Today we have a Reader Question concerning a situation that happens quite often: Passengers miss their flights or are unable to depart due to bad weather with a non-refundable hotel reservation waiting at the destination.
Our reader was affected by superstorm Dennis that is current wreaking havoc in the North Atlantic, in particular Iceland which is where one of our readers intended to go – obviously without success.
Dear loyaltylobby team,
we’re a group of four and have book a trip on Icelandair via Reykjavik to Europe this weekend. Our plan was to stay in Iceland for three nights on a free stopover and for that purpose we booked the attached hotel to leverage my Marriott Platinum status.
Icelandair has now cancelled our flights and there are no other connections as the airport is closed. I contacted the hotel and asked for cancellation but they shrugged me off and said I’d have to pay in full without refund. The hotel was prepaid.
Is the hotel in the right here? Should Marriott offer me a refund?
This is one of the situations where it pays to not have any prepaid reservations and instead have a flexible rate. Of course the best deals are substantially less expensive when booked as a prepaid rate.
The best choice is always the use of a discount rate with flexibility such as AAA or a corporate rate which can be cancelled on short notice, often the same day of arrival.
In this case a prepaid rate was booked and the hotel refused to cancel it free of charge or against a reasonable fee (such as the first night withheld).
Unfortunately for the customer the hotel is fully within it’s rights to decline a free cancellation here. Such an instance should be covered by the travel insurance of the passengers affected by this storm and subsequent cancellations. It’s not the greatest customer service however considering the extend of damage the cyclone has left in Iceland.
I would maybe go another route and ask the hotel if it is operating as per usual and if there are any impairments then asking if the cancellation can be processed. It’s likely that in such a storm properties try to lock themselves down as much as possible.
Alternatively the guest can contact Marriott Customer Care, maybe via social media to intervene and maybe ask for an exception.
This situation highlights how important it is to have a comprehensive travel insurance policy, either standalone or as part of a premium credit card.
While I think that hotels should provide some flexibility in extraordinary situations I realize that we as customers have no standing in demanding refunds in such a case. It would be different if the hotel would say a substantial amount of hotel services aren’t available due to the storm, here I’d ask to cancel FOC based on these restrictions.