Coronavirus: Airlines respond to concerns, add more flexibility

BURBANK, Calif. (KABC) -- Global airlines are taking a hit over the novel coronavirus as concerns continue to grow.

United Airlines announced its suspending service to some parts of Japan, South Korea and China.

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Travelers are acutely aware of the risk.

Vicky Griffin flew into Burbank airport on Friday, but cancelled a September trip to Italy.

"I wasn't happy about it but that was major. It was a major decision to make but I'm very concerned," said Griffin.

"Things are going to be bad, not just in Asia, not just in Europe but also the United States," said aviation business editor at Skift, Brian Summers.

Jet Blue suspended its change and cancel fees for all new bookings until March 11. Summers said its likely indicative of the challenge that COVID-19 is introducing.

"If these airlines are going to say, 'you know what we're going to waive change fees because people are scared of coronavirus,' that means that the airlines probably aren't selling as many tickets as they should," Summers said.

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Currently, the CDC recommends you avoid nonessential travel to China -- with some exceptions -- and South Korea.

Regardless of where you're going, travel insurance may be an expensive, but good idea.

"The only travel insurance that's actually helpful in this situation is the most expensive travel insurance that people generally don't want to buy. You essentially need to be able to cancel for every reason and that's hard for companies to offer," said Summers.

But the uncertainty surrounding the global virus is not deterring some from exploring other parts of the world.

"Matter of fact, I already booked three flights: one going to Colombia, another one to Brasil, and then the third one to Cuba. So no, coronavirus is not going to stop me from flying anywhere," said Fernando Lopez of Las Vegas.

"I'm getting a little bit older, so I'm one of those folks that might be more subject than some others," said Griffin.

Ultimately it's a personal decision, weighing the benefits and risks.
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