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In 2019 I booked a flight ticket with SAS to Svalbard. Unfortunately Covid19 happened.

My ticket is from a flight outside the nordic countries, with a layover in Oslo.

I'll be prevented from entering Norway, since I'm not a resident. Moreover, even if I was already in Norway right now, I'd be prevented from boarding the flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen, since Svalbard also separately restricted travel.

To add to the complexity, when I tried to book this ticket, SAS doesn't offer a flight with a single layover. All of the flights I found have a further layover in Stavanger, Stockholm, Copenhagen... even if SAS offers direct flights to Oslo! The solution I found was to book with a travel agent which sold me a ticket with a single layover.

So, SAS has a page for Covid19 information, with links to a search tool (a bit buggy and annoying to use) to check cancelled and confirmed flights, I haven't been able to confirm it for sure, but the closer we are to the departure date (it's less than 10 days from now), it seems that the less likely it'll be for it to be cancelled.

I have the option of REBOOKING FREE OF CHARGE, unfortunately The rebooking can be made only once. and due to the current uncertainty, it's really difficult to pick another sensible date on which to plan my trip (no idea when Norway and Svalbard will reopen to visitors).

In theory, I have the option to exchange my flight ticket for a voucher, that way I'd have the option to defer choosing the new date, which would suit me much better. Unfortunately The voucher is valid for bookings made directly with SAS (not for bookings made by travel agents).

I already contacted my travel agent 6 days ago. They ask not to call, and contact them via their ticketing system only for trips in the next 4 weeks. Unfortunately, both messages I sent them have been replied with an automated reply which suggests to call them on the phone (phone which only has a recorded message, saying that they are unable to take calls due to the huge volume of requests).

So, it seems that I'm stuck. I was thinking that given that in normal circumstances I have right to travel to norway (being an EEA citizen), if I'm denied boarding I should be able to at least hope for compensation according to EU regulation 261. Though it seems there's an exception For safety, security or health reasons, which usually is for different kinds of concerns, but it might be applied to a blanket ban on non-residents due to Covid19. Regardless if that exception happens, I'd have to actually attempt boarding (be at the airport on time) to actually claim compensation. I could do that, but that seems less than ideal:

  • I'm social distancing, and I'd rather avoid a needless trip to the airport
  • As described above, I don't know if I should realistically expect compensation (maybe you can help me here)
  • I'd have to hope that the airline would really not let me board (given that I'd then be stuck in Norway without a flight to come back immediately), though I guess I can go past the gate and then turn back before entering the plane.

I guess that if the worst thing that happens to me during this pandemic is that I'll lose out on the money for this flight ticket, that's still pretty good, all things considered. Before giving up on it though, maybe you have some suggestion on how to able to be refunded?

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    If you do go to the airport, the worst that could happen is you catch COVID-19. That seems a whole lot worse than losing the price of the ticket. – Patricia Shanahan Mar 30 at 8:02
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    I wouldn’t give up hope on the flight being cancelled. Different airline/scenario but BA ha cancelled my internal flight on 17 April but not yet the associated flight to Barbados on 18th. I expect them to get around to it soon, given FCO advice against non-essential travel and the fact that Barbados will put arrivals from affected areas into 14 day quarantine. – Traveller Mar 30 at 8:17
  • That's true, there's still a chance that it might be cancelled. OTOH countries like the UK and Norway seem to be keen to keep commercial flights up and running, since it relieves them from the burden of having to arrange repatriations. – berdario Mar 30 at 9:29
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    If your flight gets cancelled by the airline you are technically entitled to a full a refund. However, most airlines at the moment are happily breaking the law by refusing refunds and they are lobbying banks and governments to back them up. So even if it does get cancelled , it may not help you much. – Hilmar Mar 30 at 11:55
  • Even if I just get a voucher for the same flight, rather than a cash refund I'd be fine with it (since I eventually plan to make the same trip). But it seems I might've just got some good news: the agent wrote me asking for me to confirm the change that the airline made (!?!? seems like a trick to get me to agree on something that I don't want), and by checking on the airline website, the flight doesn't appear to be cancelled yet, but the booking lists the flights as cancelled. I'll wait 1 or 2 days (if it has been cancelled, they should indeed proceed with the refund automatically). – berdario Mar 30 at 16:02
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If someone has an answer to the general question, that's still welcome, but to provide an update on my specific situation:

It seems that things will resolve for the best: the airline ended up cancelling the flight, and the travel agent wrote me that they'll go ahead with the refund process.

I've actually only received automated emails from the agent, and I've been unable to speak with anyone. Otoh I've actually been able to speak with someone from the airline, so this experience is persuading me to try even harder in the future to avoid booking via a travel agent.

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  • Most airlines are in trouble paying back the tickets for the flights they had to cancel, I do not think it would have made a difference if you had booked direct with the airline. – Willeke Apr 1 at 17:20
  • It's one less middleman with inconsistent rules. Airlines and travel agents routinely pass the buck to each other ("we can provide a refund, but you need to speak with the agent. We can ask for a refund, but it depends on the term of the airlines. You can ask for a change on the airline side IF they expose a form for it. There are no fees for certain changes, but all changes processed by the agent incur a fee". I understand that agents can make weird bulk bookings that normal consumers don't have access to, but the whole experience is quite frustrating ) – berdario Apr 1 at 17:36

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