British Airways has suspended direct flights to and from mainland China, as the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travel to the country, unless essential, as the virus has spread to numerous countries around the globe and caused over 130 deaths.
The FCO are now advising those who wish to leave China to do so sooner rather than later, as further restrictions may be put in place, with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic allowing passengers to rebook or cancel flights.
What to do if you have a flight booked with BA
British Airways operates daily flights to both Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow, but has announced the suspension of flights to and from mainland China. This suspension is "with immediate effect" and is in place until 31 January 2020, while the airline assesses the situation.
A statement from BA said, "We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.
“Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on BA.com.”
Numerous other airlines, including Cathay Pacific Airways, United Airlines and Air Canada have already cancelled some flights to China.
British Airways introduced a flexible booking policy over the weekend, for tickets going to the affected region between 26 January and 23 February.
The airline is allowing passengers the opportunity to rebook onto an alternative flight at a later date, or cancel bookings without receiving any penalties. This is regardless of the terms and conditions stated in their initial booking.
The company said, “We fully understand that you may want to change your travel plans as a result of the recent coronavirus outbreak in China.
“To make this change please contact us. If you made this booking via a travel agent, please contact them to refund your flight.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travel to the country (Photo: Shutterstock)
Virgin Atlantic offers flexible policy
Virgin Atlantic is also offering the same flexible policy to passengers that are booked onto flights for Hong Kong, Shanghai or “codeshare” destinations within China.
Customers can choose to rebook or cancel and receive a full refund, again, regardless of the booking terms and conditions.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said, “We’re closely monitoring the situation regarding Coronavirus and will always follow guidance set out by relevant authorities.
"We urge customers to visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel web page for more information on travelling to affected areas.
“For customers booked to travel to China, including Hong Kong, who would like to discuss their travel plans further, we would invite them to contact our customer care team via our SMS messaging system, on +44 (0) 7481 339184. The team are happy to assist with any enquiries.”
Further restrictions on movement within China
The FCO has advised against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, stating, “If you’re in this area and able to leave, you should do so.”
It has also said “all but essential travel” to the rest of mainland China should be avoided - not including Hong Kong and Macao.
“The Chinese government continue to impose further restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak,” said the FCO.
“It may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so. If you feel that you may want to leave China soon, you should consider making plans to do so before any further restrictions may be imposed.”
The UK government is arranging to evacuate Britons from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, with up to 300 British people thought to be in the area.