Malaysia Airlines flight 17

Malaysia Airlines offers full refunds on trips booked to the end of the year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 6:35am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2014, 6:35am

Malaysia Airlines is offering full refunds to passengers with bookings up to the end of the year after losing its second aircraft in four months when MH17 was shot down.

Anticipating a flood of cancellations, the national carrier said even passengers with non-refundable tickets would get every cent back.

The tragedy in Ukraine, along with the still-unexplained disappearance of Flight MH370 in March, has cast a shadow over the airline's attempt to recover from years of financial losses.

"In light of the MH17 incident, Malaysia Airlines will be waiving any change fees for passengers who wish to make changes to their itinerary," the company said in a statement. "Passengers who wish to postpone or cancel their travel plans can obtain a refund, including for non refundable tickets."

Customers have until Thursday to decide whether to stick with the airline, cancel travel plans or switch to a different carrier. The offer includes tickets bought with frequent-flyer miles, as well as tickets that would not usually be refundable. Fees and charges for changes of bookings will also be waived.

A Flight Centre Hong Kong travel consultant said a number of clients had called to cancel bookings with Malaysia Airlines.

"People feel sympathy for them but no one is willing to fly with them at the moment," the consultant said.

Customers had asked about cancellation policies with the airline and possible charges and fees before the airline relaxed its rebooking and refunding policy, the consultant said.

"They are trying to find a way to steer clear of that area in general. If they are really concerned about travelling, that's the number one thing we have to ensure - to feel safe when they are travelling no matter what, even if it costs us a little bit," the travel consultant added.

The loss of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur sent Malaysia Airlines shares down 11 per cent in Friday trading, making for a 27 per cent slide over the year. The company lost 1.7 billion ringgit (HK$4.04 billion) in the last financial year, even before the March disappearance of the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The company has suffered intense competition from low-cost carriers and struggled with rising costs. An alliance with low-cost rival AirAsia in 2011 did little to stem the losses.