Etihad Airways announced on Monday that it would offer free flight changes for Australians affected by the bush fires that have raged throughout the south-east of the country in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. The offer to waive fees is part of a package of measures Etihad is putting together to assist in an international disaster relief effort.
“In response to the country’s devastating bushfires, Etihad Airways will waive flight change fees for Australian residents affected by this ongoing national emergency,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “The waivers will apply for travel to or from Australia,” the spokesperson continued.
Australians living or visiting the UAE, as well as anyone currently in Australia who needs to change their itinerary because of the fires should contact Etihad Airways Guest Airways for the normal change fees to be waived.
Etihad currently offers daily flights from its hub in Abu Dhabi to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The popular route between the UAE’s and Australia’s largest city, Sydney is served by an Airbus A380. The airline described Australia as a “key and highly valued market.”
“As part of its international workforce, Etihad is also the proud employer of more than 300 Australian nationals outside Australia, who, with their families, number more than 1,000,” a statement released by the airline explained.
“In total, some 16,000 Australian nationals live and work in the UAE,” the statement continued.”
Record-breaking temperatures, coupled with months of drought have brought the most intense bush fire season seen in decades. At least 24 people have been killed, thousands of animals have either died or been injured and around 15.6 million acres of bush, forest and parks have been burned. In New South Wales alone, some 1,300 homes have been destroyed by the fires.
Some of the fires have been raging since November but a brief lull in temperatures and a small amount of recent rainfall is unlikely to bring the fires under control. Temperatures are expected to rise again on Thursday, bringing with it the risk of more fires.
Etihad is working with the Emirates Red Crescent to raise disaster relief funds with further details expected to be announced soon.