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As coronavirus impacts flights, many Mainers aren't getting refunds from airlines

Grant Randall is one Mainer who is out hundreds of dollars, as his Jet Blue flight will not be refunded.

BLUE HILL, Maine — The coronavirus has impacted everything. Schools, restaurants, and businesses are all closing down to stop the spread. Even vacations and work trips are being put on hold.

Some Mainers need to fly for medical reasons. Grant Randall and his fiancee booked a Jet Blue flight to California for her medical procedure. The flight was canceled with no refunds—they were given flight credit. 

“There was no way they were going to give me a refund, the best they were going to do was a credit and credit is not going to help me get through this," Randall said. 

To make things worse the couple had to move. The two were staying with Randall's fiancee's parents, for social distancing purposes, they moved to a hotel for the time being.

“They don’t want us coming or going out of the house because we’re at risk so all of our emergency funding is going towards housing," Randall added.

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Credit: NCM

Jeanette Arnold is a travel agent for Alpine Travel. She has had clients in all sorts of travel nightmares because of the coronavirus. One group of Downeast Mainers were set to go on a cruise, they were a week too late.

All of the customers were refunded by the cruise line. However, many flyers are out off luck with major airlines.

“In total US airlines are expected to seek a 50-billion-dollar bailout and we’re going to bail out our airlines but we need to bail out our travelers,” Arnold said.

Trying to contact airlines about a possible refund has become a challenge. Arnold said she's been on hold for hours.

“What I had to do was get up at one o’clock in the morning and there would still be three to four-hour holds and they would do callbacks," Arnold added.

Editor’s note: You are starting to hear the term ‘flattening the curve’ as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means. 

Arnold has been in the travel business for decades. Her main mission is to help Mainers plan their vacations and trips with ease. She has some tips for those debating whether or not to book flights or vacations.

The first is to set up frequent flyer accounts even if you don't fly too often. If you did book a flight and are unsure about a refund make sure to check your flight's status.

Credit: NCM

“Keep an eye on the flights you were supposed to be on and see if those got canceled. Even if you canceled first, canceled flights, you have a little more leverage with the airline then," she said.

Arnold also has some travel activities for kids who are home from school:

*Learn city codes used by the airlines. All cities with airports have a 3-letter designator. For example, Bangor Maine’s code is BGR and Portland is PWM. Can you find Rockland, Bar Harbor, Presque Isle? What about Boston and Manchester, N.H.?

*Take a blank map with the states outlined and show where the major cities are: Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, etc.

*Currency conversion – can you find out how much $1 U.S. dollar is worth in British pounds, Euros, Pecos, etc.

*Languages – how do you say Hello, Thank You and Good Bye in Chinese, German, French, and Spanish?

*Pick a country and research their cuisine, national sports, major cities, etc.

*Find out how much it costs to fly there, stay there and travel around.

*Look up some foreign recipes – cook something new for your family.

*Make up a travel brochure for Maine - one for our 200th anniversary. Where are the important sites connected to this historical event? Send to the State of Maine Tourist Board for some information.

Arnold's tips don't end there. If you have any questions, concerns, or potential travel plans, Arnold is ready to help. All messages can be sent to her email: Alpinetravel33@gmail.com 

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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https://youtu.be/Q5hZuN-UY1YYouTube Coronavirus video 

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