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COVID-19: Measures taken by the travel industry

To the point The coronavirus is the topic of the moment and worries some travelers. In response, airlines, hotel groups and insurance companies are adjusting their various policies.

This post is also available in: FR

Foreword

Last update: March 17, 2020

If you have any questions about COVID-19 and your travels, you can come and ask:

Please take a few minutes to get information, by yourself, from the different companies (airlines, hotels, insurance companies…). The situation changes daily and the information on this page may be out of date.

The Coronavirus is hitting the whole planet with full force. The tourism industry is probably the most affected, not only in the geographical areas most affected by the virus, but also elsewhere in the world.

Indeed, not only are Western tourists gradually cancelling their travel plans to Asia, but Western destinations are also being emptied of their traditional stream of tourists, especially Asian and especially Chinese.

This impacts:

  • Airlines on their flights to Asia
  • Airlines with vital hubs such as Dubai or Singapore
  • Hotels
  • and ultimately the entire economy: for example, how many international congresses and events have already been cancelled, impacting many cities?

In France, for example, gatherings of more than 1,000 people are now prohibited. Music festivals have been cancelled such as Tomorrowland Winter. Mask sales are now controlled by the government.

Will this collective hysteria end soon? Or are we witnessing the beginning of a new global crisis? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, airlines and hotel groups are adjusting their various policies to accommodate their customers.

And we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of your rights regarding travel and credit card insurance.

This article will be progressively updated as the situation evolves.

Travel insurance

Most of the travel insurances subscribed BEFORE the generalization of the Coronavirus are valid and can be activated. To do this,Ottawa must advise against travel to the affected country because of the coronavirus.

However, now that the Coronavirus is a known disease, travel insurance policies are beginning to be updated. Therefore, you will not be able to benefit from the insurance by invoking this cause for all the NEW reservations you will make this year.

For example, Manulife and Tugo told CBC that “coronavirus is no longer considered a sudden or unexpected event, it is an international health issue. Cancellation insurance is generally intended for “unforeseen situations”.

The same is true of credit card insurance.

As of March 13, 2020, the Government of Canada advises against travel, which allows travelers to benefit from their credit card insurance (if it has trip cancellation/interruption coverage).

Canada Travellers Warning March 13, 2020

Since the warning, several insurance companies have reviewed existing policies, discontinuing them 10 days after the notice was issued:

If a Travel Warning is issued after departure, the health insurance coverage for that destination is limited to 10 days from the date of the travel warning or official notice, or for such period as is reasonably necessary to permit you to safely evacuate the country, region or area in question.

RSA Group

Credit cards Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance

If you booked a trip BEFORE the outbreak of the Coronavirus, you should have no trouble getting reimbursed for it – within the limits of your credit card insurance policy.

In this article, we have explained in detail how credit card trip cancellation / interruption insurance works.

For example, it states that the trip cancellation/interruption insurance offered by COVER credit cards includes

  • A government warning, after your travel purchase, advising travelers not to go to the intended destination
avertissements canada chine

So, if Canada advises against a destination AFTER you have purchased your trip, your credit card’s trip cancellation / interruption insurance can be activated.

For example, as a BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard cardholder, you could be reimbursed up to

  • 2,500 per insured person for trip cancellation
  • 2,000 per insured person for trip interruption if your trip has already begun

On the other hand, the insurance companies of the major credit cards have confirmed that for new travel bookings, it will NOT be POSSIBLE to invoke the coronavirus as a cancellation clause . Again, this is a situation that is now FORESEEABLE.

The two main loyalty programs

AIR MILES and Aeroplan have announced exceptional measures to help their members.

AIR MILES

AIR MILES has provided us with the following statement:

Effective today (March 13, 2020), through April 30, 2020, all AIR MILES change fees will be waived. This one-time cancellation will apply to changes or cancellations of existing reservations made through AIR MILES. Please note that multiple modifications are not allowed. Please note that cancellations are facilitated by AIR MILES in accordance with the policies of the individual airlines. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as soon as possible.

If you wish to make changes to your flight booked on airmiles.ca and scheduled to depart after March 27, 2020, please contact our specialists by phone within two (2) weeks prior to your scheduled flight.

In Toronto: 416-226-5171
Rest of Canada and International (toll free): 1-888-AIR-MILES (1-888-247-6453)

This means that you should be able to change or cancel any flight, hotel or car rental reservations made with your AIR MILES miles at no charge.

An email was sent to AIR MILES Collectors on March 13. And an FAQ is available on the site at this address.

Aeroplan

Aeroplan has followed Air Canada’s rules since March 11, 2020.

It is thus possible to modify or cancel any flight reservation at no cost, regardless of the date.

But be patient: it can take more than 3 hours to speak to a customer service agent!

As of March 13, 2020, Aeroplan Rewards can be cancelled ONLINE and at no cost. This measure is in effect until March 31, 2020.

To view your air awards and possibly cancel them, go to this page.

Our recommendation: if your flight does not take place in the next few days, be patient! This will allow other members, in more urgent situations, to be able to resolve their situation!

Airline companies

Airlines were the first to be impacted by the effects of the Coronavirus. Most of them had to stop their flights to/from China, but also many other services in the region, due to lack of demand.

And now we are starting to see airlines like British Airways reducing frequencies between certain hubs like London-New York due to lack of demand. It is important to note that many large companies have implemented measures to restrict business travel, favoring video conferencing or remote work.

Here is an update on the measures taken by the airlines that affect Canadians the most. But first, a reminder about the importance of ALWAYS booking on the airline‘s website.

Rules valid for all airlines

It can be tempting to buy your ticket through an online travel agency (Expedia, Priceline…) or a site offering “discount flights”, redirecting to various online travel agencies.

However, even if you have a file number with the airline, you will often have a hard time getting help from them. It will often redirect you to the online agency where you made your reservation. And the latter will not help you.

In addition, there are often “code-shares” between airlines: you can travel on Air Canada with a ticket issued by a Star Alliance company like United. The rules put in place by Air Canada will not apply to you!

For example, here are the rules outlined by Air Canada for its Coronavirus Goodwill Policy:

  • Tickets must be purchased directly from Air Canada between March 4 and March 31, 2020 for flights within 12 months of the original ticket issue date.
  • Air Canada tickets will be identified by a 13-digit ticket number beginning with the Air Canada code “014”. Tickets issued by other airlines with a different carrier code (tickets not beginning with “014”) are subject to the cancellation policy of the issuing airline.

Our advice: ALWAYS book directly on the airline’s website. In many cases, the rates will be equivalent, and you will have much more leeway in case of problems.

In order to encourage their customers to continue planning their trips, most airlines have instituted a policy of “Reservation with confidence“This allows you to change and/or cancel your airline tickets at no charge for any NEW reservations made within the proposed time frame (typically for reservations made in March 2020 for travel in the coming months).

Be sure to read all the terms and conditions for each of these policies.

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Air Canada - Aeroplan

Measures for clients

Air Canada has two policies in place:

If you purchased a ticket before March 4, 2020 for travel before April 30, 2020, Air Canada allows you to make a one-time change to your flight up to 24 hours prior to departure without incurring a fee. You can also cancel your reservation and the amount you paid will be credited to a future trip. In both cases, any fare difference will apply, any residual value from a lower fare will be lost and any travel must be completed by December 31, 2020.

Air Canada

 

In concrete terms, you can change your reservation at no cost by contacting Air Canada or Aeroplan:

  • for all flights operated by Air Canada (not only to the most affected destinations)
  • up to 24 hours before flight departure
  • provided that the reservation was made before March 4, 2020
  • for flights that take place until April 30, 2020

See the details of this policy on the Air Canada website.

If you purchase a ticket between March 4 and March 31, 2020, Air Canada allows you to make a one-time change to your flight up to 24 hours prior to departure without incurring a fee. You can also cancel your reservation and the amount you paid will be credited to a future trip. In both cases, any fare difference will apply, any residual value from a lower fare will be lost and any travel must be completed by December 31, 2020.

Air Canada

Specifically, you can change your reservation free of charge by contacting Air Canada or Aeroplan as long as the ticket was purchased between March 4 and 31, 2020, regardless of the destination.

Here, Air Canada wishes to reassure its customers by encouraging them to still book their flights for the next few months.

See the details of this policy on the Air Canada website.

Status in the loyalty program

No action has been announced for a possible extension of the Altitude status.

Useful information

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • Air Canada: 1-888-247-2262
  • Aeroplan: 1 800 361-5373
  • Air Canada Vacations:
    • Mexico, Caribbean, Las Vegas, Hawaii: 1-800-296-3408
    • Europe: 1-877-752-7710

You can also reach Air Canada and Aeroplan via social networks, by private message.

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WestJet - WestJet Rewards

Measures for clients

WestJet has established the following eligibility criteria for changing or cancelling a flight:

  • Passengers who have traveled to the People’s Republic of China within 14 days prior to their return or connecting flight to destination with government-issued entry requirements. by the government.
  • Ticket issued on or before: February 2, 2020
  • Initial travel date: February 2 to March 9, 2020
 

WestJet has also introduced a
modification policy
for new reservations:

All new flight bookings made between March 3 and March 31, 2020 may be changed or cancelled once with no change fees applied.
This one-time change fee waiver applies to all itinerary changes made more than 24 hours prior to departure.

WestJet

Status in the loyalty program

No action has been announced for a possible extension of WestJet Rewards status.

Useful information

Here is the main page of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • WestJet: 1-888-937-8538
  • WestJet Vacations: 1-877-737-7001

You can also reach WestJet via social networks, by private message.

Lounge VIP Luberon Marseille T1B 25

Air Transat

Measures for clients

Global Affairs Canada has recently increased its alert level for Italy to Avoid all non-essential travel due to the spread of the coronavirusCOVID-19).

Following this notice, Air Transat has decided to implement a flexibility policy for its flights to Italy, based on the following parameters

  • All customers booked to Venice on or before March 2, 2020 for travel by June 30, 2020 are permitted to change their booking date or destination without penalty for travel by October 31, 2020. However, customers will be required to pay any difference in price.
  • All customers who have booked a flight to Rome or Lamezia on or before March 9, 2020 for a planned trip by June 30, 2020 are allowed to change their reservation date or destination without penalty for travel by October 31, 2020. However, customers will be required to pay any difference in price.

Please note that Air Transat flight operations are currently running normally.

Air Transat has also introduced a
modification policy
for new reservations:

Book a flight to any destination or a Southern package between March 4 and 31, and if your travel plans change, no worries: we’ll waive the change fee.

Air Transat

Here are the conditions of this “Book with confidence” policy:

  • You can change your travel dates, your hotel or your destination – or even all three! – free of charge up to 24 hours before your departure.
  • You may reschedule your trip at any time within 12 months of your original travel dates.

Beware of restrictions:

  • Does not apply to Transat packages to the U.S. and Europe, cruise and Duo packages, escorted tours, a la carte accommodations, or packages at Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, Grand Pineapple Beach Resorts and Couples Resorts Jamaica.
  • Does not apply to Air Transat flights booked in Eco Budget fare class.
  • Reservations must be fora minimum of 7 nights.
 

Useful information

Here is the main page of information on the situation:

Customer service:

Air France Business Class Reviews and opinions - A350 - Toronto - Paris

Other airlines

Air France - KLM - Flying Blue

Air France has suspended its flights to mainland China since January 30, 2020. A gradual resumption of flights to Shanghai and Beijing is planned from March 29, 2020.

Flights to Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul are also adapted.

Also, a“Reservation with Confidence” policy has been implemented.

Here is the main page of information on the situation:

Customer service:

Note that many changes can be made online.

british airways 3

British Airways - British Airways Executive Club

British Airways has cancelled all flights to Beijing and Shanghai until April 17, 2020.

From April 18 to May 31, there will be a gradual return of traffic. Also, service to Hong Kong has been increased from two daily flights to one daily flight until June 1.

In addition, due to the decrease in traffic, British Airways had to cancel hundreds of flights in Europe and several transatlantic flights, notably to New York.

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • British Airways: +44 (0)203 250 0145
Lufthansa Lounge Boston 09

Lufthansa Group - Miles & More

Lufthansa Group (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Airlines) has cancelled flights to/from:

  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Nanjing
  • Shenyang
  • Qingdao

And reduced its frequencies to Hong Kong.

Here is the main page of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • Lufthansa: 1-800-645-3880
  • Swiss: 1-877-359-7947
  • Austrian: 1 866 846 4283
american airlines yul phl msy 20

American - AAdvantage

The main destinations affected by the American Airlines measures are:

  • Hong Kong
  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Wuhan
  • South Korea
  • Italy

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • American Airlines Canada: 1-800-756-8613
delta airlines plane

Delta Airlines - Delta Skymiles

The main destinations affected by the Delta Airlines measures are:

  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • South Korea
  • Italy

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • Delta Airlines Canada: 1-800-221-1212
United Airlines Business Class 787 03

United Airlines - United Mileage Plus

The main destinations affected by the United Airlines measures are:

  • Chengdu
  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Hong Kong
  • Tokyo
  • Osaka
  • Singapore
  • Seoul

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • United Airlines: 1-800-864-8331

Hotels

The major hotel groups are also adjusting their various policies in response to the coronavirus. Here are the measures taken for the main hotel groups.

toronto marriott city centre hotel – 04

Marriott International - Marriott Bonvoy

Here are Marriott’s key actions for ALL Marriott International hotels worldwide:

  • For customers with existing reservations for any future arrival dateIf you have a reservation that is not a prepaid reservation, including prepaid reservations, which are generally more restrictive, we will allow a full change or cancellation at no charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival*, provided the change or cancellation is made before April 30, 2020. Please note that any modification of an existing reservation will be made according to availability and will be subject to possible price differences.
  • For guests making new reservations for any future arrival date, including prepaid rate reservations, between now and April 30, 2020, we will allow for complimentary reservation changes or cancellations up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date*. Please note that any change in the reservation will be made according to availability and will be subject to possible price differences.

Gesture for Marriott Bonvoy members

Marriott has decided to extend the expiration of all free night certificates (set to expire in 2020), earned in Canada with, until January 31, 2021:

Also, Marriott has paused the expiration of points until August 31, 2020 (if no activity is done in the account in 24 months).

Finally, suite upgrade certificates (Platinum and Titanium members) will have their expiration date extended to December 31, 2021.

At this time, no decision has been made regarding a possible extension of the membership.

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • Marriott Bonvoy: 1-800-535-4028
Hilton New York 1

Hilton - Hilton Honors

The top destinations affected by Hilton’s actions are:

  • Mainland China
  • South Korea
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Italy

There will be no cancellation fees for stays until March 31, 2020 in these destinations. In addition, Hilton Honors members located in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have their status and points validity extended by one year.

Here are the main pages of information on the situation:

Customer service:

  • Hilton Honors: 1-800-445-8667

Other programs

Most hotel groups offer similar policies.

Shangri-La Gold Circle, for example, has announced that all Golden Circle Diamond and Jade members will maintain their status until December 31, 2021. Which is great news for those who got it as a benefit of The Platinum Card® from American Express!

This status allows for example to get free breakfasts in all Shangri-La hotels.

goldencircle extension

Best Western Rewards has decided to do the same by extending the status of all its members until January 31, 2022.

Useful resources on Coronavirus

If you would like to see the latest information related to the evolution of the coronavirus, here is a list of useful resources:

This post is also available in: FR

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Jean-Maximilien
Jean-Maximilien is an expert in Canada and France about Loyalty programs, Credit cards and Travel. He is the Founding President of Milesopedia.

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