We made several bookings for this autumn and summer before the Covid-19 pandemic started. As you can imagine all those bookings had been canceled over the course of the last months.
With which airlines had we already booked?
During the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe we were in the US. We decided to return to Europe a couple of days earlier than planned. That trip was booked with American Airlines and was our first rebooking.
At that time we had booked already some other flights. Small vacations with SWISS to Palma and with LUXAIR to Dublin.
But we also planned some bigger trips. With TAP, we wanted to travel to Montreal/Miami, with AMERICAN AIRLINES to Montreal/Miami and with AIR CANADA to Toronto.
How did the different airlines handle rebooking or refund?
The first flight that had been canceled was the one with SWISS to Palma over Easter. Swiss canceled our flights with an email by telling us that our flight had been cancelled due to Covid-19. Furthermore, they wrote that we didn't need to do anything right now and that we would have time until August 31 to rebook. The value of our ticket would be preserved, and we could use it for a new booking with a departure date up to and including April, 30 2021 only.
Rebooking and cancellation of tickets via email or via the online contact form would not be possible. For such requests, Swiss asked to be contacted by phone.
As we have plans for the whole year 2020 already, this wasn't really an option for us, so we requested a refund.
The answer we've got via email:
“Thank you for your refund request. We ask for your understanding that we are currently unable to process refunds on any of our channels at short notice due to the very high number of requests we are receiving.”
That was is March. Since then, we are still trying to get our money back. If you try to find your booking on their homepage, it simply doesn't exit anymore.
Conclusion: To put it simply, Swiss couldn't have handled the situation worse!
Luxair emailed us that the flight dates to Dublin have been changed. The outbound flight would depart one day earlier and the inbound flight 3 days later than originally booked.
This wasn't feasible for us, but in the email you could “simply” ask for a refund.
We told ourselves, hey that's easy, so we clicked on it and entered our details.
About 1 week later we've got another email by Luxair which said they couldn't refund us as we had made the reservation through Expedia!?
We then twittered Expedia for an explanation, after a time we realized that their Twitter team isn't top-notch, so we gave them a phone call.
Expedia told us that Luxair wouldn't refund anything to them. What ?!
We contacted again Luxair, this time via Twitter. We told them that according to the law they have to refund if they cancel a flight. Changing the date is considered as canceling a flight as well. We've added some links and law texts.
After some time Luxair did the refund, but not to us instead they transferred the refund to Expedia! Now we have the amount of the tickets on our Expedia account. This can now only be used to book a flight with Luxair again, and it has to be booked via phone with Expedia. Oh boy…
Photo by Luxairtours
Conclusion: If you do a reservation via a travel agency, Luxair treats you like a customer with less value.
Here again we have made the reservation through Expedia.
TAP emailed us as that our outbound flight to Montreal had been canceled.
According to TAP's homepage, TAP is offering 20% of the ticket value on top if you accept a voucher. This is for reservation with a travel date before August 31, and vouchers are valid for travel until December 31, 2021.
We like to try TAP business class anyway to provide you with a review, so we were heading for that voucher instead of asking for a refund.
We called Expedia, and we told them that we've got an email by TAP saying that our flight had been canceled. They put us on hold for a few minutes to double check. Then we asked them for a TAP voucher.
Expedia did the whole process for us, and minutes later we've got confirmation emails by TAP that vouchers had been requested.
From that moment we could check the progress on TAP's homepage, but there was never an update. When checking the status you always got the same message saying that they are working on it.
About one month later we've got an email by TAP with our vouchers including the 20% of the initial value, and to our surprise the vouchers are valid until July 2022.
Conclusion: Even though we did our booking with a travel agency, it is possible that an airline treats you as a valuable customer. It took some time, and if you try to phone TAP (what we did as well) you need a lot of time and endurance.
The first flight we had to change with them was a flight from Tampa to Paris via Miami in March. When the pandemic started, our flights have been rescheduled several times. The first rebooking was done via Twitter direct message, and after a very short exchange our flight was rebooked without a hassle. Kudos to AA's Twitter team.
Unfortunately there was a schedule change two days later, and the flight from Tampa to Miami was not available anymore. With only 2 days to go we decided to call American Airlines as the matter became more urgent. Surprisingly we only had to wait for 10 minutes in line. However, due to a not very competent agent on the phone, it took us over 2 hours to rebook our flights via Dallas to Paris to the very next day.
We had made another booking with American Airlines beginning of June, in the hope that we could fly this summer to Canada with a different airline, as TAP canceled the flight.
We only did that booking because American Airlines homepage stated that you could rebook your flight once for free. You would also be able to change the destination and even the point of departure.
Of course if you would rebook you would have to pay the fare difference if there would be one. That sounded fair to us. Only 3 weeks later the flight to Montreal had been canceled.
So we picked up the phone to do the rebooking. You could as well cancel your flight via their homepage, in that case a voucher would have been emailed to you. But to book a new flight you had to call anyway as the voucher can only be used via the phone.
We chose our new flights via Google Flights, which redirected us to American Airlines homepage, showing us the price that we have found on Google Flights.
We asked for a rebooking to that new flight when on the phone with American Airlines. The agent on the phone entered all the details and came back with a total different price. Nearly about the double the price that we have found. I told him that I had a cheaper price in front of me on my computer, on their homepage, AA.com. The agent told me that their system would not always show the cheapest price available !? Ahhh….
So I asked for a voucher or even better for a refund, as my flight had been canceled. I've been told that this would be NO problem, to be fair I didn't expect that answer.
About 10 days later I've got an email by American Airlines telling me that the refund had been completed and that the money should be back on my credit card in the next 7 working days. Only 3 days later I've got the money back.
Conclusion: Rebooking for our first flight was done without hesitation, even if it took some effort but considering the start of the pandemic this was totally okay. We didn't expect to get a refund for our second trip so unproblematic with American Airlines, the fact to get this service with a US airline surprised us even more.
We flew already many times with different US airlines in business class, until now the service, especially during the flight, but as well on ground was never as good as with a European airline.
This reservation was again done via Expedia. Air Canada didn't cancel the flight, but the Canadian border was still closed in June for European travelers. Air Canada emailed us a voucher with a validation until September 2021. The point of departure needs to be the same as the initial one.
We did not insist on getting a refund. With more than one year time left to use the voucher, we will for sure find a date to visit Canada.
Conclusion: Handled unproblematic and fast by Air Canada, even though the booking was made through a travel agency.
Which airline handled the Covid-19 rebooking/refund best?
To OUR surprise American Airlines handled the situation the best, easy and fast.
Followed by TAP together with Air Canada. TAP even added 20% in value to the voucher, but Air Canada was much faster issuing the voucher.
Luxair hides itself behind travel agencies and treats you like a customer with a minor value when not booking though them directly.
Swiss ignores everything, they ignore the law, and they ignore you as a customer. For refund requests you will only get predefined emails as an answer.
What are the experiences that you have made with these or other airlines? If you want, you can share them with us in the comment section below.