When everything is to be cancelled

Greece has existed for thousands of years. Greece will remain.

My wise man

The world has pulled the handbrake. Stopped by. We're holding our breath. Waiting. Fighting. Grieving. Worries us. The magnitude of what is happening around us is unfathomable. Intangible. 

I usually always have ten balls in the air and just as many things planned. Lovely restaurants, exciting trips and fun weekend plans. The summer holidays began to be planned, the long-awaited road trip to the Peloponnese in Greece was approaching. But something got in the way. A little coronavirus. When I was most depressed and didn't really want to admit to myself that there couldn't be a trip to Greece this spring, my husband looked at me. "Greece has existed for thousands of years. Greece will remain". Maybe that's exactly what I needed to hear. Because even if life and large parts of the world are taking a break right now, we will be back. And then Greece is still there waiting for us.

So what have I been up to these past few weeks away from home? Besides working from the kitchen table and taking the daily walk to the fridge? A lot of time in the evenings has been spent canceling all travel plans. So how has it been? How easy has it been to cancel everything after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised us Swedes against traveling to all countries?

Cancellation 1: Rental car

Rental cars are rarely difficult to cancel. It is usually only possible to press a button on the booking site. But it didn't work at all now. We had booked a rental car this time via Holiday Autos. Rebookable and cancelable, there are usually no problems. There was only one problem. They had removed the online cancellation button. We would soon understand why. They obviously didn't want us to cancel.

We got into the chat queue for customer service. When we finally arrived and informed that we wanted to cancel, we were met with a novel of text to get us not to cancel.

We have some offers:
1-If you cancel your booking today and decide to rebook at a later date the cost is likely to increase. You have up to 24/48 hours before pick up time to cancel free of charge. You may want to hold onto your booking and decide closer to the time. This way you can keep the rate you have booked, and your car will be secured if your travel plans go ahead.
2- Do you have any other trips booked this year that you require a car hire for? We have some great deals available at the moment. i can run a search and find you our best rate for that location. We can always amend your booking again closer to the time if things change. Your cancellation is free of charge if you cancel your booking up to 24 hours before the pickup time.
3- I can run a search to see if we have any options that would allow you to pay at the desk instead of the prepaid option you currently have booked. Partially prepaid: With this option you pay a deposit now and the balance at the rental at the desk when you collect the car. It means you can lock in the price of the car at today's prices which are likely to increase closer to your travel time. Your deposit is fully refundable up to 24/48 hours prior to pick up should your plans change. Post Paid: With this option you don't have to pay anything now, you pay for the rental at the desk when you collect the car. It means you can lock in the price of the car at today's prices which are likely to increase closer to your travel time.

Fortunately, they accepted our answer”Thanks but no thanks” and our car was canceled and the money would come back within a few days.

RESULT: We are still waiting on 2020-05-14 (two months later) for a refund from Holiday Autos, now they say we should get the money back by the last of May.

Thumbs down Holiday Autos!

Cancellation 2: Flight

We had booked direct flights with Aegean Airlines to Athens. When actually booking the tickets, I had chosen Flex tickets, which means that it is possible to rebook the tickets at no cost or cancel the tickets at a cost. We went back and forth about whether we should rebook the tickets for later this fall, or whether we should just cancel. We decided that we would try to rebook. It had been so easy to book the tickets on the Aegean website, so it should be just as easy to rebook and cancel on the website. But hey, we got…

The button for canceling and rebooking was removed and the only way to contact the airline was via a telephone number to Greece. We began to recognize the pattern.

First of all, I am a bit surprised that Aegean Airlines does not have a Swedish number for customer service that connects all calls to Greece, as they do for many other European countries to which they have direct flights. But it doesn't matter, you might think, you can call for free within the EU, right? No you do not. There is free roaming and free calls with your mobile when you are in Greece, but it is not free to call Greece from Sweden. Calling Greece with a Telia mobile subscription costs SEK 2,47 per minute. So it turned out to buy Skype credits for 30 SEK instead and start calling. Because there would be many calls and many minutes before we arrived.

The vast majority of times we tried to call the Greek customer number, the line just honked busy. It didn't matter what day or time we called - it was completely hopeless to get through. Sometimes we would get past the busy tone and wait in line for a little while, only to be kicked out of the line a few minutes later. But finally we arrived.

We had two options:
1) Rebook to a date of your choice this autumn, just to postpone the problem. It wouldn't cost us anything if the ticket price was the same.
2) Cancel. It would cost us €60 per person and distance to cancel. So €360. About half the ticket price. A not entirely insignificant sum.

We realized quite quickly that there was no option to rebook. There were no tickets this fall in the same price range as our tickets. My gut feeling is that the airline raised the prices this fall so that all "free" rebookings will generate revenue. The "free" rebooking for this autumn would cost €129 per person.

Time to go to plan B - cancellation, but with a number of control questions for customer service.

What would happen if the airline canceled our flight? Would we get all the money back then?
Response from Aegean Airlines: No. We would be allowed to rebook "for free" or receive a voucher. Should we choose to cancel our canceled flight, we would get the ticket price back but pay €360.

Swedish The Foreign Ministry advises against travel to Greece. Does it make a difference to the ability to cancel?
Response from Aegean Airlines: No.

So take a voucher or cancel. A voucher requires that we believe that the airline survives the corona crisis and does not go into reconstruction/bankruptcy, because then the voucher becomes worthless. What did we choose? We chose to cancel.

RESULT: Removed rebooking/cancellation buttons on the site, thorough customer service and so far no money refunded to the account 2020-05-14. Now they say that we will get the money back by the end of June at the latest (!).
We will definitely think twice and thrice before booking Aegean Airlines again, if you pay to have the tickets cancelable you don't expect this treatment!

Thumbs down Aegean Airlines!

Cancellation 3: Hotel

We had booked 4 of our 5 accommodations at Hotels.com with cancellable accommodations. On Hotels.com, everything worked as usual. Just click on the cancellation button, and the accommodation was canceled and the money returned to the account after a few days.

RESULT: As simple as usual.

Thumbs up Hotels.com!

Cancellation 4: House

I have one cancellation left to do. The dreamy house I booked on the Mani Peninsula via Hotels.com. That beautiful stone house with hot tub on the balcony and lovely patio which was one of the reasons I wanted to go to the Peloponnese. As usual, houses do not have nearly as generous cancellation conditions as hotels, so we booked this house non-cancelable.

So what do I do with this booking? Right now I'm sitting quietly in the boat and waiting. Greece has just now closed all museums and historical sites and introduced a 14 day quarantine for everyone entering the country. Will the borders be closed? Will all hotels be closed like in Spain? I won't get a refund if I cancel today, so I might as well wait a few more days.

RESULT:
Update March 25: I didn't even have to call. Hotels.com has now made our booking cancelable with a full refund, so it was just a matter of pressing the cancel button. Nice Hotels.com!

Thumbs up Hotels.com!

What does the Swedish Consumer Agency say about cancellations and rebookings as a result of the corona crisis?

To get information about what to expect regarding rebookings and cancellations in this corona crisis, I turned to the Swedish Consumer Agency and their informative website Hello consumer!. They have a whole new category”Corona - your rights”, which covers most things related to travel. If we had booked a package trip, we would have gotten the money back quite easily, but we had not booked a package trip. What possibilities did we have then?

According to Hello consumer! the Swedish Consumer Agency believes that you should also be able to claim money back for regular air tickets.

If you have booked a regular plane ticket, the same clear legislation does not exist, but when the Foreign Ministry now advises against all travel to other countries, you should be able to demand that the airline reimburse you for the entire plane ticket. The reason is that it should be seen as a force majeure-like event. A force majeure-like event is something that is extremely unusual, unpredictable and beyond both your and the airline's control.

If you have made demands on the organizer to cancel the trip and get all the money back but the organizer refuses, you can proceed to the General Complaints Board (ARN) to have the matter examined. It costs nothing to have your case tried by ARN.

We'll see if I can manage to make a report to ARN. Right now, I'm most happy about not having to sit in a telephone queue to Greece and that I hopefully get back part of the money for the plane tickets. Otherwise, we'll have to buy more Skype credits and join the endless Greek phone queue again...

11 COMMENTS

  1. I also want to go to Peloponnese, love what I've seen from the seasons of Master of Masters that were filmed there. And Greece will remain. But so sad to have to cancel something you longed for. :( And extra boring when it will take so much time and be so noisy.

    • I can take solace in the fact that it took infinitely more time to book! :D I understand that the companies are on their knees right now, but you pay extra for rebookable/cancelable for just these occasions, right?

  2. Oh, what a job it is to cancel/rebook flights and hotels! I've never had to deal with it myself (so far), but when that day comes (which it surely will) I'll keep your tips in the back of my mind! Calling via Skype credits was super smart, I probably never would have thought of that myself! Hope everything works out in the end and that you get back the money you are waiting for! And as I said – Greece is still there! :)

    • The Skype Credits saved us hundreds kronor, so it was lucky we figured it out! I also hope we get the money back, otherwise I will have to try reporting to ARN. Someday should be the first.

    • Yes, and the press is not over yet! It seems that Greece is closing all hotels today and for a month, so I am hoping that the cancellable accommodation will be canceled with a refund because of this. You don't usually need to be able to cancel, and occasions like this hopefully don't happen very often. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your trip after midsummer!

  3. Hello,

    I had booked a rental car through Holiday Autos. Rebookable and cancelable, there are usually no problems. Canceled the car on 2020-03-17 and today 2020-04-22 I have not received any money back even though I called and complained twice.

    • So sad! We are actually also waiting for a refund on another of our Holiday Auto bookings - they say we should get the money back by the end of May at the latest. We shall see…

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About

Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 60 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel site Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

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