Airlines Cancel Flights, Offer Waivers Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Airlines Cancel China Flights, Offer Waivers Amid Coronavirus CrisisBritish Airways, Air Canada and Lufthansa are among a growing list of airlines that have temporarily cancelled all flights to China as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. Meanwhile, Qantas, Virgin Australia and many other airlines have issued travel waivers, allowing passengers to change or cancel their flights to China without penalty.

As the World Health Organization decides whether to declare the outbreak a global emergency, demand for flights to and from China has already dropped significantly in recent weeks. Part of this is due to border closures and other travel restrictions that have been imposed. It is also partly due to travellers cancelling their holidays and business trips to China.

British Airways and Iberia were among the first airlines to suspend all flights to China during the month of February, 2020. Lion Air, Air Astana and the Lufthansa Group, which includes Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines have also temporarily suspended flights to all Chinese destinations.

Hong Kong Express has cut service to Ningbo, its only destination in China. Meanwhile Royal Air Maroc, which will join the Oneworld alliance on 1 April 2020, has suspended its Casablanca-Beijing flight for the month of February – just two weeks after launching this new route.

Many more airlines have temporarily reduced frequency or cancelled a portion of their services to/from China. American Airlines has suspended its flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai and Beijing, while United and Delta have reduced some of their services too. Vietnam Airlines, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Asia and most Korean airlines are also among the carriers that have cut back on flights.

Further changes are highly likely in the coming days and weeks.

All flights in and out of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, have been cancelled for the past week as the airport was shut down.

The Australian government’s Smartraveller website is currently advising Australian citizens not to travel to China’s Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located.

Qantas, Virgin Australia issue change & cancellation fee waivers

Qantas and Virgin Australia are both offering to waive cancellation and change fees for passengers already booked to travel to China in the near future.

Qantas customers with tickets issued on or before 24 January 2020, for to travel to, from or via mainland China until 31 March 2020, can rebook or cancel their flights without penalty due to the coronavirus outbreak. Customers that have booked an Australian domestic or trans-Tasman Qantas flight in order to connect with a flight to/from China, even if this is on another airline, can also access this fee waiver.

Qantas is still operating as normal from Sydney to Shanghai and Beijing, but says it will “continue to monitor the situation”. Unrelated to the coronavirus, Qantas had already planned to end Sydney-Beijing flights at the end of March 2020. But Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has not ruled out pulling out sooner as demand plummets.

Virgin Australia is waiving change and cancellation fees for passengers with itineraries to, from or transiting through mainland China, for bookings with travel dates up to 29 February 2020. Passengers flying with Virgin Australia to/from Hong Kong, and continuing to/from mainland China on a separate ticket, are also eligible for this travel waiver upon presentation of a pre-existing itinerary involving travel to mainland China.

Qantas and Virgin Australia continue to fly to Hong Kong as scheduled.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: China (Coronavirus) SARS like Respiratory illness – Effect on Travel


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]