International travel: what are my options

I’m putting this in GQ to gather factual answers, but if you have recommendations, I’m all ears to that too.

I have a flight booked (pre-coronavirus, of course) to Ecuador in July on United. Obviously, I’m not going. The easiest path forward is to cancel the flight and take United credit in exchange, which they require using (‘travel must commence’) within 24 months of the original ticket issue date. But I’m not sure I’m going to be doing any travel on United in that time-frame, so I’d like to get cash back from them, ideally.

Ecuador currently has travel restrictions in effect. You can’t enter the country if you’re not a citizen or resident, or a bona fide diplomat. I am none of the above.

Do I have any other options here? This isn’t exactly United cancelling the flight, which I understand would entitle me to a cash refund. But it seems pretty close. If I’m going to take the credit option, I need to do so by 4/30, though obviously they may extend or change the program in May - it’s just unknown at this point.

We had an end-of-May international flight that the airline cancelled, so we were able to get a cash refund without any problem.

I see your dilemma, ideally you would want to get a refund, but it appears that the airline is playing games to avoid that. There are too many unknowns for them to claim that everything will be back to normal in July and that you would/should plan on taking the trip as originally planned.

To clarify your options are:

[li]You can cancel and take a credit by 4/30 (credit to be used within 24 months).[/li][li]Don’t cancel and maybe take the trip as planned?[/li][/ol]

Is there anything I’m missing?

I guess they are asking for you to gamble with bad odds either way. If YOU cancel and take the credit, and then later things are still bad and they are cancelling flights, you could try to turn your credit into a refund - but they could turn all dickish and play the “yOu KneW wHaT You wErE SiGning uP For…” bllsht. On the other hand, you could wait it out and if things are still bad THEY would cancel and give out refunds.

If it were me, I would wait it out. Then, you could cancel later, and really really make plans on using the credit for another trip within the 24 months. (I know, it’s difficult to foresee what that would be right at the moment.)

Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to make sure I understand, too.

Though, to clarify, the second option is really don’t cancel and see what happens. I’m definitely not going, so I figure the worst case scenario there is I rebook a different trip, and pay the exorbitant change fees. But the best case is that United has to cancel the trip and refund the money. But my guess is that they’ll be pretty unwilling to do that, if at all possible. They need the money, and we missed our chance to put sane conditions on the airlines as part of the $25B bailout.

I suspect that they will forego change fees for the foreseeable future. As for them needing money, there is no telling where this will all end up if it keeps up for many months, yah? We could end up with none of the airlines surviving in their current state.

I have a plane ticket to Chicago for next month. I’m going to wait until the last possible minute to cancel it, in hopes that AA will cancel on their end and I can take the refund. If not, I’ll take the credit. We fly AA enough that it will get used, someday, somehow.

As for rebooking, I’m curious about what you said here:

I thought all the major airlines were waiving change fees right now. Is there something about your ticket that exempts it from this policy?

The change fee is waived through 4/30 (and the reuse is extended to 24 months.) AFAIK, after 4/30, it’s back to the usual rules. (*) Is that incorrect?

(*) At least as far as United is publicly stating now.

Well, good news (for me.) United has extended the deadline from today to May 31, so I get another month to evaluate the situation.