As the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak spreads further and unfounded mass hysteria fuelled by traditional media has people scrambling for toilet paper, airlines are the ones feeling the impact.
Last week we saw Flybe go under and airline share prices around the world received a considerable beating. As global demand for travel takes a nosedive, it’s only logical for airlines to reduce flights to meet demand.
While this is annoying and inconvenient for people like me how aren’t to bothered by the whole virus situation (in fact, now is probably one of the best times to travel!), there’s one thing ALL airlines should be doing to install confidence with travellers.
Flexible Tickets On All Fare Types!
Airlines are one of the few industries that can get away with a lot. By that I mean, normal consumer law doesn’t really apply to them.
- Booked an A380 but downgraded to a 777? Tough luck.
- Flight cancelled? Tough luck.
- Flight delayed? Tough luck.
- Want to change your flights… oh wait!
The list goes on, so I think you get where I’m going with this.
The number one reason people are scared to lock in any travel is not the virus; it’s the uncertainty of whether they will lose their money on flights and the like in case the situation goes bad and they are stopped from travelling (i.e. quarantine rules etc.). Understandably, people have commitments and can’t just “chance” their annual holiday if they might be quarantined upon their return.
This is where flexible tickets come into play. Usually, these are reserved for expensive fare classes, but we’re now seeing a trend where airlines are allowing flexibility on ALL ticket types.
However, not all airlines are playing along, and I hope the likes of Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, Thai Airways, EVA Air, China Airlines and Etihad get onboard with what should be a global aviation initiative to A) save their own revenue and B) look after their customers for once.
Update: Qantas & Virgin Australia
Since posting this article, both Qantas and Virgin Australia have started to offer flexibility; great news!
Virgin Australia: If you’ve got an existing international booking or are making a new international booking for travel between 10 March and 30 June 2020, we won’t charge you a change fee to rebook to the same destination or a new one.
Qantas: QF will offer a one-time fee-free change to international flight bookings made between 10 and 31 March 2020, for travel before 30 June 2020, subject to availability.
Changes must be made at least 3 days prior to travel, the new travel date must be on or before 30 June 2020 and any fare difference is payable.
Airlines Offering Coronavirus Fee Waivers
I’m not going to go into the exact terms and conditions for each airline, but the following are a list of airlines that are now offering flexible ticket rules for at least 12 months for all flights booked until the end of March. This should mean that if you hold a ticket or plan to book a trip, you can change the travel dates at least once in the next 12 months.
Emirates is providing customers more flexibility, choice and value through its newly introduced waiver policy for all booked tickets issued on or from today, 7 March until 31 March 2020, allowing customers across its network the choice of changing their travel dates without change and reissuance fees.
The move provides Emirates’ customers with peace of mind should they decide to change their travel plans due to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Customers can change their booking to any date for travel within an 11-month date range in the same booking class without change penalties. The difference in fare, if applicable applies. The policy covers all existing destinations across the Emirates network.
Singapore Airlines will waive change fees for all SIA and SilkAir tickets issued between 6 March 2020 and 31 March 2020. This new policy will give customers the flexibility to change their travel plans without incurring additional change fees, given the concerns over the growing global scale of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Qatar Airways has launched a new commercial policy to provide customers with maximum flexibility to suit their travel plans. Passengers that have booked or will book flights for travel up to 30 June 2020 will be offered the flexibility to change their travel plans free of charge by altering the dates of their booking or exchanging their ticket for a travel voucher valid for one year. Both changes apply up to three days prior to departure.
This commercial policy is designed to provide Qatar Airways’ passengers with confidence and peace of mind when booking flights in light of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and its impact on global travel.
KLM is temporarily introducing the option to change your ticket without a change fee. You can change the period in which you choose to fly as well as the destination. The costs of any fare differences will remain applicable. This option is valid for bookings made by 31 March 2020 for flights departing by 31 May 2020.
BA are removing the change fee on all new bookings made from Tuesday 3 March to Monday 16 March 2020. No change fee applies to new bookings on any route made from Tuesday 3 March to Monday 16 March 2020.
Guests who book any of their flights between March 1-31, 2020 may change their travel to a future date without incurring change fees. A one-time change fee waiver will be granted for tickets that are purchased between March 1-31, 2020 for any Hawaiian Airlines flight. This waiver allows a one-time change per ticket without fee. Any subsequent changes will be subject to regular change rules and applicable to the originally ticketed fare(s).
American Airlines will waive change fees up to 14 days prior to travel for customers who purchase travel between March 1 and March 16. This change offers customers the best fares with even more flexibility.
The offer is available for any of American’s published fares. Any ticket purchased from March 1 at 4:30 p.m. CST and March 16, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CST will not incur change fees if changes are made 14 days prior to travel.
United is offering flexibility when planning your next trip — that’s why when you book a flight with us between March 3 and March 31, 2020, you can change it for free over the next 12 months.
(Includes SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Air Dolomiti)
With immediate effect and until 31 March 2020, the Lufthansa Group airlines will waive the rebooking fees for all newly booked flights worldwide and offer a one-time rebooking – regardless of condition of the original booking fare purchased. Passengers can in future rebook to a new travel date until 31 December 2020 without rebooking fees.
The new waiver policy for existing bookings applies worldwide for tickets purchased before 5 March with a travel date up to 30 April 2020. Passengers can rebook to a new date up to 31 December 2020 without any rebooking fee – regardless of condition of the original booking fare purchased.
If you purchase a Saver fare between February 27, 2020 and March 31, 2020 for travel through February 28, 2021, you may:
- Cancel your trip deposit the funds into your My Account wallet.
- If you purchase a nonrefundable First Class or Main fare between February 27, 2020 and March 31, 2020 for travel through February 28, 2021, you may:
- Make a one-time change with no change fee. New travel must be completed by February 28, 2021. A fare difference may apply to your new itinerary.
Air France now authorises re-booking at no extra cost throughout its network for flights booked on and before March 31, 2020.
When you purchase a ticket between March 4 and March 31, 2020, Air Canada will allow you to make a one-time change to your flight without incurring a change fee up to 14 days before travel.
SAS are offering rebooking opportunities free of charge when you buy a new ticket from March 05th, 2020 to March 19th, 2020 for travel until August 31st, 2020 (included).
No change fee applies to new bookings made from March 05th, 2020 to March 19th, 2020 for travel between March 05th, 2020 and August 31st, 2020 (included).
The offer is valid on all SAS operated flights, too and from Europe, USA and Asia. The offer is not valid for flights wholly within Scandinavia or Domestic Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
To provide greater flexibility, Virgin Atlantic has introduced a flexible policy to waive the flight change fee for bookings made from 04 March – 31 March 2020.
This relaxed policy is to give customers the flexibility to book throughout March with peace of mind there is the option to change flight date to a later time without a change fee. Subject to availability.
The policy applies to all routes in Virgin Atlantic’s international network, including services from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast airports, and tickets booked on Virgin Atlantic codeshare flights on transatlantic routes with its expanded joint venture partners; Delta, Air France and KLM.
No Change Fees For All Tickets Purchased Between March 1-31, 2020. Ticket Can Be Changed One-Time To An Alternate Itinerary. Must Be Re-issued On/Before: February 28, 2021.
Avianca offers the option to change the itinerary without penalty to those who have purchased tickets or redeemed them with miles between March 4 and 31, 2020 on routes to and from the United States, Canada, and Europe