Summer 2020 Flight Help

This is a resource page for all students who were confirmed to travel with us this summer and unfortunately got their program either cancelled or modified and need guidance on flight cancellations or changes. Review this page often! We'll be updating it as more information becomes available.

WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS I SHOULD TAKE?

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  • Be informed. Check your flight itinerary to see if there are any significant schedule changes or cancellations. You can do this through your Flightfox Trip by asking Flightfox (if you booked through them), or you can log-in to your airline’s website to check flight statuses.
  • Review airline policies. It’s important that you know what your Airline’s cancellation policies are and what your rights are as a passenger. Not sure where to start? This independent guide compiles specific and updated information on your carrier’s cancellation policies. It also links to all airline policy websites to ensure you are accessing the most current information.
  • Know your rights. The US Department of Transportation has mandated any airline that cancels a flight or implements a significant schedule change for a flight that either departs from the US or arrives to the US is required to provide a refund to customers. However, be aware some airlines are not issuing refunds.
  • Stay updated. If you have not yet done so, sign up for email alerts with your airline through your airline’s website. This way you will be aware if there are any flight changes or cancellations that will likely lead to a refund.
    • Note: If you booked through Flightfox they will actively look at your itinerary to understand if any legs of travel have been cancelled by the airline. Flightfox will inform you if this is the case and advise on next steps. However, you should still sign up for email alerts directly with your airline.
  • Remain patient. These are trying times for airlines and for the entire travel industry. Many airlines have lengthy call wait times, many are not responding to email inquiries, and refund and credit policies are evolving as airlines try to deal with the decrease in business.
    • Unless a flight included in your itinerary has a significant schedule change or is cancelled outright, you should not take action until the latest possible moment. CIEE recommends waiting until a few days before the flight is scheduled to depart. Extending the window of time that airlines have to cancel flights greatly improves the likelihood you will receive a refund.
  • Communicate with CIEE. Make sure to inform CIEE if you end up paying any change fees or cancellation fees. CIEE is reimbursing up to $500 towards these fees as outlined in the CIEE Program Assurance Advantage. CIEE requires written receipt of charges be submitted in order to qualify for reimbursement.
    • Note: This reimbursement plan is not designed to pay you back for money lost on airfare. CIEE is reimbursing up to $500 in fees charged by your airline in order to make a change to you itinerary or to cancel your ticket.

WHO SHOULD I CONTACT?

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You have a few support systems in place if you are working on updating an itinerary, changing or cancelling a flight, or pursuing a credit or refund. Note that CIEE is not directly involved in the flight process and is not able to obtain a credit or refund on your behalf.

  • The Airline
    • You have the ability to contact the airline directly with questions/concerns related to your itinerary, or if you want to pursue a credit or a refund. Note that many airlines are not taking calls unless your flight is in the next 72 hours. Alternatively, most airlines have thorough information on how they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic on their websites that will help inform you on next steps and how to contact them.
    • CIEE suggests considering messaging the airline through social media platforms like Twitter as it’s been reported airlines are responding quicker to inquiries this way.
  • Flightfox
    • If you are working with Flightfox you can contact them through your Flightfox Trip portal. They primarily use a chat feature to communicate with customers and their response time is typically quick. They do not have a phone number for you to call but you can request a call within your Flightfox Trip portal. They are taking a consistent strategy depending on your situation:
      • They are checking for any significant schedule changes or flight cancellations on your itinerary.
      • If they identify a change or cancellation, they are pursuing a refund for customers, first confirming that is what the customer would like to do.
      • If there has not been a change or cancellation, they are checking back approximately every 20 days until they are a few days out from your scheduled departure day in hopes there is a significant schedule change or flight cancellation.*
    • *This strategy is in the customer’s best interest. As described in the above section about knowing your rights you can see it’s in any student’s best interest to wait for an airline to implement a significant schedule change or a flight cancellation in order to increase the chance that you receive a refund.
  • Option for Students who did not book air travel on Flightfox:
    • If you bought your airfare outside of Flightfox, you can still take advantage of their support and expertise! Flightfox has cancelled thousands of bookings over the last few weeks, they know who to call and what to say to maximize credits and refunds. They have priority access to many support teams (Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, etc.).
    • If you would like to have Flightfox handle your cancellation they charge a flat $50 fee, but only if they are able to obtain a credit or refund for you. For that fee, they will wait on the phone as long as it takes and leverage their knowledge and expertise to advocate on your behalf.
    • If you are interested in having Flightfox manage your flight cancellation please submit your cancellation request.
      • Note that Flightfox’s strategy is to first take action on any itinerary where there has been a cancellation by the airline as these scenarios will most likely lead to a refund. If there has not been a cancellation made by the airline, they will check your itinerary periodically and wait and see if an airline makes a cancellation or significant schedule change that will increase the likelihood that you receive a refund over a credit. Nevertheless, you will only be charged if and when they obtain a refund or credit on your behalf. For a full list of FAQs please click on the above cancellation request and review the FAQs on the right-side of the Flightfox page.

IMPORTANT VOCABULARY

  • Schedule change: A schedule change is when an airline changes a flight’s departure time, by either moving up the departure time or pushing it back. Each airline has a different threshold for how many minutes/hours the change needs to be in order to qualify for credit or voucher, or a refund.
  • Flight cancellation: When an airline does not operate a flight for a given reason.
  • Airline credit or voucher:  Airline currency that can be applied to a future flight booking. Each airline has different terms for their credits including by what date the credit needs to be used, who can use the credit, if there are correlating fees for using the credit, etc. Make sure you understand the terms of any credit you are accepting! Be particularly cautious about accepting credits or vouchers if you have had a flight cancelled. In this case, airlines should be offering a refund instead of a credit or voucher.
  • Refund: When an airline reverses the cost of your ticket and applies the refund back to your original form of payment.
  • Flightfox Fee: As communicated in the CIEE Flight Resource and FAQ document, Flightfox charges a $50 fee for managing your flight cancellation Please note, they only charge this fee if and when they obtain a credit or refund for you. If they do not, you will not be charged.

FAQs

My program is still scheduled to run in Summer 2020. I bought my flight and would like to still travel. What do I do with to my ticket?

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Do not take action at this time. Wait for CIEE to inform you in early June if your program will be running in Summer 2020. If your program is running and you plan to participate then no further action is needed. If your program is cancelled or if you decide to cancel or defer participation, then you should do one of two things:

  • If there was a schedule change or flight cancellation on your itinerary that would likely lead to a refund then either contact Flightfox or the airline directly to ask for a refund. You can do this as soon as you make the decision to cancel or defer participation or as soon as CIEE informs you of a decision to cancel your program.
  • If none of your flights see schedule changes or cancellations then you should wait until a few days before your scheduled travel date to cancel your itinerary or ask Flightfox to do so on your behalf. You want to give airlines as much time as possible to make changes that would give you leverage to pursue a refund.

Note that the outcome of your refund or credit request with the airline is up to the airline. It is important you know your rights as a passenger, and you should go into any conversation with an airline prepared to negotiate. If you are working with Flightfox, they will do this on your behalf. CIEE wants to be clear, the outcome of your efforts may be anything from a full refund to a credit to no compensation at all.

My program has been cancelled but CIEE has confirmed me for another program scheduled to run in Summer 2020. What do I do about flights?

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Do not purchase airfare until CIEE informs you in early June if your new program is running in Summer 2020. If it is running, then CIEE will inform you on group chaperoned flight details and arrival/departure window information so you can purchase airfare.

If you have already purchased a flight for your original program, then you have a few options:

  • If there was a schedule change or flight cancellation on your itinerary that would likely lead to a refund then either contact Flightfox or the airline directly to ask for a refund. You can do this immediately but there is one important consideration to take into account. If the airline or airline alliance that you were originally booked on also flies to the new program destination you may select to wait to hear from CIEE about whether or not your new program will run. If it does not, then pursue a refund. If it does, then you may decide to simply change your existing ticket.
  • If none of your flights see schedule changes or cancellations then you should wait until a few days before your scheduled travel date to cancel your itinerary or ask Flightfox to do so on your behalf. You want to give airlines as much time as possible to make changes that would give you leverage to pursue a refund.

Note that the outcome of your refund or credit request with the airline is up to the airline. It is important you know your rights as a passenger, and you should go into any conversation with an airline prepared to negotiate. If you are working with Flightfox, they will do this on your behalf. CIEE wants to be clear, the outcome of your efforts may be anything from a full refund to a credit to no compensation at all.

I decided to defer my participation until Summer 2021 and had flights already booked for 2020. What do I do?

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The answer depends on whether or not your existing itinerary has seen a schedule change or flight cancellation that may warrant a refund.

  • If there was a schedule change or flight cancellation on your itinerary that would likely lead to a refund then either contact Flightfox or the airline directly to ask for a refund. You can do this as soon as you make the decision to cancel or defer participation or as soon as CIEE informs you of a decision to cancel your program.
  • If none of your flights see schedule changes or cancellations then you should wait until a few days before your scheduled travel date to cancel your itinerary or ask Flightfox to do so on your behalf. You want to give airlines as much time as possible to make changes that would give you leverage to pursue a refund.

Note that the outcome of your refund or credit request with the airline is up to the airline. It is important you know your rights as a passenger, and you should go into any conversation with an airline prepared to negotiate. If you are working with Flightfox, they will do this on your behalf. CIEE wants to be clear, the outcome of your efforts may be anything from a full refund to a credit to no compensation at all.

If I obtain a flight credit can I put it towards a flight for a Summer 2021 High School Summer Abroad program?

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This is going to depend on the terms of your flight credit. How long do you have to use the credit? You should negotiate the terms of any credit issued to ensure you can use the credit towards travel in Summer 2021. At this point in time, you cannot apply credit towards your Summer 2021 program as group chaperone flight and arrival/departure window information is not yet available. You should expect this information to be made available in December 2020.

When will CIEE know what group chaperone flights are offered for Summer 2021 and when will those be published?

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CIEE is as eager as you are to organize group chaperoned flights and flight arrival/departure windows for the High School Summer Abroad 2021 programs. With that said, airlines do not publish flight schedules more than approximately 330 days in advance. CIEE also needs time to work with CIEE Center staff to organize arrival and departure windows. You should expect to receive flight information for Summer 2021 in December 2020. We will do the best we can to use the same airlines as we had planned to use in Summer 2020 to allow you to use your flight credit for next summer. However, no promises can be made.

CIEE encouraged me to book my flight and I paid more than $500 for my ticket. Why is CIEE only providing me with up to $500 in airline change or cancellation fees?

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CIEE has put into place a series of customer-oriented policies that include full program fee refunds, full deferral of scholarships, refunds on School of Record fees paid, and $500 voucher offers valid on summer 2020 or summer 2021 programs. We take our role as an industry leader seriously and these policies exceed the industry standard. On top of these refund policies we are also providing up to $500 in change or cancellation fees incurred by students for changing and/or cancelling flights.

We understand this policy may frustrate some who simply want $500 in refunds towards airfare. However, flights are the responsibility of the student. We feel the $500 in additional costs that may be charged by airlines on top of the airfare itself is a fair response to the situation that we have all found ourselves in due to COVID-19.  

Is CIEE going to be using the same airlines in Summer 2021 for the group chaperoned flights as they did this year?

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We hope to, however, with so much turmoil in the airline industry due to COVID-19 we cannot be certain all major airline providers will exist in their current form in 2021. That’s to say we may see mergers, we may see bankruptcy, and we may see route cancellations. We will do the best we can to mirror Summer 2020 group chaperoned flights but there are many variables outside of CIEE’s control that may impact our ability to do so. Group flight information for summer 2021 will be shared in December of this year.

What People are Saying

  • I want to thank you personally for all the hours you spent working on this. While my daughter is not attending the CIEE High School Summer Abroad program after all, I am impressed with Flightfox as being a trustworthy, reputable and well-organized organization.

     
  • I shudder to think I had booked this flight on my own. I have been strongly reminded as to why I will be using a travel agent’s expertise in the future, for all of my flights. Thank you once again!

     
  • Everything I read about flight cancellations was not giving me hope. You have brought a ray of sunshine during some pretty bleak days. I am so grateful for all of your efforts.

     
  • I’m so glad we booked through you at Flightfox! I’ll be very happy to consult with you for all future trips.

     
  • Thank you so much, Flightfox. I am so impressed with Flightfox and the customer service we have received.