A Complete Guide to International Airlines' Coronavirus Policies
The global situation concerning the new coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, is changing rapidly every day. Guidance on where to travel and whether airlines will be flying to certain destinations around the world is evolving hour to hour.
Here is the latest information from airlines around the world on where they are flying, what routes have been halted, and how to get a refund on any impending international trip that needs to be postponed or canceled.
Air New Zealand
The Kiwi carrier has said that it will reduce its overall capacity by 85 percent in the coming months. Air New Zealand will continue to announce route suspensions as they take place, and it has already confirmed halting long-haul flights between Auckland and Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Tokyo Narita, Honolulu, Denpasar, and Taipei from March 30 to June 30. AZ is also suspending its London to Los Angeles service from March 20 (out of LAX) and March 21 (out of LHR) through June 30.
Air New Zealand also states, Tasman and Pacific Island networks will see significant capacity reductions between April and June but hasn't yet announced those schedule changes. As far as domestic flights, those will also be trimmed by about 30 percent in April and May, but no routes within the country will be fully suspended.
For any flights that need to be changed, the airline has introduced a flexible policy. "If your international travel is covered by global government-imposed restrictions, for the period up to and including 31 March 2020, you can change your booking and we'll waive change fees, service fees, and fare difference," Air New Zealand's COVID-19 FAQs page says. "For all other international travel after 31 March 2020, we can re-book you to a date in the future at no additional cost (we'll waive change fees, service fees, and fare difference)."
For its cheapest fare class, the "saver fare," purchased between February 27 and March 31, 2020, for travel through February 2021, Alaska Airlines is allowing cancellations for a refund in the form of a travel credit. Passengers with nonrefundable first-class or economy tickets (purchased in the same date range) can cancel for a refund in the form of a travel credit or make a one-time change for free, but travel must be completed by the end of February 2021.
Because of the amount of calls Alaska is getting to its reservations lines, the carrier is advising customers to cancel or change their bookings online. It has a helpful how-to page if you're not sure what changing a booking online entails.
Among the U.S. carriers that have begun making massive flight suspensions is American Airlines, which recently said it will reduce international flights by 75 percent into May and grounding their entire fleet of wide-body aircraft. On the chopping block are many flights to Europe; AA has also halted all flights to/from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong until April 23 or 24 and is stopping its route from Dallas-Fort Worth to Seoul, South Korea from March 4 to April 25.
The carrier has announced that it will waive all change fees for any new flights booked from March 1 to 16. The airline says the offer applies to any of its published fares and changes must be made at least 14 days before travel. On top of waiving change fees for new bookings, American is also eliminating fees for changes to routes to Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, or any ticket bought before March 1 for travel through May 31. Go to American Airlines travel alerts page for specific information on the restrictions for changes.
British Airways has introduced a preemptive flight change policy similar to American's. For flights purchased from March 3 to 16, change fees will be waived right up until takeoff. For passengers with flights booked to or from Hong Kong through May, British Airways is allowing flights to re-book for a later date. The airline has suspended all of its flights to and from Italy. BA is offering free cancellations to anyone traveling through May 31, regardless of the destination. To process the cancellation and receive a refund in the form of a travel voucher, customers can fill out this online form, which can take up to seven days to process. Change fees are also waived for trips through May, so passengers can push their trip to any date until the end of the year. Go to British Airways' Book With Confidence page for more information.
Delta Air Lines
Delta is making sweeping cuts to their route network, with more than 80 percent of international flights suspended over the next three months until demand rebounds. Among the flights halted include all to continental Europe and many to Asia. The airline is advising affected customers to log in to the "My Trip" section of its website to see their options, which "include re-booking on alternate Delta flights, re-booking on flights after April 30, re-booking on alternate or partner airlines, refunds or contacting us to discuss additional options."
The Atlanta-based carrier is also waiving change fees preemptively for all international flights booked between March 1 and 31, as well as offering no-fee changes to all domestic and international flights for travel through April 30 as long as the tickets were issued on or before March 9.
In addition to pausing flights to Iran indefinitely, Emirates has suspended flights to at least 35 destinations, including Madrid, Barcelona, Mexico City, and its popular fifth freedom flight from New York to Milan. The airline is allowing customers on flights booked before March 31 to re-book for free or get a refund in the form of money or a travel voucher. Flights must be booked for travel before May 31 and re-bookings are allowed until June 30.
Hawaiian has plans to trim its network by 15 to 20 percent through May. It has already temporarily stopped its flights to Seoul, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, and is starting to suspend flights from the U.S. mainland to the islands. For affected customers, HA is giving fliers one-time fee-free changes for travel through the end of the year or the option to cancel for a travel voucher/refund.
JetBlue started waiving all change and cancellation fees in late February. The New York–based carrier said that for new flights purchased between February 27 to March 11 for travel completed by June 1, all cancellations and changes would be free. The airline also said that it plans to reduce at least 40 percent of its flights this spring. It's currently waiving the change and cancellations fees for all flights booked for travel between March 10 and April 30.
For most of its flights from Seoul to America—including San Francisco, New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Honolulu, Dallas, and others—as well as destinations in Southeast Asia and Europe, Korean Air has suspended flights or is operating a reduced schedule.
The airline is waiving fees for any changes to flights booked on or before March 1 between North America and Korea, including flights that simply stop in Korea and continue to a different destination. A new ticket must be re-issued on or before June 30. Korean Air is offering similar policies for itineraries in Southeast Asia and for passengers with entry restrictions due to Covid-19.
Lufthansa is planning some of the most extensive flight cuts in the industry for its global route network and that of its subsidiaries. The airline group said in a statement it would be reducing its flights by up to 50 percent "in the coming weeks," for all airlines in its network, which include Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and Air Dolomiti. It hasn't yet released which routes will be halted as part of the mass reductions. Lufthansa is also examining the possibility of temporarily grounding its entire fleet of Airbus A380s (the carrier flies 14 of the super-jumbo aircraft) due to sinking demand.
Additionally, the carrier is waiving all change fees for any new flights purchased to any destination through March 31. These new reservations will have a free one-time re-booking for any travel date through December 31, 2020. The airline group is also letting passengers who have already purchased change their itineraries at no charge, regardless of the original fare restrictions. That policy applies to fares booked by March 5 for travel through April 30 and allows for a re-booking on any date through the end of the year.
Norwegian has slashed 85 percent of its flight capacity, leading to 4,500 cancellations, including routes between the U.S. and Europe. Norwegian is reaching out to affected customers and is offering refunds.
For flights that are still operating, the airline is allowing one fee-free change for its LowFare, LowFare+, and Premium tickets booked through March 22. The tickets must have been for travel completed on or before November 30, and the new flights must take place before that date as well.
United has announced that it will be suspended 85 percent of its international flights, and reducing 42 percent of its network throughout the U.S. and Canada. For any passengers scheduled to fly between March 10 and April 30, the airline is allowing changes at no cost, regardless of destination or when the ticket was purchased (but certain other time restrictions do apply). For new international or domestic airfares purchased between March 3 and March 31, United is allowing passengers to change the dates and times of their flights with no charge for up to a year after the ticket was issued.
Airport and passenger restrictions in the U.S.
President Donald Trump has instituted a ban on many travelers from Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. The new regulations prohibit travelers who have been in any of the 26 countries in Europe's Schengen Area, the U.K., or Ireland within the last 14 days from entering the U.S. if they are not American citizens or permanent residents, with a few exceptions for immediate family members. Travelers arriving in the U.S. from Iran and mainland China have already been subjected to the same regulations.American citizens and permanent residents arriving from these destinations will also be screened at certain airports for symptoms of the virus. Those
airports include major hubs like Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Newark, New York JFK, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. If a U.S. citizen who has recently been to Europe, China, or Iran has a flight route into the U.S. that does not include one of the approved airports designated for COVID-19 screenings, they will be re-routed to a hub that offers a symptom checkpoint.
Please do not hesitate to contact Olsen-O'Leary with any travel questions or concerns