Editor’s note: We’re constantly updating this post with the latest information about airline change and cancellation waivers. It was last updated Dec. 11, 2020.
Major airlines in the U.S. and abroad have gone to extraordinary lengths to give travelers more flexibility due to the uncertainty about coronavirus, allowing free one-time changes and cancellations to both new and previously booked tickets.
Reconsidering an upcoming trip for the holidays? All the major U.S. carriers will give you a free one-time change, or you can cancel and get a voucher for the value of your ticket good for up to two years, depending on when you booked. Trying to plan a trip for 2021? Many major U.S. airlines have also extended waivers to give free change and cancellation on any new ticket (including for future travel) booked by the end of December 2020 – and in some cases, as far out as March 2021.
These travel waivers for free changes to almost any flight are the airlines’ way of trying to drum up more business by offering travelers more certainty in a fast-changing environment. Importantly, you typically won’t get a refund for canceling these flights, but a voucher or credit for future travel.
Want a full refund instead of a voucher for future travel? Read our guide on getting refunds from your airline.
And even basic economy tickets can be changed or canceled for free. Domestic and international tickets alike qualify for free change or cancellation. And some airlines are treating award tickets booked with miles the same as cash fares, waiving fees to cancel and get your miles back.
That’s important, as these temporary waivers go even further than airlines’ recent moves to permanently eliminate change fees.
Here’s a look at how each airline is offering travelers more flexibility when booking travel amid the outbreak, starting with U.S. airlines and moving into some recent international airlines.
Breaking Down U.S. Airlines’ Coronavirus Travel Waivers
JetBlue was the first major airline to issue a broad waiver for travelers concerned about the virus, but its competitors have rapidly followed suit. Here’s a look at what each carrier is doing to give would-be travelers a bit more flexibility:
Any ticket for an Alaska Airlines flight can be changed or canceled without a fee so long as you book your tickets by March 31, 2021. Additionally, any ticket for travel scheduled all the way out through Dec. 31, 2020 can be canceled or changed without a fee as long as it was booked by Feb. 26, 2020. Fare differences may still apply if you change to a more expensive flight.
Any ticket on American Airlines booked through Dec. 31, 2020 can also be changed or canceled free, including basic economy fares.
What’s more, any American Airlines travel scheduled all the way through Dec. 31, 2020 can be canceled or changed free, too. And you’ve got until Dec. 31, 2021 to use your travel credit or rebook your travel.
But once 2021 rolls around, American’s new, no-change-fee policy for domestic and international flights will kick in. And that excludes basic economy fares.
Delta Air Lines
For starters, any ticket booked by March 30, 2021 (even for travel in the far future) can be changed or canceled for free, getting a voucher for future travel. Delta just recently extended this policy to go out farther than most airlines. Cancel for a voucher, and it will last a year.
Any upcoming domestic or international flight scheduled through March 31, 2021 is eligible for a free one-time change or can be canceled for a voucher. And now, Delta is giving travelers who have to cancel these flights more than two full years to rebook travel, until Dec. 31, 2022. – so long as your ticket was booked before April 17. Fare differences may still apply.
Any new JetBlue flight booked by Feb. 28, 2021 can be changed or canceled without a fee. And the same is true for existing bookings for travel through Feb. 28, 2021.
Both cash bookings and award tickets booked with points are eligible. Canceled flights will get a travel credit for JetBlue.
Spirit is waiving change and cancellation fees on all fares booked before Dec. 31, 2020. Canceling will get you a flight credit for the full amount of your booking.
All Southwest tickets can always be canceled or changed without incurring a fee, though fare differences may still apply.
Sun Country doesn’t have 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.
All new domestic and international United flights booked by March 31, 2021 can be changed without a fee – just beware that if you change to or rebook a cheaper fare, United may pocket the difference.
United is also waiving change fees for previously booked travel scheduled between now and the end of the year – so long as you booked your ticket before March 2. United also followed Delta’s lead by making the travel credits you get from canceling a flight valid for two-plus years.
What About Award 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 previously booked award tickets scheduled between Feb. 26 and March 31, 2021 can be canceled to get your Mileage Plan miles back free. The same is true for new award tickets booked by March 31, 2021.
- American Airlines: American has completely eliminated its $150 redeposit fees for award tickets.
- Delta: Delta has among the most generous policies for SkyMiles award tickets. Any flight booked with SkyMiles scheduled for travel through March 2021 or for new travel booked by March 30, 2021 can be canceled to get your miles back for free.
- 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.
It’s good to see more and more airlines stepping up to give travelers more flexibility and peace of mind. Watch this space, as this will continue to change.