Zika, the Airlines and You: Refund Policies, Airfare Drops

As CNN has reported, the first known case of the Zika virus “being locally acquired in the continental United States” has turned up in Texas. But most travelers’ concern over Zika focuses on Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Zika Information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled a list of regions where Zika transmission has been confirmed and issued the following recommendation for pregnant women in any trimester:

“Consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If you must travel to one of these areas, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during your trip.”

  • Latest CDC information on Zika here.
  • U.S. State Department’s country-by-country travel alerts here.

UPDATE: Feb. 4 – Reuters reports several airlines are offering to reassign flight crews who work routes to Zika-prone destinations.

Zika and the Airlines

Several airlines are offering refunds for tickets to Zika-prone regions; click the airline name below for specifics (quotes are from the carrier’s Zika policy unless otherwise noted).

Don’t delay. Some refund requests have specific deadlines.

American: “If you’re pregnant and traveling to a destination in Latin America that’s affected by the Zika virus, you and your travel companions can request a refund. Just provide a doctor’s note confirming your pregnancy when you request a refund.”

Delta: “Call 1-800-221-1212 (U.S.) or your local Reservations office and speak with a Delta Representative. Customers may qualify for a change to alternate destinations, travel dates or a refund. Customers may make fee-waived changes to future reservations/tickets. However, changes need to be made by February 29, 2016.”

Frontier: According to the Denver Post, the airline “will give a credit for a future flight to pregnant women and their traveling companions if they booked a trip to a place dealing with an outbreak of Zika virus.”

JetBlue: “Original travel must have been booked on or before February 7, 2016, and we are currently offering changes through March 14, 2016. Please contact us by phone to request a change or refund.”

Southwest: “As always, our Customers can change their travel itineraries without a change fee and our non-refundable fares can be applied toward future travel as long as your reservation is cancelled 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of your flight.”

Spirit: “Customers planning to travel to a country that has been impacted by the Zika virus may contact us Here with questions about changes to their itinerary.”

United: “Customers who are advised to avoid the affected regions based on CDC guidance may change their destination or travel date without a change fee or may choose to receive a refund. The ticket must be refunded or changed by February 29, 2016.”

Virgin America: “Mexico is the only destination that Virgin America serves that is included on the CDC’s list. Guests who are pregnant and travelling to Cancun International Airport (CUN), Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) or Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) can call our contact center at 877.359.8474 to receive a travel waiver.”

For other airlines, check the website or give them a call. Do not delay.

Is Zika Fueling Airfare Price Drops?

Not necessarily. FareCompare has analyzed airfare data to a number of Caribbean destinations, comparing ticket prices purchased on Feb. 2 of this year with those purchased the same day last year. The result: price drops on several routes ranging from modest to significant (though there are a few cases where ticket prices have risen).

However, airfare analyst and FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney says, “It’s unclear what role – if any – Zika plays in current pricing. Dropping fares may be the result of changing demand or increased airline competition or timing of Spring Break trips, or any combination of the  above. While Zika might have something to do with it, at the moment it’s impossible to say.”



Updated: February 5, 2016