What a week, eh? Every morning, I wake up thinking this must be a nightmare but I’m confident we will get through it. My family and I are doing our part to flatten the curve by not going out except when we absolutely need to and we’re staying well away from our neighbors when we do our daily walk around our neighborhood. Like I said last week, I’m actually enjoying the mandatory quarantine since I’m home with my family and we’re all healthy. It’s a nice change of pace to be home instead of always rushing through airports.
What really sucks, besides having over a dozen friends and family getting really sick, including the priest at our church, is not being able to see my dad. He’s 91 and pretty much on lockdown in South Florida. Fortunately, he knows how to FaceTime so we call him multiple times a day because he’s awfully lonely as he can barely see and hear.
Check in on seniors
That’s why this week, I made a number of calls to seniors on behalf of our church to see if they needed any groceries, medicine or help during these crazy times. Cold calling brought me back to my first job, which was as a college recruiter for Marymount College Palos Verdes, when I used to call prospective students and answer any questions or arrange a campus tour. Although calling was nerve-wracking at first, they all went well and the seniors were very appreciative. Fortunately, none of them needed any help because their neighbors and family members are taking care of them. I even learned a lot, like about the mom & pop fruit and vegetable shops I never knew about. Also, many stores offer senior citizen hours before they open like Trader Joe’s. If you have any senior neighbors, please reach out to them or volunteer at a local church or organization. No doubt these are the worst of times but can be the best of times if we all look out for each other.
I don’t think anyone should be traveling right now unless you absolutely must. But I’ve never seen airfares this low in some markets like Los Angeles to Miami, a route I often take. On top of that, the planes are going out pretty much empty (I mean just a handful of people on some flights).
L.A. to Miami $20 each way
You can fly tomorrow or in May for—get this—$20 each way on an American Airlines jet (see screenshot above) between LAX-MIA. This month, they’re still using a wide-body 777 on one of the flights and if you have elite status and pay the main cabin fare $55 each way, it’s pretty much guaranteed to get upgraded to a lie-flat bed. However, if you do get upgraded, especially on a narrow body, you should consider passing it up and going back to economy if there are a lot fewer people. I’m reading stories/tweets about how some airlines are upgrading a lot of standby employees and the back of the plane is empty so consider passing on the upgrade so you’re around a lot fewer people.
Why now is the best time to buy
I recently wrote about how this is the best time to buy plane tickets for the summer because flights are so cheap and the restrictions are really loose. Read about it here.
Don’t use miles/points if flights are cheap
If you are flying, this is definitely not the time to be using your miles/points as most airfares are so cheap. The screenshot below is of AA’s cost to use miles on the same cheap flights above.
The one trick to get your money back from airlines that canceled your flight
The most common question I’ve been receiving from readers is that X airlines will not refund their money even when the airline cancels their flight. That’s crazy and flat-out illegal in the United States. According to many, as you’ll see in the stories below, United has been the worst.
- CrankyFlier: When Airlines Refuse Refunds, There Will Be Consequences
- USA Today: Airlines owe you a refund when they cancel a flight. So why is United balking during coronavirus crisis?
If United or any other airline cancels your flight (if they haven’t canceled it, then wait and see if they do, but make sure you cancel at least 10 minutes prior to takeoff) and tries to give you a credit and refuses to give you a refund, ask to speak to a supervisor and read them this line from the DOT:
“If your flight is cancelled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation – even for non-refundable tickets. You are also entitled to a refund for any bag fee that you paid, and any extras you may have purchased, such as a seat assignment.”
If the representative still won’t budge, hang up and call your credit card company, as long as you purchased your flight in the last 60 days. As Joe Brancatelli, a veteran business travel expert, tweeted yesterday: “You can write about nasty airlines not doing cancellation refunds, but if you want to help readers/viewers, tell them IN BIG LETTERS: Credit cards WILL process refunds. Airline rules and DOT boilerplate are irrelevant now. Tell them to go FIRST to their card and contest charge.”
More tips on getting your money back from airlines from USA Today:
- “Keep pressing your case with airline representatives, over the phone (late night is best for lower call volume) or via social media, and cite the DOT policies. Be polite and respectful, not angry and rude. Customer service representatives have been overwhelmed by the crisis.
- Document everything. Provide dates, times, flight numbers and reservation numbers, McGee said. And always record names, titles, times and dates of all in-person and phone conversations. The more information, the stronger the case, he said.
- File a complaint with the airline and copy the DOT and the EU if applicable.
- Contact your credit card company for potential help.”
Lastly, below is an article we wrote for SmarterTravel.com: Where to Donate Some of Your Travel Budget to Help Others
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