Editor’s note: We’re constantly updating this post with the latest information about airline change and cancellation waivers. It was last updated July 29, 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. 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. The cheapest basic economy fares no longer can be changed or canceled, period – not even for a fee. Fortunately, you can still get free change and cancellation on your flights … you’ll just have to pay a bit more for it.
In the midst of COVID-19, airlines permanently ditched change fees: first on domestic tickets, and then on international trips, too. But on nearly all airlines, basic economy fares no longer qualify. So if you want that flexibility, you’ll have to pay a bit extra for a main cabin ticket. In many cases, that additional flexibility can easily be worth the extra cost.
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 policies now.
U.S. Airlines’ Change Fee Policies
Going forward, you’ll need to buy at least a main cabin fare with Alaska 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.
American Airlines ended the free change free-for-all earlier than almost anyone.
While its competitors extended those policies, American let it lapse way back 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.
Delta Air Lines
Delta was one of the first major airlines to extend free change and cancellation to any ticket. And after removing that flexibility this spring, they’ve had a change of heart.
Delta has now restored free change and cancellation to basic economy fares – but not all of them. You’ll only get that flexibility flying Delta basic economy for tickets booked May 1 onward – and for travel through the end of 2021.
That allows you to change your ticket to a trip through the end of 2022 without incurring big change fees – but you may still be on the hook for a fare difference. Otherwise, you can cancel and get a voucher or Delta eCredit valid through the end of 2022.
If your travel doesn’t fall in 2021, 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.
JetBlue was the last major U.S. airline still offering free change and cancellation on all fares. But those days are over, too.
As of June 9, you can still change or cancel any newly booked 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.
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
All Southwest tickets can always be canceled or changed without incurring a fee, though fare differences may still apply.
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.
As of May 1, you’ll need to book at least a main cabin fare with United to get free change or cancellation for a voucher. All vouchers from canceled flights should be valid through the end of April 2022 – or longer.
But new United basic economy fares cannot be changed nor canceled, period – not even for a fee.
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.
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.