Customers whose events are cancelling are getting travel credits, often without change fees, from major airlines. While hotels are waiving cancellation penalties and refunding non-refundable bookings, airlines are not.
For a leisure traveler perhaps they’ll use a travel credit for another trip in the future. In most cases they’ve got 12 months from original date of purchase (not date of the trip) to use the credit. For managed business travelers their company may be paying for the booking directly, and is on the hook for trips not taken. But what about unmanaged business travelers who submit receipts for reimbursement after a trip?
One such person is a reader who contacted me. He’s been a United 1K since the late 1990s. His wife recently took a job as director of a hospital. They were to take an international trip together for an international medical conference that’s instead going to be held virtually.
- They bought refundable business class tickets on United
- They paid ‘about 30% more’ to fly United because of their loyalty
- Cannot get reimbursed until after a trip has been taken, and this trip will not be taken
- Cannot get a full refund, they did not realize the tickets come with a $500 fee per person to cancel
- Cannot use two $4000 travel credits personally, and may not be able to use them on reimbursable trips either.
My advice to them is to eat the $1000, and get $7000 back net. Fortunately it sounds like they’re both professionals, with good incomes, and this will not break them. However you can bet that 22 years of loyalty has been flushed and that two United elites will not be sticking with the airline in the future.
Most unmanaged business travelers aren’t buying refundable tickets and are stuck with travel credits and perhaps no reimbursement. They’ll have to use the credit either for a future business trip or a personal trip, rather than seeing any money back now.