Australia and New Zealand’s national carriers have introduced sweeping changes in response to the evolving international coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.
The Qantas Group announced on Sunday that existing Qantas and Jetstar customers now have the option to cancel flights and receive travel credit; a step further on last week’s decision to offer fee-free changes on bookings.
“We understand that many people’s travel plans have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus and various government travel restrictions,” the company said.
“This situation is unprecedented, evolving and challenging for all involved. Whilst this is outside of our control, we are doing everything we can to support our customers.
“From today, we are giving customers who hold tickets for domestic and international travel the ability to cancel their booking and retain the value as travel credit. The offer is available until 31 March for travel booked up to 31 May 2020 and applies to all Qantas and QantasLink services.”
The news comes as the federal government announced increased travel restrictions will apply for international visitors to Australia, mirroring restrictions imposed in New Zealand with the objective of slowing the outbreak of COVID-19 nationally.
As of Sunday, there were 249 confirmed cases in Australia, 27 of who have recovered, and three reported deaths, according to the Department of Health.
“To help stay ahead of the curve, the Australian government has imposed a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals, effective as at 11:59pm Sunday 15 March 2020,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press statement.
“This means that all people – whether they be citizens, residents or visitors – will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Australia. Enhanced screening for arrivals will remain in place to identify anyone arriving sick or with symptoms of COVID-19.”
Australian citizens and permanent residents traveling from Italy, South Korea, Iran, and China (where travel bans are in place) will still be able to enter Australia, but must self-isolate for a fortnight after returning home.
The government has also banned cruise ships from foreign ports, including round trip international cruises originating in Australia, from arriving at Australian ports for an “initial” 30 days.
Air New Zealand cuts long-haul capacity by 85 per cent
It comes as New Zealand flag carrier Air New Zealand revealed it will cut long-haul capacity by 85 per cent in the coming months and make redundancies.
As COVID-19 continues to reduce demand for air travel, the airline said it had also placed itself in a trading halt “to allow it time to more fully assess the operational and financial impacts of global travel restrictions”.
Air NZ chief executive Greg Foran said the company was in discussions with the government for support.
“We are now accepting that for the coming months at least Air New Zealand will be a smaller airline requiring fewer resources, including people,” he said.
“We have deployed a range of measures, such as leave without pay and asking those with excess leave to take it, but these only go so far. We are working on redeployment opportunities for some of our staff within the airline and also to support other organisations.”
Air New Zealand employs more than 8,000 people. Travel Weekly has contacted Air New Zealand for comment.
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