TRAVEL INDUSTRY RESPONDS TO THE THREAT OF WAR

TOUR operators and airlines recognising anxiety over the threat of war by allowing people to alter advance bookings.
The travel industry has responded to the threat of war by giving travellers unprecedented scope to change holidays and flights without penalty.
This week, British Airways extended its radical policy of allowing long–haul passengers to change destination and/or dates of travel without penalty, amid growing anxiety over war with Iraq. BA's move has been matched by other airlines and tour operators anxious to encourage people to carry on booking trips despite fears over developments in the Middle East. BA announced that people booking long–haul flights up to March 25 would now be able to change their travel plans if they wanted and that those opting for short–haul destinations would be refunded any difference in fares. “There is uncertainty, which makes it difficult for people to decide when and where to travel,” said a BA spokeswoman. “Our policy offers customers the flexibility and reassurance needed at this time.” Under the policy, long–haul BA flight bookings made between February 14 and March 25 may be changed any time up to May 31 for travel until the end of December 2003. Customers can choose to change their destination, dates or class of travel. This means that someone who has booked to fly to Nairobi or New York, for instance, could change and fly to Paris and get a refund for the different cost of the flight, said the spokeswoman. Other airlines are offering similar possibilities. Passengers who have booked long–haul flights with Virgin Atlantic before tomorrow (Monday) will be able to change their booking to a different date free of charge. American Airlines is giving its customers the opportunity to change their dates of travel for tickets booked between February 14 and March 31. Many travel agents are also offering greater flexibility on flights and package holidays. Lunn Poly, which sells holidays for Thomson and Skytours, is allowing customers to change their holiday destination before paying their final balance, up to six weeks after making the original booking. A spokeswoman said the policy applied to all destinations in the Thomson and Skytours summer brochures. “We want to give people peace of mind, so that they can book safe in the knowledge that they can make changes without being charged,” she said.
Customers who have booked with Thomas Cook can change their destination up to 10 weeks before the departure date.

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