Coronavirus crisis: Travel companies relax change and cancellation policies

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With the spread of coronavirus, travel companies are relaxing cancellation and change policies. 

The Globus family of brands (Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways) instituted a temporary policy for 2020 travel allowing travelers with existing bookings or deposits on Globus vacations to move to any of its other brands, destinations or itineraries in 2020 or 2021 without penalty, prior to final payment.
The Globus brands are also temporarily waiving cancellation penalties until 30 days prior to departure.
“With the safety, security and peace-of-mind of our travelers as our primary goal, we believe in giving them more time and flexibility with their travel decisions,” said Scott Nisbet, CEO of the Globus family of brands. “Traveling the world is a joyful experience and we want to do our part to keep the anticipation stress-free.”
Windstar Cruises rolled out a new policy allowing cancellation on short notice.
The Travel Assurance Booking Policy applies to bookings departing on or after June 1. Passengers can cancel up to 15 days before sailing without incurring a fee. Windstar will automatically apply the policy to new and existing cruises departing from June 1 to Dec. 31, 2021.
Travelers who cancel up to 15 days prior to departure will receive a 100% future cruise credit to be used on another cruise within one year of the issue date of the credit.
Norwegian Cruise Line said in a note to travel advisors: “We understand that your clients may be hesitant to plan or confirm their vacation, but we encourage them to get out there and experience the world aboard the best vessels at sea.”
To provide “some reassurance,” Norwegian temporarily modified its final payment and cancellation polices to the following:
• Final payment for all June and July voyages will not be due until 90 days prior to sailing.
• Up until 60 days prior to sailing, Norwegian will allow a transfer of the reservation to any other cruise that departs on or before June 30, 2020. The transfer voyage must be of equal or greater value, prevailing rates will apply, and penalties will be waived.
• If a guest chooses not to sail, the name change restriction will be waived up to 45 days prior to sailing. Name changes will be permitted for the cruise reservation only and excludes flight arrangements through Norwegian Cruise Line and/or pre-purchased travel protection.
• Guests with non-ticketed Norwegian Cruise Line air may make name changes.
• Guests with ticketed air may make name changes but will incur a penalty and possibly air change fee, if either is assessed by the airlines.
The Scenic Group updated its cancellation policy across its portfolio of brands, to allow currently booked guests with a departure on or after June 1, or anyone who books after that date, to transfer their booking to an alternate departure without penalty, up to 30 days prior to departure.
Scenic Group brands include Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, Emerald Cruises, Scenic Eclipse, Evergreen Cruises & Tours and Mayflower Cruises & Tours.
Rob Voss, Scenic Group COO, said the new policy “allows guests more time to make decisions about future travel plans.”
JetBlue has suspended change and cancellation fees for all bookings made through travel March 11 for travel to be completed by June 1. The suspension applies to all of JetBlue’s fare classes, including Blue Basic, which usually does not allow for changes or cancellations. Fare differences still apply. Travelers who purchase a package through JetBlue Vacations can contact the carrier to learn about cancel and change policies for rental cars, hotels and other products.
Alaska Airlines is waiving change fees on tickets purchased through March 12 for travel by June 1. Any fare differences will apply and new travel must be completed by Dec. 31. Those who chose not to travel at all at this time can cancel their trip and receive credit for future travel.
American Airlines will waive change fees on all tickets purchased through March 16, provided that travelers make the change at least 14 days prior to travel. The offer is only available on American’s published fares.
Marriott International has expanded the reach of its updated cancellation policy for guests impacted by the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. In addition to continuing to waive cancellation fees for guests with reservations at hotels in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan through March 15, Marriott will now also waive fees for guests with reservations in South Korea, Japan and Italy for stays through the same period.
Additionally, Marriott is waiving cancellation fees for guests traveling outbound from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan or Italy to other Marriott hotels globally through March 15.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has loosened its cancellation rules, with guests traveling to or from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan between Jan. 23 and March 31 and to or from South Korea or Italy between Feb. 28 and March 31 able to change or cancel reservations without penalty, provided the booking was made direct via, the IHG app, or the IHG central reservations center.
Hilton has implemented modification and cancellation fee waivers for guests traveling to, through or from China with stays from Jan. 23 and March 31; to, through or from Italy with stays from Feb. 24 and March 8; to, through or from South Korea with stays from Feb. 24 and March 31; and to, through or from Saudi Arabia with stays from Feb. 27 and March 31.
Hyatt is waiving cancellation fees through March 31 for guests residing in Greater China, South Korea, Japan and Italy with reservations at Hyatt hotels globally and for guests with reservations at Hyatt hotels in Greater China, South Korea, Japan and Italy.
The World of Hyatt loyalty program is offering members residing in the Asia-Pacific region a series of tier status and benefits extensions. Qualifying Hyatt Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist members will now have a new tier expiration of Feb. 28, 2022 instead of Feb. 28, 2021, while Suite Upgrade Awards, Club Access Awards and Free Night Awards that expire in 2020 for qualifying members will be extended through December 31, 2021. Hyatt said it is currently evaluating tier and benefit extensions for global members who travel frequently to the Asia-Pacific region.