Qantas offers passengers who get sick a refund if the airline cancels flights

If a plane company has to cancel your flight because of an outbreak of illness, should you be compensated? Qantas Airlines will recover most expenses up to a daily maximum of A$42,500 when it cancels, or delays, passengers based on a risk analysis. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Qantas and other airlines are making it easy for passengers to get compensation when there’s a disease outbreak that puts their flights at risk.

In the event of a pandemic, the company says it will recover most expenses up to a daily maximum of A$42,500 when it cancels, or delays, passengers based on a risk analysis.

“This is a safeguard to ensure customers receive only those bookings in which the risks of infection are manageable,” they wrote in a news release.

However, some passengers argue the airline should be compensated for the cost of interrupting a long trip, not a company’s evaluation of how likely there is to be a disease outbreak.

In 2017, an outbreak of the deadly Dengue virus meant there would be no flights between Dubai and Sao Paulo, Brazil, or there would be no services between Houston and Manila.

Affected passengers were compensated with accommodation and food vouchers and were allowed to fly from a neighbouring city, according to Qantas and Emirates.

Singapore Airlines also initially said there was no likelihood of a bird flu outbreak in the southern Indian city of Bangalore on the flight between Singapore and Bangalore. But it later added that there was potential for an outbreak of bird flu on the flight, and that its passengers would receive compensation for “remediation, cancellation or other consequential costs incurred”.

No illnesses have been reported in the San Francisco Bay Area in connection with a number of cancelled flights because of a large die-off of wild birds. Photo: AP

Under the code-sharing alliance with Emirates, Qantas will also pay out some compensation if the outbreak limits or completely blocks flights between Singapore and the Far East.

Under the code-sharing agreement, Emirates will reimburse for non-refundable, advance travel costs if there is not enough time to travel to the affected region.

According to New Zealand’s Airline Pilots Association, some in the industry have started offering free meals, water, blankets and more on all flights but not to passengers flying to other destinations.

“Something has been suggested but is in the early stages of consideration,” Qantas said in a statement.

A number of airlines have stopped offering free meals during severe weather due to cost.

In 2017, pilots said in an online newsletter that airlines were now getting smarter about the types of events that would guarantee compensation payments for pilot operations.

They also reported that limited seating capacity for those affected by an outbreak caused airlines to be creative about covering costs.

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