What you need to know about changing or canceling your travel plans because of the coronavirus, as outbreaks spread to every continent except Antarctica

dslotnick@businessinsider.com (David Slotnick)
  • As the coronavirus continues to spread, with outbreaks appearing in South Korea, Italy, Iran, and elsewhere, travelers and travel providers are being forced to rethink plans and make adjustments.
  • If you're concerned about the virus, your options for a cancellation or refund may be limited, but as the situation continues to develop, refund policies are likely to change as the virus moves closer toward pandemic status.
  • Here's what you need to know about canceling or changing your travel plans because of the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, travelers are starting to rethink work trips and vacations. 

A worker sprays disinfectant at a Daegu railway station as part of preventive measures against the spread of the coronavirus on February 26, 2020.

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

Global tourism is bracing for a major slowdown as countries other than China struggle to contain outbreaks and travel restrictions and airline cancellations reach new markets.

"If there was previously a temptation to view the coronavirus as a China or Asia issue, then developments this week must force a shift in mindset," Nick Wyatt, head of travel and tourism research at GlobalData, said in an email to Business Insider. "With the news that 12 towns in Italy are on lockdown and countries like Austria and Croatia announcing their first cases, it is readily apparent that the impact is likely to be felt on a more global scale than was perhaps previously envisaged."

The spread of the virus has been swift, with new hotspots popping up around the world almost daily. In addition to China, outbreaks have been found in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

If you're scheduled to travel to a country with a confirmed outbreak, you may be able to cancel your trip and get a full refund.

Airlines around the world — including the major three US airlines: American, Delta, and United — have suspended routes to China.

However, refund policies vary tremendously among different airlines and depend on your destination.

If you're simply canceling a trip because you're worried about the virus, odds are you won't be able to get a refund — even with travel insurance, whether you purchased it separately or used your credit card's coverage.

"The only travel insurance that would be helpful in that scenario is when you pay extra for a 'cancel for any reason' plan," Ted Rossman, an industry analyst at CreditCards.com, told Business Insider. "If you're just canceling out of fear of traveling and getting sick, that's not a good enough reason."

People who get sick before their trips and are worried about traveling with a weaker immune system may be able to invoke their insurance plan's trip-cancellation coverage, provided they have a note from a doctor, Rossman said.

While travelers may have better luck asking their airline and hotel for a refund or cancellation, most travel providers are only offering that if you're scheduled to fly to the most seriously affected regions — that is, China, South Korea, and starting this week, Italy.

If you're absolutely set against traveling during the coronavirus spread — even if you're going somewhere without the virus — Rossman suggested that instead of walking away and losing the whole value of your trip, paying a change fee to reschedule it for the summer, or to another destination.

"Even if you're really worried and you don't want to travel, look into changing plans rather than canceling them, because usually the fees are better in that instance. Maybe you could reschedule your trip for later, or pick a different destination," he said. "You'll probably pay some fees, but you won't lose the whole trip."

The situation is changing fast, and as new hotspots and outbreaks are reported, it's likely that airline and travel policies will change too.

We've rounded up the refund and rescheduling policies of major airlines below, and the effects that the virus is having across their routes. We'll continue to update this page as the situation develops.

Delta became the first US airline to expand travel waivers and cancellations beyond China.

A passengers waits for a Delta Airlines flight in Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport, May 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

 

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Delta suspended its direct flights to China earlier this month, with low demand making the operation of the flights commercially unfeasible.

For anyone whose flights were not affected (for instance, passengers booked on Delta but transiting with a partner airline through another country), Delta has issued a travel waiver, allowing passengers to change flights without a fee, or cancel them altogether.

On Wednesday, Delta added Seoul-Incheon Airport, South Korea, to the travel waiver.

Delta also issued a travel waiver for travel to anywhere in Italy, where a new outbreak of coronavirus was recently identified.

Passengers who choose to cancel their flights won't get a refund; instead, they can apply the value of their ticket to a new flight within a year.

If a passenger's flight is cancelled by Delta, the airline will reach out with instructions, including how to claim a refund.

If the travel waiver applies to your itinerary, you can change or cancel your flight by visiting the My Trips section of Delta's website, clicking on Modify Flight, and choosing the relevant option.

The full China and South Korea travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 24 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled or cancelled before May 31 for the waiver to apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:

  • Beijing, China (PEK or PKX)
  • Shanghai, China (PVG)
  • Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (ICN)

The Italy travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between February 25 and March 15. Trips must be rescheduled or cancelled before March 15 for travel by April 3. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through any city in Italy.


American Airlines issued a new travel waiver for South Korea, in addition to mainland China and Hong Kong.

american airlines

 

REUTERS/Mike Blake

American Airlines similarly cancelled its flights to China as demand fell, tentatively planning to resume flying in late April.

For passengers scheduled on flights that were still operating, or who were flying to certain other affected areas, the airline has issued a series of travel waivers.

Travelers to mainland China and Hong Kong can change their flights, postpone travel, or cancel their tickets without a change or cancellation fee.

Those traveling to Seoul can change or delay their flights but will still have to pay cancellations fees if they decide to call the trip altogether. They can also change their origin or destination city to Tokyo.

Passengers can make a one-time change online as long as they aren't changing origin or destination city by visiting the "find your trip" page and selecting "change trip" in the toolbar.

For any other changes, passengers should contact reservations at 800-433-7300 from the US, or at the relevant phone number listed on this page.

The full mainland China travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 24 and April 24, as long as tickets were bought by January 24. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 1, 2020, for the waiver to apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:

  • Beijing, China (PEK or PKX)
  • Shanghai, China (PVG)

The Hong Kong travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 28 and April 24. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30, or cancelled before the originally scheduled date.

The Seoul Incheon, South Korea travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between February 24 and April 24. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30.

Visit this page for full details on the travel waivers.


United similarly added a South Korea travel waiver.

United Airlines

 

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Although United has also cancelled its flights to China and Hong Kong, it issued several travel waivers for passengers scheduled to travel to the region. It added a South Korea waiver this week.

The airline is allowing passengers to change or delay their flights without fees. Passengers scheduled to fly to China and Hong Kong can also choose to cancel their flights and receive a full refund.

The full China travel waiver applies for travel scheduled between January 24 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by June 30, or cancelled before the original travel date, for the waiver to apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:

  • Beijing, China (PEK)
  • Chengdu, China (CTU)
  • Shanghai, China (PVG)

Similar terms apply for flights to, from, or through Hong Kong, for travel scheduled between January 28 and April 30.

Passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through Seoul Incheon, South Korea, between February 24 and June 30 can change their flights without a fee for travel by June 30. Refunds are not available for Seoul travelers.

On Thursday, United added a travel waiver for parts of northern Italy. The waiver applies for travel scheduled between February 27 and April 30. Trips must be rescheduled for travel by April 30 — for travel after that, the change fee will be waived, but a fare difference may apply. The travel waiver applies for passengers scheduled to fly to, from, or through:

  • Bologna, Italy (BLQ)
  • Genoa, Italy (GOA)
  • Milan, Italy (BGY)
  • Milan, Italy (LIN)
  • Milan, Italy (MXP)
  • Trieste, Italy (TRS)
  • Turin, Italy (TRN)
  • Venice, Italy (VCE)
  • Verona, Italy (VRN)

To change or cancel your flights, visit the "view your reservation" page and select "Change Flight." If you're eligible for a refund, you can request it at this page.

You can see the full travel waiver details here.


JetBlue will waive change and cancellation fees for all new bookings.

JetBlue A321neo 4

 

David Slotnick/Business Insider

JetBlue doesn't fly to any of the affected regions, but said on Wednesday that it would suspend change and cancellation fees for any new reservations starting on February 27.

The waiver would apply to all bookings made through March 11, for travel by June 1, 2020. It applies to all fares, including basic economy.

In a statement, the airline said the move was designed to boost customer confidence for anyone on the fence about whether or not to book a trip because of the outbreak.


Hawaiian Airlines suspended its service to Seoul Incheon, South Korea.

Hawaiian airlines

 

Louis Nastro/Reuters

Hawaiian Airlines announced Wednesday that it was temporarily suspending its five-times-a-week service between Honolulu and Seoul from March 1 through May 1.

Passengers scheduled to travel before May 1 can reschedule their flights for any time before October 31 without a fee, or request a refund.

Passengers can also reschedule flights for after October 31 — change fees will still be waived, but there may be a fare difference.

Contact reservations at 1-800-367-5320 to make a change or request a refund.

Visit this page to read more about the travel waiver.


British Airways cancelled flights to Beijing and Shanghai.

british airways

 

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

British Airways cancelled its normal flights to Beijing and Shanghai until April 17.

The airline is offering refunds or rescheduling for people booked on those flights, saying that it will offer additional information on later dates.

While the airline is still flying to Hong Kong, it will allow passengers booked before May 31 to postpone their travel.

The airline is also offering a travel waiver for passengers flying to northern Italy. Passengers traveling by March 2 can reschedule their trips for any time later in March.

To make changes, the airline says to visit the "Manage My Booking" page, or contact reservations at +44 (0) 203 250 0145.


Lufthansa Group cancelled China flights, but is not offering waivers otherwise.

FILE PHOTO: A Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 aircraft lands at Frankfurt Airport in Frankfurt, Germany April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

 

Reuters

Lufthansa Group — including Lufthansa itself, Swiss, and Austrian Airlines — suspended flights to mainland China until March 28. The airline said it would also reduce service to Hong Kong in March, based on demand.

The airline said that passengers could request a refund via the "My Bookings" page, or could rebook their flights to a later date.

You can learn more about the cancellations and refund process here.


Air France will allow people traveling to China or Italy to reschedule their flights.

Air France Airbus A350

 

PASCAL PAVANI/AFP/Getty

Air France cancelled flights to mainland China until through at least March 28.

If you're still booked on an operating flight to China between now and May 31, you can reschedule your trip to anytime before June 30.

You can also postpone trips to anywhere in Italy if you're scheduled to travel between February 25 and March 15. The new travel date must be before April 3.

You can find the full travel waiver details here.

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