Qatar Airways has announced an update to its flight change fee waiver policy, offering an additional 10 per cent of the original fare for passengers who accept a voucher for a new flight.

Airlines are seeking to encourage people to accept vouchers for future travel rather than claiming a refund for cancelled flights as the coronavirus pandemic brings the global aviation industry to its knees.

Aer Lingus yesterday announced it would also add 10 per cent to the value of flight vouchers.

Customers must still pay any additional fare differences for their new ticket.

Airlines are asking people to claim the vouchers using online forms as customer service agents face overwhelming demand.

Qatar Airways is also positioning itself as an option for travellers abroad who are attempting to get home.

Many British people have found themselves stranded as airlines suddenly suspend flights and countries introduce travel bans.

“We appreciate this is a difficult time and that many people around the world are trying to find a way to get home,” a spokesperson said. 

“At Qatar Airways we continue to operate more than 150 flights per day so that as many people as possible can get home safely to their loved ones. 

“As of March 24, we are operating services to over 70 cities worldwide.

“We are constantly reviewing our operations to see where there is more demand and requests, and wherever possible we will add more flights or bigger aircraft.

“This is a challenging time for the aviation industry and we are thankful to airports and authorities and their staff around the world for their incredible efforts to help us get passengers home.”

United Arab Emirates-based carriers Emirates, Etihad Airways, FlyDubai and Air Arabia announced Tuesday afternoon that all flights are suspended immediately, with only aircraft currently outside of the UAE permitted to return.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker faced criticism earlier this month after commenting that air travel should not come to a halt due to the coronavirus.

Many international airlines have now announced near-total suspensions of international flights for the coming months, though some, such as Air Canada, have said they will operate rescue flights between key cities through April.