgin Australia flight

A Kiwi flight attendant for Virgin Australia has made a heartfelt announcement over the PA on her final flight.

The Australian airline said it would be closing its New Zealand bases and cutting cross Tasman routes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. On the final Dunedin service, Cassey Appleton added a few of her own tearful words in response to “losing her wings.”

Having bid her passengers welcome to the Otago airport she asked them for their patience while she made one extra announcement:

“There’s every chance that this may be our last operating flight. It will be our last for the foreseeable future.”

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