This is how major airlines are responding to the coronavirus outbreak

With the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) situation impacting travellers from all reaches of the globe, many airlines have responded to travel bans and reduced patronage by relaxing ticketing policy.

Aside from the staggering humanitarian impact, the economic impact of last-minute travel changes has been acknowledged somewhat by these temporary changes to allow business and leisure travellers to make certain changes to flights without the usual penalties.

Etihad Airways

The national airline of the UAE is now allowing travellers one complimentary change to date or destination for all flights booked between 8 March and 7 April. This offer includes Etihad Guest redemptions and Etihad Holiday travel bookings and is valid for travel from March 22.

Some travellers may also be entitled to a full refund without penalties, provided certain provisions are met. For example, teachers employed in the UAE who provide a letter of employment from their employer.

For more information, contact Etihad Airways Guest Contact Centre.


On the heels of an announcement that Australia's 'Flying Kangaroo' will make a temporary reduction of almost a quarter to all services, Qantas customers can change travel plans for international bookings made between March 10 to March 31 with no fee. This offer applies to travel only up to June 30 2020 and is limited to one change per customer.

Customers flying to an international destination may also be offered an alternative route via another capital city or with a partner airline.

Qantas has also indicated it will use smaller aircraft on some routes, rather than exit routes completely, so be aware that limited capacities may be available.

In addition to this, the airline's fleet of Airbus A380 will be grounded. As a result, there will be no First Class service to Singapore. The First Class Lounge at Singapore's Changi airport will also be closed, however customers can access the adjacent Business Class lounge.


At present, the company expects to keep these changes in place until mid-September. For more information, contact Qantas Customer Service or consult this travel update.

Cathay Pacific

Following the suspension of flights to various destinations throughout Asia Pacific, Cathay is offering full refunds for tickets to any country or region with travel restrictions, that were purchased after a cut-off date. This includes: Mainland China (February 3), Israel (February 19), Japan (March 6), Philippines (February 4), South Korea (February 24), Taiwan (February 8), Thailand (March 6) and Wuhan (January 21).

The caveat is that the original travel dates booked occur no later than April 30.

Cathay Pacific has also closed three lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, being The Pier First Class Lounge, The Bridge Business Class Lounge and The Deck Business Class Lounge.

For more information, contact Cathay Pacific.

Virgin Australia

Customers flying with Richard Branson's airline can change their bookings to the same destination with no fee, provided the new date falls within 30 days of the original travel date. This also applies for those who only wish to change the destination of their flight.

There are also options for travel credits or complete refunds, including the refund of Velocity frequent flyer Redemption flights. 

As previously reported, the company withdrew its Sydney to Hong Kong service earlier this month in response to these and other events.

For more information, check Virgin Australia's Travel Alerts or the Guest Contact Centre.

Singapore Airlines

There are a number of scenarios in Singapore Airline's temporary policy changes. Cancellation or change fees to flights booked to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Italy are currently waived, provided the ticket was issued on or before 4 March and the new travel date occurs before August 31, 2020.

The same applies to tickets for travel to and from Japan, but only applies to travel occurring between March 3 and April 30, 2020.

A catch-all is extended to customers who experience a travel restriction that would prevent their travel on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir flights between now and 30 April, in which case all fees are waived. As before, new travel must commence before 31 August 2020.

United Airlines

Temporary policy changes for United Airlines are quite extensive, with the airline waiving all charges related to changing or cancelling any domestic or international flight, to any destination, booked between March 3 and March 31. This applies to all fare types, all points of sale and any travel date available for sale.

For cancellations, customers can redeem the value of the service cancelled for a new ticket up to 12 months from the original booking date.

United has also suspended MileagePlus Award (frequent flyer) bookings for flights originating in China or Iran until April 30.

For more information on other conditions, visit United Airlines.

Air New Zealand

A simple policy applies to all international flights booked on Air New Zealand. The company will waive all fees associated with changing or cancelling any flight ticketed between 5 March 5 and March 31. However, non-refundable fares will remain non-refundable.

There is currently no change to the company's cancellation policy for domestic fares.


The largest airline in the Middle East, Emirates will now allow customers to make changes to travel dates without incurring additional charges. To be eligible, the new date change must be within 11 months of the original travel date and within the same booking class. This applies to all bookings made before 31 March.

The company has also relaxed conditions between March 31 and June 30, 2020 for its frequent flyer program patrons, allowing Emirates Skywards Platinum, Gold and Silver retain their status and benefits by meeting only 80 per cent of their tier requirements. These members will also gain a further 20 per cent tier miles for any travel between now and 30 June.

For more information, contact Emirates help.

On any given day, you'll find Mark Gambino exploring the worlds of luxury travel, technology and alcohol; putting his spin on the experiences that define life's most memorable moments. He finds no greater pleasure than being behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle or sequestered in a basement bar to indulge a bibulous vice.

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Information correct at time of writing. Consult your carrier or travel agent for up-to-date changes. Check Smart Traveller for updates.