American and United will allow ticket changes to Zika-affected destinations


Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are seen here in a lab at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito transmits the Zika virus and is being studied at the institute.

(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Two airlines are loosening their policies on changes to tickets to countries where Zika virus, suspected as a cause of birth defects, is present.

“It’s for any one of our customers who are concerned about traveling to these regions because of this virus and because they feel that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines apply to them,” said Jonathan Guerin, a spokesman for United Airlines.

For the Record
Jan. 27, 2:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said American Airlines would allow no-penalty ticket changes for pregnant women traveling to certain Zika-affected areas. It is offering ticket refunds only.

Travelers may rebook for a later date or receive a fund, Guerin said.


For United travel reservations, call (800) 864-8331. Press 3 to discuss an existing reservation and 4 to discuss a frequent-flier ticket.

American Airlines has said it will allow refunds for travel to five affected cities: San Salvador, El Salvador; San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Panama City; and Guatemala City. American did not say why these five cities were chosen.

“Our policy, which was implemented Monday, will allow a customer to receive a refund if they provide a doctor’s note stating that they are unable to travel to one of the cities [above] due to their pregnancy,” American spokesman Ross Feinstein said in an email.

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, has been linked to births of children with microcephaly, a smaller-than-normal head size that often means developmental issues for those children.


The virus, which is rarely fatal, has been detected in 22 places, according to the CDC, which on Friday issued a travel alert for those places.

Affected places, according to the CDC list: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, Venezuela, Samoa and Africa’s Cape Verde.

You can read more about the virus at the CDC’s Zika info website.