Package tours: cancellation fees disappear forever?

Who knows what will happen in two or three months?? This uncertainty pervades the corona pandemic. And it is one reason why vacation planning is so difficult at the moment. In fact, no one knows when travel will be possible again without restrictions. The tour operators have reacted to this: actually, vacationers have to pay high cancellation fees if they cancel their trip at relatively short notice because they do not want to leave after all. So if there are no travel warnings or other unusual circumstances that allow you to leave the trip for free anyway. But this sacred cow has been slaughtered by some operators.

Cancellation often free of charge

At DER touristik, for example, anyone who has booked by 31 december. December books a vacation with a departure date up to october 2021 and can cancel or rebook it free of charge up to 14 days before departure, with just a few exceptions. The aim is "maximum flexibility and planning security", according to the organizer.

FTI from munich does it this way: for bookings until 31. January is a free cancellation with money back guarantee up to 14 days before departure possible. This is to keep vacationers flexible. At alltours, package tours with fixed prices can be booked between the beginning of april and the end of october 2021 until 15. Marz can be rebooked or canceled free of charge. Winter trips can be canceled anyway up to two weeks before the start of the season without any fees.

Tui at least gives its customers the option of rebooking free of charge up to 14 days before the start of the trip, i.E. Postponing the vacation free of charge. This applies to all new bookings of package tours with tui and the luxury brand airtours up to 31. December. In addition, there is a fee-free cancellation option up to 31 days before departure for bookings with a fixed child price, but only until december.

For other, smaller tour operators, the deadlines for free rebooking are changing, and at the moment they are more likely to change at short notice.

Worrying about money

This new ruthlessness of the organizers is born of necessity. The point is to sell travel at all. This is a real win for vacationers. You can now get out of a travel contract much more easily without being stuck with high costs. Many of the travelers quickly got used to it. Will there be a return to the old conditions after corona??

"From a vacationer’s point of view, the worries about losing money if you can’t take a booked trip are really "rough", the tourism expert prof. Martin lohmann of the NIT institute for tourism and bathing research in northern europe. "In this respect, the abolition of the cancellation fees was a barrier." On the other hand, organizers need planning security in order to be able to fill charter flights, purchase hotel contingents and put together all-inclusive packages. "The cancellation fee is a means to that end", explains lohmann. "If they are abolished, the necessary money will be collected elsewhere." A risk surcharge on the total price is conceivable. "That is, it will be a little more expensive in general."

Organizers do not want to promise anything

"When the conditions return to normal, we will also return to the normal cancellation conditions", alltours clarifies. DER touristik informs that this question will be decided depending on the development of travel and booking behavior. In other words, it depends on how much the customer wants and demands this in the future.

FTI is more open: "it is conceivable that there will be more flexible rates and conditions", explains the organizer. However, with high utilization of flights and hotels, a cancellation fee will also be charged in the future, especially for last-minute travel cancellations, in order to compensate for cancellations.

Another argument in favor of a graduated system with different rates is that this has long been the norm for hotel bookings on the internet. On the booking platform.Com, for example, users are usually shown two prices – a favorable one without the possibility of cancellation and a more expensive one with free cancellation, for example, one day before arrival. And on the vacation home search engine hometogo, the results can be filtered for offers with free cancellation.

In view of the pandemic, martin lohmann advises holidaymakers to choose travel offers from which they can withdraw at relatively short notice without incurring any fees. If this does not result in a surcharge – all the better. In the long term, however, the following principle applies, according to the expert: flexibility costs money. Dpa

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