- As the coronavirus continues to spread, with outbreaks appearing in South Korea, Italy, Iran, and elsewhere, travellers and travel providers are being forced to rethink plans and make adjustments.
- If you’re concerned about the virus, your options for a cancellation or refund may be limited, but as the situation continues to develop, refund policies are likely to change as the virus moves closer toward pandemic status.
- Here’s what you need to know about cancelling or changing your travel plans because of the coronavirus, plus a roundup of airline travel waivers and flight cancellations.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, travellers are starting to rethink work trips and vacations.
Global tourism is bracing for a major slowdown as countries other than China struggle to contain outbreaks and travel restrictions and airline cancellations reach new markets.
“If there was previously a temptation to view the coronavirus as a China or Asia issue, then developments this week must force a shift in mindset,” Nick Wyatt, head of travel and tourism research at GlobalData, said in an email to Business Insider. “With the news that 12 towns in Italy are on lockdown and countries like Austria and Croatia announcing their first cases, it is readily apparent that the impact is likely to be felt on a more global scale than was perhaps previously envisaged.”
The spread of the virus has been swift, with new hotspots popping up around the world almost daily. In addition to China, outbreaks have been found in Italy, Iran, and South Korea, and cases of the virus have been reported in at least 60 countries.
If you’re scheduled to travel to a country with a confirmed outbreak, you may be able to cancel your trip and get a full refund.
Airlines around the world – including the major three US airlines: American, Delta, and United – have suspended routes to China, and many have begun to reduce service to South Korea and Italy.
However, refund policies vary tremendously among different airlines and depend on your destination.
If you’re simply cancelling a trip because you’re worried about the virus, odds are you won’t be able to get a refund – even with travel insurance, whether you purchased it separately or used your credit card’s coverage.
“The only travel insurance that would be helpful in that scenario is when you pay extra for a ‘cancel for any reason’ plan,” Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com, told Business Insider. “If you’re just cancelling out of fear of travelling and getting sick, that’s not a good enough reason.”
People who get sick before their trips and are worried about travelling with a weaker immune system may be able to invoke their insurance plan’s trip-cancellation coverage, provided they have a note from a doctor, Rossman said.
While travellers may have better luck asking their airline and hotel for a refund or cancellation, most travel providers are only offering that if you’re scheduled to fly to the most seriously affected regions – that is, China, South Korea, and now, Italy.
If you’re absolutely set against travelling during the coronavirus spread – even if you’re going somewhere without the virus – Rossman suggested that instead of walking away and losing the whole value of your trip, paying a change fee to reschedule it for the summer, or to another destination.
“Even if you’re really worried and you don’t want to travel, look into changing plans rather than cancelling them, because usually the fees are better in that instance. Maybe you could reschedule your trip for later, or pick a different destination,” he said. “You’ll probably pay some fees, but you won’t lose the whole trip.”
The situation is changing fast, and as new hotspots and outbreaks are reported, it’s likely that airline and travel policies will change too.
We’ve rounded up the refund and rescheduling policies of major airlines below, and the effects that the virus is having across their routes. We’ll continue to update this page as the situation develops.
Delta became the first US airline to expand travel waivers and cancellations beyond China.
Delta suspended its direct flights to China earlier this month, with low demand making the operation of the flights commercially unfeasible.
For anyone whose flights were not affected (for instance, passengers booked on Delta but transiting with a partner airline through another country), Delta has issued a travel waiver, allowing passengers to change flights without a fee, or cancel them altogether.
Last week, Delta added Seoul-Incheon Airport, South Korea, to the travel waiver.
Delta also issued a travel waiver for travel to anywhere in Italy, where a new outbreak of coronavirus was recently identified. The airline also said it would suspend its service to Milan.
Passengers who choose to cancel their flights won’t get a refund; instead, they can apply the value of their ticket to a new flight within a year.
If a passenger’s flight is cancelled by Delta, the airline will reach out with instructions, including how to claim a refund.
If the travel waiver applies to your itinerary, you can change or cancel your flight by visiting the My Trips section of Delta’s website, clicking on Modify Flight, and choosing the relevant option.
The full China and South Korea travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 24 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled or cancelled before May 31 for the waiver to apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:
- Beijing, China (PEK or PKX)
- Shanghai, China (PVG)
- Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (ICN)
The Italy travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between February 25 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled or cancelled before the date of travel for travel by May 31. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through any city in Italy.
On Wednesday, the airline said it it was reducing its weekly flight schedule to Japan through April 30, and suspending its seasonal route between Seattle and Osaka, Japan, for the summer. The airline said the moves were due to reduced demand related to the virus – it did not post a travel waiver for Japan.
Customers scheduled to fly to Japan before April 30 can check the My Trips section of Delta’s website for more information.
Finally, the airline said it would waive change fees for all international tickets purchased between March 1-31 for travel through February 25, 2021, in an effort to boost customer confidence. Passengers can change their flights to a later date without paying a fee, or can cancel flights and get the value of their ticket to use for a future trip. You can read the full details at this page.
American Airlines issued a new travel waiver for South Korea, in addition to mainland China and Hong Kong.
American Airlines similarly cancelled its flights to China as demand fell, tentatively planning to resume flying in late April.
For passengers scheduled on flights that were still operating, or who were flying to certain other affected areas, the airline has issued a series of travel waivers.
Additionally, American announced that it would waive change fees on all tickets purchased between March 1-16, regardless of destination, for travel anytime before January 26, 2021.
The move was intended to offer confidence to customers on the fence about booking travel because of anxiety over the virus’ spread, even though air travel is unlikely to contribute towards contracting the virus. You can read more here.
Travellers to mainland China and Hong Kong can change their flights, postpone travel, or cancel their tickets without a change or cancellation fee.
Those travelling to Seoul can change or delay their flights but will still have to pay cancellations fees if they decide to call the trip altogether. They can also change their origin or destination city to Tokyo.
Passengers can make a one-time change online as long as they aren’t changing origin or destination city by visiting the “find your trip” page and selecting “change trip” in the toolbar.
For any other changes, passengers should contact reservations at 800-433-7300 from the US, or at the relevant phone number listed on this page.
The full mainland China travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 24 and April 24, as long as tickets were bought by January 24. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30, 2020, for the waiver to apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:
- Beijing, China (PEK or PKX)
- Shanghai, China (PVG)
The Hong Kong travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 28 and April 24. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30, or cancelled before the originally scheduled date.
The Seoul Incheon, South Korea travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between February 24 and April 24. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30.
American also announced a travel waiver for those flying to, from, or through major cities in Italy. The waiver applies for those travelling February 27 to April 24. Travel can be rescheduled for anytime before June 30, or postponed up to 331 days from the original ticket date.
The Italy travel waiver applies to the following cities:
- Bologna, Italy (BLQ)
- Florence, Italy (FLR)
- Milan Linate, Milan, Italy (LIN)
- Milan Milapensa, Milan, Italy (MXP)
- Milan Orio al Serio, Milan, Italy (BGY)
- Naples, Italy (NAP)
- Pisa, Italy (PSA)
- Rome, Italy (FCO)
- Turin, Italy (TRN)
- Venice, Italy (VCE)
- Verona, Italy (VRN)
United similarly added a South Korea travel waiver, and reduced flights to Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
Although United has also cancelled its flights to China and Hong Kong, it issued several travel waivers for passengers scheduled to travel to the region. It added a South Korea waiver this week.
The airline is allowing passengers covered by the travel waivers to change or delay their flights without fees. Passengers scheduled to fly to China and Hong Kong can also choose to cancel their flights and receive a full refund.
Additionally, United followed other airlines by waiving all change fees on tickets booked between March 3-31, 2020. Customers can also cancel their flights, and keep the value of the ticket to use towards a later trip. Although change fees are waived, it’s possible that travellers may have to pay a fare difference for the new dates.
The full China travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 24 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30, or cancelled before the original travel date, for the waiver to apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:
- Beijing, China (PEK)
- Chengdu, China (CTU)
- Shanghai, China (PVG)
Similar terms apply for flights to, from, or through Hong Kong, for travel scheduled between January 28 and April 30.
Passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through Seoul Incheon, South Korea, between February 24 and April 30 can change their flights without a fee for travel by June 30. Refunds are not available for Seoul travellers.
Last week, United added a travel waiver for parts of northern Italy. The waiver applies for travel scheduled between February 27 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30 – for travel after that, the change fee will be waived, but a fare difference may apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:
- Bologna, Italy (BLQ)
- Genoa, Italy (GOA)
- Milan, Italy (BGY)
- Milan, Italy (LIN)
- Milan, Italy (MXP)
- Trieste, Italy (TRS)
- Turin, Italy (TRN)
- Venice, Italy (VCE)
- Verona, Italy (VRN)
On Friday, the airline also announced it was reducing flights to Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.
JetBlue will waive change and cancellation fees for all new bookings.
JetBlue doesn’t fly to any of the affected regions, but said last week that it would suspend change and cancellation fees for any new reservations starting on February 27.
The waiver would apply to all bookings made through March 11, for travel by June 1, 2020. It applies to all fares, including basic economy.
In a statement, the airline said the move was designed to boost customer confidence for anyone on the fence about whether or not to book a trip because of the outbreak.
Alaska Airlines announced a similar policy to JetBlue’s.
Alaska Airlines followed JetBlue in announcing waived change and cancellation fees.
The waiver applies to new bookings made between February 27 and March 12, for travel through June 1.
Hawaiian Airlines suspended its service to Seoul Incheon, South Korea.
Hawaiian Airlines announced Wednesday that it was temporarily suspending its five-times-a-week service between Honolulu and Seoul from March 1 through May 1.
Passengers scheduled to travel before May 1 can reschedule their flights for any time before October 31 without a fee, or request a refund.
Passengers can also reschedule flights for after October 31 – change fees will still be waived, but there may be a fare difference.
Contact reservations at 1-800-367-5320 to make a change or request a refund.
British Airways cancelled flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
British Airways cancelled its normal flights to Beijing and Shanghai until April 17.
The airline is offering refunds or rescheduling for people booked on those flights, saying that it will offer additional information on later dates.
While the airline is still flying to Hong Kong, it will allow passengers booked before May 31 to postpone their travel.
The airline is also offering a travel waiver for passengers flying to northern Italy. Passengers travelling by March 2 can reschedule their trips for any time later in March.
British Airways said it would waive change fees on tickets issued between March 3-16, 2020, regardless of destination or travel dates.
To make changes, the airline says to visit the “Manage My Booking” page, or contact reservations at +44 (0) 203 250 0145.
The airline warned that it would cancel a variety of additional flights as demand continues to drop, including some between the US and UK. You can find the latest details here.
Lufthansa Group cancelled China flights, but is not offering waivers otherwise.
Lufthansa Group – including Lufthansa itself, Swiss, and Austrian Airlines – suspended flights to mainland China until March 28. The airline said it would also reduce service to Hong Kong in March, based on demand.
The airline said that passengers could request a refund via the “My Bookings” page, or could rebook their flights to a later date.
The airline also said it planned to cancel up to 25% of its domestic and short-haul flights, and ground an additional 10 of its long-haul aircraft – up from the current number of 13 – according to Bloomberg.
Passengers whose flights are cancelled should be contacted by the airline.
Lufthansa also warned that up to 25% of its short-haul flights could be cancelled in the coming months as overall travel demand plummets.
Air France will allow people travelling to China or Italy to reschedule their flights.
Air France cancelled flights to mainland China until through at least March 28.
If you’re still booked on an operating flight to China between now and May 31, you can reschedule your trip to anytime before June 30.
You can also postpone trips to anywhere in Italy if you’re scheduled to travel between February 25 and March 15. The new travel date must be before April 3.
Allegiant Air announced it would waive fees incurred for changing a flight over COVID-19 concerns.
In a letter to customers Sunday, Allegiant Air CEO Maury Gallagher said the domestic airline would waive any fees involved with changing a flight over coronavirus worries.
“We understand your decision to travel at this time is personal and many factors are involved,” Gallagher said. “If you would like to request a change to your travel plans at this time, you may do so without incurring a change fee.”
Gallagher said the airline had not yet made any changes to its schedule as a result of the virus.