Most of the world countries announced a state of emergency and banned non-essential travelling. The question is: what is non-essential travel? How can people stuck abroad get back to their countries of residency and what happens when your flight is cancelled or suspended due to the COVID-19 crises?
What is Non-essential Travel?
This shouldn’t be any difficult riddle to hack but let me to give you a few examples what belongs to so called ‘non-essential travel’ during COVID-19 quarantine. It is basically any travel which is either done purely for the pleasure of travelling or could be easily postponed (unnecessary business travel, non-urgent family or friends visits).
It is actually you who decides if the travel you plan is essential or not. But even though the travel might be necessary for you, it has to be also the authorities of the particular state where you travel which agree on this (if you travel from country to country). Before you decide to travel check-out if you’re allowed to enter the country and if the reason you travel might be considered as essential also by the local authorities.
An example of essential travel could be getting back to the country of your residency or a necessity to travel due to urgent family or business issues. Another thing to bear in mind is that when you decide to travel you are also totally aware of any risks which can come along: getting infected, being the one who can infect other people, increased expenses due to cancelled flights or being eventually denied to board.
You also have to count with the fact you may not be able to enter the country you fly to in case you don’t have all the necessary documents, residency of the country or you are suspected of being positive of COVID-19, etc.
The best site where to check all the information about travel restrictions is IATA Travel Centre. There you can see that some states have closed their borders, some follow heavy restrictions and the entry is allowed for nationals only and so on. The passengers are responsible for studying these travel changes in advance, and airlines don’t take any responsibility of selling you a flight to a country you can’t enter.
Which Airlines Has Suspended their Flights?
Many. This pretty much narrows your choices in case of ‘essential travels’ we talk above. Here is a list of selected airlines which either reduced or absolutely suspended their operations.
Norwegian — On March 16th the company announced suspension of its 85% flights.
Brussels Airlines — suspended all flights until 15 May. The first suspension applied to 19 April but on 9 April the company announced they are obliged to extend the temporary suspension.
Lufthansa — announced in the beginning of March suspension of 23,000 flights between 29 March and 24 April.
Ryanair — suspended all flights until the end of May. The popular low-cost airline plans to start with its operation in the beginning of June.
EasyJet — cancelled 90% of flights from 24 March until further notice. As published on https://www.flightglobal.com/ EasyJet will continue to review their flight schedule on a weekly basis to ensure that it matches current demand.
Turkish Airlines — suspended all international flights starting from 27th March until 1st May, and all domestic flights from 3rd April until 20th April.
Air France — reduced flight capacity by up to 90% and this suspension is planned until the end of May.
Cathay Pacific — cancelled 96% of flights during April and May.
American Airlines — reduced international capacity of flights by 75% from 16 March until 6 May.
How can I get back to my country?
Contact the nearest embassy of your country ASAP. They should be capable to give you the best advice in case you got stranded abroad. Many states are sending out special planes or other forms of transport to help their citizens who appeared to be in outside their home countries at the worst possible time (coronavirus). The rules differ from country to country, but you have to count with a possible self-quarantine which doesn’t have to be directly in your home or even in your home town.
Will I get a Refund When My Flight is Cancelled?
What a tricky question! You should theoretically get your money back, but each airline treats this special COVID-19 circumstance differently. I can so far compare just 2 airlines which cancelled my unlucky flights: Norwegian and Brussels Airlines.
While Norwegian offers with the flight reschedule and credit with CashPoints also the possibility of a refund, Brussels Airlines refuses to handle with any cancellations and refunds at all. They basically deleted all Refund pages so whenever you make this kind of search in Google they appear as 404: this page doesn’t exist. The same happens when you try to visit the account through your logins or reservation number. The only options are rescheduling of your flight or changing your booking for a voucher which you can use until the end of 2020.
Well, well, well, this policy smells a bit fishy to me. I understand the situation that the airline is overloaded with enquiries or struggles to stay alive and pay their employees. I feel sorry for them but what about the customers? Especially the ones who themselves lost their jobs, spent hundreds for a flight and don’t have money now to book a new one to get back to their country in case their state is not able to help them?
Moreover, I booked my Brussels flight specifically with the cancellation insurance in case my flight is cancelled. Can I ask for a refund now? It seems like I can’t. Unlucky for them, EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean thinks something different. I’ll cite her from a great article to check if your flight was cancelled due to COVID-19: Don’t expect an easy flight refund for your cancelled trip during the coronavirus pandemic: “Airlines must refund cancelled flight tickets. They can of course also offer a voucher but—and this is very important—only if the customer agrees to accept this. If the customer does not want a voucher or other proposed solution, the company must reimburse.”
When your flight was cancelled and you want to claim a refund, contact the customer service. If they keep sending you the canned answers they were told to send, fill in the complaint sheet every single Airline should have. I filled in one five days ago and I’m still waiting for the reply.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Stay safe and healthy, guys! I hope that we all will be able to get back to our regular lives without a need to swipe away too many loses… I also wish that most of the airlines will be able to offer us their great flight services because without them, there wouldn’t be any wonderful ‘non-essential travels’ and adventures we all love! If you miss travelling during your lonely COVID-19 quarantine, check-out my 7 Tips for Virtual Holidays