Thursday, April 30, 2009

Several travel companies suspend trips to Mexico

Several travel companies cancelled flights and vacation packages to Mexico Tuesday, citing the growing outbreak of swine flu in that country.

Among the cancellations:

Transat AT postponed all planned flights to Mexico through to June 1.Sunquest cancelled its holiday packages to Mexico until June 4.Carnival Cruise Lines suspended all stops at Mexican ports, effective immediately.Sunwing is delaying all departures to Mexico until May 29.Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations suspended all operations to Cancun, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, until June 1. The airline will maintain its flights to Mexico City.WestJet and WestJet Vacations will stop service to Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, effective May 4.Several travel companies suspend trips to MexicoWomen wearing face masks wait for their flights at the airport in Tijuana, Mexico, on Tuesday. Several Canadian travel companies have suspended flights and vacation packages to Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak.(Guillermo Arias/Associated Press)

The move by Transat AT affects all its business units, including Air Transat, Transat Holidays and Nolitours (in Canada) and Vacances Transat and Look Voyages (in France).

Citing the World Health Organization's decision to raise the swine flu alert to Level 4, Transat AT announced it is bringing its customers and employees in Mexico back to Canada.

The holiday travel company said its return flights will leave as planned, and it will add more flights as needed.

It is postponing its flights from Canada to Mexico until June 1 inclusive, and from France to Mexico until May 31 inclusive.

Customers booked for future trips with Air Transat, Transat Holidays, Nolitours, Vacances Transat and Look Voyages scheduled to fly to Mexico between now and June 1 can change their travel plans with no additional charges, the company said.

Sunquest said in a news release that customers booked to Mexico can change their trips to any other Sunquest destination for travel any time up to Oct. 31, 2009.

Carnival said it cancelled Mexico stops for three ships scheduled to visit the country on Tuesday, but it hasn't yet announced a decision on future stops there.

Carnival and competitors Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Lines tried to allay guest fears by emphasizing how thoroughly the ships are cleaned.

Norwegian's Pearl is on a special voyage with stops in Mexico. The company said it is monitoring the situation and asking passengers about their health before cruises start.

Sunwing clients can switch to another Sunwing destination and will receive a travel credit, to be applied to a future holiday by Oct. 31.

Air Canada Vacations customers booked for Cancun, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta can rebook their holiday with no change fees to any destination or resort offered by the company.

WestJet service will resume to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on June 20 while service to Cancun, a seasonal destination for WestJet, will return in the fall schedule.

WestJet customers can choose to travel to the same destination at a later date once service has resumed, select another WestJet destination, request a refund or a credit toward future travel.

Sean Shannon, managing director of, said the online travel agency has been flooded with travellers looking for information and changing their bookings.

Shannon recommended travellers check with their tour operator or airline to find out what alternatives they may have before calling to change their reservations because the options and policies can vary from company to company.

Cuba suspends flights to Mexico

Also on Tuesday, Cuba suspended flights to and from Mexico, becoming the first country to impose a travel ban to that country as a result of the flu outbreak.

Later Tuesday, Argentina also announced a five-day ban on flights arriving from Mexico.

The Public Health Agency of Canada issued a travel warning late Monday advising Canadians to postpone any non-essential travel to Mexico until further notice.

The agency urged travellers to take precautionary measures, such as getting a flu shot, frequently washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Information contacts

The Canadian government has set up a hotline and websites for information about the swine flu virus. The number is 1-800-454-8302, and the websites are, and

The United States issued a similar warning earlier Monday, suggesting "non-essential travel to Mexico be avoided."

Meanwhile, Mexico's Ministry of Tourism and the Mexico Tourism Board issued a joint news release Monday, stating that their No. 1 priority is the health of tourists.

They said they "respect the precautionary measures that certain countries are implementing with regard to travel to Mexico and other countries where similar cases have been confirmed."

Authorities in Mexico say more than 1,900 people suffering swine flu symptoms are being monitored. The WHO has put the number of confirmed cases in Mexico at 26, while Mexican officials have said only 20 people are confirmed to have the disease.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press