Tickets were booked, itineraries were set and bags were nearly packed — and then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has pushed the travel industry into uncharted waters, as businesses scramble to stay afloat and customers demand their money back. As stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions continue across much of the U.S., there’s a long road ahead for commercial air travel to return to normalcy as we once knew it.

For disappointed travelers whose adventures were canceled amid the COVID-19 outbreak, you’re hardly alone, said Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of The Points Guy.

Air traveler wearing a face mask
Air traveler wearing a face mask

Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of The Points Guy, explained how to get airline tickets refunded right now, along with tricks for shopping smart again in the future. (The Points Guy)

In a Q&A with Fox News, the travel expert explained how to get airline tickets refunded right now, along with tricks for shopping smart again in the future.

Kelly: When looking for a refund, you are most likely to get a refund if the flight was canceled on behalf of the airline vs. if you voluntarily make any modification to your ticket. Do not proactively cancel your flight until the last possible minute. Let the airline do it.

If the airline cancels instead of you, you are entitled to that cash refund. That said, if you can afford it, it might be worth it to accept a voucher if they’ll give you a bonus over what you paid.

An empty airplane
An empty airplane

“Do not proactively cancel your flight until the last possible minute. Let the airline do it,” Kelly said. (iStock)

FOX: Do you have any tips or tricks for the sometimes-daunting ticket refund process?

Kelly: Our favorite piece of advice? If you don’t hear “yes” from the customer service desk, [follow] H-U-C-B: Hang Up, Call Back. You may eventually get a more cooperative agent. And don’t forget to be nice! All customer-facing businesses are stressed to the max and dealing with the same pandemic.

FOX: Looking ahead, how can customers protect themselves when booking future travel?

Kelly: If you are booking future travel, be sure to read the current policies for the airline regarding change and cancellation fees. If you want additional protection, look into travel insurance. Most coverage offered by top travel rewards credit cards won’t cover pandemics, so don’t rely on them to reimburse you if your trip needs to be changed or canceled.

The “cancel for any reason” policy allows you to cancel for any reason under the sun as long as you follow the policies’ purchase and cancel stipulations.

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