Coronavirus and airlines: Qantas, Jetstar, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Air New Zealand among airlines waiving change fees for passengers

Emirates aircraft interior cleaning process

The airline released a video detailing how they clean their aircraft and respond to possible coronavirus affected planes.

Qantas and Jetstar have followed several other airlines is waiving change fees for some flights in the wake of coronavirus.

"To provide customers with greater flexibility and confidence when they book, Qantas and Jetstar will waive change fees for new international bookings made from today (March 10) until the end of March," the airline said in an update.

"This applies to travel commencing up to 30 June 2020 and is limited to one free change per customer. Customers will need to pay any fare difference."

Cathay Pacific also announced that passengers would be able to make unlimited changes without charge for bookings made from March 9 to April 20, as long as the trip is completed before February 28, 2021. 

Several other carriers, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Air New Zealand and LATAM have also offered flexibility to passengers wishing to change their flights.

After initially limiting change fee waivers to passengers who made bookings from March 7, Emirates changed their policy on late Monday to apply to all earlier bookings.

Passengers will be able to change their travel date to any time within an 11-month period for the same booking class. They may have to pay the difference in the fare, if applicable.

Qatar Airways passengers who have already booked or book to travel before June 30 will be able to change their travel dates without charge up to three days before they travel. Alternatively, they can exchange their ticket for a travel voucher valid up to 12 months.

Singapore Airlines will waive change fees for bookings made between March 6 and March 31. The new travel date must be before March 31, 2021.

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Air New Zealand will waive change fees for international bookings made from March 5 to March 31. 

Etihad has waived fees for bookings made from March 8 to April 7.

South America's largest carrier, LATAM, will waive change fees for bookings made between March 6 and March 22, for travel up to the end of the year. Passengers will be able to change their flights up to 14 days before their outbound flight. 

Philippines airline Cebu Pacific has also waived change fees, but only for those flying between March 10 and 31.

The announcements follow similar moves by several other airlines around the world, who have offered passengers flexibility as fears of coronavirus see bookings dry up.

United Airlines became the first major US carrier to institute a waiver for change fees earlier this month. Other US carriers have followed suit, in most cases for bookings made in March.

The expense of changing or cancelling travel plans due to the impact of the coronavirus has become a major issue after most travel insurers classified the illness as a "known issue". As a result, most policies will not cover travellers for any issues related to the coronavirus.

Along with increased flexibility, airlines have been slashing fares in order to stimulate demand. Return flights to the US from Australia can be found for less than $900, with flights to various European destinations less than $1300.

Other parts of the travel industry have also introduced similar policies. Viking cruises will allow guests booked on any upcoming 2020, 2021 or 2022 cruise to postpone their cruise at any time up until 24 hours before it departs, without cancellation fees. They will receive a Future Cruise Voucher for the full value of the amount paid which will be valid for 24 months from the date of issuance.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea are allowing passengers booked to depart on cruises before July 31 to cancel up to 48 hours before sailing. 

Emirates' statement also detailed the airline's "enhanced cleaning and disinfection" process for its aircraft.

"In line with the latest expert medical finding that the COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted by touch, Emirates has placed its greatest focus on surface cleaning.

"The airline uses an approved chemical that is proven to kill viruses and germs, leaves a long- lasting protective coating against new contamination of viruses, bacteria and fungi on surfaces, and is eco-friendly," the statement said. Emirates also released a video demonstrating the cleaning process.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Qatar Airways would waive fees for flights booked before June 30, rather than for bookings departing before June 30. 

See also: Cheap flights, hotels and cruises on offer as coronavirus hits travel industry

See also: Here are all the airlines that have suspended routes due to coronavirus

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