x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emirates offers passengers refunds on tickets to destinations hit by Zika virus

Customers could rebook to an alternate destination in the Americas not affected by the virus, or refund their travel to destinations reported to be affected by the Zika virus.

Army personnel prepare for a clean up operation against the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Sao Paulo, which is being served by Emirates. Andre Penner / AP Photo
Army personnel prepare for a clean up operation against the Aedes aegypti mosquito in Sao Paulo, which is being served by Emirates. Andre Penner / AP Photo

Emirates airline is offering its passengers headed to the Americas a ticket refund if they want to avoid the destinations hit by the Zika virus.

The Dubai airline has put in place the provisions for customers advised to avoid the affected regions based on the guidelines of US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC travel advisory is for 14 countries, including Panama, where Emirates will launch a flight on March 31, and Brazil.

Customers holding a ticket issued on or before January 29, 2016, for travel up to April 30, 2016, could rebook to an alternate destination in the Americas not affected by the virus, or refund their travel to destinations reported to be affected by the Zika virus, according to an Emirates spokeswoman.

“At this time, there is no impact on operations to our three gateways in South America - Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires,” she said.

Etihad Airways reported operating its normal schedule of flights to the Americas, where it flies direct to Sao Paulo, and Africa, but a spokeswoman said it will continue to monitor the situation.

The virus poses a threat, in particular, to pregnant women. Spread by mosquitos, past outbreaks caused by the virus have been reported in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Airlines are expected to put in place precautions, and with any such outbreaks, demand is expected to be hit but as of to what degree is unclear, according to some aviation analysts.

“While I don’t think international travel will be hit as hard as say Ebola or SARS, the Zika virus is more worrying for pregnant women, and the demand impact may be limited as it’s not clear how it could affect others or adults,” said Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research.

CDC advises pregnant women to consider postponing travel to the areas where Zika virus has been reported.

While no cases of Zika have been reported in the UAE, the Ministry of Health’s Ad-hoc Committee for Epidemics on Sunday agreed to raise awareness of the disease and fumigate mosquito-prone areas.

ssahoo@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter