PHOENIX – Usually around this time, we will talk about summer travel and residence offers. But, nowadays, many of you share stories about cancellations. So, I connected with a travel expert to talk about flexible policies and give you some insider tips. Sarah Gavin is the Head of Communications for the Expedia Group. This is our question and answer session! VOUCHERS / WAIVERS and REFUNDS: Q: For non-cancelable trips that can be canceled, can you tell us more about what is expected from airlines for travelers? A: There are many different ways that travel companies really want to make people whole. There are people who travel that cannot be returned to certain places globally, where making a full cash refund is a little more difficult. So they have relief or vouchers. And there are a number of places where there is an actual cash refund, but even in the case of vouchers, we see companies to be much more flexible. It’s not like you have to use this in 90 days or even the following year. Maybe, you have two years to come back and use this voucher with us. So, as I said, this industry really came together to try to be as flexible and creative as possible. ARE WE A FLIGHT BOOK THAT CAN BE RETURNED OR NOT GOOD? Q: You told us that non-refundable flights are usually cheaper, but that might change? A: Usually, many of us book non-refundable airline or hotel tickets because the price is cheaper … What I hope is that refundable tickets will be cheaper than those that were non-refundable a few months ago. So you can really have your cake and eat it too, if you want. You get a deal, and you still get flexibility. MAGAZINE NOW? Q: There are lots of deals out there that might entice people to travel now. So, should we order? A: In general, I would say, you know we take instructions from science. So, from the World Health Organization and from our local government. And now, we will say, stay here! You’d better just stay where you are and take shelter if you can … People will be back to travel in the way that is most comfortable for them. And the good news is, there will be lots of good deals out there that make all those options really possible. BOOK NOW, TRAVEL LATER? Q: There are some great competitions between airlines. So, since we are not traveling now, should we order now at the end of the year to take advantage of this price? A: This will be different for everyone. You know, I think there are people in high-risk groups that we might say, wait a minute. Or if you are going to order something, order further this year. And if you order, the message can be returned. But, to be honest, if you want to order a refundable, there aren’t many negative sides to capturing some of these transactions when they are out there. When airlines start placing more planes in the sky, we will see more routes back. But, there is plenty out there to be had if you are looking for a great place in late summer, early fall. HOW TO FACE A WAITING TIME: Q: When calling an airline, the waiting time can feel like forever. What do you recommend? A: You get more people calling … While waiting time is higher, online self service tools are much better than before. And actually, that would be a very good side effect of this whole thing from the entire travel industry. From here onwards, it will be much easier on sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity or elsewhere in the industry, to manage your trip online without having to talk to someone again. SUMMER-SUMMER TRAVEL: Q: You mentioned you talked to a friend who was supposed to be attending a wedding at the end of July. If someone is in the same situation, is it in-country, cross-country or overseas travel, do you recommend to keep ordering, canceling or waiting? A: I think the biggest thing we heard … I am so sick of being on these four walls. When can I travel again? My guidance to the people who are in that place, with leading travel where it is very clear you don’t have to go is to wait a little. I mean, think about how different the world was a month ago. Imagine how far the difference is in a month. So, if you look at the trip you took in the second half of the summer, if you are not at very high risk, then I would ask the council people to just sit for a while, give it a few more weeks, maybe until mid-May depending on the time of your trip, and see what happens. WHAT IS THE BEST TO ORDER A TRAVEL ON TASTE OR IS MYTH? Q: If we book a trip now that we will take in the future, is it true that Tuesday is the best day to find the best deals on plane tickets? A: There is a little urban legend and a little truth about that. So, it comes from the way, the way, the way, the way back to the day when the travel agent sat there, and you would call them in or say, what do you have? The way airlines will submit their flights means that early Tuesday morning tends to be the best time to get it. So, there is historical truth. Some old systems still work like that. But, there are better ways to get greater savings. HOW CAN WE SAVE MONEY TRAVEL WHEN BOOKING? Q: Hopper and other web sites track flights for travelers and send alerts when it is the best price to book. Usually, airlines change prices about 19 times per day. In fact, there are many recommendations on how to save when ordering, and of course, doing research is part of that. What do you suggest? A: The package is probably the biggest. Well, I could save 20 or 30 dollars on my journey from waking up at 2am on a Tuesday. Now, when you book flights and hotels together, the two separate prices have hidden prices, or the blurred price is what they call (when booking individually). Both can discount more (when they are together in a package), rather than worrying about what the wider world sees as their price. So you can save a lot of money. We are in Seattle, and we go to Cabo all the time … For us as a couple, we can save a thousand dollars … We bring all our families to Cancun, and we save about 2,500 dollars in travel (because of the package we chose) . And it’s worth it with extra sleep because you don’t wake up early on Monday or Tuesday, and you save a lot more money than that. HOW ABOUT THE RESORT AND HOTEL? Q: Have you seen all the same actions taken from airline ticket accommodations to resorts and hotels? A: It must be said, resorts and hotels have really improved. Think about small hotels that have 30 or 40 rooms and they themselves are small businesses. We have issued several policies for people to say, this is what we need to do to make our customers whole. And I am amazed, even at how this small business, has said our business is really painful, but we still believe in doing what is right for customers. We will go forward. So, if you are traveling in the next month or so, there are very good scenarios out there, where you can get your refund or voucher fully online, no need to talk to people, and really feel like you have been taken care. THE FUTURE OF CRISIS: Q: What is the future of cruise ships? A: I think sailing is very interesting for obvious reasons. I think peak cruise time really takes it back in November. So, the key is, what was the recovery of the shipping industry at that time? But, I think, in general, shipping companies understand that it is not interesting to sail. And most ships don’t sail at all now. But, they certainly have an incentive to try to get people back sailing after this is over and it becomes the next season. IS THE AIR IN SAFE AIRCRAFT? Q: This COVID-19 pandemic has changed the level of comfort on the way. I have heard several stories about air filtered safely on airplanes. What do you know about that? A: So in Seattle, Alaska Airlines is our home airline here, and they have a very good video that I recently encountered about their air filtering now. This is basically- the healthiest air you can breathe, is on an airplane. Very interesting. Once again, necessity is the mother of invention. And this will change the journey, the way we travel long term. I think to be better in many ways. OTHER ADVICE: Q: What other advice do you have? A: The World Health Organization actually has a whole section in the Coronavirus section on their site that talks about travel. And they continue to produce very good and quality content. So, I would encourage people to check that too. We live in a very modern world where such data is at our fingertips. And make sure you get it from a credible and good source for anything related to this virus. What questions do you have? Let me know! .
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