Although many sectors of the economy have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the travel industry has been among the hardest hit. Airlines have slashed their schedules and their fleets, and continue to struggle with liquidity as they burn through millions of dollars in cash each day. Many hotels remain closed or at limited capacity as they attempt to put new sanitation protocols in place. In addition to advertising the safety measures they have put in place to ensure travelers’ health, some airlines and hotels have also extended discounts and bonuses to customers willing to pre-purchase travel either in the form of gift cards and vouchers.
Etihad Offers A 50% Bonus For Future Travel
Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad is the latest to do so. Just this week, the airline began selling travel vouchers for future flights with a 50% bonus. The offer is available through June 24 for purchases of between $250 up to $65,000 (that may sound like a lot, but it might just cover a single round-trip from the U.S. to the U.A.E. in the airline’s three-room The Residence suite aboard the Airbus A380). So, for instance, if you bought a voucher for $1,000, you would get $1,500 worth of credit to put toward future flights. Vouchers will remain valid for two years and customers who take advantage of this deal can redeem them beginning August 1, 2020. Although you need to sign up for an Etihad Guest frequent-flier account in order to participate, you can use your credit to book travel for other people. Vouchers can be used to pay for airfare, but also extras such as seat assignments, checked bags, and more.
While this is one of the most generous travel promotions currently going on, there are several others you should keep your eye on if you plan to get back to traveling within the next year. Here are some of the best.
Now through June 30, 2020, Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) is offering a 20% bonus on gift cards of $100 or more that can be used at any of the association’s 530 participating properties in 90 countries around the world, including tony hideaways like Castle Hot Springs in Arizona, and Hôtel Relais Christine in Paris.
Choice Hotels is offering folks a $50 promotional gift card code for DiningAdvantage.com and savings of up to 15% on “Pay Now and Save” prepaid stays at any participating hotel through December 31, 2020. Prepaid rates are not refundable, so only book if you are sure of your travel plans. DiningAdvantage includes thousands of restaurants in major cities across the U.S.
Through Buy Now Stay Later, you can purchase hotel “bonds” in increments of $100 that can be used at dozens of properties around the world, including Angama Mara in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa on St. Barth’s. Your “bond” matures after 60 days and is worth $150 at that point, giving you a handy 50% bonus on your spending.
Banyan Tree, Fairmont Hyatt and Marriott have all offered similar promotions in recent weeks with either discounts or bonuses on gift cards purchased toward future stays. Expect to see more as hotels continue to open and travel begins to resume.
Though some airlines have gotten in trouble with the U.S. Department of Transportation for making it hard for passengers to claim refunds for cancelled flights, some travelers have been savvy enough to accept vouchers toward future plans instead, with handy bonuses thrown in. Airlines are willing to do this in order to conserve cash rather than having to return it to fliers immediately, so if you are fairly certain you will be flying again in the near to mid-term future, this might be a good way to stretch your dollars even further.
Dutch carrier KLM is offering passengers who accept a voucher instead of a refund a 15% bonus on the total value of their initial ticket for cancellations taking place on May 15 or after. The extra value can be used for new bookings, but if passengers eventually choose to cash out their refund (they have 12 months to do so), they will not receive the bonus at that point.
Irish airline Aer Lingus is offering folks who opt for a voucher worth 10% more than the full value of their disrupted flight. Oneworld members Finnair and Qatar Airways are extending similar promotions for flights booked between March 16 and June 30 that have been cancelled. Singapore Airlines is offering customers entitled to a cash refund between $75-$500 SGD ($54-$361) to accept a voucher instead depending on the cabin class of their ticket. SWISS is offering a $50 discount on future bookings for travelers whose flights booked prior to May 15 have been cancelled. The discount can be applied to bookings made until August 31 for travel starting by December 31. Lufthansa is offering a 50 euro ($57) discount under similar circumstances.
In the U.S., low-cost carrier Frontier was offering some travelers $50 discounts for rebooking rather than requesting refunds. According to some reports, American Airlines is also offering passengers with cancelled flights up to 20% extra on the value of a travel voucher versus accepting a refund. These vouchers are valid to book travel up to a year from their issue date and are for travel originating in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, among other stipulations. JetBlue is offering bonuses of up to 20% for accepting vouchers instead of refunds according to anecdotal reports as well.
Purchasing discounted gift cards or accepting vouchers toward future travel with bonuses can be a great way to save money on travel plans you intend to make down the road. Before you do so, though, you should be certain that you will actually be able to use these credits according to the terms and conditions to which they are subject. Otherwise, you will likely be better off just taking a cash refund and pocketing your money. Since there will probably be some tremendous travel deals for some time to come as the industry gets back on its feet, you can simply rebook at a time of your own choosing and according to further developments in both health and safety policies both during travel and in your destination.
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