Airlines scramble after loss of passengers from coronavirus outbreak

You wouldn't know it's spring break at the airport. Travelers and airport workers say they're seeing smaller than usual crowds amid the coronavirus outbreak.

United Airlines stirred controversy by recently changing its refund policy. Other airlines are expanding their change fee waivers.

A passenger flying from Las Vegas to Houston showed us photos she took of what she says were many open seats on her flight. 

Several passengers on both domestic and international flights arriving at IAH echoed the same observation.

"I was talking to the captain and he mentioned that only 60 people, including the crew, were on this flight," said Jorge Goydet of his international flight. "Only 60 people out of 196."

"It was pretty empty. It was one of the better flights I've ever had," said Mark Banick about his flight from Las Vegas.

Passengers willing to fly tell us they're not concerned about catching the COVID-19 Coronavirus and that the planes appear especially clean.

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"They're doing some extra cleaning.  The trays and all that stuff on the seats," said passenger Bill Banick.

"They've been taking care of cleaning the airplanes pretty well," added Goydet.

The Houston Airport System gave us video of crew members cleaning the airport. HAS says they're using hospital-grade disinfectants to wipe down surfaces regularly and keeping soap and sanitizer stocked for travelers and staff. 

But as more people cancel their travel plans, United Airlines announced this week it must cancel some flights and stirred controversy announcing it would only refund tickets if they couldn't rebook a passenger on a flight within 25 hours. That's much longer than its previous policy of two hours. 

"That's garbage, they should change it," reacted passenger Cody Porter.

But Bill Banick had a different perspective, saying, "The airlines are losing a lot of money in general. So if that's helping, I don't know if it is, but they need some help, I would say."

Since then, United revised its policy, now saying it will decide refunds on a case-by-case basis.

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Some airlines, such as American and Delta, are expanding the window of time they'll waive change and cancellation fees due to coronavirus concerns.  Both expanded that window from flights in March through the month of April, if the flights were previously booked.

Southwest Airlines says it already had a no-fee policy for changes and cancellations.

Check with your airline for details on their current policy.