Zika Virus: Airlines Offer Pregnant Passengers Refunds For Upcoming Travel To Infected Countries

Pregnant women who have booked holidays to Zika-infected areas are being offered refunds by a number of airlines.

Mums-to-be are being given the option to amend or cancel their travel plans to South America with no extra expense, provided they do so within a certain time span.

The news comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the threat from Zika virus is a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern".

The virus has been linked to an increase in the number of women in South America giving birth to babies with microcephaly – a condition causing an unborn baby's brain to stop growing in the womb.

A warning from the Foreign Office, recommends women who are pregnant, or who are planning on becoming pregnant, to avoid travelling to countries where outbreaks have been confirmed (you can view the full, updated list here).

A baby born with microcephaly

Airlines flying to South America have released statements with instructions for passengers.

British Airways

A spokesperson for British Airways told HuffPost UK Parents: "If a pregnant customer is due to travel up to and including February 29, but they no longer wish to travel, they can change their booking free of charge and delay their journey or amend to an alternative destination. ​

"This applies to flights to Brazil, Mexico, Barbados and Dominican Republic​, and we will continue to review the situation."

American Airlines

American Airlines state on their website: "If you're pregnant and travelling to a destination in Latin America that's affected by the Zika virus, you and your travel companions can request a refund.

"Just provide a doctor's note confirming your pregnancy when you request a refund."

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines will refund or rebook customers who are pregnant or travelling with a pregnant woman to the affected regions.

The statement continues: "If you are planning to travel to a country that has been impacted by the Zika virus you may contact us [here] with questions about changes to their itinerary."

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines stated on the website: "Customers may qualify for a change to alternate destinations, travel dates or a refund. Customers may make fee-waived changes to future reservations/tickets. However, changes need to be made by February 29, 2016."

United Airlines

The statement from United Airlines reads: "If you have a ticket for travel to a country affected by the Zika virus (as listed on the CDC [US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention] website) and you are concerned about your travel, please contact the United Customer Contact Center with questions or to change your reservation.

"Customers who are advised to avoid the affected regions based on CDC guidance may change their destination or travel date without a change fee or may choose to receive a refund. The ticket must be refunded or changed by February 29, 2016. The new travel date must be within the validity of the ticket."

Alaska Airlines

Alaska airlines statement said: "Alaska Airlines has implemented a flexible travel policy for customers with current reservations to the following destinations reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be affected by the Zika virus.

"If you are ticketed for travel to the above cities between January 28, 2016 and February 29, 2016, you may change your ticket to another Alaska Airlines destination for no change fee. Additional fare and taxes may apply. You may also request a refund if you choose not to travel at all."

Emirates Airlines

The airline, according to The National, released a statement saying: "Customers holding a ticket issued on or before January 29, 2016, for travel up to April 30, 2016, could rebook to an alternate destination in the Americas not affected by the virus, or refund their travel to destinations reported to be affected by the Zika virus."

If you are pregnant and concerned about upcoming travel, you are advised to contact your airline to discuss alternative arrangements.

The guidance from the NHS states women who were either pregnant when they travelled to an infected country, or who conceived within a fortnight of returning, should see their GP even if they are feeling perfectly well.

"If you are pregnant and have a history of travel to a country where there is an ongoing Zika virus outbreak, see your GP or midwife and mention your travel history even if you have not been unwell," the advice on the NHS website states.

The World Health Organisation warned that the virus outbreak, which started in Brazil, is spreading so quickly that four million people could be infected by the end of the year.

Most people contract the virus through being bitten by an "aedes aegypti" mosquito. It cannot be caught from coming into contact with an infected person, however the first case of sexual transmission has been reported.

A map illustrating the countries in the Americas where Zika virus outbreaks have been reported is available on the Pan American Health Organisation's website.

Zika virus