How Hotels and Airlines Are Responding to COVID-19

woman looking out plane window wearing face maskAt Roomkey, we understand that life feels like it’s on hold right now. With all the uncertainty and stress brought by coronavirus (COVID-19), we want to remind our customers that our mission, as always, is to bring honesty, integrity, and transparency to the hotel booking process. We want you to know that we are looking out for you during this difficult time and so are our hotel partners.

While traveling may be far from the forefront of your thoughts, should you need to book a hotel, most hotels are adjusting their policies to offer you peace of mind and flexibility if your plans need to change. They are also making it easier to modify or cancel existing direct bookings by waiving cancellation fees. 

If you booked your hotel through a third-party online travel site (such as Expedia, Travelocity, Booking,com, Priceline, etc), you’ll need to contact that company directly to discuss modifications to your trip. Hotels won’t be able to make changes to your reservation or refund your stay because your transaction is with the OTA, not with the hotel. (To understand this more, read our post about Why It’s So Hard to Cancel When You Use Travel Booking Sites.)

Here is what each of the major travel companies are doing in response to the current travel advisory related to COVID-19, and what it means for you and your upcoming trip. For an update on how airlines and hotels are modifying their loyalty programs in response to the coronavirus, check out Conde Nast’s recent article.

* Editor’s note: The information below is accurate as of March 26, 2020. The original article was published March 19, but we are updating the information weekly.

What the Hotels Are Doing

Hotels are taking extra steps to further clean and disinfect their lobbies and rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their employees and guests. Most hotels are also reevaluating their cancellation policies and are refunding travelers the cost of future stays if they decide to cancel a trip. Here’s what each of our partners are doing:

Marriott

Marriott International is now implementing the following changes to their cancellation policies:

  • For guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, Marriott will allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020.
  • For guests making new reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates, between today and April 30, 2020, Marriott will allow the reservation to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival date.
  • Important Information:
    • Some exclusions may apply. May exclude periods with special event restrictions or peak demand weeks. Please refer to individual property rate rules for details.
    • Marriott Vacations Worldwide is included in this policy for transient reservations only. For owner occupancy reservations, please visit http://hub.vacationclub.com.
    • Design Hotels and Homes & Villas by Marriott International (HVMI) are excluded from this policy.
    • For individual reservations booked into a pre-existing group block, please refer to cancellation terms quoted at the time of reservation. For more information, please contact the group organizer or the hotel.
    • For group organizer questions on terms and conditions of group contracts, please contact the hotel.
    • Guests who booked via online travel agents or other third-party travel professionals are advised to contact their booking provider for information on their policies.

See Marriott’s Coronavirus Update page for full details.

Hilton

For all Hilton hotels worldwide, Hilton is offering more flexible booking options and cancellation policies:

  • Existing Reservations: All reservations–even those described as non-cancellable (“Advanced Purchase”–that are scheduled for arrival before June 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
  • New Reservations: Any reservation you make–even those described as “non-cancellable” (“Advanced Purchase”)–that are booked between today and June 30, 2020 for any future arrival date, can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
  • Important Information:
    • If you need to adjust reservations made via the Hilton website, app or call center, you can change your reservation here or contact the Hilton Guest Assistance team. 
    • If you need to adjust reservations made through another travel site, please contact them for assistance.

See Hilton’s Coronavirus Statement page for full details.

IHG

For all IHG hotels globally, IHG is implementing the following policies: 

  • IHG is waiving cancellation fees for existing and new bookings at all IHG hotels globally for stays between March 9, 2020 and April 30, 2020.
  • Bookings beyond April 30, 2020 have flexibility already built in to their rates and packages that allow guests to amend travel plans as necessary.
    • Their Best Flexible Rate allows guests to change or cancel their reservation one to two days prior to arrival, although some hotels may have different time frames. Changing the date on any reservations through their Best Flexible Rate may result in different pricing and terms, but there is no fee for making changes.
    • To modify a reservation for stays beyond April 30, 2020 visit Manage Your Stay.
  • Important Information:
    • Call the team only if your travel is within the next 72 hours and you are not able to modify or cancel your reservation online or via the IHG app.
    • For bookings made through a travel agent or online booking platform (e.g. Booking.com, Expedia) please contact them directly.
    • Groups & Meetings Bookings: We will work with customers to manage any changes needed to Group & Meeting bookings on a case by case basis. Our hotels are actively supporting groups and meetings organizers to address the needs of each group, including moving event dates to another time, in line with terms and conditions of that booking. Please contact the hotel the booking was made with to discuss further.

See IHG’s Travel Advisory page for full details.

Wyndham

Wyndham is already very flexible in their cancellation policies for direct bookings with thousands of hotels honoring no-fee cancellations up to 6 p.m. on the day of arrival, but they have further enhanced their policies as follows:

  • New or existing direct bookings through May 31, 2020 will have their cancellation or change penalties waived if the request is received at least 24 hours (or less if permitted by the hotel’s policy) prior to arrival.
  • Guests who are prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel under applicable law will have their cancellation or change penalties waived on direct bookings.
  • For new or existing direct bookings with arrivals after May 31, all of their properties are required to accommodate non-cancellable rate reservation changes if the request is received at least 48 hours prior to the arrival and the same number of nights or more are booked for a future stay.
  • For bookings made by a travel agent or online booking platform, contact the agent or booking platform directly. 
  • Important Information:
    • Due to the current situation with coronavirus and to protect the safety of guests and team members, there may be a reduction in certain services and amenities that are normally available. Contact the hotel directly with questions or concerns.
    • Those traveling to hotels located in areas that are allowing only “essential travelers,” are required to comply with all guidelines and restrictions and may be required to provide identification establishing that they are “essential travelers.” If guests have questions or concerns, contact the hotel directly.

See Wyndham’s COVID-19 Statement page for full details.

Choice Hotels

Reservations booked directly through Choice Hotels can now be canceled or modified online. If you’ve booked a cancellable rate, modify your reservation here. If you booked a non-cancellable, pre-paid rate directly with Choice Hotels, cancel your reservation using this online form. As long as you submit your request by April 30, 2020, Choice will cancel your reservation with no charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival.

  • For guests with existing individual reservations, including reservations with non-cancellable, pre-paid rates made directly with Choice Hotels, change or cancellation fees are waived up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020.
  • For guests making new individual reservations directly with Choice Hotels between today and April 30, 2020, reservations may be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. 
  • Guests who booked via online travel agents or other third parties are advised to contact their booking provider for information on their policies and for assistance.

See Choice’s Travel Alerts page for full details.

Hyatt

Hyatt is also waiving change and cancellation fees:

  • Existing reservations for upcoming travel before April 30, 2020:
    • All existing reservations made before March 13, 2020 that are for arrivals between March 14 and April 30, 2020 can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival. This includes Advance Purchase Rate reservations.
  • New reservations for any future travel:
    • Any reservation you make between March 13, 2020, and April 30, 2020 – for any future arrival date – can be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival. This includes Advance Purchase Rate reservations.
  • Existing Advance Purchase Rate non-refundable reservations for travel through June 2020:
    • Special exceptions are in place for all Advance Purchase Rate non-refundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8, 2020 for arrivals before June 30, 2020. Guests holding these fully prepaid reservations who have decided not to travel may still opt, at least 24 hours before their stay, to receive 10,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Points compensation in lieu of both their stay. World of Hyatt points may be used toward future travel at any of our 900+ hotels across 17 brands globally. 
  • Important Information:
    • Reservations can be changed or canceled up to 24 hours before a scheduled arrival.
    • Guests who booked via online travel agents or other third parties are advised to contact their booking provider for information on their policies and for assistance.

See Hyatt’s Coronavirus Statement page for full details.

What the Airlines Are Doing

Airlines have been hit harder during this time than hotels. Be patient with them when calling to change your reservations.

Delta

Delta Airlines is broadly waiving change fees for travel impacted by coronavirus:

  • Change fees are waived for all travel departing in March, April, or May 2020, as well as all tickets purchased between March 1 and April 15, 2020. 
  • If your travel is eligible for a waiver, you can move your travel dates and even select a new destination. You can cancel and/or change travel by December 31, 2020 or your ticket expiration date. Your unused ticket will be applied toward your new flight. If the new fare is lower, you will receive a Delta eCredit for the difference. If the new fare is higher, the difference will be collected.
  • Cancel your trip and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original issue date. 
    • The change fee will be waived as a result of COVID-19, however fare difference will apply for new travel dates and will be collected at the time of booking the new ticket. 

See Delta’s Coronavirus Travel Update page for full details.

United

United Airlines is waiving cancellation fees on certain previously purchased tickets and booking new flights:

  • Rescheduling a trip: United is waiving change fees for all tickets issued on or before March 2 — domestic or international — with original travel dates of March 9 through May 31. If you’re not sure when you want to travel, you can cancel your trip and rebook later with change fees waived. 
  • Important Information:
    • New tickets must be reissued on/before December 31, 2020 or 12 months from original ticket date, whichever is earlier.
    • Rebooked travel must commence within 12 months from the original ticket issue date.
    • Original ticket must be issued on or before March 2, 2020.
  • Booking a new flight:
    • Waived change fees for any bookings — domestic and international — made between March 3 and March 31, 2020. The waiver applies to all tickets, all fare types, all destinations, all points-of-sale and all travel dates available for sale. For the most up-to-date waiver information regarding change fees and refunds visit https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/notices.html.
      • Any ticket purchased between March 3 at 3:00 p.m. CST and March 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CST will not incur change fees.
      • This is available for any of United’s published nonrefundable fares.
      • If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without fee for travel up to 12 months from the original issue date.
  • Cancellations: Cancelling a flight booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020, the value of the original ticket can be applied to a new ticket without fee for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.
  • This applies to all tickets, all fare types, all destinations, all points-of-sale, all travel dates available for sale, provided the ticket number starts with 016.
  • Important Information:
    • No blackout dates.
    • Fares, fees, rules and offers are subject to change without notice. Seats are capacity-controlled and may not be available on all flights or days. Fares are non-refundable except during the first 24 hours after purchase. Other restrictions may apply.

See United’s Travel Notices page for full details. 

American

American Airlines has also waived change fees for certain dates of travel:

  • If you bought your ticket before March 1, 2020, for travel through May 31, 2020, you can rebook without change fees.
  • If you booked your trip March 1 – April 15, 2020, for travel through January 30, 2021, you can also change your reservation at a later date without change fees.
  • Important Information:
    • If you’re scheduled to travel before April 15, 2020, but can’t get through to Reservations, American will honor all changes and the value of your ticket if you don’t take your flight as planned.
    • You’re allowed to make a change to your trip once, and the change fee will be waived. You can cancel your trip online and call later when you’re ready to rebook, including Basic Economy tickets.
    • Keep in mind, you may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.
    • Visit the travel alerts page for information about rebooking as waivers are based on destination and dates of purchase.

See American’s Coronavirus Update page for full details.

Southwest

Southwest Airlines already has a flexible cancellation plan:

  • Rescheduling a trip: If you are scheduled to travel between today and April 30, you can change your travel to a date 60 days from the original date of travel without paying any difference in fare if you are traveling between the same origin and destination. You can do this online by visiting www.southwest.com/rebook. You may have to pay a fare difference.
  • Cancelling your flight: If you decide not to travel, as long as you cancel your flight at least 10 minutes before its scheduled departure, the funds used to pay for a nonrefundable ticket are normally valid for one year from the date of purchase. However, in recognition of the current travel environment, we are extending the expiration date of some travel funds:
    • Customers’ funds that have expired or will expire between March 1 – May 31, 2020, will now expire June 30, 2021.
    • Any travel funds created because of a flight cancellation between March 1 – May 31, 2020, will have an expiration date of June 30, 2021.
    • Also, any travel planned through the end of April can be changed online for up to 60 days from the original date of travel without paying any difference in fare if you are traveling between the same origin and destination.

See Southwest’s Coronavirus page for full details. 

JetBlue

JetBlue Airways has suspended change and cancellation fees for all JetBlue fares.

  • If you need to cancel your travel plans, they’ll credit the amount in the form of a travel credit that’s valid for one year. For changes, fare differences may apply. Terms and conditions vary based on booking dates.
  • Customers may rebook their flights for travel through October 24, 2020 online or contact them prior to the departure time of their originally scheduled flight. Fare difference may apply. For cancellations, funds will be issued as a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit, valid for one year from date of issuance.

See JetBlue’s Coronavirus Information page for full details.

Frontier

Frontier Airlines has increased flexibility and waived change and cancellation fees:

  • You can now change or cancel your flight through our online change/cancel tool without incurring a change fee. For tickets issued prior to March 10, 2020 with original travel dates:
    • Between March 10 and April 30, 2020, customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee.
    • Between May 1 and May 31, 2020, customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee through March 31 only. Standard change fees will apply for tickets for changes April 1 onwards.
    • For tickets issued March 10 through March 31, 2020, customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee.
    • NOTE: This policy is effective as of March 19. If you already submitted a request via our online form, we encourage you to use this tool instead to complete your change(s) automatically.
  • Important Information
    • Customers can complete a one-time change free of charge as below:
      • Change to new flight of equal or lesser value: change fee waived, no residual value retained by customer.
      • Change to new flight at higher price: change fee waived, customer pays fare difference.
      • Cancel flight: cancel fee waived, customer retains the value of the ticket to be applied toward the purchase of a future ticket to be booked, but not traveled, within 90 days of cancellation.
    • To change your reservation for travel before April 30, the change fee will automatically be waived.
    • To cancel your reservation and retain the value of your ticket to be applied towards the purchase of a future ticket within 90 days of cancellation, the fee will be automatically waived.
    • For changed flights, travel must be completed by November 9, 2020.
    • All tickets are nonrefundable unless otherwise specified in the Contract of Carriage.

See Frontier’s New Change Policy page for full details.

What’s Everyone Else Doing?

Airbnb

Airbnb is offering guests full refunds for reservations booked on or before March 14, 2020 for stays with a check in date of April 14, 2020 or earlier. Service fees will also be refunded. Hosts can also cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status.

Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, 2020, with a check-in date after April 14, 2020 are not currently covered for COVID-19 related extenuating circumstances. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual. Similarly, reservations made after March 14, 2020 will not be covered under Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy, except where the guest or host is currently sick with COVID-19. 

Amtrak

Amtrak is waiving change fees for all existing or new reservations made before April 30, 2020. To change your itinerary to another date or time, go to “Modify Trip” on Amtrak.com or use their app. To cancel your train with no fee, you’ll need to call 800-USA-RAIL. If you plan to keep your itinerary, be aware that Amtrak is modifying its schedule due to lower demand on some routes. Customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will be contacted and accommodated with an alternative departure date or time.

Uber and Lyft

Uber is working to provide drivers with disinfectants to help them keep their cars clean for each passenger. They are also asking drivers with any symptoms to self-isolate and are providing financial assistance for up to two weeks while they are unable to take passengers.

Lyft is also distributing bottles of hand sanitizers and other cleaning supplies to their drivers, and they have temporarily paused Shared rides to help slow the spread of the virus. Similarly to Uber, Lyft is also providing financial assistance to drivers who are out of work if they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Lyft has also activated a new program called LyftUp. The goal of LyftUp is to make sure everyone has access to affordable, reliable transportation. Lyft is partnering with hospitals, local governments, nonprofits, and community organizations who are on the front lines serving their communities.

OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com

Initially, OTAs were being more strict with their cancellation policies than hotels were. For example, at first Expedia was only waiving change fees for hotels in the US if travelers were coming from select European countries.

But as the situation has evolved, it appears that some OTAs have relaxed their restrictions. As of March 26, Expedia and it’s sister sites (Travelocity, Orbitz, and Hotels.com) tell guests that if their hotel offers free cancellation, they just need to sign in to their Expedia account and cancel. If their hotel does not offer free cancellation, it looks like they are still honoring free cancellation for trips beginning before April 30, 2020. For trips beginning after that date, all normal cancellation penalties will apply.

Priceline encourages its customers to cancel their upcoming hotel stays using their new self-service tools online. Locate your reservation here, and look for a “Cancel” button within your reservation page. Here, they’ll present you with their policies associated with cancellation. Booking.com suggests that you contact the property you booked to see if they can accommodate your change of plans. If not, you’ll have to visit their Customer Service Help Center.

Roomkey

Even though we can’t cancel your hotel for you, we want to help. We hope that this guide provides some information and clarity for what you can do to change your upcoming travel plans. If you have to travel, we strongly recommend booking direct to ensure the most flexibility for changes and cancellations. For the most recent information available on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), please refer to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your local health authority. 

Our recommendation to you is to not travel right now. But if you’re already going stir crazy, consider taking a road trip instead of flying. Or go on a hike in lieu of that concert that got canceled. Better yet, you can even pitch a tent in your own backyard (there are probably no bears there) and take virtual field trips from the comfort of your couch. Live vicariously through these awesome travel documentaries that are on Netflix right now, and start building your post-COVID travel bucket list. Roomkey will be here for you when you’re ready to travel again.