Coronavirus hotel change and cancellation policies: What to know
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information. It was originally published on March 13, 2020.
If you have travel scheduled in the coming weeks and months, you’re probably wondering how to proceed as more people test positive for the novel coronavirus around the world.
Already, we’ve seen U.S. airlines scrambling to respond to both the coronavirus outbreak and the U.S. government’s ban on travel from Europe as COVID-19 continues to spread. Major hotel chains have also put change and cancellation policies in place, though some are more customer-friendly than others.
Here’s what you need to know about current hotel change and cancellation policies. We’ll keep this post updated as changes occur.
IHG announced March 11 that it would waive all cancellation fees for new and existing hotel bookings worldwide between March 9, 2020, and April 30, 2020.
That’s in addition to a previous policy where the hotel chain allowed travelers with reservations to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan with stays between Jan. 23, 2020, and March 9, 2020, and Italy and South Korea between Feb. 28, 2020, and March 9, 2020, to cancel without penalty.
IHG also reduced required stays by 25% or more for elite members, whether measured by nights or by points. That means to get (or keep) IHG elite status, Gold Elite members will only need to complete seven qualifying nights or 7,000 points, 30 qualifying nights or 30,000 points for Platinum Elite or 55 nights or 55,000 points for Spire Elite.
“With more constrained travel plans and a shorter time period during which members can earn Elite tier status, we are reducing the Elite membership criteria required (nights or points) this year by 25% or more,” IHG said in an email to elite members.
Marriott’s policy is an update to a previously more restrictive one that only waived the cancellation fees for select countries in Asia and Italy, and not worldwide like IHG.
On March 13, Marriott announced that it would allow customers with existing reservations, including prepaid rates, to change or cancel without charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival as long as the change or cancellation is made by April 30, 2020. Marriott also said that customers making new reservations from March 13 to April 30, 2020, will be allowed to change or cancel their reservation at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival.
Marriott also paused points expiration until Aug. 31, 2020, and extended the expiration of Suite Night Awards to Dec. 31, 2021. Marriott Bonvoy members with a Free Night Award expiring in 2020 can use it through Jan. 31, 2021. The hotel also noted that it was “too early” to make changes to elite status qualification policies.
Hilton announced on March 12 that it would continue to waive change fees or offer full refunds:
- For guests traveling to, through or from China with stays from Jan. 23 to March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from Italy with stays from Feb. 24 to April 30, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from South Korea with stays from Feb. 24 to March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from Saudi Arabia with stays from Feb. 27 to March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling to, through or from Israel with stays from March 10 to March 31, 2020.
- For guests traveling between the U.S. and the following European countries from March 13 to April 12, 2020:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
It has now also expanded the waiver to include all reservations – even those nonrefundable or advanced purchase rates – that are scheduled for arrival before April 30, 2020. These can be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival.
Hilton also said that any new and existing reservations — even nonrefundable or advanced purchase rates — that are booked between March 12 and April 30, 2020, for any future arrival date, can be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival.
Additionally, the hotel said it would pause the expiration of all points scheduled to expire between now and May 31, 2020, and planned to make updates to the requirements for earning tier status for 2021.
Finally, Hilton also announced that it would be extending the expiration date on all Weekend Night Rewards issued between March. 11 and Aug. 30, 2020 until Aug. 31, 2021. There is no additional action required by Honors members.
World of Hyatt said that all existing reservations made before March 13, 2020, for stays between March 14 and April 30, 2020, can be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival, including the more-restrictive Advance Purchase Rate reservations. New reservations for travel you make between March 13, 2020, and April 30, 2020 – for any future arrival date – can also be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival.
Previously, Hyatt offered customers who booked nonrefundable, prepaid rates on or before March 8 10,000 World of Hyatt points (worth about $170, according to TPG’s valuations) if they canceled their stay. The offer is still available good for travel through the end of June, but if you choose this option you won’t get a refund. In all cases, only bookings made directly through Hyatt are eligible.
The program is postponing award chart category changes (with the exception of five properties) and will no longer implement peak and off-peak award pricing until 2021. These changes were originally slated to take effect March 22, 2020. In addition, Hyatt is suspending points forfeiture until May 31, 2020.
Hyatt is also extending elite status and benefits for all those in the Asia-Pacific region. Those whose status would have initially expired in 2020 will now see an extension to 2021, and those whose status would have expired in 2021 will have until 2022. This goes for both elite status and benefits associated with the status, such as Suite Upgrade Awards.
Customers residing in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy with reservations at Choice Hotels in the U.S. and Canada and guests with reservations at Choice Hotels in China, Japan and Italy can cancel reservations without a penalty until March 31, 2020, Choice Hotels said.
Additionally, Choice is now extending special exceptions for all Advance Purchase Rate nonrefundable reservations made directly with Choice Hotels on or before March 10, 2020, for travel through April 30, 2020, for travel in the U.S. or Canada. Customers with prepaid reservations who don’t travel can receive Choice Privileges points for future travel. Bookings less than $75 total will receive 5,000 points, $75 to $150 total receive 7,500 points, and reservations greater than $150 total receive 10,000 points. TPG values Choice Privileges points at 0.6 cents each, making 5,000 points worth $30.
Travelers who made reservations with Best Western may cancel at any time, as long as cancellation occurs least 24 hours before arrival, and the reservation is canceled on or before April
30, 2020. Best Western told TPG the policy applies to any reservation for any future arrival date and in all regions. The hotel says it will waive all cancellation fees and the policy applies to all booking channels.
A more restrictive cancellation policy may apply to a limited number of high-demand dates at individual hotels. Finally, Best Western Rewards members who booked their stay with points will receive the points refunded to their account when canceling a reservation.
“Our valued guests are an important part of our community and I am proud to extend relief to those affected by the virus,” David Kong, president and CEO said in a statement. “Amending our cancellation policy to afford increased flexibility and protecting elite status for our loyalty members are simple but significant examples of our commitment to our guests.”
Airbnb updated its “extenuating circumstances” policy to allow free cancellations of reservations in the U.S. booked on or before March 13, 2020, with a check-in date of April 1, 2020 or earlier. This policy also applies to travelers coming from the U.S. who have reservations made on or before March 11 for travel between March 13 and April 13, 2020 in the Schengen Area of Europe.
Previously, cancellations without charge were only allowed in Mainland China, South Korea and Italy.
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
Several OTAs are also trying to manage the flow of rebookings and cancellations, as Expedia and Orbitz instructed customers with bookings more than two months out to “wait before contacting us.” A TPG reader who contacted Expedia to modify a reservation received a wait time of 14 hours.
Another OTA, Trip.com, said late last month that it would expand coverage of the initiative to individuals “directly and unavoidably affected by the outbreak,” such as those who test positive for the virus. The site said those who test positive would be eligible for a guaranteed full refund as well as healthcare workers “devoted to efforts directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
Additional reporting by Liz Hund.
Featured photo by Rima Brindamour/Getty Images.
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