Qantas has announced that they will be offering customers ‘travel credits’ if they cancel booked flights up until the end of May.
From a Facebook post on the official Qantas page, the airline explains that they will be doing everything they can to support customers during an uncertain period.
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“We understand that many people’s travel plans have been impacted by the spread of Coronavirus and various government travel restrictions,” Qantas writes in the social media post.
“This situation is unprecedented, evolving and challenging for all involved. Whilst this is outside of our control, we are doing everything we can to support our customers.
“From today, we are giving customers who hold tickets for domestic and international travel the ability to cancel their booking and retain the value as travel credit. The offer is available until 31 March for travel booked up to 31 May 2020 and applies to all Qantas and QantasLink services.”
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Travel industry under siege
The fall-out from the coronavirus has spread across the Pacific, with travel companies in Australia and New Zealand issuing profit warnings as US airlines rushed to cut flights to Europe.
US travel curbs on much of continental Europe announced by President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening deepened the sector’s misery that began after the virus emerged in China late last year and reduced traffic.
United Airlines warned of US travel disruption as the virus spreads domestically and major tourist attractions such as Walt Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida said they would close.
Several Latin American countries stepped up measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, halting flights to and from Europe. More than $US825 million ($A1.3 billion) was wiped off the value of listed Indian airlines on Thursday after the government said it was restricting visit visas.
The International Air Transport Association, a global industry group representing airlines, called on governments to consider extending lines of credit, reducing infrastructure costs and cutting taxes.
Virgin Australia, Auckland International Airport and Australia’s Flight Centre Travel Group said they would take hits to earnings from reduced travel demand, which included an 18 per cent decline in international passengers at Auckland’s airport in the first 10 days of March.
Australia’s No. 2 carrier, Virgin Australia said it would offer discounted fares and cut some flights from Sydney to Los Angeles as demand for trans-Pacific travel fell. The airline’s share price hit record lows.
Up to 50 million jobs in travel and tourism could be lost because of the coronavirus epidemic, a leading body says, as airlines, cruise operators and others reel from plummeting demand and travel restrictions.
“You will see us continue to be very disciplined with capacity as the situation evolves,” Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah said, echoing similar comments by rival Qantas earlier in the week.
Virgin and Flight Centre joined a growing list of travel companies where executives are taking pay cuts and offering unpaid leave to staff due to reduced demand and weaker economic conditions.
“With this uncertain environment our priorities are to reduce costs, while also ensuring that we and our people are ready to capitalise when the steep discounting that is under way across most travel categories starts to gain traction as the trading cycle rebounds,” Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner said in a statement.
The travel agency’s shares plunged 17 per cent on Friday after it withdrew its profit guidance.
Airline stocks in Asia were also hit, with Singapore Airlines shares down 8 per cent in early trade, and Japan’s ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines down more than 10 per cent, having also fallen on Thursday.
– Additional reporting from Jamie Freed and Tracy Rucinski.