Advertisement

Air Canada waives fees on rebookings up to 24 hours before travel due to coronavirus

Spread of COVID-19 having major impact on travel industry
(March 5) - Air Canada and WestJet are waiving fees for moving flights, but many travel insurance policies will no longer cover trip cancellations due to COVID-19. Nadia Stewart reports.

Air Canada says travellers can rebook recently purchased flights that depart before May without incurring a fee as part of the airline’s latest response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORE: WHO declares novel coronavirus disease a pandemic

The new policy allows passengers to make a one-time change to any ticket bought before March 4 for travel before April 30, provided the trip is completed by the end of the year.

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, for Air Canada tickets bought between March 4 and the end of the month, travellers can now change their flight fee-free up to 24 hours before departure.

Coronavirus outbreak: WHO declares COVID-19 a global pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: WHO declares COVID-19 a global pandemic

READ MORE: How are Canada’s biggest airlines cleaning planes amid coronavirus outbreak?

It adds leeway to Air Canada’s announcement last week that it would waive change fees up to two weeks before any departure in March, with travel controls by foreign governments evolving daily.

The move follows similar announcements by several U.S. airlines this week, with United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines allowing passengers to rebook tickets to any destination through April 30 without paying fees.

Coronavirus outbreak: U.S. health official says COVID-19 ‘ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu’
Coronavirus outbreak: U.S. health official says COVID-19 ‘ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu’

The fee waiver by Canada’s largest airline underscores ramped-up efforts to mitigate the blow dealt by the spread of COVID-19, which has seen bookings plunge and cancellations soar at airlines across the globe.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Coronavirus isn’t a good reason to cancel your U.S. travel — yet

National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen forecasts that the epidemic will cost Air Canada $1.4 billion in adjusted earnings this year, which would result in a 40 per cent decline from 2019.

The carrier has halted daily flights to Rome, Beijing and Shanghai through April. It has also cut back on routes to Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Seoul.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses travel, says ‘strongest recommendation’ is for individuals to protect themselves and families
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau addresses travel, says ‘strongest recommendation’ is for individuals to protect themselves and families

Air Canada’s one-time change fee waiver applies to all fare classes, from economy to business. Any difference in ticket price will apply, however “and any residual value resulting from a lower fare will be lost,” Air Canada said.

READ MORE: Do you think you have coronavirus symptoms? Here’s who to call first

Story continues below advertisement

Calgary-based WestJet plans to cancels flights, institute hiring freeze

WestJet is also experiencing turbulence, despite offering no flights to China —  the apparent source of the outbreak — and only a handful to Europe.

The Calgary-based carrier plans to cancel flights amounting to 12 per cent “or more” of its flight capacity.

Reductions may include WestJet’s domestic, transatlantic and sun destinations as well as flight to the U.S.

Commuters exercising caution on public transit after coronavirus concerns
Commuters exercising caution on public transit after coronavirus concerns

Other new cost reduction efforts include freezing discretionary spending, a company-wide hiring freeze and voluntary leave options.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced a $1-billion funding package to help the country’s health-care system cope with the increasing number of new coronavirus cases and to help Canadian workers who are forced to isolate themselves.

Story continues below advertisement
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces $1 billion CDN national response fund
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau announces $1 billion CDN national response fund