Amtrak said it also is suspending change fees to accommodate concerned travelers, even though there are no coronavirus-related travel restrictions on the carrier.
“We understand you may have concerns, and as a valued customer we will waive change fees on all existing or new reservations made before April 30, 2020,” Amtrak said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation closely and adjust this policy as necessary.”
Meanwhile transit systems across the country, including in New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C., have stepped up cleaning to combat the potential spread of the virus.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which activated its pandemic task force in January, said last week it had ordered 25 percent more hospital-grade cleaning solution, and was cleaning its stations, buses and rail cars more often. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday announced new cleaning protocols, including daily disinfecting of turnstiles, MetroCard and ticket vending machines and handrails. The agency said it would be disinfecting trains and buses every three days.
Transit systems have also been pushing alerts to riders, urging “good transit hygiene.”
A note to our customers:— MTA (@MTA) March 3, 2020
Tonight we’re implementing enhanced sanitizing procedures for stations, train cars, buses and Access-A-Ride vehicles
We’ll be disinfecting frequently-used surfaces from MetroCard machines to turnstiles in stations daily and our full fleet every 72-hours
In response to the growing concerns, some airlines also say they are enhancing cleaning between flights and taking other steps to reduce the spread of germs on board. Alaska Airlines said Monday that flight attendants may wear gloves during beverage service and will stop refilling single-use beverage cups, including in the first-class area. They also will suspend warm towel service in first class and discontinue on board recycling for two weeks.
“We’re encouraging guests to travel with hand sanitizer or anti-bacterial wipes out of an abundance of caution,” Alaska Airlines said in a news release. “Wipes can be used to clean armrests and tray tables.”
U.S. airlines have for weeks been reducing service and offering fee waivers to travelers headed to Asia and other parts of the world affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Once centered in China, the disease caused by the virus, covid-19, has spread worldwide despite travel restrictions, and the global death toll has passed 3,000. In the United States, the virus death toll has reached six.
JetBlue said last week it was suspending change and cancellation fees to give customers “peace of mind” during what it called an “uncertain time.”
“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,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer at JetBlue. “We are working directly with health and security officials as well as industry leaders for updates and best practices.”
Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Saturday reiterated that the risk of coronavirus in the United States remains low even as news spread over the weekend of the first deaths in the country and more cases on the West Coast.
Delta announced Monday that it is temporarily suspending daily flights between New York and Milan as a result of the rapid spread of the virus in Italy. Passengers affected by this change will be able to rebook their travel on flights after April 30. The company already is offering change-fee waivers for travel between the United States and South Korea, China and Italy.
Delta’s summer seasonal service between New York and Venice, previously scheduled to begin April 1, will now begin May 1, the company said. The airline’s daily flights between Rome and both JFK and Atlanta continue to operate as scheduled.
Though the airlines are waiving fees, if there is a fare difference to book a new flight, passengers should expect to pay it. Here are the details:
JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees on all new bookings made between Feb. 27 and March 11 for travel through June 1.
American Airlines is waiving change fees for travelers who purchase tickets between March 1 (4:30 p.m. Central) and March 16 (11:59 p.m. Central) as the changes are made up to 14 days before the flight. American also is offering travel waivers to cities in China, South Korea and Italy.
Alaska Airlines is offering a “peace of mind” waiver for tickets purchased between Feb. 27 and March 12 for travel through June 1. Passengers must complete changes by the end of the year, or they can cancel the ticket and deposit the money into a company account to be used on a future flight.
Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees on flights to China, South Korea and Italy through April 30.
United Airlines is refunding or waiving change fees for flights to areas affected by the coronavirus, including cities in China, South Korea and Italy.
Amtrak is waiving change fees on all existing and new reservations for tickets purchased by April 30.
This post will be updated as new information becomes available.