(WSVN) - The coronavirus is spreading across the world, and many South Floridians had travel plans into countries where the virus is hitting. If you want to cancel your trip, can you get your airfare back? The answer may surprise you, and it’s why one South Florida woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
The Montotos have a wonderful family tradition.
Maria Montoto: “My girl has seven kids of her own.”
When one of those grandkids turns 15, Maria and her husband take them on a trip of their dreams.
Maria Montoto: “Be able to travel to see how other people live, what other people do, people’s foods, their traditions.”
The first granddaughter wanted to go to Italy.
Maria Montoto: “We started in Florence, and we worked are way up to Venice. The second one came, and I took her to Paris, and she went also to Marrakesh. We went to the Sahara Desert.”
The third grandchild wanted to go to Asia in June, so Maria went to work, bought plane tickets and booked a 14-day cruise.
Maria Montoto: “It left Japan, and it went to Mt. Fuji, it went to Beijing, the Great Wall of China.”
Of course, we all know what’s going on in China and Japan.
Maria Montoto: “The coronavirus breaks out. I’m canceling because there is a deadly virus out there that I don’t want to catch, I don’t want my granddaughter to catch.”
Maria first called the cruise line to cancel the trip.
Maria Montoto: “They gave me my money back. Norwegian had no problem.”
Then the headaches. Maria had bought their Delta plane tickets through Orbitz, the online travel agency.
Maria Montoto: “Then Delta tells me, ‘Well, you booked through Orbitz. They’re the ones you have to deal with,’ but then Orbitz tells me, ‘If it’s OK with Delta, it’s OK with us,’ so it’s OK with nobody.”
Maria was told she couldn’t cancel the plane tickets, but she could postpone them if she paid a $900 penalty. Maria said no.
Maria Montoto: “I’m not canceling my trip because I want to cancel it. I’m canceling it because we can’t go over there.”
The travel agency and the airline wouldn’t budge, meaning Maria is going to lose the $3,500 plane fare because she’s not taking her granddaughter to countries battling the coronavirus.
Maria Montoto: “I feel so frustrated. My hands are tied, I’m at their mercy.”
Well, Howard, if you buy tickets to a country where there a dangerous disease like the coronavirus breaks out, can you cancel the trip and get your money back?
Howard Finkelstein: “This answer may really surprise you. If you buy tickets to a country battling a disease, terrorists or any life-threatening situation, legally, the company does not have to return your money. And if you cancel, they can charge a cancellation fee with the amount based on your contract. Of course, the business can also return all of your money if they want to.”
We emailed Orbitz and Delta, and they got together and quickly straightened things out.
Orbitz wrote, “Our customer relations team has confirmed through conversations with Delta Air Lines that Delta is processing a full refund, and Delta did not charge a penalty fee.”
Delta confirmed, writing, “We are in the process of issuing a full refund for Maria.”
Howard Finkelstein: “Maria got lucky. She was dealing with good companies. To protect yourself, buy travel insurance, whether you are going on a cruise or a flight, because you never know what curveballs life will throw at you.”
Maria is happy to get all her money back, and her granddaughter will still get her trip … just a little later.
Maria Montoto: “‘Wait until all this dies down. We can take you for your 16th, sweet 16, and by then the outbreak has either been contained or there is some kind of antidote for it.'”
Now, the coronavirus is spreading across Asia and Europe. If you are traveling there in the next few weeks or months and want to cancel, in some cases the airlines are returning the money. If they won’t refund your money, try to rebook a few months from now, ’cause it’s a little risky to fly into some places.
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