WASHINGTON, United States, (Wednesday January 27, 2016) – Some airlines, including those serving the Caribbean, have started offering refunds to passengers who had been booked to fly to some of the countries where cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed.
United Airlines, American Airlines and British Airways are allowing passengers to back out of travel.
So far, the mosquito-borne virus has surfaced in Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Paraguay, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname and Venezuela, even though international health authorities have indicated that Zika will likely spread to all countries in the Americas.
British Airways said pregnant customers with flights to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, or to Mexico City or Cancun (Mexico), could change their booking free of charge, delay their journey or choose an alternative destination.
American Airlines is offering pregnant passengers a full refund if they provide a doctor’s note showing they are unable to fly to: San Salvador (El Salvador), San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa in Honduras, Panama City and Guatemala City.
Meantime, United Airlines said it is giving any customers who are traveling to the affected regions the opportunity to rebook at a later date or receive a full refund.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Caribbean Hotel and Tourism association (CHTA) have said there are already reports of travel cancellations in the Caribbean due to Zika.
The virus has been linked to increased cases of microcephaly – a neurological disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads – in newborns of women who contracted the virus while pregnant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning pregnant women against travel to areas affected by the outbreak.
Meantime, US President Barack Obama yesterday called for faster research on the virus.
A White House statement said he was briefed, by senior health advisors, on the potential economic and developmental impacts of the Zika virus spreading in the Western Hemisphere.
It said Obama emphasized the need to accelerate research efforts to make available better diagnostic tests, to develop vaccines and therapeutics.