200125 coronavirus 2020
This undated electron microscope image made availalbe by the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colorized in yellow. The mysterious new respiratory virus that originated in the Middle East spreads easily between people and appears more deadly than SARS, doctors reported Wednesday, June 19, 2013 after investigating the biggest outbreak in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/NIAID - RML) Image Credit: AP

Dubai: An Abu Dhabi-based airline said it is working with key stakeholders in the capital to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the UAE.

In an email statement to Gulf News on Sunday, January 26, Etihad Airways said: “In response to an outbreak of the new coronavirus in China, Etihad Airways is working with key stakeholders in Abu Dhabi to help prevent the spread of the virus into the United Arab Emirates. Following a meeting of all key stakeholders, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health directed that thermal camera screening procedures be introduced for passengers and crew on all flights arriving from China. Dedicated gates will be assigned at Abu Dhabi International Airport for flights arriving from China, and freight aircraft arriving from China will use specific parking bays where their crews will be screened in the same way as passengers.”

The airlines also confirmed in the statement it is waiving rebooking and refund charges for tickets issued on or before January 24 2020 for travel to or from mainland China between January 24 and February 29 2020.

“Guests who would like to make changes or cancel their Etihad flights should do so by calling our contact centre in the UAE on +971 600 555 666 or in China on (+86) 400882 2050, or by contacting their travel agent in case they have not booked their travel with Etihad directly,” the statement read.

“The safety and wellbeing of its passengers and employees is the highest priority of Etihad Airways, which continues to collaborate with authorities and industry partners on this important issue,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, China's aviation regulator also announced passengers can get free refunds for flight cancellations and waivers to and from mainland China from January 24. China’s mainland airlines, including the big three - Air China, China Southern and China Eastern - are all offering refunds for tickets purchased before January 24.

Cathay Pacific is the first airline that decided to officially publish a travel waiver for all itineraries involving mainland China flights, offering free changes or cancellations to passengers who no longer wish to travel.

The airline informed passengers in their notice that rebooking, rerouting and refund charges will be waived for all tickets issued worldwide (irrespective of fare type) on/before January 24, 2020, for travel with Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon confirmed bookings arriving to or departing from Mainland China between January 24, 2020, and February 29, 2020.

Cathay Pacific has in the past days and weeks been in a row with unions representing their flight attendants over the right of crew to wear face masks while performing their duties to which the carrier finally agreed.

The carrier has now taken additional steps to mitigate risk for both passengers and crew, allowing those who no longer wish to travel to/from Mainland China to either make adjustments to their itinerary or cancel the trip altogether.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines, Australia's Qantas Airways too are offering refunds for tickets issued worldwide on or before January 24. Basically the tickets are for journeys to and from mainland China between January 24 and February 29.

Malaysia's AirAsia also joined the list of ticket refunds. The airlines is refunding tickets booked before January 24, and for travel to and from mainland China until Feb. 1, and return flights between Feb. 16-29.

Low-cost carriers Air Asia and Malindo Air temporarily canceled all flights to and from the city.

More updates to follow.