Zika virus concerns prompt Canadian airlines to let travellers cancel or change flights
Air Canada says female customers will need to provide note from health-care professional
Several Canadian airlines, including WestJet and Air Canada, say they will let travellers change bookings or get a refund if they want to cancel their flights because of concerns over the Zika virus outbreak.
The airlines announced changes to their cancellation policies on Thursday, following similar announcements by United Airlines and American Airlines in the U.S.
Air Canada says its policy applies to "women (and their travel companions)" who provide a note from a health-care professional, while WestJet says it does not need a doctor's note.
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The airlines' announcements come as public health officials around the world raise concerns about the mosquito-borne virus, which is believed to be capable of causing serious birth defects of the brain.
Canadian and U.S. health officials are advising pregnant women, or women thinking of becoming pregnant, to consider postponing any travel to areas in Central and South America where there have been Zika outbreaks, or at least take precautions against mosquito bites when travelling to those areas.
Air Canada says women and their travel companions can change their flight bookings or receive a refund without penalty, provided they obtain "a note from a health-care professional" saying they're at risk.
In an advisory posted on its website on Thursday, Air Canada said its policy applies only to tickets issued no later than Tuesday for travel planned from Thursday until June 30 to one of the following countries:
- Dominican Republic.
- El Salvador.
- French Guiana.
- Puerto Rico.
- U.S. Virgin Islands.
Those who booked with Aeroplan or Air Canada Vacations are asked to contact those companies directly, the airline's advisory states.
WestJet does not require doctor's note
WestJet passengers do not have to produce a doctor's note if they want to change or cancel their bookings for upcoming travel to Zika-infected areas, but they are encouraged to call the airline, a spokeswoman told CBC News.
Those who opt for refunds will receive them in the form of future travel credits, the WestJet spokeswoman added.
The operator of Air Transat says pregnant passengers with a medical note and companions in their immediate family can reschedule or change destinations if they were booked to fly to countries that have been listed by the Pan American Health Organization as having the virus.
The company is not offering refunds and changes are only permitted for those staying in the same hotel room.
Sunwing Vacations says it would consider accommodating customer requests for changes if provided with a doctor's note.
Airline phone numbers
Travellers with questions about their bookings to countries were the Zika virus has been reported are asked to call the airlines they booked with:
- Air Canada: 1-888-247-2262
- WestJet: 1-888-937-8538
- Air Transat: 1-877-872-6728
- Sunwing: 1-877-786-9464
- A previous version of this story said Air Canada 'passengers and companions in their immediate family' could change their bookings or receive a refund if they're concerned about the Zika virus. The airline later published an advisory on its website saying its policy applies to 'women (and their travel companions).'Jan 28, 2016 7:39 PM CT
With files from The Canadian Press