Friday, March 20

Holiday plans and the trouble with refunds

As it happens, it would seem that I am not going to be leaving the car on Jason & Steve’s drive for some considerable time anyway. No-one can travel anywhere by plane at the moment, as of this week. Even if, by some good fortune, flights do resume in a month or two, I am expecting to find that I still won’t be able to land in Ukraine without being put in quarantine for a couple of weeks. Ukraine is where Olga lives and I’ve been going there every other month for a while now. They’ve now started to see numbers of people with the virus increase and people have started to die there. It seems that Ukraine is about two or three weeks behind the UK and I have a feeling that we will be more efficient in getting things under control. Over there I rather suspect that it will be free to circulate very rapidly as few seem to be taking much notice of any distancing policy and many, many people live in quite close proximity in the huge apartment blocks. Generally, Olga is very self-sufficient and can create wonderful food that could last a good length of time. So she shouldn’t need to go out as often as I do but when she does she will, I feel, be more exposed than I am to getting it from someone.

Olga is comparatively young at 51 and seems strong and fairly fit so I am somewhat less fearful about the outcome if she does catch it than I am for myself. I haven’t had any ‘flu or even much of a cold for many years now and I worry that a bad dose of something like this virus could hit me hard. I also do my very best to avoid hospitals and, even if I do get it, I am unlikely to tell anyone for as long as I possibly can in the hope that I can get through and out the other side of it. Obviously, if I find myself in real trouble I will go wherever I have to but that will be a distinctly last, although hopefully not final, resort.

I had spent quite some time and money arranging a holiday for Olga and myself in late April, early May. I’d booked a smart-looking apartment in Qala on Gozo. It was all looking pretty good. My friend Derek lives nearby and he went to check out the place. He reported that there was some building work going on to the rear of the place which could be nuisance. I had hoped we would have a nice quiet place and could spend time on a balcony but this might result in one of the balconies being less than ideal. Having said that, the work may be intermittent and the lady owning the place said they had only just started that week and had actually only been working noisily for a day or two. She reckoned they might be finished anyway by the time we got there but, nevertheless, she had offered us a refund if we decided to cancel. I didn’t think we would find a better place in the short time available so I left it and reckoned we’d be fine. If it were noisy then we’d pop off t a nearby field or beach instead.

One of the nice things about Gozo is that you are never far away from anything. And you can park easily in most places. Just avoid Victoria. I have spent three holidays now driving around the island and not once have I had trouble. We see a beach or a nice view and stop. Just not in Victoria. I do remember the last time I parked in Victoria and needed to use Google Maps to find my way back on foot to the town centre! On another occasion I actually took the TomTom navigation device with me!

We will still get back to Gozo but the question on my mind, and most people’s minds too at this time, is when? Just how long will this go on for and when will we be free to travel again? I heard reports today that the ‘distancing policy’ could remain in force for the rest of the year. The rest of the year?! I understand that the virus may remain in and around so that if we do start meeting and greeting people again as we used to then it could have a revival and there will be another burst of infections. Quite what that means for my prospects of getting a plane to Kiev this year means, I don’t know. I had assumed and kept at the back of my mind the hope that I would go back in late summer and we’d get to Gozo in the autumn, maybe going somewhere else first as Gozo can be way too hot for me in summer. I am beginning to have doubts now. That’s quite heavy.

When trying to get some money back for the apartment reservation I had made I did think that, if the worst came to the worst, I could ask that it be re-used for an autumn period and I had even started to consider which dates might be good, like the second part of October, maybe. Now I’m quite glad I didn’t! Although getting anything back from AirBnB is not simple. My first effort, with total backing from the very understanding host, produced no response at all, despite my stating that the coronavirus affecting travel permissions was the reason for cancellation. My second attempt produced a zero refund! My third, and I think I’ll have to settle for this, produced a £70 credit against a future booking and a request to the owner for the balance of what I’d paid. I am hoping that AirBnB will either pay the owner the money she is due and that will come to me from her or that they will simply pay me with her agreement.

The refund thing is further complicated by the fact that ArBnB don’t give the owner the money until the reservation starts! So the lady won’t get it until the end of April and I have a feeling that I won’t see it before then even if they are supposed to pay me. It must be tough on people who rely on these bookings to get by. I don’t think that Chelsi, the lady owning the apartment in Qala is in that category will be OK, albeit a lot worse off in terms of extra income this year. I do appreciate that it’s not her fault and so I would have accepted some reduction but, hopefully, if I do use AirBnB next time, then the cancellation will not, in the end have cost me anything.

Flights should be OK too. Air Malta may well take a while to get round to making a refund but they have promised that I can have one. I’ll live with that and have a lot more confidence than I have with the AirBnB thing. Even better, however, have been good old WizzAir. They propose to refund my fares plus 20% to my account with them if the travel restrictions are still in place. At the moment the restrictions are stated as applying only up to 3 April but I cannot imagine them not being extended. It would be odd if I can travel to Ukraine after all on 22 April. Surely that is not going to be possible? All will be revealed soon enough, I guess.

No comments: