Continental: No Refunds For Swine Flu Cancellations

The swine flu outbreak is making thing tough for people who had booked Mexican vacations. Reader Kurt is one such person. He got a full refund from the hotel, but is dismayed that Continental won’t extend him the same courtesy.

Kurt says:

I just got off the phone with Continental Airlines customer service because I had to reluctantly cancel my vacation to Cozumel, Mexico at the last minute because of this Pig Fever “epidemic” going on. It’s not that I’m afraid of catching what’s just basically the flu, but I’m more afraid of the hysteria surrounding it and what the US may do (stopping flights resulting in my becoming stranded, etc.) as a result of people feeling kind of icky.

So, I called Wyndham to cancel my hotel and they were great. No problems there at all. They offered a full refund even though my date of stay begins Monday May 4.

Next I called Continental Airlines where I spoke with Charlotte. She informed me that she would be more than happy to give me credit good for the same amount, valid through January 31, 2010 (a year after I bought the original tickets). But, I explained to Charlotte, I won’t be going anywhere else in this timeframe, so I would like my $1051.38 credited back to my card please. She told me that this would be IMPOSSIBLE.

See, I apparently purchased a non-refundable ticket with the package deal I had received via Wyndham. I understand what non-refundable means, but when the CDC advises you not to fly to Mexico, no matter how Un-goddamn-refundable a ticket is, you’d think that the impossible would become the possible and they’d give me back my money.

Alas, this was not the case. Even when I posed an admittedly, in retrospect, borderline-terrorist threat of, “Well, what if, for some reason, Continental planes all started crashing and I feared for my life to use the airline, would I get a refund then?” Charlotte went back to the well and replied, “No, sir, you would be issued credit for Continental Airlines good for one year after the date of original purchase.” That’s comforting.

She indicated to me that she had been denying refunds all day to people because this was their policy. I’m not the only one in this situation.

Well, Kurt, we’re afraid we don’t have good news for you. This swine flu thing is out of their control, so allowing passengers to rebook or take credits is probably all the airlines are going to be able to do for you unless you have a refundable ticket. But look at it this way — at least you didn’t book a cruise to Mexico.

Over at cruise passengers are being told that instead of going to Mexico — they’re going to California. No refunds, no rebooking, no nothing, unless they bought the cruise line’s insurance package. After a fair amount of outrage one cruise line decided to offer a 50% discount on the next cruise as compensation, but only if the your cruise was entirely to Mexico. Skipping just one Mexican port? Too bad. Enjoy your day at sea.

So it could be worse.

Have any of you seasoned travelers managed to get an actual refund from an airline because of the swine flu outbreak? How did you do it?


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