Guide to Business Trip Cancellation During Coronavirus
Even before governments enacted unprecedented travel bans, many enterprises and SMBs had already begun to eliminate all essential business travel due to the spread of the coronavirus.
If you have questions about business trip cancellation during the coronavirus—whether you can get refunds, whether you should cancel domestic travel, and more—this guide will help you decide how to move forward.
How to know whether to cancel a business trip due to covid-19
As the coronavirus spreads to nearly every populated region of the world, many countries are requesting citizens to shelter in place and not travel abroad. At the same time, there are several travel bans in effect. Dozens of countries have closed their borders to non-citizens.
In addition, flights are being canceled and some airports are being fully or partially shut down.
All that to say that if you have an international flight scheduled in the next couple of months, you should seriously consider canceling it or changing the dates. Otherwise, you risk not being admitted to your destination country or not being able to get back home if flights are later grounded.
What if my trip is in 2 months or more?
It's difficult to say at this point when travel will return to normal, Many conferences and events scheduled for October and later are still due to go ahead. Given how much time you have, it's probably safe to make no changes now and make your decision the month before the event.
If you are planning a business trip for the future, say in 3 months' time, it would be advisable to pay the extra for a flexible ticket or a refund service like Flexiperk. These will allow you to change the flight/hotel date with no added cost or get you a near-total refund.
What about domestic travel?
Domestic travel is currently not affected from a legal standpoint in many countries, however domestic travel still has the potential to be unpredictably challenging. If you have the option to drive to your destination, that might be a smarter choice.
If you’re still not sure whether or not to cancel a flight to a domestic or international destination, consider the following:
- Travel bans that are in place in your country, the destination, and the layover cities
- Risk of flights being grounded or airports being shut down
- Volume of cases and growth rate of new cases
While business travel will surely make some sort of recovery, during the coronavirus, most business travelers are choosing to cancel or postpone all nonessential trips.
Can you get refunds for business trip cancellation due to the coronavirus?
Due to lower demand, flights are being canceled regularly, and airlines do give refunds for flights that they cancel.
As for trips that you cancel, every airline and hotel has its own policies. During this time, most vendors are updating their policies to allow cancellations that otherwise would not be fully or partially refundable. For example, KLM is currently allowing anyone with a flight departure before May 31, 2020, to rebook their flight for a later date without having to pay the typical change fee. With their policy, you can also change your destination without paying additional fees.
While many vendors have some sort of similar policy that allows for rebooking, most are not giving away refunds due to coronavirus trip cancellations at this time. Even airlines with generous policies during the coronavirus are only refunding trips to and from very heavily affected areas, such as Northern Italy.
For more information, see our section on the coronavirus policies of airlines and hotel cancellation policies.
Travel insurance coverages
If your company has travel insurance, then most likely, coronavirus-caused cancellations are fully covered. Business trips experience far more cancellations than vacations. The client could cancel on you. The issue that prompted the trip could get resolved. Insurance usually covers a broad array of reasons for cancellation. That’s why it’s highly likely that coronavirus is covered, and if you have travel insurance, you should be able to get a full refund for your trip without having to rebook per the hotel and airline’s policy.
Travel insurance also covers ransom protection, terrorism coverage, baggage loss, and medical emergencies. Depending on the nature of business travel at your company (frequency, cause of travel, destination countries, etc.) you might not need or be able to afford everything that travel insurance covers.
Here are some popular travel insurance vendors that likely cover coronavirus cancellations in some or all of their insurance plans:
- Visitor’s Coverage
- Travel Guard
If your company has a travel insurance vendor, follow their protocal for cancelling your trip.
Check out our FlexiPerk product for an alternative to travel insurance that offers trip cancellation and changes at an affordable rate.
Reusing your airline and hotel credits
Many vendors are offering credits instead of requiring you to reschedule your trip. Because it depends on the vendor’s coronavirus cancellation policy, there’s no easy answer as to how or when you’ll be able to use the airline or hotel credits you’ll receive.
However, there is one tip we can offer you. Travel blogger and former corporate travel manager Suzanne Wolko says, “A monthly report of airline credits pending helped me reach out to travelers to make sure they were aware of their remaining credits and would use them.” Make sure to have a system in place for keeping track of the wealth of credits you might amass during this time.
What about points earned on loyalty schemes?
To learn more about the impact of the coronavirus on airline loyalty schemes visit our section on Airline Cancellation Policies During the Coronavirus.
How to cancel business travel due to the coronavirus
Step 1 - Review relevant cancellation policies
If you are a TravelPerk user or have booked through a travel management company this isn't necessary but perhaps helpful.
When handling a business trip cancellation for yourself or a team member, the first step is to review the airline’s policy. Make sure to find their new covid-19 or coronavirus policy and review, as it will include the most up-to-date information and special allowances.
Once you know what the travel vendor is offering customers during this time, you can talk with your team member or manager to determine the best route forward.
Because most airlines are offering free date changes, you might want to go ahead and pick a date in the future rather than just cancel. Of course, that’s only if guessing a future date could work for the purpose of the trip. You’ll also want to find out how long you have to rebook your trip, so you can push the decision date a little farther if you’re not sure when to reschedule it for.
Most hotels, however, aren’t offering refunds unless you already booked accommodation with free cancellation.
To cancel the trip, you’ll want to contact the appropriate company:
- If you booked with a business travel management platform, contact their customer service via email, chat, or phone
- If your trip was booked with a business travel agency, contact your agent
- If you booked your trip with a consumer booking website, then most likely you’ll want to reach out directly to the airline or hotel, as most consumer websites do not offer much in the way of travel support
Step 2 - Make contact but expect delays
Important: Expect delays and waiting time. Whether by phone, email or chat, do not expect this to be a speedy process as most travel management companies, hotels, and airlines are overwhelmed by cancelation calls.
Consider how urgent your case is. Is your flight tomorrow or in 2 months? If the trip is more than a month in the future, send an email and wait. Do not spend your time or that of customer support agents on trips you can afford to wait a couple of days for them to process. Only call if you need your case resolved in the next 12 hours.
When business travelers use a travel management platform that includes travel support, then it’s not necessary to contact the airline or hotel directly.
As mentioned above, reach out to support via email, chat, or phone.
Step 3 - Make it clear this is due to coronavirus in some way
This may sound like a no brainer, but if you neglect to say this in your chat or email you will cause a lot of unnecessary back and forth. When requesting a travel support representative to cancel a trip for you, make sure to clearly state that the trip is being canceled due to the coronavirus.
The representative will then be able to cancel within the special provisions and policies allotted by the vendor. This could include a larger refund, travel credits to be used at a later date, or free changes.
Note: TravelPerk customers can find contact information for our travel support (including local numbers) here.
How to cancel a trip for FlexiPerk users
For TravelPerk customers that have signed up for our FlexiPerk plan, we are able to get a refund between 80% or more of the trip’s total.
Even though FlexiPerk users are eligible for an 80% or higher regardless of the reason, it’s still important to state the coronavirus as the cause for the trip cancellation.
Note: For an additional fee on all trips, FlexiPerk allows businesses to cancel any car, hotel, train, or flight. Learn more about our flexible travel solution here. TravelPerk also offers the purchase of flexible fares, which does not require signing up for FlexiPerk.