The Olympics were scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan beginning July 24. On March 24, the International Olympic Committee announced the Tokyo Games would be postponed until July 23, 2021. The Paralympic Games will also be postponed and start on August 24, 2021. Which leaves people who had flights and/or accommodations for the Tokyo Games 2020 wondering: What do they do now?
If you’ve already booked a flight to Japan
If you booked directly through your airline, you have two options:
Exchange the original flight ticket for an an airline credit or voucher for the amount you originally paid for the flight.
Reschedule the flight without change fees.
Policies that were in place before are not always holding up as we’re finding that companies want to hold onto money.
Airlines are rapidly changing and reconstructing their policies due to ongoing border closings and travel restrictions. While policies like free changes and cancellations are apparent now, there’s no telling if airlines will readjust their policies in their favour in order to save some of the money they’ve lost due to the pandemic.
Who should cancel?
It’s better for you to wait for your airline to cancel your flight than for you to do so yourself, provided you do not want to reschedule your booking. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, an airline must issue a refund when they cancel the flight. But if you cancel the flight, you may not receive compensation and risk losing the entire cost of the fare.
Also, airlines may not be upfront about the possibility of cash refunds. It is more than ok to ask specifically for a cash reimbursement instead of a flight voucher—vouchers expire and may come with stipulations, including block out dates during which you cannot book travel (typically holidays). When you speak to customer service, be polite but firm in the fact that you are the customer and the one being inconvenienced.
What if you booked flights through a third party?
The best way to get a full refund is to go through your credit card directly—most credit card companies will do the leg work to contact the third party on your behalf to secure a full refund. Still, there’s no guarantee this will work.
Third-party services have different policies, so it’s important to be diligent in researching their policies for rebooking or cancellations—ideally, you did this before you booked.
With regard to flights booked for July/August 2020, Expedia doesn’t offer any changes or adjustments unless you are travelling within the next 72 hours. Once your booking falls within that 72-hour timeframe, you can then call Expedia directly to cancel or adjust your it—provided the airline hasn’t already done so by then.
The more information you have related to your flight—including the booking number and purchase date—the easier and faster you will receive the answers you need.
How to get a refund for accommodations
Here, it really depends on if you booked through a hotel or Airbnb. Let’s break it down.
It’s best to contact the property directly—unless, again, you’ve booked through a third-party website. For third-party sites, check out their apps: Expedia, TripAdvisor and others offer mobile apps that allow you to make changes to or cancel your booking, and you can also speak to customer service via chat.
Marriott International hotels have created a policy exclusively tailored to COVID-19 which states:
For guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, including reservations with pre-paid rates that are typically more restrictive, we will allow full changes or cancellation without a charge up to 24 hours prior to arrival,* as long as the change or cancellation is made by June 30, 2020. Please note that any changes to existing reservations will be subject to availability and any rate differences.
As for that asterisk, it specifies the usual caveats: “Some exclusions may apply. May exclude periods with special event restrictions or peak demand weeks. Please refer to the property’s Rate Details for applicable terms or exceptions, if any, when booking or changing reservations.” Ultimately, it is always best to contact the property directly to find out what can be done for your particular situation.
If you booked an Airbnb property
Airbnb has set up a page on their website for anyone who has to adjust their travel because of COVID-19. In my own experience, I recently (on March 24th) booked with a host and she subsequently cancelled the booking. I immediately received an email from Airbnb stating that I would get a full refund and a $60 credit—and I did receive both within 48 hours of the cancellation. That’s surprisingly efficient for Airbnb, and bodes well for those who have to cancel their Olympics plans.
Their policy now references only check-in dates between March 14th and May 31st, not after—which means it would not include the weeks of the now-postponed Olympic games. However, it also states:
Guests who cancel will have a variety of cancellation and refund options... Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit that includes all service fees for covered cancellations. In order to cancel under the policy, you will be required to attest to the facts of and/or provide supporting documentation for your extenuating circumstance...Cancellations will be handled according to the extenuating circumstances coverage in effect at the time of submission.
Through the Trips page on Airbnb’s site, access your specific reservation to find the specific cancellation and refund policies pertaining to your booking.
It’s important to note that the Olympic Games were scheduled for July and August, and most airlines and hotels are in a tailspin as they work to reconfigure policies for the immediate future. We predict that more companies are going to be tailoring their policies for the long-term in the future—including the time frame that the encompasses the Games—and we will update this post accordingly.