My Experience Cancelling Flights To/From Asia For Full Refund Without Official Travel Waivers Due To 2019-nCoV Coronavirus

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Currently many airlines have either ceased operations or put travel waivers in place to allow travelers avoid hotspots of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV but what about destinations in Asia that don’t have official waivers?

I had a couple flights this week that I decided I no longer wish to take and made experiment out of it trying to get the airline to cancel or change the dates free of charge.

I was initially encouraged to try this because everyday we receive mail and messages of readers that are concerned traveling to various destinations in Asia at the moment.

So far I was unable to get any conclusive advice to people other than trying to get an exception or eat the cost of cancellation/change fees.

I had two tickets booked myself during the previous week:

  • Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Bali on a Spontaneous Award that’s usually non-refundable;
  • Thai Airways Denpasar-Bali to Bangkok on a Saver revenue fare (US$195) that’s refundable however the refund fee exceeds the ticket value;

Generally speaking whenever I have to cancel a flight I’m ok with paying a reasonable fee which is why I like to travel on mileage tickets as fees usually hover around the US$50 mark.

Unfortunately the Singapore Airlines Spontaneous Awards as per the T&C of the awards are not able to be cancelled and refunded. Nevertheless I decided to give Singapore Airlines a call as Singapore now has several cases of Coronavirus cases.

The calls are routed to an offshore call center in India which is really horrible in quality. It was almost impossible to understand the agent and it took a second call to have someone else on the line. I then was dealing with that agent for like 35 minutes during which he messed around with the ticket several times. In the end he sent it to a desk for review,

I called three days later to inquire what happened to the ticket now and was informed that they have refunded the ticket and it would take 10-14 days to process the refund. Why didn’t they just charge me the $75 as I offered and be done with it? Oh well, even better this way.

Thai Airways proved to be difficult. When you buy a ticket on their website it’s officially issued by their local ticket office which then is your exclusive point of contact. So no matter where in the world you are or purchased the ticket, in this case all communication went through the office in Denpasar, Indonesia.

Thai basically refused to do anything but apply the ticket rules which would eat up the entire value of the ticket. I decided to become a nuisance to them and filed several complaints to Thai Airways Customer Relations and also government regulators.

A few days later I finally received an email that they have granted a waiver for my ticket.

I’m using Thai Airways to/from Bali several times a year so it’s not like I’m a one off customer. Oh well, at least in the end they finally relented.

Conclusion

If your airline is currently not offering a travel waiver to the destination which might be risk prone at the moment I suggest to just contact them and ask for an exception to see what they can do for you.

I suggest to offer a possible date change or see if they can offer a reasonable change/cancellation fee and not expect it to be done entirely free of charge. With destination countries that have implemented restrictions such as no travel to China in the last 14 days it’s also a good excuse to say “I’ve been there just now” if the flight is coming up shortly.

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