I Had COVID-19 and Tried to Change My Flight. JetBlue Gave Me the Last Answer I Expected (Neuigkeiten)

Fly with the virus, a JetBlue agent and her supervisor told me when I said I was sick and asked for flight-change fees to be waived. Mask up is our best advice

To fly or not to fly? That is the dilemma that travelers with COVID-19 (including myself) face these days when the other option is paying hundreds of dollars to switch your flight.

What a difference three years makes. During the pandemic, airline rules made it easier for flyers who had COVID because of restrictions requiring proof of a negative test to fly. The decision was made for you: You’re not flying if you’re positive.

Today, however, with those rules relaxed, flyers with COVID must make hard decisions, and some airlines aren’t offering any relief on the cost of changing flights even if you prove you have COVID.

Airlines are expecting more holiday travelers than in 2019, before the pandemic, and more than during the Thanksgiving holiday because the Christmas and New Year’s period is longer.

As over 30.7 million travelers flow into airports through Jan. 8  the number of travelers the three largest carriers anticipate  airlines are keenly watching weather, staffing and other operational issues.

The industry seems less focused on a surge of new COVID-19 cases even though hospitalizations from the virus are up 14% over the past two weeks, according to the nonprofit COVID Act Now. A new variant, JN.1, accounted for more than 44 percent of fresh cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

I was to be one of those many millions of airline passengers. Then days before Christmas, COVID struck.

I tested positive on Dec. 13 and had planned to fly to San Francisco four days later. I worried I would not be negative in time and was kicking myself for not springing for travel insurance. But I hadn’t imagined there would be any changes to this family trip, which I booked in September. 

Covid cases are on the rise as an estimated 7.5 million Americans travel by air over the holidays.Getty Images

Airlines eliminated the costs for changes during the pandemic, but now fare differences are in place: Choose a different day, especially in busy peak periods, and the price can become hundreds of dollars more expensive. 

I didn’t want to fly with COVID and pleaded with JetBlue to change my flight and suspend the fee for switching. I explained that I was visiting my partner’s family, one of whom is very sick. Even if JetBlue was fine with my Covid-positive status, I would have nowhere to stay when arriving in California. I asked the JetBlue agent to waive the fare difference so that I could fly to San Francisco on a different day. She said she could not do so.

Then the JetBlue agent told me the last thing I expected: I could fly with the virus. She did suggest a precaution — a face covering. Her supervisor had the same answer: I could get on my original flight with Covid, but the airline wouldn’t waive the fare difference for a new flight two days later. 

JetBlue told The Messenger that it has „a process in place where customers who purchased Blue Basic fares that are ill and cannot travel do not incur change or cancellation fees.“ The company added that a similar process „to avoid fare differences“ is in place for individuals who are ill and cannot return home on the date of their ticket.

This is on a „case-by-case basis“ JetBlue added.

Airlines are rather opaque when it comes to their policies around customers who self-disclose their Covid-positive status. Some carriers give their reservation agents discretion to waive a fare difference, depending on the circumstances. Some do not.

Officially, airlines encourage travelers who are sick from COVID, influenza or other communicable diseases to avoid travel. “If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, feel symptoms or test positive, the CDC recommends you don’t travel for five days,” United says on its COVID-19 page.

Yet if you’re sick but not suffering from symptoms — and confronting a steep new fare — many people are very likely to fly. Airlines generally expect people to act responsibly and not expose others if they are sick. But they also know that many Covid-positive travelers, some but not all of whom choose to use a face mask, are still flying. 

Southwest said they ask customers with the virus to isolate for five days before flying. The company asks its customers to use “their best judgment” when flying, noting that exceptions to their policies are handled on a case-by-case basis. Alaska Airlines did not respond to a request by The Messenger for comment. 

Customers at Delta may face a fare difference if changing flights due to illness, but the airline allows agents discretion on how to handle the situation. Cheaper Basic Economy tickets at Delta, United and American allow for no changes, and you’ll certainly get less latitude with these tickets.

“If you get sick during this holiday season – I know this is going to be a hard request – but if you get sick, you need to stay home,” CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen told Yahoo News. “Please don’t share your germs with others.”

I had planned to pay the extra fare since I did not want to fly with Covid, but luckily I tested negative just hours before my flight and had enough time to get to the airport.

— Justin Bachman contributed reporting to this story. 

Quelle: themessenger

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