How Major Airlines Are Offering Free Change, Cancellation Amid COVID-19
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How Major Airlines Are Offering Free Change, Cancellation Amid COVID-19

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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 April 1, 2021. 

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 for the past year. After saying those policies were set to end, some airlines are giving travelers another month to book risk-free.

Trying to plan a trip for later in 2021 or even 2022? Many major U.S. airlines have also extended waivers to give free change and cancellation on any new ticket (including for future travel) booked before the end of April 2021 – including basic economy fares. Most recently, Delta extended that policy to new tickets booked by April 30, 2021. And many other airlines are matching.

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.

 

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 because even the cheapest basic economy fares qualify.

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:

Alaska Airlines

Any ticket for an Alaska Airlines flight can be changed or canceled without a fee so long as you book your tickets by April 30, 2021.

Read more on Alaska’s policy.

American Airlines

Barring a change of heart, the days of free change and cancellation on any American Airlines fare are over.

While its competitors have extended those policies, American let it lapse on March 31, 2021. That means you’ll have to buy at least a main cabin fare to get a one-time free change or cancellation.

Read more on American’s policy.

Delta Air Lines

For starters, any ticket booked by April 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. Cancel for a voucher, and it will last all the way through December 2022.

And now, Delta is giving travelers who have to cancel upcoming flights more than two full years to rebook travel, through Dec. 31, 2022. Fare differences may still apply.

Read more about Delta’s waivers.

JetBlue

As of April 1, you can still change or cancel newJetBlue 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

Spirit is waiving change and cancellation fees on all fares booked before April 4, 2021. Canceling will get you a flight credit for the full amount of your booking.

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 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.

Read more on Sun Country’s policy.

United

All new domestic and international United flights booked by April 30, 2021 can be changed without a fee – just beware that if you change to or rebook a cheaper fare, United may pocket the difference.

All vouchers from canceled flights should be valid through the end of April 2022.

Read more on United’s policy.

 

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 April 30, 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 April 30, 2021 or for new travel booked by April 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.

 

Bottom Line

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.

 

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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