SINGAPORE - Low-cost carrier Scoot has launched a self-service refund option on its website to let affected customers submit their refund requests online.
Announcing it on Tuesday (March 17), Scoot said the service is for all customers with bookings made on or before March 15 for travel dates until May 31.
"As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to develop globally and more travel advisories are put in place by governments, we understand that customers are grappling with uncertainty and wish to change their travel plans," Scoot said of the rationale behind the new online service.
As of 5pm on Tuesday, over 12,000 refund requests had been submitted and over 2,000 customers had already received their refunds, a Scoot spokesman said, adding that the portal took about three weeks to develop and test.
Scoot, the budget arm of Singapore Airlines (SIA), said the refunds will be processed within 30 business days in the form of Scoot travel vouchers.
Customers who booked flights through third-party booking channels or travel agencies should contact the relevant channel or agents for assistance, Scoot added.
In addition, Scoot said that for all bookings made on its website, mobile app or WeChat mini booking site between March 15 and May 31, the airline will extend a one-time free date change.
For such bookings, the one-off free date change can be used up to four hours before the scheduled flight departure time for travel itineraries up to March 31, 2021.
"These policies will support Scoot customers with the flexibility to defer or change their travel plans in view of the current situation, which is unprecedented and has been developing very quickly," the airline said.
The online refund service comes as Scoot's Philippines call centre was forced to suspend operations on Tuesday (March 17), following precautionary measures announced by the Philippine government.
It "strongly encouraged" passengers to manage their own bookings via its self-service portal or to contact the airline via its online feedback form, Facebook Messenger or Weibo page if they have flight requests or queries.
"Scoot will continue to assess the impact of Covid-19 on global air travel in the coming weeks and respond accordingly," the airline said.
Parent company SIA announced on Sunday it will waive all rebooking fees for tickets issued on or before March 15 for travel up to May 31.
"Customers can cancel their existing flight itineraries, retain the value of their tickets and rebook their travel at a later date, when they are able to firm up their new travel plans," SIA said, adding that the new flight itinerary should be completed by March 31, 2021.
The airline has been inundated with calls on its helpline, with some customers waiting hours on the telephone.
It advised customers to contact SIA only if their flight is departing in the next 72 hours in order for its agents to focus on assisting those with urgent flight changes.
In his strongest remarks on the coronavirus situation to date, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus outbreak, said Singaporeans need to take the advice not to travel very seriously.
"We really ask Singaporeans to think through before making travel plans. Yes, we're not stopping people from travelling, we're not shutting off our borders, but please encourage and urge people to defer all travel at this juncture," Mr Wong said on Tuesday at a press briefing.