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AirCanada to Provide Refunds, will WestJet Follow?


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Air Canada to give refunds or let passengers change flights over Zika virus concerns Airline says customers will need to provide doctor's note saying they're at risk

The Canadian Press Posted: Jan 28, 2016 3:02 PM CT Last Updated: Jan 28, 2016 3:02 PM CT

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Air Canada says customers will need to provide a doctor's note that says they are at risk of contracting the mosquito-borne virus in order for them to change bookings or get a refund on flights to countries where Zika has been detected. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Air Canada says it is allowing passengers and companions in their immediate family to change bookings or receive a refund if they cancel flights because of concerns about the Zika virus outbreak.

The company says customers will need to provide a doctor's note that says they are at risk of contracting the mosquito-borne virus in order for them to change bookings or get a refund on flights to countries where Zika has been detected.

Transat says pregnant women with a medical note 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 tour operator is not offering refunds and changes are only permitted for those staying in the same hotel room.

This comes after United Airlines and American Airlines in the U.S. announced they were offering refunds to passengers concerned about the virus.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has warned pregnant women to take precautions against mosquito bites when travelling to areas in Central and South America where there have been Zika outbreaks.

Public health officials in the U.S. says the virus could be linked to birth defects of the brain.

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West Jet had this policy on Wednesday but no doctors note is required.

Travel advisories
WestJet travel advisory – Zika virus

The Public Health Agency of Canada has recently confirmed travel-related cases of Zika virus in some WestJet destinations.

Canadians visiting affected areas should protect themselves against Zika by taking protective measures to prevent mosquito bites. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant discuss their travel plans with their health care provider.

WestJet recognizes that some guests who are pregnant or may become pregnant may wish to adjust their travel plans. The travel advisory below is designed to offer these guests flexibility in any upcoming trip.

Destinations affected:
Please consult the World Health Organization’s website to see if your destination is affected. This flexible change and cancellation promise applies only to bookings traveling to the affected countries.

Departure dates:
This flexible change and cancellation promise applies only to departures up to and including June 30, 2016.

Booking channel:
This flexible change and cancellation promise applies only to bookings made directly with WestJet and WestJet Vacations, either through the contact centre or website. Guests who have made air-only or WestJet Vacations package bookings through a travel agent should contact their travel agent directly.

Groups:
Groups of nine or more travellers will have very specific needs. Please contact your travel agent directly or for bookings made through WestJet Groups can call 1-844-213-5230.

For air-only bookings made directly with WestJet:

WestJet is temporarily waiving the change and cancellation fee for air-only bookings to Zika-affected countries. You may:

  • Change your destination – just pay any difference in fare. If your new itinerary costs less, we'll give you a travel bank credit for the difference. Changes must be made more than two hours before departure.
  • Cancel your reservation – we'll transfer the full amount paid into a travel bank credit valid for one year. Cancellations must be made more than two hours before departure.

Please call WestJet at 1-888-WESTJET to complete these changes.

Guests who have made air-only package bookings through a travel agent should contact their travel agent directly.

For WestJet Vacations bookings made directly with WestJet Vacations:

WestJet Vacations is temporarily narrowing the change and cancellation promise for guests traveling to Zika-affected countries. You may:

  • Change your destination – guests will pay the difference in package price. If your new package costs less, the difference will be given to you as WestJet dollars (valid for one year). Changes must be made more than seven days before departure; some restrictions apply.
  • Cancel your reservation – we'll transfer the value of your Vacations package into WestJet dollars (valid for one year). Cancellations must be made more than seven days before departure; some restrictions apply.

Please call WestJet Vacations at 1-877-737-7001.

Guests who have made WestJet Vacations package bookings through a travel agent should contact their travel agent directly.

For information on entrance restrictions and health and security advisories for international destinations, please visit travel.gc.ca.

WestJet (air only) guests who wish to make alternate flight arrangements may do so without penalty (based on availability) by calling 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET).

WestJet Vacations guests who wish to make alternate travel arrangements should be directed to contact WestJet Vacations by calling 1-877-737-7001.

:cool::cool::cool:

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AC says refund, WestJet says travel credits.....

Change your destination – just pay any difference in fare. If your new itinerary costs less, we'll give you a travel bank credit for the difference. Changes must be made more than two hours before departure.

  • Cancel your reservation – we'll transfer the full amount paid into a travel bank credit valid for one year. Cancellations must be made more than two hours before departure.
  • If you are affected by this situation and scheduled to travel on the above dates, you may contact Air Canada Reservations to:

    • Change your flight free of charge to another date within the validity period of your ticket. Changes are subject to availability in the fare family you originally purchased. Otherwise, any fare difference will apply.
    • Change your travel to another destination. Any change fees will be waived, provided you are travelling within the validity period of your ticket. However, any fare difference will apply.
    • Request a refund without penalty.
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What about flight crew, will they be allowed to book off from these destinations?Zika virus outbreak an emergency, World Health Organization says Disease has spread in Brazil and to 22 other countries and territories

CBC News Posted: Feb 01, 2016 10:28 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 01, 2016 4:29 PM ET

The recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities reported in Latin America constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization says. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

The World Health Organization has declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus outbreak in the Americas a public health emergency.

Labelling the Zika threat a "public health emergency of international concern" is meant to prioritize resources immediately to curtail further spread.

On Monday, WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan said the potential link between Zika virus and clusters of babies with microcephaly — an unusually small head that is associated with incomplete brain development — warranted the declaration because of its heavy burden on families and communities.

"After a review of the evidence, the committee advised that the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world," Chan said.

WHO officials say it could be six to nine months before science proves or disproves any connection between Zika and the spike in the number of babies born in Brazil with abnormally small heads.

Chan said she made the decision based on advice of experts who weighed information from Brazil, the United States, El Salvador and France, which reported on a similar cluster in French Polynesia in 2014.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito is a vector for the proliferation of the Zika virus spreading throughout Latin America. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

No recommendations were made to restrict travel or trade.

Instead, Canadian and U.S. authorities advise pregnant women outside the affected countries to consider delaying travel to the region. Prevention of mosquito bites, especially in pregnant women, is key.

Standard mosquito precautions for Zika virus include wearing long sleeves and pants, using repellents and keeping windows and doors closed to keep out the day-biting mosquitoes.

"We need co-ordinated international response to make sure that we get to the bottom of this," Chan said of the growing evidence on microcephaly.

The emergency declaration is focused on proving whether the clusters of microcephaly and neurological concerns are related to Zika virus infection or not, said Prof. David Heymann, chair of WHO's emergency committee.

Heymann stressed the virus is harmless to most other people.

Brazil Health Minister Marcelo Castro said Monday that about 80 per cent of people infected by the Zika virus so far haven't developed significant symptoms. Most symptoms are mild, and include fever, rash, headache, muscle and joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes).

As of last week, Brazil has 4,000 suspect cases, of which 270 have been confirmed as being microcephaly with evidence of congenital infection, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO's assistant director general.

zika-fact-card.jpg

Mosquito precautions are important to stem the spread of Zika virus. (CBC)

The United Nations health agency faced sharp criticism for its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Despite dire warnings that Ebola was out of control in mid-2014, WHO didn't declare an emergency until August, when nearly 1,000 people had died.

"Can you imagine if we do not do all this work now and wait until the scientific evidence comes out, then people will say, why don't you take action because the mosquito is ubiquitous," Chan said.

Such emergency declarations are rare. The H1N1 flu pandemic and polio are other previous examples.

Dr. Ross Upshur of the University of Toronto's department of family and community medicine was part of WHO's expert panel on using experimental treatments for Ebola.

For Zika, it will take concerted efforts to tidy up the environment, control mosquitoes and invest in basic public health and primary care in areas of extreme poverty, Upshur said in an interview.

"Address the root causes, and you will start to see less of this emergence of newer viruses in urban populations and elsewhere," Upshur said.

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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