How Major Airlines Still Offer Free Change, Cancellation (On Some Fares...)
airlines change and cancellation fees

How Major Airlines Still Offer Free Change, Cancellation (On Some Fares…)

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Editor’s note: We’re constantly updating this post with the latest information about airline change and cancellation waivers. It was last updated June 2, 2021. 

Believe it or not, there was a silver lining for travel during the pandemic: Airlines went to extraordinary lengths to give travelers more flexibility, allowing free change and cancellation on almost any ticket.

Had a flight scheduled over the last year that you didn’t want to take? You could change it without hefty fees – or cancel it and get a voucher. Buy a new flight for a trip in late 2021 or early 2021? You could change or cancel that one free, too.

But now, that free change free-for-all is over. As the pandemic recedes and travel rebounds, airlines have ended that practice. Fortunately, you can still get free change and cancellation on your fare … but you not if you buy one of the cheapest basic economy fares.

In the midst of COVID-19, airlines permanently ditched change fees: first on domestic tickets, and then on international trips, too. But now, basic economy fares no longer qualify. If you want that flexibility, you’ll have to pay more for a main cabin ticket.

Want a full refund instead of a voucher for future travel? Read our guide on getting refunds from your airline.
 

 

Here’s a look at how each airline handles changes and cancellation now.

 

U.S. Airlines’ Change Fee Policies

Alaska Airlines

Any Alaska ticket booked by April 30, 2021, can be changed or canceled without a fee. Canceling will get you a voucher valid for up to a year from your original travel date.

But going forward, you’ll need to buy at least a main cabin fare to be able to change or cancel for free. New Alaska basic economy fares (which the airline calls “Saver fares”) can no longer be changed or canceled.

Read more on Alaska’s policy.
 

American Airlines

American Airlines ended the free change free-for-all earlier than almost anyone.

While its competitors have extended those policies, American let it lapse on March 31, 2021. American basic economy fares purchased from April 1 and onwards can’t be changed or canceled.

That means you’ll have to buy at least a main cabin fare to get a one-time free change or cancellation when flying with American.

Read more on American’s policy.
 

Delta Air Lines

All Delta tickets booked by April 30 (even for travel far in the future) can be changed or canceled for free, getting a voucher for future travel.

But now, Delta basic economy fares are no longer eligible to be changed or canceled, period. You’ll need to buy a main cabin economy fare or higher to get that free flexibility.

Fortunately, Delta is giving travelers who have to cancel upcoming flights more than a full year to rebook travel, through Dec. 31, 2022. Fare differences may still apply.

Read more about Delta’s waivers.
 

JetBlue

JetBlue is the last major U.S. airline still offering free change and cancellation on all fares, through June 8. But those days are ending soon.

Starting June 9, you can still change or cancel new JetBlue basic economy fares. You’ll just have to pay for it.

More expensive Blue fares and up can still be changed or canceled for free going forward. But if you buy a Blue Basic fare, you’ll have to pay $100 to change or cancel a flight within the U.S. or to the Mexico or Caribbean, and $200 for all other routes.

Both cash bookings and award tickets booked with points are eligible. Canceled flights will get a travel credit for JetBlue.

Read more on JetBlue’s policy.
 

Spirit Airlines

Even budget airlines are getting back to normal.

For many months, Spirit waived all change and cancellation fees on its fares. But now, the airline has returned to its normal change fee system, with higher fees to change or cancel a flight the closer you get to departure.

  • 60+ days: Free
  • 15-59 days: $39
  • 7-14 days: $59
  • 0-6 days: $79

Read more on Spirit’s policy.
 

Southwest

All Southwest tickets can always be canceled or changed without incurring a fee, though fare differences may still apply.
 

Sun Country

Sun Country no longer has a special policy in place to handle change or cancellation during COVID-19. But its normal change policy waives change and cancellation fees for all flights at least 60 days ahead of departure.

Read more on Sun Country’s policy.
 

United

All new domestic and international United flights booked before April 30, 2021 can be changed without a fee. All vouchers from canceled flights should be valid through the end of April 2022.

Going forward, you’ll have to book at least a main cabin fare to get that flexibility. New United basic economy fares cannot be changed nor canceled.

Read more on United’s policy.

 

Free Cancellation on Tickets Booked with Miles?

You’re in luck – maybe.

Many of these same major U.S. airlines are applying the same free change and cancellation policies to award tickets booked using miles. But it varies by situation, so read closely.

  • Alaska Airlines: Alaska is treating award bookings essentially the same as cash tickets. That means any award ticket booked using Alaska miles can be changed or canceled for free to get your miles back. But there’s one big catch: That only applies to flights on Alaska itself. Canceling partner award tickets on carriers like Japan Airlines or Cathacy Pacific will still incur a fee.
  • American Airlines: American has completely eliminated its $150 redeposit fees for award tickets.
  • Delta: Delta was among the most generous policies for SkyMiles award tickets. Any flight booked with SkyMiles scheduled for travel through April 30, 2021 or for new travel booked by April 30, 2021 can be canceled to get your miles back for free. That included Delta’s basic economy awards. But now, you’ll have to book at least a main cabin fare using SkyMiles to be able to cancel and get your SkyMiles back.
  • Southwest: Same as always – you can change or cancel your flight booked with Rapid Rewards points for free.
  • United: United allows you to change a mileage redemption without paying a fee, and it will waive redeposit fees for all award travel so long as you cancel more than 30 days before departure.

 

Bottom Line

Travelers are returning and airlines are climbing their way out of the crisis. And that means the days of unprecedented flexibility when booking flights are over.

But it’s not all bad news. Airlines’ moves to eliminate most change fees for good means there’s still a way to book your flights worry-free. You’ll just have to pay a bit more for it.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

18 Responses

  • Really disappointing Delta isn’t allowing us to change domestic flights or give us credit to travel later in the year once the Corona Virus settles down, especially with so many cases in Washington and California now. I really don’t want to get on a plane that just came from either state. With Minnesota being a Delta hub, we will have travelers coming through our airport from affected states.

  • I understand the airlines are hurting, and they want to increase bookings..but the March 3-end of March logic escapes me…What if I bought ticket for April travel in February? Why can’t I change w/o penalties? How’s someone buying ticket today any more affected than someone who bought the ticket before?

  • I understand that Kyle, but I purchased my ticket for the end of March back in December, so don’t feel like Delta really cares about its customers, it just wants people to keep booking so is incentivizing people to make new bookings.

    • Apologies, Mary, I misunderstood your first comment. As for Delta’s goal here – you’re absolutely right.

  • But what about those who booked on United months ago and are leaving in a few weeks. We aren’t finding any information about waivers for flying into Rome.

  • We booked a trip to Italy 6 months ago on Norwegian Air and are scheduled to leave in 4 weeks.
    So far 0 response from Norwegian.

  • I just checked and I was doing a Europe trip, hopping between a few countries. Italy being one. Both Vueling and EasyJet just gave me a full refund. I could have switched flights for free, but I have no Idea when I would even plan to go back.

  • While I would love it if TAP Portugal was actually offering free changes, the problem is that they’ve evaporated my reservation (and others, from the FB group of TAPhaters that’s evolved). I have two tickets for ORD to Valencia via Lisbon for late May, and they no longer show the reservation. The was communication about the flights as late as 2 weeks ago, and now, poof! No record of the transaction on their site. I’ve filed a complaint with the DOT. I realize that other folks are waiting for refunds on cancelled flights – and at some point I’ll get in line – but it would be nice to have them acknowledge the reservation.

  • Do you know if tickets booked using Chase Sapphire points/miles are cancellable without a penalty beyond the 24 hour window now too?

    • Only if it falls under the waiver offered by the airline as spelled out here – and in some cases, you may wind up getting a voucher for that airline instead of your points back. It seems to vary a lot by airline and by cardholder.

  • Be careful believing the promise of “no change fee”. Apparently after leaving on a round trip ticket for DFW a change to my return date will be the difference in fare between my current return ticket value and the price of a ticket with NO ADVANCE PURCHASE. What good is waiving a change fee if the only way to change my return date is to stay another 14 days plus how ever many days is needed for my class of service to be available? Who has that kind of flexibility in their schedule? I understand No change tickets but when you clearly promise changes can be made it is really dishonest to find a different way to charge them.

    At a time they are asking people to fly and asking for our trust and understanding durring these time..this is a horrible way to treat people.

  • I had a KLM non-refundable flight scheduled for Venice to Antwerp for early Sept. The flights to & from Europe were already cancelled by the airlines (I waited patiently for that to happen, as advised) and received full refunds. This inter-European flight hasn’t been cancelled. But I was pleasantly surprised that I was offered a travel voucher for the full ticket value good for any booking made by 12/31/21 on KLM’s website (including with their partners like Air France, Delta, etc). The flight on the re-booking can be in 2022!

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