Kept an eye on the news lately? You may have noticed a few particularly unsettling stories about U.S tourists dying mysteriously while on vacation. That's a terrifying thought, but airlines are looking to help assuage anyone concerned by Dominican Republic travel that they've already bought and paid for. If you booked a flight heading to specific airports in the Dominican Republic through Delta or JetBlue, the airlines will allow you to change or cancel your tickets, free of charge.
Delta will be granting a waiver for travel through August 15, so if any passengers opt to rebook, they can do so all the way up until November 20. Those wishing to completely cancel their trip will receive a credit that they can use at Delta for up to a year after their original booking date. Similarly, JetBlue passengers can cancel or rebook their flights without a fee and receive a credit for future travel if canceling. It seems like a cash refund is out of the question, but given that there's no real penalty here for changing your mind about visiting the country, that's a good deal.
Delta announced its new policy based on the seeming rash of deaths (or as they put it, "recent events") that have been occurring in the Caribbean nation as of late. The airline is also working with passengers traveling to airports in Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic to offer changes or cancellations as well. Delta and JetBlue aren't the only airline working on these new policies, either, with American and Sun Country also announcing they will work with passengers for the same reasons as needed.
According to the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, over 2 million American tourists headed to see the sights there in the Dominican Republic in the last two years, but at least 10 American tourists having died in the idyllic vacation destination in 2019 alone, which has recently caused some prospective tourists to express concern.
Much of tourists' worry comes from the fact that many of the deaths seem to share eerily similar circumstances in common: the deaths were sudden, or involved drinking shortly before passing. There's hasn't been any sort of definitive connection drawn among the deaths at this time. There's speculation that they could be alcohol-related, but so far it appears there isn't any real evidence to support any of these theories. That's what makes it so unsettling — there aren't any clear answers floating around.
However, Dominican Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia has since called this string of deaths largely "exaggerated." In a recent conference he stated that it's not unusual for eight people to die on vacation during any six-month period, and is looking to clear the country's reputation. For context, in 2015 alone, 30 Americans died in the country of unnatural causes. And numbers have decreased since then. In 2016, the number dropped to 18, and then 17 in 2017.
If you've booked a flight to one of the affected destinations and find yourself furrowing your brow in consternation over whether it's a good idea to visit after all, Delta has a specific travel advisory page set up to take care of anyone planning to fly into these destinations or alter their flights in any way. There are also instructions about what to do to "best fit your travel needs" in regard to remaining on your booked flight, diverting to a different one, or canceling entirely.
Perhaps this string of mysterious deaths isn't anything to cause concern, as Garcia is insisting. But for those who find the news is making them anxious about an upcoming trip, the option to cancel worry-free is a good one. Plus, there's always the option to rebook.