COVID-19: People Over Profit

I have to share this, because regardless of how you feel about COVID-19, when there is a virus that has a contagion level that we believe this virus has, avoiding confined spaces like a steel tube with 300 other people, mass transit, festivals, conferences, etc. is probably a prudent decision.

In my case, this is not an economic decision. Still, the idea that many who have scheduled personal travel could lose thousands of dollars because they are making the responsible decision to delay their plans is unconscionable. Many people will travel because they can’t afford NOT to, this doesn’t seem right, it’s stupid, and it’s wrong.

I am not in a state of fear. In fact, I have no issues traveling. I believe humanity will go on, but it demonstrates good corporate responsibility to create travel restrictions, to encourage people to work from home, and to avoid mass transit and areas where contagion is more likely. These responsibilities extend to all corporations, especially those in the travel and leisure industry because many people will make the wrong decisions because of your imposed policies and the economic hardships you impose upon them. No individual should feel that they do not have a choice in a time like this.

Regardless of if I get the money I seek below, in the form of a credit or refund, I will not be traveling next week, but this is not a luxury everyone has, and it seriously disturbs me. I have faith that humanity will go on, and I have hope that organizations that do not do the right things will suffer the perils of their decisions.

See more of the conversation on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rbocchinfuso

Below is my dialog with a corporate travel agent.

ME: Hello, I need to cancel my trip to San Francisco next week as a result of a corporate travel ban due to COVID-19. Can you please cancel my flights and hotel and let me know the outcome (refund, credit, etc.). I suspect this will be the first of many cancellations, just waiting to hear about future events. Thank you.

AGENT: Hello Richard!

ME: Hello

AGENT: I hope you are doing well today. I’ll be happy to assist!

ME: Thanks

AGENT: No problem! For your flight, you will have about a $256.80 credit, and for the hotel, it is non-refundable.

ME: Ummmm, so given the national panic, the hotel is holding that line. Wow!!

ME: And United is waiving all change fees for all flights in March, so that makes no sense.

ME: If the above is true, do NOT cancel, and I will call United and the hotel directly because this cannot be.

AGENT: I understand your concern, Richard. The waived fees are for new flights booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020. Unfortunately, your flight was booked Feb 4th.

ME: I will handle it. Thank you.

ME: Please confirm you canceled nothing.

AGENT: I apologize for this, Richard. No changes have been made.

AGENT: Richard, If you need anything else, please feel free to reach out to our 24/7 support team. Have a great day. ?

ME: Thought you might like to know that Hyatt says that it’s your policy, not theirs.

ME: Also United canceled my flight for full credit with no change fee.

AGENT: Hello Richard! I’m glad that you were able to avoid any penalty. The details I provided are what we are following and if the airline or hotel is able to make an exception for individuals that is what we want. We are just going off what they are providing us. Not everyone is getting fees waived which is unfortunate but it all depending on them.

ME: That’s interesting given they say it’s you, not them. So I will relay the message that it’s them, not you.

AGENT: As for the Hotel response, I’m not sure they understood. The booking was made directly with the hotel using our platform. We can cancel it on our end, but they would need to process a refund on their end. You might be chatting with the reservation team. We would need to check with the hotel directly. They might think we are like Expedia, etc.

ME: Yeah, I know this. And given the situation, I believe it’s the hotel that should be able to make the change. I have done this before, and I am only asking that they credit the $s for a future stay, not that they refund the dollars.

ME: Whether you believe COVID-19 will end the world or not, there is a sense of corporate responsibility that should be in play, given the situation.

ME: Would you like to try to call the property?

AGENT: I completely understand Richard. Its been pretty much a case by case situation for everyone who has needed to cancel their traveling plans. We want all our travelers to have the best outcome with their cancellations.

AGENT: I’ll be happy to call them and see if they will refund the reservation.

ME: I don’t want a refund. That would not be equitable. I only want the ability to rebook in the future.

ME: A credit with the property. It is reasonable on my part and reasonable on the hotel’s part to do this because we would both be acting responsibly at a time when this is the right thing to do.

ME: This isn’t even my money, but I find it unconscionable that someone would travel because they feel boxed in because of the financial impact.

ME: It’s really pretty sad.

AGENT: I can ask about that. The only difficulty I see is that they may say no due to not keeping the same room rates. Did you have a specific time in mind to change to?

AGENT: If you don’t have a specific date range, I’ll see what they can do.

AGENT: I’m calling the property now.

ME: The est cost of the stay is $1,219.73. Just give me a year to rebook, if there is a rate fluctuation up, I will pay the difference, if there is rate fluctuation down the hotel can keep the difference. 

ME: I wish I knew when the COVID-19 situation would over, but I don’t. If I did, I probably would fly private and own a property in NorCal that I would stay at.

AGENT: Richard I spoke to the property, and they advised we would need to speak to their in house reservation team. They are currently unable to make changes or cancel due to being an advance purchased non-refundable room. They said we could speak to the in house reservation team on Monday and see if they could further assist.

ME: OK, I guess we will wait until Monday. Thanks

AGENT: No problem Richard. Please chat back in on Monday, and we can give them a call and see what can be done for your booking.

ME: OK

FWIW, I think it’s pretty sad given the COVID-19 situation that anyone taking calls in the travel industry right now on a 24×7 basis would not be personally empowered or have someone to go to who is empowered to make the logical and responsible decisions. This is the corporate brand you are playing with, I can only hope that your desire for short-term gain delivers long-term pain. If COVID-19 is teaching us one thing it’s that the world is flat, and in 2020 I believe that good and bad corporate behavior has an unprecedented contagion rate.

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