Today, four separate but coordinated explosions on three subway trains and one double-decker bus brought the city of London to a frightened halt. In the wake of these terrorist attacks, several travel providers have changed policies regarding cancellations and rebooking for travelers heading to London.
Traffic within the City Center was stopped and public transportation was shut down while rescue workers assessed the blast sites looking for the dead and wounded, but some reports indicate that the London Underground could possibly resume as early as Friday. While Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports claimed to be operating without delays, passengers with scheduled flights found it difficult to arrive on time; airlines have responded accordingly by adopting no-fee fare change policies (see below).
The U.S. State Department has made no changes to its United Kingdom Consular Information Sheet (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1052.html), nor has it issued an advisory at this time warning people off travel to the country at this time.
Travel providers typically don't allow travelers to cancel due to fear, but in the case of a terrorism attack many providers are offering "peace of mind" solutions -- allowing people to reschedule their trips at a later date for little or nor charge. Interestingly enough, calls to various travel package providers revealed that inquiries about and actual cancellations were minimal (Go-today, for example, received only two cancellations). One company reported an increase in calls asking about discounts for travel packages to London -- a sad note that we are becoming increasingly inured to the realities of terrorism.
Airline Change Policies
U.K. carriers British Airways (www.ba.com) and Virgin Atlantic (www.virgin-atlantic.com) require that any changes to purchased tickets be made within two weeks of the originally scheduled departure; neither airline will charge passengers for these changes. British Airways will allow passengers to rebook to their original destination, but requires that traveling take place within the ticket validity date or within three months of the original flight, whichever is longer. Passengers who wish to change their flights to a different destination will be refunded the difference of a less expensive ticket, or must pay the difference of a more expensive ticket. Virgin Atlantic, however, will not allow ticketed passengers to change their destination. Passengers who wish to cancel a flight will receive credit for the value of the ticket, redeemable within twelve months.
Several U.S. airlines have made similar changes:
- American Airlines (www.aa.com): For passengers traveling between July 7th and July 31st, rebooking is permitted at no service charge. Passengers who wish to change their destination will be required to pay the difference in airfare (or will receive a credit, if the new ticket is cheaper).
- Continental Airlines (www.continental.com): For passengers traveling between July 7th and July 14th, rebooking is permitted until July 31st at no service charge. Travel must fall within the ticket validity date. If Continental is unable to accommodate passengers or if passengers choose to cancel their tickets, they will receive a full refund.
- Delta Airlines (www.delta.com): For passengers traveling between July 7th and July 11th, rebooking is permitted until July 18th at no service charge. Should a change in origin or destination result in a fare increase, the difference will be collected at the time of booking.
- EasyJet (www.easyjet.com): For passengers scheduled to fly on July 7th or 8th, the carrier is allowing rebooking free of charge on the original route through August 8, 2005.
- Northwest Airlines (www.nwa.com): For passengers traveling between July 7th and July 22nd, rebooking is permitted until July 15th at no service charge. Travel must be completed within one year of the original departure date.
- Ryanair (www.ryanair.com): For passengers scheduled to fly July 7th or 8th, the carrier is allowing rebooking through July 13th at no charge.
- United Airlines (www.united.com): For passengers traveling between July 7th and July 11th, rebooking is permitted without a service charge. Passengers may change their destinations, but will be required to pay any additional fare. Additionally passengers who wish to cancel their flight will receive a voucher for the value of the ticket.
- USAirways (www.usairways.com): For passengers traveling between July 7th and July 11th, the reservation may be forwarded or delayed within seven days of the originally scheduled flight, at no additional charge. The length of the trip may not be changed. The full value of unused tickets may be applied toward the purchase of a ticket to an alternate destination, but travel must commence within seven days of the originally scheduled flight.
Please check the airlines' websites for any updates regarding cancellation and rescheduling policies and timetables.
Accommodations providers have also made special changes in response to the incidents in London. By press time, we had heard back from only Thistle Hotels (www.thistle.co.uk), which will not charge guests cancellation or non-arrival fees for July 7th reservations. If possible, call your hotel for the latest information.
For those traveling to London in the near future, we suggest going online to The Guardian's website at www.guardian.co.uk, where you'll find up to the minute reports on transportation options, emergency numbers and more.