With the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affecting the tourism industry especially on air travel and the fact that tourists like me can’t travel for trains, airlines have started to have extraordinary options with regards to cancelled flights during this period. As I have booked tickets throughout the year with a few airlines, and with some key flights happening during the start of the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of my tickets have been affected so far.
Here are my experiences with dealing with my refunds or changes from the airlines that I have booked my tickets on.
I’ll proceed down in alphabetical order.
Before I start, here’s how I rated the services:
Value: 10/10 for exact full value of my booking, minus points for any significant terms attached.
Usefulness: 10/10 for the easiest way I can use the value of my booking, minus points for any significant terms attached.
Efficiency: 8/10 for airline just meeting mentioned standards, 10/10 for airline exceeding mentioned standards, minus 1 point from 8 for each week delayed.
Ah, my favourite airline, AirAsia. AirAsia was the first airline to offer flexibility as I know it with two options to change my flights, the first to convert my flight fare value to my credit account to book a new one, valid for 365 or 730 days, or to get unlimited date changes with no flight-change fees until 31 October 2020.
With a few useful AirAsia legs booked thanks to their AirAsia Free Seats Promo, I tried both options.
Convert AirAsia flight fares to credit account, valid for 365 or 730 days
The 365 Days Credit Account request needs to be submitted through AVA. Once done, I received a case reference just like any other AVA request I’ve made.
Unfortunately, instead of the 5 to 10 days as mentioned on AirAsia’s Facebook page here, my request was only forwarded from AVA to the relevant team 30 days after my AVA request, and the process would from then take approximately 15 days to complete.
My first credit account credit for the COVID-19 situation was finally credited 11 days after the above email.
Interestingly, despite submitting 365 Days Credit Account requests for all 3 bookings on the same day back to back, the actual refund date was very spaced apart. While I submitted 3 refunds together, only 2 have been processed so far.
Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 8/10 (I have 1 to 2 years to decide what flight I want to book next using my credit account, and I’ll definitely have to fly AirAsia again anyway for their non-hub-and-spoke routes. Money is still locked with AirAsia.)
Efficiency: 3/10 (AirAsia claims in their promotional messages that it takes 5 to 10 days, but in reality it took way longer than that – 46 days and counting in fact.)
Total Score: 21/30
Unlimited Date Change with no flight-change fee until 31 October 2020
The Unlimited Date Change with no flight-change fee until 31 October 2020 request needs to be submitted through AVA. Surprisingly, AVA is smart enough to provide me with all my flight options on the chat.
Once I had confirmed my flight, my new itinerary was sent to my email before AVA could tell me that my new itinerary will be sent to my email.
My new flight itinerary for October was received instantly.
Unfortunately, AVA has lost all her witty replies during the COVID-19 pandemic such as graduating from AirAsia Allstar University. She must be stressed out with thousands of passengers talking to her.
Value: 10/10 (Exact same flight legs as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 7/10 (Zero fare flights changed to a peak date. Credit account can be used in separate bookings. However, the unlimited date change period is rather short, given the unpredictability of the current situation.)
Efficiency: 10/10 (My itinerary was sent to my email before AVA could tell me that she would send it to my email.)
Total Score: 27/30
Jetstar Asia offers a full refund in the form of a Jetstar travel voucher valid for 6 months from date of issuance. This was done through Manage Booking, but is now done through Jess, also normally known as the live chat.
Jetstar Asia aircraft parked at T4 Apron, Singapore Changi Airport. Photo taken before the Circuit Breaker.
I received this email at 10.00pm after completing the form on Manage Booking. Yeah that’s not going to happen in a day.
Almost 26 hours later, I received an email to say that my Jetstar travel voucher would be issued in the next 48 hours. Not bad.
On the next day, I received another email to say that my Jetstar travel voucher will only be issued in 7 business days.
2 days after that email, I received yet another email that my Jetstar travel voucher take up to 14 days to be issued.
8 days later, I finally got my Jetstar travel voucher.
In total, it took 12 days from request to issuance as compared with the 48 hours first mentioned in the first email. The voucher also expires quite fast with only a 6-month validity. Now I have to book $239.44 worth of stuff in a single booking by 27 September, or the rest of the value would be forfeited.
Argh, and that’s only the first of more bookings to come if the COVID-19 situation remains the same or worsens.
Value: 10/10 (Exact same value as what I paid before.)
Usefulness: 2/10 (I have only 6 months from the date of issue to decide what flight I want to book next, despite still being in the COVID-19 pandemic, AND the Jetstar travel voucher needs to be used in a single booking.)
Efficiency: 8/10 (12 days from request to issuance as compared with the 48 hours mentioned in the first email.)
Total Score: 20/30
Qantas via CheapTickets.sg
This is by far the most complicated, inconvenient and unsure process of what is even going on.
Qantas announced on 19 March 2020 that they will be stopping international flights from 1 April 2020, and my April booking was thus directly affected. I had to contact CheapTickets.sg myself to start the refund process as no information was provided by them despite the airline already announcing that they are stopping operations temporarily and passengers who had booked directly with them would receive their fares in flight credit.
I submitted my request for cancellation under My Booking, to which, I received this email:
Currently, Travix Customer Service is facing high volumes of customer calls and emails due to the Corona virus and the impact this has on their travel plans. Unfortunately, this results in a delayed response to your request.
In case you are seeking more information about cancelling your tickets to or from China, please check the website of the airline you are travelling with, to access the latest information.
If you would still like to receive a personal response from us, please reply to this email.
Thank you in advance for your understanding!
2 days later after submitting my request to CheapTickets.sg, Qantas officially sent me an email with regards to cancelling your booking for a Qantas Flight Credit. But of course, I couldn’t do it as my booking was done through a travel agent.
(I had actually physically gone down to the Qantas service desk at Changi Airport Terminal 1 before Qantas stopped flying to check on my booking, but as my booking was under a travel agent, they couldn’t do anything, not even a letter for insurance.)
I then contacted Qantas to try my luck if they were able to assist in getting my Qantas Flight Credit directly.
One day after Qantas has suspended their flights, CheapTickets.sg sent me an email to say that my booking has been cancelled. Yup, definitely.
The email also tells me not to contact CheapTickets.sg. So friendly.
16 days after I sent my request to Qantas, I received an automated reply that they will take a little longer than normal.
21 days after that, I finally got a reply from Qantas which pretty much pointed me back to CheapTickets.sg.
35 days after the previous email from CheapTickets.sg, they sent me another “update”, which wasn’t much of an update.
Dear [RailTravel Station’s real name]
Hereby we would like to provide you with an update on the status of your refund request.
The Coronavirus and the disrupted air traffic resulted in an enormous amount of requests and cancellations. We are constantly on top of your refund request, however, we are dependent on the airline and their refund process.
As we transferred the ticket amount to the airline after you bought your tickets with us, this means that we must first get your refund amount back from the airline before we can transfer the amount back to you.
With your airline having the pressure of so many requests, it can take a long time before your request has been processed. Currently, we cannot provide you a time indication of this process. We understand the inconvenience this can cause, and we hope for your understanding. Above all we wish you good health.
This is despite Qantas saying when I visited them at the Qantas service desk at Changi Airport Terminal 1 before Qantas stopped flying that the refund process had kicked in immediately when they announced that they had stopped flying. Hmm.
Value: 0/10 (I do not know if I will be receiving Qantas credits or a refund through CheapTickets.sg as no solid updates have been given by Qantas or CheapTickets.sg.)
Usefulness: 0/10 (I have not received any direct messages about any progress yet.)
Efficiency: 0/10 (No news about being close to a refund till date and pushing the blame to Qantas.)
Total Score: 0/30
This score may be updated if I receive my money back from Qantas or CheapTickets.sg. I will have to seriously reconsider booking any tickets though travel agencies from now on.
Key dates for clearer understanding of my current refund situation:
16 March 2020: First and only request sent to CheapTickets.sg
18 March 2020: Qantas officially sends me an email with regards to my affected booking
28 April 2020: Qantas replies to my request which led me back to CheapTickets.sg
7 May 2020: CheapTickets.sg sends me an email to say that they “cannot provide [me] a time indication of this process”
A clear difference from CheapTickets.sg, here’s Scoot.
Scoot aircraft parked at South Apron, Singapore Changi Airport. Photo taken before the Circuit Breaker.
Scoot first offered a full refund in the form of a Scoot travel voucher valid for 12 months from date of issuance.
Scoot said that the refund process would take up to 30 business days, but I received the approval on the next day.
The approval came along with the message that my voucher would be issued within 24 hours. It was issued only 16 minutes later. However, instead of the Singapore Dollar amount that I paid, I was given the voucher in Australian Dollars instead.
Value: 8/10 (Due to the depreciating Australian Dollar, I got less than what I paid for thanks to the conversion rate.)
Usefulness: 1/10 (I have 365 days to think about where I should book my next flight, but the options would get less and less every day due to the depreciating Australian Dollar value. I was constantly making a loss every day with my Australian Dollar Scoot voucher.)
Efficiency: 10/10 (While Scoot mentioned that it would take up to 30 business days, the whole process from request to voucher issuance was completed in about 22 hours.)
Total Score: 19/30
Scoot then updated their policy to a 100% refund via the original method of payment, or a 120% refund in Scoot vouchers, valid for 12 months. These options apply even if you have previously received a 100% refund in the form of Scoot travel vouchers.
As such, I opted to get a 100% refund via my original method of payment in order to cut my losses as my fare was in Australian Dollars, which is depreciating steadily against the Singapore Dollar. The last thing I would want is a depreciating voucher.
This process was a simple one-click step. I chose to get my refund via Mode of Payment.
The case email mentioned that the process would take up to 14 weeks. That’s fine, at least I’m getting cash back.
28 days (4 weeks) later, Scoot confirmed my refund back to my original mode of payment and said that it may take at least 15 days for the refund to show up on my credit card statement.
In actual fact, it took less than 7 days. (I don’t check my bank statement every day so it could even have been earlier than that.) And it was way better than the Aussie Dollar refund that I was expecting, which I wanted to just take to cut my losses.
Value: 10/10 (The refund was simply a reversal of my credit card charge, so it was like nothing ever happened.)
Usefulness: 10/10 (I have real money back to offset my credit card bill now.)
Efficiency: 10/10 (While Scoot mentioned that it would take up to 14 weeks, I received my refund in just 4 weeks.)
Total Score: 30/30
So there’s my COVID-19 airline refunds experience thus far. I’m glad to say that the airlines that I frequent and quite like flying with have performed quite well in this COVID-19 situation, and the travel agent and other airline that I don’t regularly use or fly with don’t really have good conditions for their voucher refund, or any news if I will get my refund anyway.
I guess this experience has taught me who I should be buying tickets from and flying with in future after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Do you have your own experience with refunds during this COVID-19 pandemic? Share your experience below!