Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Apr 06, 2020

Join us to discuss your travel-related questions, comments, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales, etc.!

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel. Before we get started, I want to share the link for the Post's coronavirus FAQ and its coronavirus live blog, which is continuously updated with the latest developments. You can also sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked in the newsletter are free to access.

In this week's Travel section, Alex Pulaski wrote about using your downtime to assemble a travel photo scrapbook. Do you have a digital photo organizing strategy or software program to recommend? Tell us what and why below -- we'll definitely be revisiting this topic. Most compelling answer gets a copy of "Always Italy" by Frances Mayes. On to your questions!

We have May flights to and from Italy that were booked on the American Airlines Website; the flight numbers no longer exist, but the record locator does. Since the flight numbers no longer exist, does that mean it has been cancelled, and that we are entitled to a full refund? (There has been no contact from American Airlines.) All flight numbers indicated that they were operated by British Airways. Since we used a credit card for American Airlines, is that the carrier we should contact? Our seat reservations had to be made with British Airways; we used a different credit card. We assume that we will have to also contact British Airways to cancel our seats (they have a different locator number and flight numbers than American Airlines). Are we entitled to a full refund for the seats?

If your flight is canceled then you get a full refund. Here's that enforcement notice the Transportation Department issued last week. The best way to find out if your flight has been canceled is to ask your travel agent or to call the airline. I suspect your flight was canceled if the flight numbers no longer exist. But with all this craziness, it's hard to know. Good luck, and please let me know if I can help. Here's how to reach me.

We put down a deposit (half of the rental!) for a beach rental in August. Give our age (over 65) we do not plan on any travel during the pandemic until a vaccine becomes available. Is there any chance of getting our deposit back?

Did you go through a realty company or through a rent-by-owner site, such as Airbnb or Homeaway? Have you contacted them directly? There are differing policies regarding cancellation. Homeaway, for example, has some guidelines for cancellations through April 30, but they basically are just "encouraging" private owners to do the right thing; nothing is being said yet for beach trips in August.  

In late February, I purchased tickets through Travelocity for a domestic flight in April. The ticket price was higher than usual, so I opted to pay $8 for Travelocity's price match. It's a nice feature -- Travlocity matches the lowest price and sends you a refund when you fly. You can see your refund amount when you look at your travel details. I was due a $205 refund, but I got an email this morning that due to Covid-19, my flight was no longer eligible for the discount. What!?? Even though the flight I was on was cancelled and rebooked for a later time, I was willing to just take flight credit rather than fighting for a refund. But now this seems like a bit too much. Is there anything I can do to reclaim my $205?

That's not right. Here are a few Travelocity executive contacts. If those don't work, please let me know.

But I didn’t know who else to ask. I have been reading it’s best to have a plan in place if a member of your family should contract the coronavirus. I have 2 small children and my husband is immune compromised. We live in a tiny townhouse in Old Town VA so if would be really tough for one of us to quarantine away from the rest of the family. Would any of the hotels here be wIlling to take in a sick person for a few weeks? Thanks!!

That is a really great question that I do not know the answer to. But I will ask the hotel association. 

Personally, I would not encourage a virus-positive family member to stay at a hotel and potentially expose more people to the virus. Your family could move to the hotel, but you could have contracted the virus as well, even if you are asymptomatic.  It is best to hunker down at home, even if your place is small. You just need to create a quarantine space for the sick individual and be extra vigilant in shared common areas. The CDC has advice on what to do if you are sick.

 

I have a good story suggestion for the Travel Section's writers: An in-depth look at our country's passport, and a comparison to other countries' passports. This suggestion arose two months ago when I had a cruise vacation to South America aboard Coral Princess--yeah, that Coral Princess, which was in the news recently--. While waiting for my return flight to the US, I had the opportunity to take a really good look at my passport, and noticed that it contains famous quotes stretching across every two pages and illustrations of famous landmarks. I wouldn't mind knowing how the quotes get chosen and who draws the illustrations. Another topic might be how immigration folks choose a page to stamp their entrance and exit visas.

Sounds interesting, thanks for the idea! If you have ideas about what you'd like to see from us at this time, you can also email travel@washpost.com.

As someone who has not experienced the best customer service from American Airlines in the past, I wanted to give them credit for being extremely fast and efficient with my refund for upcoming air travel. I called early in the morning and only had to wait a few minutes. My customer service representative was courteous and assured me that my refund would be forthcoming. Fast forward about a week later, and sure enough, my refund was received on my credit card used for my original purchase. It seems like a minor victory when it only takes a single phone call to get a customer service issue resolved.

Love to hear that. Thank you for sharing this.

Travel end of April, beginning of May. Flight numbers no longer exist, re-booked onto earlier flights (6 hours earlier). This seems to be cancelled,yes? Have you gotten any feedback on people's dealing with SWA? Best to call. I'm assuming.

Yes, I would call that a cancellation. Southwest is really good about answering the phones. I also have some Southwest contact information that might be helpful.

Except to move medical personnel/volunteers to hot spots, who is flying? TSA reports load numbers at about 5 percent of pre-virus levels for last year. There was a report last week that an AA flight left LAX with one (1) passenger. How can pilots social distance in the cockpit? Why not cancel 80 to 90 precent of flights and keep flight crews safe until the social distancing rules are relaxed?

Most U.S.-based carriers are still flying, but they have also cancelled thousands of flights.  Many flights have just a few passengers. For example, right now, on my flight app, there is only one plane on the runway at Dulles and one at the runway at DCA. Usually, there are many more. Pilots do have to sit closely to their co-pilots, and some have tested positive for coronavirus.  Any move to halt air travel would have to come from the feds, and right now, the airlines must provide a minimum level of service in order to qualify for coronavirus bailout funds. 

Since I had two two-week scheduled vacations now cancelled, I'm thinking I'll have a ton of banked PTO days to take at whatever point we are all allowed to travel again. If you could take 4 to 6 weeks off of work to travel anywhere, where would you go? (Asking out of curiosity for fun from our travel gurus, not necessarily where should I personally go...)

I would go back to Sedona and spend a month hiking. There are so many hiking paths I haven't had time to explore yet. If I ever make it out of France, maybe I'll just move back there.

I know y'all don't have a crystal ball, but wanted to get your opinion on possibly salvaging our planned fall 2020 trip. We initially planned on going to Greece for two weeks at the end of September/early October. NYC - Athens - Delphi - Island Hopping - NYC. However, given the current situation, we're not sure whether we should still plan on Greece, cancel altogether, or go ahead and fly into New York, then do a fall foliage trip around the Northeastern US, maybe NY to Maine? Thanks for continuing to hold these chats, hope y'all are doing well!

I truly hope I'm wrong with this prediction, but I think traveling in fall is going to remain problematic. Even if the curve is flattened, until there is a vaccine, the virus isn't likely to disappear. Flight cancellations will occur as fewer people want to be confined in that sort of space with others, especially for long trips. But you don't have to do anything about your trip right now, so I'd hold out hope while planning for something that doesn't require far-flung travel. 

I was recently able to reschedule a cruise I was supposed to take this month for October. I want to purchase travel insurance in case the virus comes back and I get sick this fall. Even among the "cancel for any reason" plans, there seems to be a large variation in price between plans. Anything else I should look for?

Travel insurance is changing almost by the minute. I just wrote a story about the developments. I would note that "cancel for any reason" is on the endangered species list. So if you can still buy it, you might take the opportunity.

After I download a trip's worth of digital photos onto my desktop computer (lots of storage space), I copy the entire file as a duplicate of the originals. That way, while I'm editing and/or cropping the pictures, if I don't like the way one turns out, I can delete it, and copy the original image in order to try again. I create a hierarchy of folders, starting with the year. Inside that is a folder for each trip, within it each destination, each day, and so on. To the name of each picture, I precede it with the YY/MM/DD and abbreviation of the face, before the DSC or DSCN number So for example, a picture taken today in Washington might be catalogued as 20-04-05_dc_DSC1234.

I used to use Picasa to organize and edit my travel pictures, but Google decided to discontinue it several years ago. Now I organize and develop my photos in Adobe Lightroom, and then use Blurb to put an album together. You can keep your book “virtual”, or have them print it. The software can be a little finicky to use, but their customer support is really responsive. The finished printed product looks very professional.

Hello, my wife and I have a 30-day trip to Europe on September 15, she is a controlled diabetic who is 54 years old, we have everything paid, plane, hotels, I understand that it will be our decision to travel, but I would like your opinion, to those dates would be advisable to do it, thanks.

You should wait to cancel until the travel date is much closer. If the airline cancels the flights, you will at least get that money back. As for hotels, familiarize yourself now with their cancellation policies; most have not made any decisions yet on travel in September re: refunds.  And talk to your wife's doctor. 

Is there any hope that airlines will refund non-used tickets due to the virus? Delta is holding about $7,000 of my money for flights that had to be canceled. I have "credit" that has to be used within a certain time and I know I will reschedule but, meanwhile, they are going to reap benefits from governmental "bailouts" and still will have my money.

Sadly, if you canceled your flight before the airline, you only get a ticket credit. The airline thanks you for the one-year loan, which automatically turns into a grant afterwards.

Understanding that there are folks with far worse problems out there....we had just spent January booking a 3-week trip to Europe for late summer -- 5 different locations, and so many places were already booking up that we focused on nailing down all the flights, car rentals hotels/airbnb's, etc. And then, just as we were about to apply for my 13-yr-old son's first passport, the coronavirus hit. Now we're seeing that the government isn't issuing any first-time passports unless there's a true emergency, which of course is as it should be right now. Our problem is that with a late July departure we really won't know if it's a go/no-go until it may be too late to get him a passport, in which case we can't go anyway. And complicating things is the fact that we bought good travel insurance, but not cancel-for-any-reason -- so by late July, if our flight isn't canceled, we'll lose thousands of dollars if we don't go. Any thoughts? Are they accepting applications and putting them in a queue for later, so it's there as soon as they start processing again? Also, my understanding is that because he's a minor, both my husband and I have to go apply for his passport in person -- but god knows when we'll be able to do that again! I don't want to take anyone's attention away from the true emergencies, but also don't want to get stuck in a situation where we can't cancel but can't get a passport. Thank you in advance!

You can apply for a first-time passport if you can find a facility that is open, such as a post office. The State Dept. has a list of facilities. This is the info on State's website: While you can still apply in person for a U.S. passport at some acceptance facilities and renew through the mail, you should expect significant delays receiving your passport and your citizenship evidence documents.

With the shelter-in-place order, only you can decide if this outing is considered essential.

You could also wait till the crisis is over and pay extra for expedited service, once it resumes.

I wrote earlier, before I tried to cancel my reservations. American has a quick form and sends an immediate cancellation notice. Now I have to see about Trip Insurance.

I'm so glad to hear that. Thank you for sharing your story.

Us taxpayers are giving US airlines $50 billion. Virginia has a stay at home order until June 10. If United Airlines accepts a traveller’s cancellation request, it will only refund the fare after ONE YEAR! What rights do travelers have to get a full refund on request and not have to wait so long?

The Department of Transportation just issued an enforcement notice reminding airlines to refund their tickets within seven business days. You should get a full refund if your flight has been canceled.

I have a trip scheduled for early June to Seattle and then CA. Should I cancel it given how things are? I'm flying Southwest so they'll refund my money but the hotel and other things might be a loss. I'd like to wait and see but it's 60 days out and I'm worrying.

We have no idea how long the virus will last, but most travel providers are waiving cancellation and change fees, depending on the travel and booking dates. These parameters are always changing. I would check the policies of your hotels, etc., and then wait till you are closer to your departure date. In fact, companies are asking travelers to not make any changes till they are 72 hours to a week out.

Just a shoutout to Alaska's amazing customer service. I had 2 flights that I needed to cancel and after only 20 min on hold they volunteered to refund all my money because of schedule changes, no hassles what so ever. They are my favorite airline to deal with!

Thanks for letting us know.

I won't be hopping on a plane anytime soon, but I'd love to take a road trip to visit a few friends. Here's hoping they can ramp up testing for the virus and its' antibodies so we can start living in public again.

I second that. Nothing makes me happier than a road trip. Maybe a nice national park tour from Phoenix to Salt Lake City. In a convertible. 

The IATA website has very good information about travel restrictions for arriving in many countries -- except there is nothing for England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom. Can you provide information about arriving at Heathrow for an overnight stay before travelling to a Schengen Member State (such as Germany)?

As far as I can tell, there are no travel restrictions for those arriving at Heathrow. But I think you will have real trouble getting into Germany as there is currently an entry ban for non-EU citizens. 

We are both well over 70 and have tickets from CA to OH in mid-April. I haven't yet tried to change or cancel them, so I don't know how American will respond. If the quarantine is still in effect, can they refuse to change the date?

Your airline will probably cancel your flight and try to reschedule you. When it does, you can ask for a full refund. If it doesn't, you can still ask for a ticket credit.

With our (Maryland) Gov. restricting travel out of state, it seems that my upcoming flight on Southwest (to a now-postponed wedding) should be refunded even if the flight itself isn't cancelled. Too much to hope for, huh?

That sounds logical, but not the way it is working. Perhaps it will still be cancelled. Hold off till close to departure time. And Southwest has changed its policies, so you can use the funds toward a ticket for travel through June 2021. 

If I cancel my flight due to Va Gov stay at home. United will only refund fare in One Year! What are my options to get my money back within a week?

United would have to cancel your flight to get a refund. Otherwise, you get a ticket credit.

I have round trip tickets for myself and 4 family members to Europe at end of July. They are on United and purchased in November, 2019 through AAA travel agency with a AAA Visa credit card. Also have regular travel insurance with Alliance. I am 77 years old and wondering if I should cancel these plans now or wait until closer to travel date?

No one knows where we'll be in July. I'd like to think everyone will be good to travel by then, but you never know. Remember that travel insurance normally doesn't cover you when you are afraid to travel. You have to file a claim for a covered reason.

My wife and I had planned an extensive trip to New Zealand and Australia for mid-March, which we had to cancel due to coronavirus-related quarantines in those countries. To deal with our trip insurance company I am trying to find a way to determine if the flights on which we previously had reservations last month and early this month actually operated. Can you help me with how to locate such information?

I'm sorry you had to cancel your vacation. Have you tried FlightAware?

Supposed to do Greek Isle on Windstar. We have 10 days to cancel with full refund. How many tour companies/cruise lines, especially smaller ones, do you think will crash and burn? I worry because who would have thought Thomas Cook would fail?

I addressed that issue in a Navigator column a few weeks ago. The smaller operators are more vulnerable. I don't know about Windstar, but it's definitely worth considering a cancellation at this point.

Well, I'm 99% certain that my June vacation to Hawaii will not happen. I have three weeks of "use it or lose it" vacation. Since we are still allowed to exercise outdoors, I will probably take some random days off in the summer just for hiking and bike rides, whenever the weather is good.

That sounds so relaxing -- really anything that does not involve being at home sounds like the best vacation!

I booked a direct flight DC to Dublin on United, who has just re-touted me to Newark and onward to Dublin. The only reason I booked United Business was the direct flight. If I cancel now, could I be entitled to a refund due to route change and Virginia Gov mandated shelter at home policy?

Technically, United canceled your flight. Refund!

Thank you for answering my question about cash refunds last week. Last Wednesday, I contacted United, spoke to supervisors, then filed a refund request online citing DOT regulations. United has not responded. Meanwhile, my ticket is still open. The outbound was originally this Wed 4/8, but no flight appears on my ticket, only the return flight on 4/25. Do I need to take any action before Wednesday to actually cancel the ticket? The UA cancellation request screen shows only the return flight, the total R/T ticket value, and only credit or rebook options. Many thanks and also thank you to Christopher for yesterday's column.

Yes, you would need to formally cancel your ticket unless United cancels it. I would contact the airline to find out if the flight is formally canceled. It looks like it might have been.

My wife and I had to cancel a trip to New Zealand and Australia recently due to coronavirus-related quarantines. For trip insurance purposes, we would like to know how to find out if the various flights we had booked for the last few weeks actually operated; can you tell us how to find out?

If your flight departed recently, you can check the Flight Status tool on the airline's website. You can also try FlightAware. Or you can check the same route for an upcoming flight. If the plane is flying, say, tomorrow, it most likely flew a few weeks ago. However, if you need official proof, you will need to contact the airline.

Hi, posting early to thank you for last week's information regarding cancelled flights and mandatory refunds. My flight was cancelled and I was reticketed. I went to the airline website for a refund. The site asked for my ticket number; I had two ticket numbers by then (original and rebooked one) and did not know which to input. I called the airline, got a very helpful customer service rep. The original ticket number was the one to use (that intuitively makes sense but I wanted to be sure). I followed all the prompts and within two days was notified that I was to receive a refund. I would not have known about the Department of Transportation refund rule without you all, so THANKS!

You're very welcome! I'm glad you got your money back.

Hi all, just got an email this morning from United saying that it is decreasing the amount of miles needed to achieve reward status classifications. Do these gambits actually work in times of great stress for airline travel, and if they do something like this can they renege the offer later? I know these are unprecedented circumstances we're in with covid-19.

Good question. Airlines can -- and often do -- change the rules of their loyalty program. It would not surprise me to see United moving the goalposts once things bounce back. In fact, I can almost guarantee the airline will do that.

Good afternoon. Jet Blue just cancelled three of the four legs of our round-trip ticket in late-May, but their email says that "for now" I can get a credit. I understand that I'm actually due a refund per the Dept of Transportation. How can I get a total refund?

That's a cancellation. It looks like JetBlue is trying to keep your money. I would contact the airline and let them know about the DOT enforcement notice.

Thanks for the timely story about getting refunds! I had tickets on Lufthansa on flights that were canceled (supposed to be departing tomorrow). Lufthansa assures me I'm due a full refund because they are under EU laws. The only hitch is that I bought the tickets through American Express Travel, so I need to go through them to cancel. I did that, and AMEX said they sent the request to Lufthansa for a refund, but that it can take a long time. When I log into AMEX, it says trip has been canceled and I'm due no refund. I'm trying to figure out how squeaky of a wheel I should be. Should I be trying to follow up with AMEX again or wait until there's a chance of my refund working it's way through? I don't want to clog phone lines for people in more dire straights, but I also want my $4k back before everyone runs out of money.

Amex is your travel agent. Under DOT rules, it needs to refund your ticket within seven business days. I might give them a little more time, but you should have the money in weeks, not months.

I don't want to tax you and may be able to get through to United sometime. But: I'm scheduled to go to Verona via Frankfurt on May 2. One more time: it better to wait for the airline to cancel the trip or for me to do so? I bought the ticket Dec. 31 with reward miles on a credit card account that I then had to close (for business reasons). Under my trip status, United is offering a "waiver, that's all I see so far." If I cancel and try to rebook later, will they let me since the account is closed? On their site under general info, they are offering electronic travel credits good for 36 months or a credit good for 1 year. How do I get the former and not the latter since I have no idea when in the future I would be able to go? If I cancel the first leg of the trip, does that automatically cancel the second leg? Thank you for your ENORMOUS help at this incredible time for everyone. You guys are awesome!

It's better for the airline to cancel. Then you can get a full refund. If you cancel, you only get a ticket credit that expires.

We are currently booked for a big RV trip with another family in July, with plans to fly into Denver, rent the RV and stay in various campgrounds. We have already ditched any tours to minimize contact. That said, July seems fairly unlikely that we will either be comfortable flying or will even be allowed to fly. Would you try to push it to spring break 2021, which would involve a lot of RV site bookings right now? Push it to summer 2021? We have been told that we can use our flight payment from now until June 30, 2021.

I'd probably push it out as far as possible in the hopes that everyone is vaccinated by then. 

When should I look into cancelling a trip to London and Paris at end of July on United Airlines? Purchased tickets in November 2019. I am 77 years old. Have travel insurance through Alliance on a AAA visa card.

You might wait a little while to see what happens. If the situation hasn't improved by the end of May, maybe it's time to cancel.

Some of the people still flying are US citizens repatriating from another country. Two different ex-pat friends of mine finally were able fly back to the US last weekend, after the countries they were in shut down commercial air travel.

That's true of some international flights. 

It looks like five Travelers are in this week's chat. Are you all in different places? Home or elsewhere? Anybody in the office? Just curious.

No one is in the office. I'm at home. Chris is working from France. I believe my other colleagues are all also home. 

How much advance notice must an airline give to customers before international flight departure time? Do customers have to accept rerouting due to flight consolidation?

If the airline cancels your flight, then a refund is due. They can offer to reroute you on a different flight, but you don't have to accept it.

for early May (actually, a month from today). That certainly isn't going to happen. I had to buy their seats directly from the box office because they were accessible seats. The theater's website only says that performances are suspended through April 12th and that the box office is closed. I presume that I am going to be contacted at some point when they cancel the next month or so of tickets? Don't they have to have someone available to at least try to reschedule tickets that are only available from the box office? I don't know if Broadway will even reopen this summer, but the show they are supposed see is now showing seats available for sale through to early August. I would rebook them if I could as I don't have to have the money back. But I have no idea how to approach things if the box office is closed and the tickets can only be booked through the box office.

If you can't get through to the box office you can dispute the charges through your credit card. I would do that soon. You have 60 days under the Fair Credit Billing Act.

Whenever possible, we pay the little extra it costs for a hotel room that you don't pay for until you get there. I was able to cancel all three hotels for our trip from Germany to France once our flights were cancelled. I know if it's a vacation destination there may be a deposit involved, and that is a different situation. But if possible, not paying in advance gives you a little wiggle room.

I always do the same thing. I know you can save money with a nonrefundable advance purchase, but even before COVID-19 was an issue, I thought it made sense to pay a little more for the promise of a full refund.   

My international flight is scheduled to depart on 4/28 from Dulles. Virginia Governor mandated a stay-at-home policy with penalties until 6/10/2020. Do I have a right to a refund if I cancel?

No, only if the airline cancels your flight.  Read Chris's recent Navigator column to better understand refunds, credits, vouchers, etc.

I am a United Global Services customer (lucky to have a direct phone number) and I called to find out why the award miles I used for a now-cancelled reservation had not been redeposited in my account. The very nice customer service rep helped show me that the redeposit does NOT appear in the latest activity feed in your MileagePlus account, it appears under the date of the booking. So when I looked back in October, there were the refunded miles! Just a tip before waiting on the phone to ask a representative, look first for the date you booked the ticket to find your miles.

Thank you for making life so much easier for so many people!

How far in advance is scheduled departure time do airlines have to notify passengers that the flight is cancelled?

I'm not aware of any regulations on that subject. But maybe there should be.

So I stupidly, stupidly, stupidly, cancelled my April flight in March & took flight credit. I’m actually okay with flight credit, but because the electronic certificate was issued in March, I still have to rebook by November (12 months from when I bought the ticket). So I figure this is an expensive lesson, but I have a question. Do I have to use this thing on one trip? It’s about $1000 - was two tickets. Or can I split it on two separate trips and not have to pay a change fee on the second trip booked?

You should be able to split it. Don't worry, a lot of people did the same thing. Chances are, some airlines will extend their credit offer to give all of us more time.

I'd like to chime in giving American all sorts of kudos. I had to reschedule my return trip a week later, then the first leg of that trip was cancelled. All of my dealings with them were prompt, friendly, and accurate; I got my trip home last Saturday. Added kudos for multiple announcements in the terminals that there was no food or beverage service on their flights, so if passengers wanted something, they should purchase it in the terminal before boarding.

Thank you.

Suppose they cancel your flight but rebook you on flights within 6 hours either way. Because that falls in United’s new rebooking policy, are you still up a creek? Or can you get the money back based on the cancellation alone?

United's policy is so vague, I'm not even sure their own employees know how to interpret it. If the airline cancels your flight and tries to rebook you on another one, and asks for you to accept the new flight, that's generally a cancellation.

it needs shouting from the roof tops to emphasise that if the airline cancels your flight you can have a refund* but if you cancel then it will be a voucher. * some airlines are offering a bonus - where they have cancelled the flight - if you chose a voucher instead of a refund. Finnair offers 10% for example. BUT it is still the passengers choice whether to take that or not.

If I were allowed on my rooftop, I would definitely shout that, among other messages to the world. Thanks for repeating the mantra.

We have two house reservations for a family trip to Smith Mountain Lake June 13-20. Considering that your crystal ball is out of service, would a reasonable person think we'll be going?

I can't stop sounding like a broken record: We don't know what the future holds for any of us, and we do not want to provide incorrect information. All we can advise is to wait and see.

Hi, I think the refund process is one of Dante's circles but what appears to be needed is cancellation and a refund request. I spoke to American and had a very pleasant encounter. The rep told me she would cancel my ticket and I could file the refund request online with the original ticket number. That seemed to work as I have a refund being processed on my credit card. Good luck!

Finally, a happy refund story!

Flew American Airlines with my brother to Ft Meyers to drive my mother home (in her car) this past Saturday. We flew early (figuring a plane that had less people on and off that day). DCA was a ghost town. We were the only two passengers on a full sized Airbus plane. 5 crew members. We sat in first class (even though we had cheap tickets) since we had the plane to ourselves. The American Airlines staff was very pleasant as we talked to them about the general situation they were facing. There were other flight cancellations, so we wondered whether they really needed to fly down (then return to DCA) before heading to Memphis. One explanation we heard from a financial friend is that the airlines need to keep flying if they want bail out money. On the drive back to the DC area, there wasn't much traffic. There was a southbound checkpoint at the FL/GA boarder (presumably to quarantine NY, NJ, CT, LA drivers), but no problems heading north. We found social distancing in place at truck stops (for gas and carry out food). People were polite. Fast food drive through restaurants were open (so were their bathrooms, but no sitting in restaurants). Electronic message boards on the highway cautioned visitors to quarantine (but no visible enforcement). Even on the Maryland beltway (singling out NY, NJ, CT). Rest area bathrooms were open along the long, straight through drive on I-95.

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

We made reservations on January 3 on the American Airlines website for travel to Italy on May 4, returning May 26. The flights had a stop in London with a different flight number. All segments of the flight had the indication that they were operated by British Airways; our seat reservations were made with British Airways. Our American Airlines flight numbers no longer exist; our record locator does exist. We do not have any ticket numbers. Our British Airways flight numbers (different from the American Airlines flight numbers) do exist; we also have a different locator number with British Airways. British Airways has proactively informed us by email about options for applying for a voucher for future travel — good for travel within 12 months of original date of departure. We are still hoping to get a refund as we get closer to May 4, but which airline do we contact? Which airline has the final word? Has American Airlines essentially cancelled our flight since the flight numbers no longer exist? This would make us eligible for a refund on the flights. Who would we contact about the cost of our seats made with British Airways? When we go to our American Airline locator number, it says “The schedule changed for one (or more) flights; please contact reservations for help.” As far as rebooking goes, the current statement on the American Airlines website states that we can rebook for travel within 1 year of the date the ticket was issued or before December 31, 2020 whichever comes first. Clearly, British Airways is being more flexible about rebooking. Currently neither airline mentions a refund. Who is the primary/official contact and what are your suggestions? Thank you for your time. Stay safe.

You qualify for a refund. Since British Airways has been in touch with you regarding the flights, I'd go to them first. 

Don't airlines have insurance or self-insurance (or re-insurance), or other financial contingency plans, in case of natural disasters or a pandemic? If so, what percentage of their losses would such a thing cover?

Short answer: no. If they did, then they wouldn't have had to ask for a bailout.

I've made about 30 travel books on Shutterfly and Picaboo and have settled on Shutterfly as my program of choice. Once you get used to the system, it is very easy to customize, tweak layouts, resize pictures, match widths and lengths, line things up, work with different backgrounds, embellishments and fonts than the ones in your chosen "theme" etc..

Plus one more --thanks for the recommendation!

Looks like our hour is up -- thanks for chatting today, everyone. Today's photo tipsters, please drop us a line at travel@washpost.com to claim your price; all prizes will be mailed once we return to the office. Stay safe, and join us again next week for more Talk About Travel!

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Helen Carefoot
Helen Carefoot is Travel's editorial assistant.
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