Forum: Airlines should allow ticket cancellations with refunds

A man looks at the Arrivals flight schedule board at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 14, 2020.
A man looks at the Arrivals flight schedule board at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 14, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Together with many countries, Singapore has been affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

We know that this virus is asymptomatic - infected people may not display any symptoms but may, nevertheless, be carriers and infect others.

As there is an incubation period, the taking of temperatures has limited effectiveness.

What we have been advised is to exercise good hygiene and restrict non-essential travel.

This is logical as travelling will, invariably, result in the congregation of large numbers of people in enclosed spaces - for example, airports, immigration lines, planes and so on, where the risk of infection is higher.

Given these circumstances, I am concerned that many airlines, especially the low-cost carriers like AirAsia and Scoot, are not allowing passengers to cancel their tickets with a refund.

I note that air tickets purchased on these carriers generally do not allow cancellations or refunds; however, are these not extenuating circumstances?

While they have allowed cancellations in certain specified cases - for example, flights to and from China - I am puzzled as to why the cancellation policy should not apply to all destinations.

We have, rightly, been advised to cancel all non-essential travel but because there is no travel advisory restricting travel to and from Singapore, these carriers are refusing to cancel and refund air tickets to destinations other than those specified.

Airlines should be proactive during times like this in discouraging travel by offering full refunds on the cancellation of tickets irrespective of destination.

I note that air tickets purchased on (low-cost) carriers generally do not allow cancellations or refunds; however, are these not extenuating circumstances?

Can the Government not assist in directing the travel industry to be proactive in this regard?

I'm sure many are in a dilemma of whether to travel and risk infection or forfeit their air tickets.

Tongel Yeo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'Airlines should allow ticket cancellations with refunds'. Print Edition | Subscribe