How Travel Companies Handle Events That Are Beyond Their Control
The recent terrorist attacks hitting New York City
and Washington D.C. have affected all areas of travel, but nothing
has been more affected than air travel. In the wake of the
hijackings, the FAA put a "national ground stop" on all aircraft in
the U.S. through at least noon ET on Wednesday, meaning that no
aircraft can take off with the exception of military and law
enforcement flights. The FAA's grounding of aircraft and closing of
airports qualifies as a “force majeure event” as it is a condition
beyond anyone's control.
Buried in most airlines' contract a
carriage is the term force majeure, which means an airline
can cancel, terminate, divert, postpone, or delay any flight without
notice in these situations. If your flight is affected by a force
majeure event, the airline's only obligation is to refund you the
price of your ticket or you must accept whatever alternate
arrangements are offered by the airline. Understand you are not
entitled to any compensation or any amenities. Being that there are
many affected by these events, it is likely that the airlines will
do as much as possible to assist and reaccommodate passengers when
the FAA allows flights to resume.
Currently, Air Canada,
American, Continental, Delta, Midwest Express, National, Northwest,
Southwest, Sun Country, United, and US Airways are letting
passengers whose flights were disrupted by these acts make new
flight plans without penalty. If you have questions regarding
reservations, contact the airlines via their toll-free reservations
centers and city ticket offices. Please refrain from going to the
airport until the airlines have provided further clarification on
their flight schedules.
Most hotels will let you cancel
without penalty if you call before 6 p.m. on the date of arrival.
However, this policy varies depending upon the city and hotel rate
reserved. Hilton Hotels, for example, issued a statement stating
that they are committed to flexibility and are working cooperatively
with guests and customers during this difficult time. Hilton has set
a policy that cancellation or "no show" fees will not be imposed for
any reservation scheduled for September 11 through September 16, nor
will early departure charges be imposed for any departures on
September 11 through 16. Additionally, cancellation charges or
penalties will not be imposed for any group, social, or other event
between September 11 and October 31.
providing its customers with easy access to refunds and
cancellations by implementing a new toll-free customer request
telephone number (800-600-6333). The company is working with its
hotel partners to streamline all refund requests for customers who
are unable to get to their designated hotels because of the
nationwide stoppage of all commercial flights.
Hotwire have issued statements on how they will handle the situation
in light of these events. Priceline issued a statement
stating that they are working with the airlines to determine their
policies on changes and cancellations. Priceline customers currently
in the middle of their trip should contact the airline directly. For
all other questions, contact priceline.com at 800-774-2354.
Priceline.com spokesperson Brian Ek says, "Customers should give us
a call. We are working with customers regardless of air, hotel, or
rental car itinerary."
Hotwire has advised its customers
to contact the airline they are booked on for further details.
Hotwire states: "All Hotwire tickets will be honored to the best of
our ability once regular air travel resumes." Hotwire spokesperson
Amy Bohutinsky adds, "Full refunds will be issued for Hotwire
customers holding air, hotel, [and] car reservations traveling
between now (September 11) and Sunday. As for after Sunday, we will
evaluate at that time whether to extend."
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