Last Friday, we released a summary of the latest COVID-19 news relating to travel and loyalty programs. This article provides an updated summary of recent changes that are relevant to Australian frequent flyers, as of Monday 16 May 2020.
A lot has changed in just three days. All travellers from overseas are now being required to self-isolate upon arrival into Australia, and many parts of the world are slowly heading into lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing an unprecedented and evolving global situation.
This article is specifically looking at the implications of COVID-19 in terms of travel and loyalty programs. For the latest health advice, we recommend checking Australian government updates and the latest World Health Organization advice.
This article was last updated at 8am (AEDT) on 16 March 2020.
Latest Smartraveller advice
A good place to get travel advice updates from the Australian government is the Smartraveller website.
Here is an excerpt of the latest Smartraveller advice as of 15 March 2020:
We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need for overseas travel at this time.
Regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time.
We have issued this advice for two principal reasons:
1. There may be a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas. You may come in contact with more people than usual, including during long-haul flights and in crowded airports. Health care systems in some countries may come under strain and may not be as well-equipped as Australia’s or have the capacity to support foreigners. You may not have your normal support networks overseas.
2. Overseas travel has become more complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing entry or movement restrictions. These are changing often and quickly. Your travel plans may be disrupted. You may be placed in quarantine or denied entry to some countries, and you may need to self-quarantine on return to Australia. Think about what this might mean for your health, and your family, work or study responsibilities.
You can discuss this new advice to avoid overseas travel on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Smartraveller now raised ALL overseas travel alert
Travellers required to self-isolate upon arrival into Australia or New Zealand
All travellers arriving in Australia or New Zealand from overseas are now legally required to immediately self-isolate for 14 days.
Singapore is similarly now issuing “stay at home” notices to travellers arriving from ASEAN countries, Switzerland, Japan or the UK, with effect from tomorrow. Travellers from some countries have also been banned from transiting through Singapore Changi Airport.
Meanwhile, the USA has widened its ban on arrivals from Europe to include the UK. Some South American countries, including Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay are also temporarily winding back flights from Europe.
Many airlines have suspended operations
Numerous airlines have announced that they will temporarily (or in some cases, indefinitely) suspend most or all operations. This includes:
- SAS (Scandinavian Airlines)
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Saudia (international flights only)
- Air Baltic
- La Compagnie
Al Jazeera is also reporting that Qatar will suspend incoming flights from next Wednesday. Meanwhile, American Airlines has suspended almost all of its long-haul international flights. This includes flights to Sydney. More changes are likely.
Qantas relaxes fee waiver
Qantas is now allowing customers with bookings for travel until 31 May 2020 to cancel and receive a voucher to use towards a new trip within 12 months of the original travel date. Jetstar is also adopting this policy.
Read more: Qantas Offers Free Cancellation Vouchers
Qantas Double Status Credits offer
Qantas released a targeted double status credits promotion, which was received by numerous AFF members, on Saturday. It covers Qantas Economy class flights to Singapore and Japan, for travel until 30 June 2020. The promotion ends on 19 March 2020. The timing of the offer is bizarre, coming just a day after the Australian government advised people not to travel overseas.
More airlines offer status extensions
Etihad, Finnair and Virgin Atlantic are now added to the list of airlines offering complimentary status extensions to their elite members.
Both Finnair and Virgin Atlantic are offering complimentary 6-month status extensions, while Etihad has promised members it will provide a monthly gift of tier miles to supplement members’ accounts from the end of March.
Many European countries heading into lockdown
More European countries have shut off their borders and introduced new restrictions on the movement of people. Countries now in partial or full lockdown include Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Czech Republic. Note that this list is not exhaustive.
Some Australian states have also now started declaring emergencies.
Alitalia requiring all passengers to wear face masks
Alitalia, which is surprisingly still operating some flights, is now requiring all passengers to bring and wear a face masks on busy flights. (Many passengers and flight crew are now choosing to do this as a precaution anyway.)
Cover-More suspends sales of Cancel For Any Reason insurance
As of Friday 13 March 2020, Cover-More has suspended sales of its Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance add-on in Australia and New Zealand. This does not affect existing policies.
Australian Frequent Flyer has set up a new forum for news & discussion about COVID-19: Coronavirus (COVID-19) News & Discussion