Airlines Allowing Travelers To Zika Virus-Affected Countries To Cancel, Postpone Trips At No Cost

UPDATE: JetBlue is also offering refunds for travelers with tickets to regions affected by the Zika virus.


With 24 countries in South America, the Caribbean, and Latin America detecting the Zika virus within their borders, several major airlines say they’ll let passengers with tickets to the affected regions to postpone or cancel their trips without paying expensive change fees. 

United Airlines and American Airlines in the U.S., and South American carrier LATAM announced policies on Tuesday that would allow travelers to change their itineraries following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement that additional countries had detected the virus, which can cause birth defects when contracted by a pregnant woman, NBC News reports.

United said it would refund or waive change fees for people who cancel trips to the affected areas.

American’s policy is a bit more limited: it’s offering refunds if passengers can provide a doctor’s note stating they are unable to travel to San Salvador, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, Panama City, and Guatemala City.

International carrier Grupo LATAM will waive all cancellation or flight-change fees for pregnant women who want to cancel flights. The policy applies to Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, French Guiana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname, and Venezuela.

“With no vaccine or treatment currently available to prevent or treat Zika infection, the best way for individuals—and pregnant women in particular—to protect themselves is to avoid traveling to places where Zika is known to be spreading,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a blog post Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the CDC added the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to its travel advisory. It was unclear if the airlines would add new countries to their lists of applicable regions.

The CDC has urged pregnant women to consider postponing visits to the listed destinations because of concern that the mosquito-borne virus could be linked to a wave of birth defects in Brazil known as microcephaly, in which children are born with heads that are smaller than normal and often have developmental problems.

More Countries Report Zika Virus — as Some Airlines Offer Refunds [NBC News]