The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is altering more and more travel plans as days – even hours – go by. With new restrictions announced every day, it is significant to know how to act in the situation of – sometimes unexpectedly – cancelled flight.
As new travel restrictions were announced by US President Donald Trump, the ban for entering the United States for anyone trying to reach the country from the Schengen Area becomes another example of how a massive travel disruptions could happen due to governmental restrictions. As this is not the first such case during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, it is most probably also not the last one.
While the above mentioned ban is mostly related to flights, covered by the Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004, a lot of travellers from Schengen Area countries who have already purchased tickets to US, were about to travel there with non-EU-registered airline, having a layover in some country outside EU. Based on this example, we’ll explain to you how to act if your flight was delayed because of such circumstances – no matter if that was an US-bound flight or you were about to board a plane which was intended to take you somewhere else.
What should I do if my flight was cancelled due to coronavirus related travel restrictions?
As the governmental travel restrictions, related to ongoing coronavirus outbreak aren’t related to any actions which could be taken with an airline responsible for the decision-making, it is considered by (EC) 261/2004 as extraordinary circumstances. So if your flight was cancelled due to this situation, you are not entitled to disrupted flight compensation even if the cancellation was announced less than 14 days before scheduled departure.
In any case, if the airline fails to reach you immediately after announcing the cancellation, contact the air carrier yourself and ask for the abovementioned assistance due to change in your travel plans.
There is one ‘but’ though – as some airlines have honestly stated that some flight suspensions are not directly related to actual travel bans, but rather to decreasing passenger flows. So even if later circumstances could be related to the coronavirus outbreak, it is obvious that such cancellations are made due to an air carrier decision – and not because of some force majeure.
The airline is always responsible for adequate communication
And even in such a situation, airlines usually have a particular interest in ensuring that passengers of these flights would not only be properly informed of their rights in the event of a flight disruption, but also of the opportunities for further action to resolve any uncertainties as quickly as possible and to alter their travel plans accordingly.
How airlines are altering their policies due to coronavirus pandemic?
Here is the most important information on the major airlines’ policies.
The airline decided to proceed with the temporary suspension of its international flights, as of March 26. Up until April 30th, all international network flights, from all Aegean bases, will be temporarily suspended. A small number of weekly flights from Athens to Brussels will be operated.
The airline also informs that, for the time being, it will maintain a limited frequency flight service to all domestic network, aiming to facilitate minimum essential connectivity for the island’s needs. Passengers are encouraged to visit the company’s website as all related information with regards flight cancellations or the registration process for the credit voucher, already offered by the carrier, are available online.
For the passengers, whose flights were cancelled, but the need to travel on a later date still exists, there was implemented zero fare difference and no rebooking fees, to any future date until 21 March 2021.The airline states that such policy is valid for changes until 10 April 2020.
From March 16 onwards, Aeroflot has cancelled flights to all of its European destinations except routes between Moscow and Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Dublin, Geneva, Helsinki, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Sofia, Stockholm, and Zagreb.
Passengers who bought tickets before 31 May for Aeroflot flights that got cancelled, as well as passengers affected by individual restrictions (e.g. enforced quarantine or cancellation of visa-free entry; annulment of previously issued visas), can apply for an refund and receive a refund of the full ticket price at the original point of sale until the end of the year. Otherwise, they can make a one-time change to the departure date to any date until the end of the year, while retaining the original point of departure, destination and service class, without incurring additional fees. Another option is to make a one-time change of route to any flight with the carrier till the end of the year. No rebooking fee will be charged, although fare difference can be applied.
The current suspension on all the flights of Latvian carrier is expected to last until 14th of April – but can be extended later. It was recently announced that not only all the bookings made up to that day can be changed to a later date for travel within 2020, but such policy also applies for newly bought tickets. If the original fare is no longer available, the corresponding fare difference must be paid. The airline also offers additional €20 for a direction if travellers decide to get a refund for already cancelled flights in travel vouchers.
As the airline cancelled almost all of its flights scheduled before April 19, it also stated that such a decision was taken not only due to the increasing limits imposed on travel, but also as the result of the consequent decrease in demand for air travel in Italy and Europe. Considering the exceptional circumstances caused by the current epidemiological situation, the carrier states that it ‘aligns itself with the measures already taken by some other airlines of the Lufthansa Group to which it belongs.’ It is still operating a minimum number of flights between Italy and Germany, namely on the Milan Malpensa-Frankfurt route.
The flight will depart from Milan Malpensa in the morning to return from Frankfurt in the early afternoon and will be the only connection between northern Italy and Germany. In compliance with the restrictions provided, the company wants to offer an essential service to all those who, even in an emergency, need to move or return to their country.
The air carrier already announced a significant cut in it’s flight capacity which will be in effect until at least the first half of May. Such a decision was made not only due to increasing travel restrictions, but also because of a sharp decline in demand. All flight tickets which were bought before 31 March can be changed to a later travel date until the end of May, free of charge. As there is already a significant flight capacity reduction on a number of routes.
Another significant change in Air France operations is related to the complete shut down of the Paris-Orly airport which came into effect on the 1st of April. Airline already adopted its flight schedule and regrouping its Paris operations at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. As the result of that, flights to/from Cayenne, Fort-de-France, Pointe-à-Pitre and St. Denis de la Réunion is transferred to Paris-CDG airport – as well as flights to/from Toulouse, Nice and Marseille.
As the seats on later flights could be limited in availability, so there could be a price difference to be paid if the only seats left would be not in the same travel class, but in the higher one. For those who have a ticket for the flight operated by Air France, the airline recommends to plan a return trip to Europe as soon as possible, by modifying the booking online.
It also encourages its clients to purchase a new ticket at a special fare. Then it would be possible to cancel the original flight and obtain a non-refundable travel voucher valid for one year on all Air France, KLM, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights.
The air carrier decided to temporarily halt all of its regular flights from March 18, 2020 until April 19. As the airline states, this move is a response to both entry bans being imposed across the globe as well as the rapid decline in demand for air travel. Austrian Airlines will cancel all flights up. Passengers who have booked a flight during the time will be rebooked on other airlines if possible.
After there was reported that the Italian authorities are planning a big re-structure for their national carrier, passengers are urged to consider the possibility of a delayed journey with the same carrier when deciding whether to make a rebooking for a later date for a cancelled flight – or to ask for a refund. All change fees on international tickets for travel are waived through 30 June. Travellers also can change the destination of their trip, without extra charge, if they want to travel on the same date. However, it is worth noticing that fare differences will apply and tickets must be changed before 3 April.
As the airline is expanding its flight suspension on most of European routes, all the passengers of cancelled flights can either get a full refund or tickets at the latter date. The airline also states that all travellers who, due to technical reasons determined by the update of the systems, have purchased on its website a ticket from on a Spanish-Italian routes which were operated by flights in codeshare with Air Europa, which were canceled, the full value of the ticket will be refunded.
The airline also states that all travellers who, due to tecnichal reasons determined by the update of the systems, have purchased on its website a ticket from Spain to Italy (and viceversa) on flights in codeshare with Air Europa, which were canceled, will be refunded at the full value of the ticket.
Despite the fact that the airline cancelled only its flights to Moscow, Batumi, Tbilisi, Almaty, Kiev, Odessa, Lviv and Kharkov more suspensions can be announced at any time due to more and more airspace and civilian traffic closures implemented by a growing number of countries. Both for those whose flights were cancelled as well as for those who can not travel because of entry restrictions imposed by many countries worldwide, there is a possibility to change a departure date for cancelled flights which can be made until December 31, 2020.
There is an option to contact the ticket offices, airline representative offices, as well as the support service on this issue at any time until the end of 2020, so the airline states that there is no need to do it right now, as all the ticket data is stored in their system. However, the ticket date can be changed only once.
The air carrier already suspended all regular flights up to a date of May 16. For all the canceled flights, the passengers who were affected, are informed by sms and email about the possibilities they have, namely, credit the entire amount paid for the canceled flight, as a voucher. For flights canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, BlueAir came to meet customers by automatically issuing a voucher representing the amount of the canceled ticket. This voucher can be used to purchase other tickets or services from the Blue Air website and is valid for 12 months after its issue.
There is also a possibility to change the travel date without additional costs, but such options are subject to availability. Another option is to request a reimbursement of the amount paid for the canceled flight. The airline states that passengers can express their options regarding the variant most suited to their needs, by contacting the Call Center department.
The air carrier now allows greater flexibility to change the destination, date of travel, or both without a change fee, on all new bookings made from 3 March to 31 May, or receive a voucher for any existing bookings for flights initially scheduled for up to 31 May. Flights must be rebooked up to 12 months from the original flight date.
The airline already announced that it has ‘taken the difficult decision to ground all easyJet aircraft until further notice.” All the customers affected by these changes are asked to contact the airline either for rebooking or rerouting options as well as regarding the opportunity to get the refund for tickets already bought.
For all travels between March 1 and April 30, there is a possibility to change the dates until November 30 (for tickets issued before March 11) or request a voucher for the amount of the ticket valid until December 31, 2020. However, there are some blackout dates: April 3 to 13; from April 30 to May 2; from June 16 to August 15; and from October 9 to 12.
As governmental restrictions and border shutdowns are implemented even further across the whole Europe, Middle East and North America, more and more flights are cancelled every day but the airline is stating that it will keep up with its obligation to the travellers who should be informed about the force change in their travel plans as soon as possible. The airline is waiving change fees on tickets issued on or before 31 March. This would be valid for travel between 4 March and 31 May 2020 and the tickets can be rebooked for free as such additional costs are waived until further notice.
Along with the other airlines in Lufthansa Group Airlines, the air carrier offers additional flexibility for any travel plans of its customers. If the initial flight they were about to take was cancelled, the ticket remains valid and can be used at a later stage. If there is no need – or possibility to fly in the coming days, the airline welcomes the customers to contact the carrier in order to make a rebooking.
It is now announced that all travel tickets bought before 5 March for travel through 30 April, can be changed to another date free of charge up to the end of the year. No rebooking fees will be applied on flights purchased between 6 and 31 March. In addition, air carrier is believed to extend the flexibility of bookings even further.
The current suspension of all domestic and international flights to or from Poland is expected to last at least until 11 April. Therefore all the flights operated by air carrier which were scheduled until April 11, 2020 have been cancelled, including those operating outside Poland, e.g. from or to Hungary or Netherlands. The airline stated that all cancelled flights will be refunded. All the bookings made on March 6 or later for travel before April 24, 2020 are eligible for rebooking for travel until December 31. However, fare difference will apply.
In line with the measures taken by the Turkish government, wishing to reduce the effects of the further development of epidemic, both domestic and international flights of the carrier have been completely stopped as of March 27. Those who still wish to take a domestic flight previously operated by the airline, can ask for a rebooking on one of the few Turkish Airlines domestic flights which are still operating. Such option is also available for some international flights, but a date change may be implemented, so every traveller who was about to fly in the time of lockdown or shortly afterwards is suggested to contact the airline for an individual solution.
The carrier cancelled the majority of its flights both on European as well as on its Middle East routes – and for the passengers who were about to travel in the upcoming months, an adequate amount of patience while reaching the airlines’ representative should be an imperative. For those who were about to travel with Ryanair in the following months, the air carrier announced a rebooking fee waiver. The airline also offers to refund, rebook or re-route (the latter being only an offer as the airline is known to disagree on any rerouting possibility when specifically asked for such an option) the journey for the passengers of the flights which are already grounded.
The air carrier temporarily halted most of its flights until further notice. Although, the airline points out that it is still operating some of its intercontinental flights after altering the schedules. Such flights are namely operated on a Stockholm – New York route which – as for now – will be served on the following weekdays : Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Europe-bound leg of this route will be served with New York – Stockholm flights served on the following weekdays: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The air carrier reminds its passengers that these flights are open for sale also for those who wants to rebook themselves to either Stockholm – New York or New York – Stockholm flights.
Customers can rebook free of charge on new bookings purchased through 19 March for travel through 30 November, 2020. For existing tickets the airline is waiving change fees for bookings made before 12 March for travel between 12 March and 30 April. However, the new travel date must be between 12 March and 30 November.
From 28 March onwards, all of the international flights operated by the carrier are suspended at least until 17 April. The suspension on Colombian and Kyrgyzstan routes is expected to last even longer – at least until 30 of April. A few exceptions are the routes which still are about to be served, namely Chicago, Washington, Hong Kong, Moscow and Addis Ababa.
All tickets bought before March 20 for travel until the end of the year are subject to Zero Change Fee or Change to Open Ticket rights. Change requests can be made through the Turkish Airlines sales offices, call center, online channels and agencies from which the ticket was purchased. The airline also notes that the right to Zero Change Fee is for one time only and within the scope of the right to Change to Open Ticket, the current ticket should be cancelled at least an hour prior to the flight.
Ukraine International Airlines
As the Government of Ukraine extended policies, regarding governmental restrictions in the country nationwide, the airline suspended all scheduled flights throughout its route network through April 24, 2020. The air carrier also stated that it is not able to operate its call center anymore, so the travellers, affected by such cancellations are asked to fill out a feedback form on the Ukraine International website to make changes to their ticket or to receive an electronic voucher, which will allow you to issue new tickets on air carrier’s website during the year.
Travellers whose flight was cancelled or they can not or wish not to travel can make a rebooking and pick a new ticket for travel which can be made up to 30 April 2021, but is subjected to availability and any difference in fare. No change fee will be applied.
If you rebook to finish travel by 30 June 2020, no difference in fare or change fee will be charged. However, the air carrier states that it can only rebook flights up to 331 days in advance. So if you’re looking to fly after that, please wait until flights are available.
There is also a possibility to reroute a trip to, from or via another destination, up to 30 April 2021. Again, no change fees, but flights are subject to availability and any difference in the fare. Another option is to leave a ticket open: if you’re unsure of your new travel dates, we’ll keep your ticket open until you’re ready to rebook. You’ll just need to make sure you rebook and travel by the 30 April 2021.
There’s no charge to do this but your new flights will be subject to availability and any potential fare difference. This process is only for bookings made directly with Virgin Atlantic. If you’ve booked through Virgin Holidays, or through another website or travel agent, it is suggested to contact them for any options available.
As the airline is drastically cutting its capacity on selected destinations, passengers affected by such cancellations are offered a travel date change. Wizz Air also states that “Customers who have booked directly on wizzair.com or the airline’s mobile app will receive an email notification, in which they are offered a free rebooking or full refund or 120 percent refund of the original fare in airline credit.”
It is also important to note that the Regulation has already made a significant contribution to a lot of policies which are usually taken by airlines in the events of such massive flight cancellations. Therefore even non-EU-registered airlines have already developed a practice of being proactive both in communication with passengers as well as in resolving the situation themselves. However, in the current period of highly dynamic events due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is also important for passengers on disrupted flights to respond appropriately if airlines do not contact them immediately after the cancellation has been announced.
As more and more countries are discouraging citizens from all but essential travel, some have already announced strict restrictions on travel abroad.
So it is also worth checking all the travel-related information, including the latest official government bulletins, right before you go.