UK airline Virgin Atlantic has announced it will waive flight change fees for any bookings made in March in the wake of the uncertainty around the coronavirus. Passengers booking between now and March 31st will be able to make changes fee-free for travel up until September 30th. Virgin is following in the footsteps of British Airways, which unveiled its ‘book with confidence’ policy last week.
Fees waived until October
Virgin Atlantic has said today that it will not charge its passengers any fees to make changes to their flights throughout the rest of March. The airline says that any tickets booked between March 4th and March 31st are eligible to be altered with no financial penalty. The waiver covers flight scheduled to take place from now until September 30th.
Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, said in a statement,
“We understand that with evolving travel advice, some of our customers may wish to build in some flexibility to upcoming travel plans.
“Putting our customers first, this new policy enables them to continue with their Virgin Atlantic booking this month, with the peace of mind that there is the option to change their flight at a later date, without incurring a fee.”
The move comes as airlines around the world witness the biggest slump in demand since 9/11, as the coronavirus outbreak tightens its grip across the planet. It’s a clever move by Virgin, as it will allow passengers to book now with confidence that they can change their plans later on if things get worse further into the year.
It’s a generous waiver offer from the UK airline, and is clearly designed to ease temporary cashflow worries at the airline caused by fewer passengers making bookings. It remains to be seen whether it’s enough to encourage passengers to book anyway.
Details of the waiver
The waiver on offer from Virgin Atlantic will apply to all bookings made for departure from any of Virgin’s network hubs. These include from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow.
As well as applying to Virgin’s own flights, the company is guaranteeing the same flexibility on bookings on its joint venture partner airlines. These include Delta Air Lines, Air France and KLM. Of course, any fare difference will have to be paid by the passenger, but the usual fees for changes will be removed.
Virgin says that it will allow tickets to be altered up until the day before departure, for flights due to take place between now and the end of September. Only flights booked in March are eligible for the flexibility that the waiver offers. At the present time, no similar flexibility has been offered for other existing bookings.
Virgin’s coronavirus flight changes
The impact of the novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, is being felt by airlines all over the world. Virgin Atlantic I s no exception. The airline has already suspended and reduced a number of flights to China, including a complete suspension of its London Heathrow to Shanghai service, which is now reported by Business Traveler to have been extended to April 19th.
As well as this, Virgin’s servies to Hong Kong have seen some serious reduction. Over the course of March, nine fewer services will operate. Specifically, the airline has dropped VS206, the Heathrow to Hong Kong service on the 5th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 23rd and 25th of March.
In the other direction, VS207 between Hong Kong and Heathrow is cancelled on all the days after the outbound cancellations. While Hong Kong is not considered a massive risk in terms of virus transmission, Virgin is likely experiencing low demand on this route, so it makes sense to pare back services until things calm down.
The airline joins the many others that are improving flexibility for customers in the midst of the current outbreak. British Airways earlier this week revealed a ‘book with confidence’ policy, which is similar to that offered by Virgin.