US airline allows fliers to change cheap tickets for free if they don’t want to fly due to coronavirus fears

As airlines worldwide ground planes and lay off staff as a result of the coronavirus, one US carrier aims to get people travelling by suspending its normal fare rules. 

JetBlue, a “boutique” airline based in New York with a big hub at Boston, says passengers who want to cancel or change their trips can do so without penalty.

The new policy applies even to “Blue Basic” fares, which normally do not allow for any changes or cancellations.

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The move is designed to stimulate sales by giving travellers confidence that they can abandon their plans if they are concerned by the spread of Covid-19.

It is in marked contrast to UK-based airlines. For example, easyJet is telling anxious passengers: “There is currently no change to advice for airlines, so our flights are operating as normal and standard terms and conditions on tickets continue to apply.”

But there is a big catch with the JetBlue deal: it applies only to new bookings. Passengers who already have JetBlue tickets will find that standard terms and conditions apply.

Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue, said: “While authorities have not issued any travel restrictions to the locations we fly, we want to give our customers some peace of mind that we are ready to support them should the situation change.

“Given our mission is to inspire humanity, we felt this suspension was an important way to live up to our crewmember and customer expectations during this uncertain time.

“We are committed to the health and safety of both our crewmembers and customers, and we are working directly with health and security officials as well as industry leaders for updates and best practices.”

The offer applies only for bookings from today to 11 March, with all travel completed by 1 June 2020.

JetBlue says it is “promoting handwashing and healthy hygiene practices among its crewmembers and continuing to ensure compliance with aircraft cleaning procedures”.

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