One thing is for certain: due to the coronavirus, your travel will be restricted. Airlines are receiving the brunt of the impact of this virus. They have lost $41 billion in just one month during the outbreak, Markets Insider reported.
But how does that affect you?
You may be thinking: ‘What if I planned a trip? Will it be canceled? If so, how can I reschedule? Will I receive a refund? What if I’m currently abroad? Can I return to my home country?’
We’ll address these questions and more as we go over the policy changes of some of the most popular airlines.
Between now and April 30, United Airlines is allowing all customers to change their travel plans. Trump’s travel ban affects 26 countries; for United, these restrictions begin on March 20.
“We will continue to fly our regular schedule from Europe to the U.S. through March 20,” their site states. “After that, we expect to fly daily to Zurich, Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Manchester, and Edinburgh, maintain multiple flights to Frankfurt and Munich, and operate 18 daily flights to and from London, three to Dublin and four flights a week to Lisbon, all while continuing to monitor demand.”
Also, United is only accepting calls from those who are flying in three days or 72 hours. Because of the recent outbreak, they are receiving an unmanageable number of calls.
Southwest Airlines is less impacted by the virus than United. They announced that they have been working with the CDC and WHO to determine if any flights need to be canceled. But, as of March 11, none of the 103 flight destinations at Southwest are listed as “geographic risks” by the CDC.
Their policy remains the same as it has been: customers are free to cancel or change flights at no additional cost. Also, if you decide to cancel your trip, the money won’t go away. You can use it to fund future flights — a great feature in a precarious time like we’re experiencing today with the disease outbreak!
Southwest ensures the safety of all its passengers by maintaining peak cleanliness in all aircraft. They spend six hours cleaning each aircraft.
As of March 4, they are now using a hospital-grade disinfectant on all areas of the aircraft for optimal sanitation, not just the bathroom.
Delta allows you to change your flight plans once for free. If the new price is higher, they require payment of the difference. If it is lower, they will reimburse you, in most cases.
Delta is offering free changes to flight plans of all customers who were planning to go to a country impacted by the virus or the newly instated travel ban.
Like Southwest, Delta allows you to apply current ticket value to future flights. If you’re planning to travel in the future, this is exceptionally convenient because it saves you a lot of money.
Rescheduled travel must take place before December 31, 2020, or prior to the expiration date on your ticket, if it comes sooner than the end of the year.
Delta assures the public that they are working with governmental agencies to determine the next steps in the prevention process. They are cleaning all aircraft thoroughly to mitigate the spread of this highly infectious virus.
American Airlines ensures its customers that they are complying with all facets of the recent travel ban imposed by President Trump. Read the two bullet points here which outline the policy.
American points out that the travel ban goes into effect on March 13. The travel ban applies to all flights that depart from American Airlines airports after March 13 at 11:59 PM.
Customers who visited the “Schengen Area” or a specific selection of European countries within the last 14 days, must return to the US through approved airports only. This also applies to people who have visited mainland China or Iran.
The travel ban only applies to non-Americans. Non-Americans won’t be able to travel to America until April 13.
Similar to Southwest, Alaska Airlines’ flights have not been impacted by the disease’s spread of or President Trump’s travel ban. They assure customers that they are in close contact with the CDC, WHO, and other governmental organizations to stay up to date with any changes in travel regulations as a result of the growing virus.
Per Alaska’s policy, they are offering free changes or cancellations on travel booked between February 26 and April 30. They follow the same policy for new tickets purchased between February 27 and March 31.
The aircraft at Alaska Airlines feature high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters which keep the air pristine during your entire flight. They have a quick, informative video on how the filters work. Check it out below.
A Quick Note
This review of the major airlines’ policies and procedures during the outbreak is not extensive. It’s merely meant to keep you informed and give you easy access to an extensive article with all the useful information packed in one place for your convenience.
All information about specific airlines was researched on the airlines’ websites. Every airline also has a FAQ page that they have taken extra care to update during the virus outbreak. So, if you have any questions, refer to the website and FAQ pages of your corresponding airline.
Travelers, what does this mean for you?
Easier to Upgrade First Class
This may be self-explanatory, but with the travel ban in place and a global pandemic looming, fewer people will travel. Most will stay home and limit their contact with others, which is recommended by the CDC.
But, if you do choose to travel, you may have the opportunity to easily and cheaply upgrade to first-class seating. One easy way to upgrade to first class is to simply ask the flight attendant if they have any seats available. If they do, most airlines will allow you to sit first class. And this is even easier now with much less travel.
Keep in mind that you may not be the only one with this idea. In fact, it could happen that the first-class section is full and you’d have to sit in the economy section. But it never hurts to ask; the worst-case scenario is they’ll say no.
Difficult — and At Times Impossible — to Book Flights
You probably know this now from reading the individual sections on the popular airlines, but depending on who you are and where you are trying to go, you may not be able to book your flight until the travel ban passes or the outbreak subsides.
Most airlines have suspended flights to countries impacted by the outbreak, such as Germany, China, Italy, France, and several more.
Also, I’ll reiterate this again, because it is important: if you are a non-American, you cannot travel from Europe to the US until April 13.
Along with not being able to book several flights, you may have to cancel your current flight. If you had plans to travel to a country impacted by the disease outbreak, or if you are a non-American who had tickets to travel to America, those flights are now canceled.
All of the major airlines have policies in place that allow you to change or cancel your flight for free. If you decide to cancel, some airlines allow the ticket cost to carry over to future flights, ensuring that you don’t lose the money you initially spent on your tickets.
So, just work with your airline here. Give them a call and be patient, because they are likely receiving hundreds or even thousands of calls a day due to the recent virus outbreak.
Take Sanitary Precautions
You’ve probably seen this everywhere and you’ll see it more: wash your hands with soap. Soap breaks down the virus and kills it. This will keep you healthy and prevent it from spreading. This is especially important given that the coronavirus has a high infection rate.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizer also works great to kill germs, but you’ll have a lot of difficulties finding that in stores or online. Most of it is sold out or price gouged. Thankfully it’s not necessary and you can stick to hand washing.
Also, wipe down surfaces around your home or places that may harbor a lot of germs such as keyboards, doorknobs, floors, and bathrooms.
One of the most effective things you can do to mitigate the spread of the virus is to minimize travel. This won’t be hard given the travel ban and extensive airline cancellations recently put in place. But, this doesn’t mean just airline travel. Try to stay in your home and away from others as much as possible. This means postponing your walks in your neighborhood, your trips to the mall, or other errands you may need to get done.
Some workplaces have closed the office and gone remote, along with schools and universities across the country. Digital technology will be your best friend as the WHO and CDC continue to combat the spread of the coronavirus and work toward a viable cure.
Be prepared to contract the coronavirus.
It’s important for you to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that you may contract the coronavirus. If this occurs, you should operate under strict quarantine and limit contact with anyone as much as possible.
Facemasks are not effective to prevent you from obtaining the virus since its particles are so small. They will either pass through the fabric in the mask or travel through the small opening between your mask and your skin.
However, they can be an effective measure toward containing the spread of the virus if you have it, mainly to prevent the spread of droplets produced by coughing or sneezing that contain the coronavirus.
A woman posted a video on YouTube of his story contracting this disease, how he endured the process and some of the symptoms he experienced. Take a look below.
More on the Coronavirus
The coronavirus has been dominating the media for several weeks. The first case was reported on December 8 in Wuhan, China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Since then, it has spread to 149 countries (as of the date this article was published).
Most of the cases are mild — over 80% in fact (Note: This data is updated in real-time). The WHO announced a 3.4% mortality rate for the disease on March 3. The highest at-risk groups are those over 60 and those with compromised or weakened immune systems.
China has been able to contain the virus, with over 80% of its affected population now recovered, but it could not be contained. The WHO declared the virus a pandemic on March 11, 2019.
Countries around the world are scrambling to combat the virus. China took the most drastic measures, banning public gatherings and confining people to their homes. They even rewarded citizens for reporting any violations of their quarantine orders, according to NPR.
The virus was declared “contained” in China after three consecutive days of no new cases outside the Hubei province by President Xingping.
Italy has also banned public gatherings and suspended sporting events until April 3, NPR reported. Iran, Spain, France, and Germany also banned public gatherings of varying sizes, among other measures.
Now with over 2000 cases, the USA has begun to take drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. Most recently, President Trump declared a national emergency, granting Congress $50 billion to devote to virus prevention and containment.
Also, the diagnosis of a professional basketball player led to a domino effect of drastic measures. Several professional sports leagues suspended their regular season: the NBA, MLB, and the NHL. The college sports league, the NCAA, also canceled all of its outside competition.
So, what can you do?
The most important thing to do is to mitigate the spread of the virus. The most common transmission method is person-to-person. If you make contact with a contaminated person or surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, this will increase your risk of contracting the sickness. To combat this, wash your hands frequently.
The CDC also recommends that people keep their distance from one another — to help enforce this, travel has been restricted across the world. Just one example is the travel ban below.
It is also a very good idea to strengthen your body’s own defenses by eating lots of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables and eliminating as many processed foods as possible. Get plenty of sleep and try to take time to create space to meditate or do other activities that invigorate you. Maybe take a couple of days off from news and social media.
Good luck in quarantine and stay safe!
That concludes our ultimate guide to airline travel and the coronavirus. Remember that the coronavirus is the most highly mentioned disease ever. We’ve had over two billion mentions in the media as of March 22, 2020, and HIV comes in at second at just 69.5 million.
With so much content to sort through, stick to the reputable governmental health organizations: the WHO and the CDC. Follow their social media and visit their website for frequent updates on the latest about this global pandemic.
Good luck with rescheduling your travel plans. If you bought tickets with an airline that’s not on this list, don’t worry. The airline’s website will have updated information on the outbreak and how it impacts your travel, along with some helpful FAQs.
For some more helpful information on the virus itself, click here.
Thanks for reading — and don’t forget to wash your hands!