COVID-19: Qatar, Emirates, SIA make it easy for travelers to change flights amid outbreak, budget airlines more restrictive

“Going places together” or not. Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways.
“Going places together” or not. Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways.

It’s not just disinfecting the aircraft more thoroughly and telling passengers to cough with their mouths shut.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, airlines are rolling out new policies to accommodate passengers looking to change their travel plans. Some are a little more generous and flexible than others, with some airlines allowing passengers to voluntarily change their tickets without penalties, regardless of destination, while others are only allowing passengers flying to and from certain affected countries to do so.

Qatar and Emirates have launched commercial policies allowing customers to change flights to and from any destination in their networks without booking fees for flight reservations made in a certain time span — the most flexible policy seems to be from Qatar, where passengers with travel dates for up to June 30, 2020 can either alter their dates or exchange their ticket for a travel voucher at least three days before departure.

Emirates similarly announced a waiver policy for tickets issued on or from March 7 until March 31, where customers can change travel dates without change and reissuance fees within an 11 month date range in the same booking class.

As for Singapore Airlines, the situation’s a little more nuanced as the flag carrier’s country and hub has specifically put restrictions on new visitors traveling to mainland China, Northern Italy, Korea, and Iran in the past 14 days. Cancellation and change fees are waived for customers traveling to and from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea with tickets issued on or before March 4, 2020 (new travel dates must start on or before August 31, 2020). For customers traveling to and from Japan, change fees are waived for tickets issued on or before March 4, 2020 for Japan travel from March 3, 2020 to April 30, 2020. Read more SIA travel restrictions related tot he COVID-19 outbreak here.

Looking at budget airlines, there, not so surprisingly, seem to be a little more restrictions on cancellation and change policies. AirAsia has things broken down into five categories: flights to and from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau; COVID-19 voluntary cancellation; nationals restricted to travel; Japan domestic voluntary cancellation; and, AirAsia cancelled my flight. For voluntary cancellations, you’re only “eligible to apply” if you’re flying to or from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, or, if you’re traveling on a flight between Thailand and India on a booking made before March 8, 2020 and for travel before April 30, 2020. Read more on AirAsia’s COVID-19 Refund Request Guide here.

Meanwhile, after getting plenty of flak for its inflexible handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Jetstar seems to be working on updating its policies. As with AirAsia, the airline is offering passengers flying to and from certain affected locations (aka mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore) options to change flights or apply for refunds, but it’s not an option for passengers traveling to and from outside anywhere of these destinations. Catch up on Jetstar’s travel alerts here.

For obvious reasons, we always advise y’all to check policies directly with your airline as they can update things without any given notice as situations change and develop.

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