The rapid spread of coronavirus across the world is complicating a standard strategy utilized by airlines when illness, disaster or battle hit travel locations: lower fares and redirect flights to trouble-free areas.
So far, some airlines have decided to cancel change commissions for new ticket bookings in the hope of attracting travelers until it becomes clearer where coronavirus cases are localized and which routes could benefit from price drops.
While lower rates have proven effective in the past in reviving demand, aviation advisor Samuel Engel stated, “The pocketbook only works thus far against emotion.”
The coronavirus, which started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, has spread all over the world, with more new cases now emerging outside China than inside.
JetBlue Airways, which doesn’t fly to Asia, was the first airline to launch a free rebooking feature last week, as it got clear that cases weren’t isolated to China. JetBlue pulled together and introduced its plan in a matter of hours.
U.S. titans have since followed suit with varying waivers on change commissions for new bookings to many locations, a switch from a previous policy that covered only pre-booked flights to areas hardest-struck by the coronavirus.
In Latin America, Peruvian low-cost carrier Viva Air was calling a board meeting Wednesday to discuss measures, said Declan Ryan, executive chair of the board of directors.
However, with none of the bids so far guaranteeing money-back refunds, travelers say the policies aren’t adequate.
Shrinking demand for flying overseas isn’t limited to U.S. travelers. International travel to the U.S. will dive 6% during the next three months amid coronavirus concerns, the largest drop since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) estimate Tuesday.