Tropical Cyclone Yasi: Airports to close, airlines cancel flights and waive change fees

By John Walton, February 1 2011
Tropical Cyclone Yasi: Airports to close, airlines cancel flights and waive change fees

As Tropical Cyclone Yasi tracks towards Cairns and northern Queensland, airports are planning to close while airlines are cancelling flights and offering to waive change fees even on otherwise unchangeable tickets.

Expect airports to close as early as Wednesday morning, when the outer bands of the Category 4 storm are forecasted by the Bureau of Meteorology to approach the Queensland coast. 

Cairns International Airport (CNS) has a well-rehearsed Cyclone Plan (downloadable as a pdf) that outlines its plans. It closes when winds of 100 km/h are three to six hours away, which the BOM is currently predicting for early on Wednesday 2 February.

Local and regional airports are closing to similar timescales. 

From Cairns, airlines are waiving their usual fees for changes to non-refundable itineraries for flights. Australian Business Traveller has contacted all major airlines flying from Cairns to confirm the details of their policy, and will list them on this page as we receive details.

Here's our full roundup of waivers in place:

  • Air New Zealand tells us that passengers on Wednesday's cancelled flights can travel without any penalty on planned Friday flights (assuming Cairns Airport is operational by then). Travelling on flights other than Friday's flights, or wanting to change a flight from a day not on Wednesday? Air NZ will charge a change penalty if the "booking class" available for that flight is more expensive. So travellers on lower fares will have to pay a penalty surcharge if Air New Zealand don't make enough of the lower fares available on other flights. Full details on Air NZ's website.
  • Cathay Pacific has no firm policy in place, but Australian Business Traveller spoke to Cathay's Australia spokesman, who confirmed that the airline "would certainly be very considerate of any requests." The spokesman also promised that "if people have problems, we would certainly be upfront in trying to help them." 
  • Jetstar is running additional flights from Cairns on Tuesday, to Sydney and to Melbourne via Brisbane. Travellers with bookings up to Sunday 6 February can rebook without fee on flights up to 5 April.
  • Qantas travellers with bookings up to Sunday 6 February can rebook without fees or can receive a refund credit for future Qantas flights, valid for twelve months from the original departure date. 
  • Virgin Blue is offering a change fee waiver for all passengers with flights booked up to Sunday 6 February. Rebooked tickets must be for flights before 5 April. A refund credit valid for 12 months is also available.
  • SkyTrans has cancelled flights for Wednesday 2nd & Thursday 3rd February. There is no need to call the airline to cancel tickets; full refunds will be issued. The airline asks passengers to call after the cyclone for rebooking or refund. 
  • Tiger Airways has cancelled its 2nd February 21:55 Melbourne-Cairns TT5704 flight and 3rd February 00:50 Cairns-Melbourne flight. Tiger is offering passengers on the cancelled flights: "free of charge transfer to another flight of their choice or a credit voucher to fly with Tiger Airways at another time, or a full refund." All other passengers flying in or out of Cairns between 2nd-6th February can re-book free of charge onto another Tiger Airways flight of their choice, within 7 days from the original flight date, or get a flight credit for future travel, to the full value of their fare to be used within 3 months at their discretion.
  • Continental will operate CO902 on Feb.3 from Guam to Cairns (depart Guam at 7:55 p.m. / arrive at Cairns at 00:35 a.m. on Feb.4) and CO903 on Feb.4 from Cairns to Guam (depart Cairns at 01:30 am / arrive at Guam at 06:00 am).

Further updates will be available on and on Twitter: @AusBT

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John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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