Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Travelore News: United And American To Offer Refunds For Travel To Zika-Affected Regions

United Airlines will allow customers concerned about the Zika virus to cancel or postpone their trips if they’re ticketed to fly to areas affected by the mosquito-borne virus. American Airlines also said it would allow certain customers to do the same.
United's policy includes travel to all areas mentioned in a Centers for Disease Control alert. So far, American's covers flights to four destinations in Central America.

“We are offering customers who are traveling to the affected regions the opportunity to rebook at a later date or receive a full refund,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said in a statement to Today in the Sky on Tuesday.
United is basing its exception policy off the guidelines issued by the CDC. Hobart says customers ticketed to regions listed by the CDC should contact the carrier if they have concerns.
“For travelers who feel they’re at risk, we’ll provide them with options,” Hobart added in a follow-up call on Wednesday.
American had not yet posted its Zika policy on its website, though spokesman Ross Feinstein says the carrier decided to implement the policy Monday. To date, American's policy is specific than United's.
Feinstein says American will allow customers to receive a refund if they provide a doctor's note stating they are unable to travel to one of four cities due pregnancy. The cities included in American's waiver are San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa in Honduras as well as Panama City, Panama, and Guatemala City. Feinstein says American continues to review its policy.
The Zika virus has been in the news since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a travel warning alert earlier this month warning about the risk of traveling to countries in theAmericas affected by the virus. Zika has been linked to an epidemic of birth defects in Brazil and is thought to be spreading to other regions of North and South America.
The CDC's warning  focused mostly on pregnant women or those seeking to become pregnant.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued its own alert on Monday, saying it expects the Zika to eventually spread to the United States and most of the Americas.
As for United, it said its travel waivers would include countries covered in the CDC's travel advisories.
Currently, the CDC's advisories mention the following countries and territories in the Americas: BarbadosBolivia, Brazil, ColombiaEcuadorEl SalvadorFrench Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, GuyanaHaiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama,Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela.
American, Delta and United are the three large U.S. carriers with a significant international presence. Each flies to numerous destinations in Central and South America.
For now, Delta has no such waiver in place.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely. No flight cancelations have resulted as of this time and there is currently no waiver,” Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant says to Today in the Sky.
Durant added that Delta remains "in close contact" with both the CDC and WHO on all health risks that could affect air travelers.
Outside the United States, the the largest carrier in Latin America also announced that it will waive fees or offer fees to pregnant women seeking to travel to nations affected by Zika, The Associated Press reports.  LATAM, which includes both LAN and TAM airlines, says its policy will cover travel to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, French Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela.
Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
Contributing: Liz Szabo and Josh Hafner

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