LATAM Airlines offers refunds to pregnant travelers to Zika-hit region

miércoles 27 de enero de 2016 12:53 GYT

SANTIAGO Jan 27 (Reuters) - LATAM Airlines will offer refunds or the option of itinerary changes to pregnant women planning on traveling to Latin American and Caribbean countries impacted by the Zika virus, the company said on Wednesday.

An outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus, linked to brain damage in thousands of babies in Brazil, is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this week.

Airlines, hotels and cruise operators serving the region are facing growing concerns from travelers.

Chile-based LATAM Airlines, Latin America's largest carrier, said it would offer refunds or the opportunity to change destination to medically-certified pregnant women and their travelling companions with international flights booked to Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and other affected Latin American and Caribbean countries.

"For pregnant passengers that have already initiated their trips to the aforementioned destinations, they can return early, subject to seat availability, at no extra charge," the airline said in a statement.

U.S. airline United Airlines said on Tuesday that it was allowing customers who had reserved tickets for travel to Zika-impacted regions to postpone their trips or obtain refunds with no penalty.

A spokeswoman for TAM, the Brazilian arm of LATAM Airlines, told Reuters on Tuesday that it had not yet seen an impact on reservations due to concerns about the outbreak. Avianca, the region's second biggest airline, and smaller Brazilian carrier Gol made similar comments.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Frances Kerry)