Updated on January 9, 2020:
Several airlines have responded to the bushfires in Australia by offering assistance to customers affected by the emergency as well as charity organisations.
The bushfires first broke out in Australia’s New South Wales state in September 2019 and have been burning across the country for around four months now.
CNN reports that the fires have burnt nearly 18 million acres of land, and millions of animals are believed to be dead. At least 25 people have also died as a result of the fires, according to The New York Times.
Qantas, Australia’s national carrier, announced on January 7 on its official Facebook page that it will donate A$1 million (around US$687,000) to the bushfire relief and recovery efforts.
The airline said it is also encouraging Qantas customers as well as passengers flying with its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar to donate to the relief efforts. It plans to set up collection points in airport terminals and allow Qantas Points to be converted into cash donations.
Qantas added that its team in Los Angeles is working with US aid agency Direct Relief to get 100,000 donated masks to the bushfire affected communities in Australia. The airline has also been carrying firefighters and equipment across Australia since the bushfires broke out in September last year.
Qantas expects all of these efforts to cost over A$3 million (US$2.06 million).
Fellow Australian carrier, Virgin Australia, said it will waive the flight change fees for any guests affected by the bushfires who require changes to existing bookings. Alternatively, guests can choose to get a Travel Bank (the airline’s online account for flight credits) credit if they prefer.
Virgin Australia said it is also offering support to community organisations and charities requiring travel or logistics support. The airline said it will accommodate requirements for extra cargo space and excess baggage allowances to help move equipment and material. The airline will also support flights for emergency workers and volunteers working with international charitable organisation Salvation Army Emergency Services and veteran service organisation Team Rubicon who need to fly to the affected areas.
The Virgin Australia Group, in partnership with the Salvation Army Emergency Services, is also encouraging donations from customers through its lounge network with donation terminals and the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal. It said it is matching all employee donations made to the Salvation Army Emergency Services on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to A$250,000 (US$171,800).
The airline has also promised to offer a four-week paid leave for its employees who volunteer as firefighters.
Malaysia Airlines has announced it will contribute RM1 (US$0.24) from each ticket sale for each passenger travelling with the airline to Australia’s bushfire relief efforts for the month of January 2020 along with its sister companies under the Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG).
The airline said it is also working with the National Disaster Relief Management Agency (NADMA) Malaysia to fly in volunteers if required by the Australian government.
“We are committed to not just limit our assistance in the form of monetary, but we have also initiated discussions with various organisations that can offer skills and expertise in the recovery of the ecosystems,” said Izham Ismail, CEO of MAG.
The airline said it has been in touch with the Australian High Commission in Malaysia to direct the proceeds to wildlife protection, the “fire fighter benevolent fund” and Red Cross. Asked to clarify what the “fire fighter benevolent fund” is, a spokesperson from Malaysia Airlines said: “We will be working with the Australian High Commission in Malaysia to identify the organisations.”
The Malaysian national airline operates 53 flights weekly to five cities in Australia, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
UAE-based Etihad Airways has also announced that it will waive flight change fees for Australian residents affected by wildfires in Australia. The waivers will apply to passengers traveling to or from Australia.
It added that UAE-based Australians or those in Australia seeking changes to their Etihad flights because of the fire emergency can contact Etihad Guests Services in the UAE (+971 600 555 666) or in Australia (+61 1300 532 215).
The UAE flag carrier operates daily flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Singaporean flag carrier said it would donate A$100,000 (around US$68,600) to the Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery appeal in order to support communities across Australia devastated by the recent bushfires.
Philip Goh, regional vice president of Singapore Airlines, said the scale of the devastation was hard to comprehend and hoped the donation would go some way to supporting communities across the country.
For customers affected by the bushfires, the airline said their requests for assistance will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It also added that, where appropriate, it will provide support to those requiring changes to their bookings.
Goh said the airline would continue to work with its alliance partner Virgin Australia and key stakeholders across the country to lend further support to bushfire appeals where possible.