Several airlines, as well as China’s state-owned railway company, online travel agencies and hotels in China are offering refunds or free booking changes related to Wuhan, following the outbreak of a mysterious virus.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a statement on its website on the evening of January 21 requiring airlines to attach great importance to the prevention of the pneumonia outbreak. For passengers who have already purchased flight tickets to or from Wuhan and wish to cancel their trip, airlines should handle their refund requests free of charge.
Quite a few airlines are now offering full refunds or free flight changes for their flights to or from Wuhan. These include Air China, Capital Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, Chengdu Airlines, China Airlines and Mandarin Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, China United Airlines, Juneyao Airlines, Lucky Air, Hainan Airlines, OK Air, Scoot, Shandong Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Spring Airlines, Suparna Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, West Air, Urumqi Air and Xiamen Air.
Below are the refund and flight change policies from China’s “Big Three” airlines, as well as Hong Kong’s flag carrier and its regional subsidiary:
- Air China: Passengers who have purchased tickets for flights operated by Air China or its codeshare flights to or from Wuhan on/before January 31 for travel on/before March 29 this year can request to change their tickets. The price differences between different fare class codes and between peak and low season fares will be waived for their first change request. Alternatively, they can also request a refund free of charge.
- China Eastern: Passengers who have purchased tickets for flights operated by China Eastern or Shanghai Airlines or their codeshare flights to or from Wuhan before January 21 for travel on/before March 29 this year can request to change their tickets. The price differences between different fare class codes and between peak and low season fares will be waived for their first change request. Alternatively, they can also request for a refund free of charge.
- China Southern: Passengers who have purchased tickets for flights operated by Air China or its codeshare flights to or from Wuhan on/before January 31 for travel on/before March 29 this year can request to change their tickets. Alternatively, they can also request a refund free of charge.
- Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon: “With immediate effect, rebooking, rerouting and refund charges will be waived for all tickets issued worldwide (irrespective of fare type) on/before 21 January 2020 for travel with Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon confirmed bookings arriving to or departing from Wuhan (WUH) between 21 January 2020 and 15 February 2020”.
China’s state-owned railway company also issued a notice on January 21 allowing travellers who have purchased train tickets to or from railway stations in Wuhan to request a refund of their train tickets free of charge by midnight January 24.
Eligible railway stations include Wuhan, Hankou, Wuchang, Nanhudong, Tangxunhu, Miaoshan, Pu’an, Zhifangdong, Houhu, Jinyintan, Tianhe Airport, Tianhejie, Huashannan, Zuoling, Wulongquannan, Tuditangdong and Shanpodong.
Online travel agencies (OTA)
Several OTAs in China such as Qunar, Ctrip (also known as Trip.com), Meituan, ly.com (also known as Tongcheng-Elong), qyer.com and Alibaba’s Fliggy also offer free refund or changes to bookings of flight and train tickets to or from Wuhan, as well as those of hotels and other travel-related tickets (e.g. for tourist attractions, car rent, etc.) in Wuhan made on their platforms.
These companies added that their refund and change policies also cover those quarantined or diagnosed with the illness, as well as fellow travellers in close contact with them.
Hilton issued a statement on its official WeChat account on January 21. With immediate effect, Hilton will offer free cancellation of all bookings at all Hilton-branded hotels in Wuhan for stays on/before February 2. Meanwhile, guests from Wuhan can also cancel their bookings of all Hilton-branded hotels worldwide without any charges for stays on/before February 2.
Accor also announced on its official Weibo account that those who have booked Accor-branded hotels in the Greater China region for stays on/before February 2 can contact the hotel to change their booking or to request a free refund.
Other local hospitality groups such as We Hotel (Jin Jiang), Huazhu and Atour also offer free cancellations for hotel stays in Wuhan.
According to World Health Organisation, the pneumonia-like disease is caused by a new type of coronavirus – 2019 Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified by Chinese authorities earlier this month.
Experts from China’s National Health Commission confirmed on Tuesday that the coronavirus can be transmitted from human to human. They also advise travellers to avoid unnecessary travel to Wuhan and those living in Wuhan not to leave the city during this period.
The National Health Commission also announced in a press conference this morning (January 22) that as of 12am January 21, 440 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the Greater China area, with 270 of them in Wuhan. 170 suspicious cases and nine deaths have been reported as well. Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the US have also reported cases.
Some other countries have implemented or plan to take measures in the airports like temperature checks to screen passengers on direct or transfer flights from Wuhan, The Guardian reports.
Wuhan is the provincial capital of Hubei province, and is a major transportation hub due to its central location in Mainland China.
With Chinese New Year approaching, the whole country is now in a peak travel season as many people will be travelling long distances to their hometowns to reunite with their families for the most important festival of the year. This phenomenon, which normally lasts for around 40 days, is called “chunyun” in Chinese and is also described by some media as “the world’s biggest human migration”.