Beach Health & Wellness Passenger Rights

Airlines Waive Change Fees for Dominican Republic Flights Amidst Deaths

The Dominican Republic has been in the news a lot lately, but not for the reasons its tourism industry would like. The tropical island getaway, home to miles of fabulous beaches and countless resorts, grabbed headlines recently following a spate of suspicious Dominican Republic deaths and one very high-profile shooting.

In case you missed it, several American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic this year, under largely mysterious (but not necessarily malicious) circumstances. Most recently, an otherwise healthy Denver man fell suddenly ill and died in a Santo Domingo hospital after his symptoms forced him to disembark his flight home.

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In all, nine American tourist Dominican Republic deaths have occurred in 2019. The minister of tourism insists that number is fairly normal, and, to be clear, there’s no indication of foul play. Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic are considered safe to travel overall, although travelers are encouraged to take some common sense precautions.

Still, the spate of these odd Dominican Republic deaths and their connection to the tourism industry has people rattled, and that feeling was exacerbated when Red Sox legend David Ortiz was shot point-blank Santo Domingo in early June.

After Dominican Republic Deaths, Delta Offers Free Cancellations

Fair or not, travelers are paying attention: Travel industry researcher ForwardKeys reports that flights to the Dominican Republic are down 74 percent this month. The organization says bookings were up slightly through May, but the trend of bad news and the high-profile incident with Ortiz appears to be influencing travelers’ decisions.

Other airlines are also taking note. Delta waived change fees for flights to Punta Cana through August 15, and according to several sources (but nowhere to be found on the airline website), JetBlue is allowing passengers to cancel or change their flights without a fee. Given the lack of clarity coming from JetBlue, I’d recommend calling the airline to get further confirmation about canceling a ticket because of the Dominican Republic deaths.

American and United encourage concerned customers to contact the airline, and both say they are working on a case-by-case basis.

Readers: Would you travel to the Dominican Republic right now? Are you unnerved by the recent deaths, or does seem like an unfortunate series of coincidences?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

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