Qantas flight vouchers for coronavirus cancellations extended to end of 2021

Qantas has significantly extended the use-by date for the flight vouchers it is providing to travellers in the wake of disruptions due to the coronavirus.

The airline is now allowing anyone with a ticket to travel before July 31 to cancel in return for a flight credit to the full value of the booking, which can be used for a future flight up until the end of next year.

Previously, the airline was only providing flight credits to passengers who were set to travel before May 31. Those passengers had to use the flight credit within 12 months or their original booking date, or September 30, whichever was later.

Qantas said passengers who had already received a flight credit issued on or after January 31 would automatically be granted the extension to December 31, 2021, but warned it may take a few weeks to update in the airline's system.

Passengers whose flights have been cancelled by the airline will be contacted.

The flight credits can only be used toward fares of equal or higher value to the fare originally purchased.

Virgin Australia is allowing passengers to cancel and receive a credit for flights up to June 30. The credits last 12 months from the date of cancellation.

Many airlines are offering similar flexibility, but options are becoming more generous as carriers desperately try to avoid paying out refunds. 

Emirates has also extended its policy, now offering passengers a flight voucher valid for 24 months from the date or their original booking. The airline's website also states that if passengers are unable to travel for 12 months from when the voucher is issued, they will have the option of a full refund or extending the voucher for another 12 months.

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.