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Airlines suspend flights to coronavirus-hit China: your travel rights

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Airlines have suspended flights between the UK and China after the British government advised against all but essential travel to the mainland as the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all but essential travel to mainland China but the warning excludes Hong Kong and Macau.

In response, British Airways has temporarily suspended flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until Friday 31 January while it “assesses the situation”. Flights to and from Hong Kong remain unaffected.

Holidaymakers due to depart between now and 23 February 2020 can re-book flights operated by British Airways for other dates to the same destination. BA said this must be in the same cabin class as the original flight or a lower cabin if available. It also includes any connecting flights that are operated by BA.

Customers can also request a refund for flights by contacting BA or if booked via a travel agent, contacting the agent for a refund.

Virgin Atlantic, which operates flights to Hong Kong, and Shanghai in mainland China, said flights to these destinations continue.

However it has a policy in place which means customers have three options if they no longer wish to travel to the destinations:

  1. Re-book to a later date. Tickets must be rebooked on or before 29 February and travel must start no later than 31 March, subject to availability of seats in the same cabin. These changes will be free of charge.
  2. Change your travel destination. Tickets must be rebooked on or before 29 February and travel must start no later than 31 March, subject to availability of seats in the same cabin. Here you will have to pay a difference in the ticket fare.
  3. Request a refund. If you decide you no longer want to travel and you don’t want to change your ticket to another flight, you can apply for a refund on Virgin Atlantic’s website. Cancellations must be made on or before 29 February.

Cathay Pacific said it will reduce the capacity of its flights to and from mainland China by 50% or more, from 30 January to the end of March. It advises flyers to check ‘manage booking’ for more information.

It added that rebooking, rerouting and refund charges will be waived for all tickets issued worldwide (irrespective of fare type) on or before 28 January for travel on Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon confirmed bookings arriving to or departing from mainland China between 28 January and 31 March. Cathay Dragon flights to and from Wuhan have also been suspended until 31 March 2020.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “With the FCO warning against all but essential travel, those with trips planned to China will rightly be concerned about what to do next.

“In these circumstances, your tour operator should get in touch to cancel your trip and offer you a refund. You are also likely to be covered for cancellation by your travel insurance.”

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