Globally, tourism-linked sectors have stepped up to provide refunds and/or rebates on paid trips, as well as deferment of travel dates
By NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL & TMR File
TRAVEL plans are usually made months or even years in advance in order to secure cheaper rates. While these are often subject to change, most people would not have expected an international outbreak on such a scale that Covid-19 will disrupt their holidays entirely.
For some, the risk may be worth it to see the world, but for others, it may be a better idea — where possible — to cancel their vacations.
Globally, players from tourism-linked sectors, including aviation and hotels, have stepped up to provide refunds and/or rebates on paid trips, as well as deferment of travel dates.
The Covid-19 cases and death toll continue to rise, particularly in Italy and the US. In Malaysia, there were 20 new cases reported yesterday, bringing the total in the country to 149 (as at press time), the Health Ministry said.
While airlines have different refund policies, most have relaxed their typical refund terms in order to accommodate for the current climate which has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Bigger airlines opt for more flexibility, while budget airlines have more restrictions surrounding cancellation and flight change policies.
National carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) has said it will permit cancellations with full refunds, as well as free ticket alterations on flights to and from mainland China, after the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee Secretariat imposed a temporary entry restriction on Chinese citizens and foreigners who have travelled to China in the previous two weeks.
The carrier also allows for deferment or cancellation refund for passengers affected by restrictions imposed by certain countries, as the airline has also temporarily suspended routes until further notice.
Budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd has extended the period to obtain a credit account or full refund for travellers with flight bookings to or from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan until March 31, to be redeemed for booking within 90 calendar days from the issuance date for travel.
Members of AirAsia’s BIG Loyalty programme can also retain the value of the fare they wish to refund for future travels with the airline.
Refund requests can be made with AirAsia’s digital assistant AVA at support.airasia.com for those who purchased their flights directly, while travellers who made their bookings via travel agents are required to request for refund via their respective agents.
Qatar Airways and Emirates are among the airlines that offer commercial policies which allow customers to change flights to and from any destination in their networks without booking fees for flight reservations made within a certain time span, whereas for the former, the travel dates go up to June 30.
Emirates has announced a waiver policy for tickets issued on or from March 7 to March 31, where customers can change travel dates without charge and reissuance fees within an 11-month date range.
Online travel agencies such as Agoda and Booking.com are also offering free provisional refunds for travellers using their services.
Agoda is allowing refunds for unused global bookings whereby the accommodation is located in China, or for customers travelling from China to anywhere in the world between Jan 24 and Feb 29.
Free cancellations are also available for accommodations located in Hong Kong or Macau, or bookings made by customers travelling from Hong Kong or Macau to anywhere in the world between Feb 2 and Feb 29.
Booking.com has declared “forced circumstances” for bookings made in China, Hong Kong and Macau, whereby hotels in these countries are expected to refund any repayment and waive any cancellation costs in the events of such requests by travellers on or prior to Feb 29.