Airlines and coronavirus: Change and cancellation policies after travel bans

Further travel bans to contain the spread of COVID-19 have seen airlines offer further flexibility to passengers looking to change or cancel their travel plans.

Less than two weeks ago, most airlines agreed to waive change fees for flights  only to people who had booked recently or were planning to book over the next couple of weeks. Now, with international routes suspended and aircraft grounded, airlines have upped their offerings.

Qantas and Jetstar are now allowing passengers on both international and domestic flights travelling before May 31 to cancel their flight and retain the value of their booking as a flight credit.

Passengers must cancel before March 30 and will need to use the flight credit within 12 months of the original issue date of the ticket, or by September 30, 2020, whichever is later.

Virgin Australia is allowing passengers flying before June 30 to change their dates without change fees or to cancel and receive a travel credit. The details of how and when the travel credit can be used is determined by the individual booking, according to Virgin's website. Tigerair passengers are being offered the same options.

Qantas and Virgin Australia are stopping all international flights and the government has advised Australians against non-essential domestic travel.The airlines advised that passengers whose flights have now been cancelled will be contacted to be informed of their options.

Internationally, many airlines  are following Qatar Airways in offering 12-month travel vouchers for those who wish to cancel existing bookings. Emirates, which on Monday announced it would be suspending almost all passenger flights for two weeks from March 24, is offering travel vouchers valid for 12 months from the date of issue. The airline will allow passengers to use the voucher for multiple flights, up to the value of the original booking.

Singapore Airlines is allowing passengers booked to travel up to May 31 to cancel their flight, retain the value of their booking and rebook to fly at any time up to March 31 next year.

Singapore's Changi Airport, one of the region's major hubs and ranked the best airport in the world in 2019, will no longer allow passengers to transit through it from Tuesday, March 24.

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Changi is the world's seventh busiest international airport, with 65.6 million passengers passing through it in 2018.

Most other major airlines are offering similar flexibility. For more details check your airline's website.

Most airlines are advising passengers that if they are not travelling in the next 48 hours, they should not try to contact the airline by phone. Instead airlines are urging passengers to use their websites to make change and voucher requests, rather than calling, as large numbers of calls are resulting in extremely long wait times. Several call centres based in the Philippines have been closed due to home-isolation rules in that country, including one of Virgin Australia's.

Travellers who booked flights through third-party websites or agents, are being advised by most airlines to contact those companies directly about changes and cancellations. Major operators, such as Flight Centre and Expedia, are offering similar options to airlines.

See also: What the travel bans mean for your frequent flyer status

See also: Five things travellers should do now you can't travel

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