Gephardt: Canceling Flights Too Soon Could Cost You Cash, Analyst Says

Apr 23, 2020, 6:42 PM | Updated: 8:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As major summer vacation plans approach, KSL Consumer Investigator Matt Gephardt found out it may be smarter to hold on to those airline tickets, even if you won’t be able to go.

Stores, restaurants, gyms and other brick-and-mortar businesses are closed all because of the advice from doctors: now is not a good time to be in an enclosed space for a long time with strangers.

What else does that sound like?

“Nothing so different about an airplane,” said airline analyst Seth Kaplan.

Kaplan wrote a book on Delta Airlines’ return from bankruptcy, hosts an NPR podcast and he agreed to sit down with KSL TV to offer some tips about what to do if you have already booked a trip.

“It can be worth waiting and not canceling your trip too early,” he said. “This is one of those cases in life where procrastination can pay.”

If you cancel, you’re likely to get a voucher for a future flight. But if you wait for the airline to cancel you will be due a full refund. That’s true even if the airline simply tries to slide the flight.

“If they change your plans, they cancel your flight and they said you’re going to arrive more than 90 minutes after you were expecting to arrive, you’re going to be able to get a full refund,” Kaplan said.

On the other hand, don’t wait too long.

A TSA agent waits at an empty security checkpoint at SLC Int’l Airport.

“Make sure you do cancel before the flight takes off,” he said. “With most airlines, if you just skip the flight and you don’t advise them, then you could be out the money.”

Kaplan said mark your calendar for a day or two before your flight is scheduled. If the airline hasn’t already canceled and given you the options to get a refund then, at that point, you want to notify the airline.

The airline industry is taking it on the chin through all of this pandemic though, thanks to government bailouts and the fact that they’ve had a pretty good decade up until now, Kaplan thinks they’ll bounce back and be ready to go whenever we are ready to go again.

He pointed out that Delta, which has a hub in Salt Lake City, was in a particularly good position going into all of this.

This week, Delta announced a loss of more than $600 million in the first quarter and warned investors the second quarter could be even worse.

Still, he cautioned even the bailout will eventually run out with airlines still spending millions of dollars every day, even with so many planes grounded.

Kaplan said he hasn’t flown since the pandemic began.

“What’s different about this crisis is that, whereas after 9/11 you have leaders sort of encouraging people, hey, be patriotic, get back in the air show those terrorists. This time we have health officials telling us don’t fly,” Kaplan said. “Flying right now is really for essential people: doctors, nurses [or people who] have to get through their families when there’s no other choice.”

Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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Gephardt: Canceling Flights Too Soon Could Cost You Cash, Analyst Says