Change Fee Policies for Major U.S. Airlines: Coronavirus Update
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Are you considering cancelling or changing your flights due to the coronavirus? You may be in luck.
Concerns over the spread of novel coronavirus is hitting the travel industry hard. With governments now severely restricting travel, many airlines are taking the extraordinary step of temporarily amending their change and cancellation policies.
Under normal circumstances, changing or cancelling airline reservations can cost you a pretty penny. While some carriers are more lenient than others, many airlines charge hefty change and cancellation fees to help discourage the practice – sometimes charging you several hundred dollars to make the changes. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, most major airlines have decided to waive these fees for flights occurring over the next several weeks.
So, which airlines are waiving their change fees due to the coronavirus? Are your flights covered? And, what happens to your miles when you cancel an award flight?
In this piece, we outline the typical flight change and cancellation policies for over a dozen of the most popular airlines for American travelers. We’ve also added the most current information regarding change and cancellation fees in response to the coronavirus. Use the list below to see how these updates may affect your travel plans.
Related: Should You Cancel Your Summer Trip Because of the Coronavirus?
Change and Cancellation Policies by Airline
How much will it cost to change or cancel your flight? We’ve summarized the change and cancellation policies for 12 of the most popular airlines below.
Editor’s Note: Due to the coronavirus, new information and policies are evolving rapidly. While we do our best to keep these summaries as current as possible, always speak with your specific airline about their current change and cancellation policy before making any decisions about your flight reservations. Please see our disclaimer for more.
Alaska Airlines: For tickets purchased between February 27 and April 30, 2020 or tickets purchased prior to February 27 with travel dates in between March 9 and May 31, 2020, Alaska Airlines is offering “flexible travel options” – allowing customers to change their reservations at no charge. You’ll receive a credit to your account, and the credit must be used for travel before February 28, 2021. Keep in mind that you may need to pay any difference in airfare price for a changed flight. Normal fees apply to tickets purchased outside of these dates.
Normally, Alaska Airlines has a fairly lenient change and cancellation policy anyway – although their standard change fee is now $125. This fee is waived if you have a paid ticket in “Refundable First-Class” and for Mileage Plan MVP Gold and Gold 75K members. “Same-Day Confirmed Changes” run just $25 if you are traveling within the state of California or in their “shuttle markets” and $50 for all other flights.
Allegiant Air: Due to the coronavirus, Allegiant is currently offering customers the ability to make a one-time change to their current reservations at no charge.
At Allegiant, you can also purchase “Trip Flex” with your tickets, allowing you to make a one-time change to your reservation without paying a change fee. Without the Trip Flex option, Allegiant normally charges a change fee of $75 for each leg you alter. Additionally, changes and cancellations are not allowed or credited within 7 days of departure.
American Airlines: American Airlines is waiving change fees for certain reservations because of the coronavirus outbreak. New non-refundable tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020 are eligible to be changed one-time without a fee. The original flight must have included travel between March 1, 2020 and January 30, 2021. New flights must be completed within a year of the original ticket issue date, the changes must be made prior to departure of the original flight, and the customer is responsible for paying any difference in the fares.
Additionally, American Airlines is waiving change fees for those who purchased tickets prior to March 1, 2020 and have travel dates through April 30, 2020. Those traveling to Europe or the U.K. who booked flights prior to March 15, 2020 and are scheduled to travel from March 11 through May 31, 2020 are also eligible to change their flights without change fees. Similar terms and conditions outlined above apply.
On paid fares, American Airlines usually charges a massive $200 change fee on domestic flights and up to $750 for international reservations. Same-day flight changes run $75-$150 for main cabin passengers while business and first class same-day changes are free. Keep in mind that, before booking, you can also place a free hold on tickets for up to 24 hours. You can not, however, cancel a paid booking without charges applying.
Changes to award flights are more complex and only slightly more generous. A change in origin, destination, or participating airline will cost you $150. Cancelling your award flight means you’ll incur a $150 reinstatement fee plus $25 for any additional award tickets reinstated to your account at the same time. All of these charges are waived for Executive Platinum members.
Additionally, you have 21 days after booking award flights to change your dates, flight times, or ticket class at no cost. After that, adjustments to these items results in a $75 processing fee. This fee is waived for Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, Platinum, and Gold members.
British Airways: Like several of their counterparts, British Airways has temporarily waived change fees. Purchases made between March 3 and May 31, 2020. Existing bookings with travel dates through May 31, 2020 are also elgible. New flights can be changed to any date within 12 months of your original departure, although differences in fares will still apply. The change fee waiver is also available with their flight plus hotel/car packages.
British Airways does not have a standard change or cancellation fee for paid fares. Instead, fees are calculated based on the type of ticket purchased. On the other hand, award flights booked with Avios miles and departing from the U.S. are subject to a $55 change fee for date and time changes. Cancellation will also result in a $55 fee for redepositing your points. Changes and cancellations made to “Gold Priority Rewards” bookings are free of charge.
Delta Airlines: Delta is waiving change fees on all tickets (including Basic Economy) purchased from March 1 through May 31, 2020. Customers may change their reservations once for no fee, and the new itinerary must begin within a year from the date of purchase.
Additionally, Delta is currently waiving change fees on travel booked prior to April 03, 2020 for travel dates in April or May 2020. Existing eCredits or cancelled travel from March, April, or May 2020 is also included. Reissued travel must begin within two years.
Normally, Delta Airlines charges a whopping $200 change fee on paid flights within the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Changes to all other international travel itineraries run $200-$500. Please note that basic economy fares are not eligible for changes except under the temporary coronavirus update .
Same-day confirmed changes are $75 for Silver Medallion members, but the fees are waived for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members. Changes to award flights incur a $150 redeposit or reissue fee (waived for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members) and may not be made less than 72 hours prior to your original departure time.
Frontier Airlines: At this time, Frontier Airlines is waiving change fees for all departures between March 10 and April 30, 2020. Tickets purchased between March 10 and March 31, 2020 are also eligible for a fee-free change. Flights can be re-booked on any available travel dates through November 2020.
With Frontier Airlines, customers can always change or cancel their flight free of charge for up to 60 days prior to departure. They charge $79 per passenger to change or cancel flights falling between 59 and 14 days prior to departure. For flights departing within 13 days or less, the cancellation or change fee is $119 per passenger. These fees are waived for those purchasing “The Works” fares. Award flights may be changed at no additional cost for up to 8 or more days before departure.
Hawaiian Airlines: For passengers who book between March 1 and May 31, 2020, Hawaiian Airlines is allowing a one-time reservation change free of charge. Handling fees and award redeposit fees are also being waived. Of course, any increase in fare still applies and travel must begin within one year of the original date of purchase. For flights booked before March 1, 2020 with departures in March, April or May 2020, change fees are also being waived on rebooked flights. New travel must begin prior to December 31, 2020.
Hawaiian Airlines charges change fees of $30 for paid flights to neighboring islands, $200 for paid flights to North America, and $50-$300 on paid international flights. Tickets purchased with miles can be changed within the same ticketing class for $30 to neighboring islands, $50 to North America, and $150 for international flights. Award flights may also be subject to a redepositing fee of $150 on North American and international flights and a $30 fee on flights to neighboring islands. Restricted refundable fare tickets are subject to a refund fee of $25 on flights to neighboring islands and $100 on all other flights.
JetBlue: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, JetBlue has suspended change and cancel fees for certain bookings. Flights booked between February 27 and March 5, 2020 with a departure date prior to June 1, 2020 are eligible for one fee-free flight change. Flights booked between March 6 and March 26, 2020 on travel that departs prior to September 8, 2020 are also eligible for a fee-free change. Flights booked between March 27 and April 30, 2020 for travel through January 4, 2021 can also make changes fee-free. Existing bookings between March 10 and May 31, 2020 are also eligible. Differences in airfare may apply.
JetBlue’s change and cancellation policy is based on the purchase price of the ticket. Changes to JetBlue Basic fares are not allowed. Cancelling or changing your flight for Blue and Blue Plus fares will cost $75 for fares under $100, $100 on fares ranging from $100-$149.99, $150 on fares costing $150-$199.99, and $200 on fares of $200+ and more. Changes to Blue Extra fares can be made at no cost. Keep in mind that each of these change fees are per person.
Additionally, changes and cancellations to “Mint” fares can be made for $200. Same-day changes are available for $75.
Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines has the most flexible change and cancellation policy available, charging zero fees to change or cancel your flight. Yes, you read that right: You can change or cancel any upcoming Southwest reservation for free – always.
On paid flights, refunds come in the form of a non-transferable credit. Changed or cancelled award flights, regardless of whether you earned your points from paid flights or by using a Southwest credit card, will see your points redeposited at no charge. Naturally, you’ll have to make up any price or point difference if you change your reservation to a more expensive ticket.
Spirit Airlines: Spirit is offering a “flexible travel policy” which allows customers whose travel is affected by COVID-19 to make changes to their reservations free of charge. Customers will receive a full credit toward a future reservation. The credit must be used within six months, however it can be used to book any available flight – even if it is outside the six month window.
Spirit Airlines typically allows you to make online modifications or cancellations for $90 while changes made at the airport or over the phone incur a $100 change fee. Changes to group bookings can be made for $50 per person. Flights booked with rewards can be modified or cancelled for $110. Changes are allowed up to an hour prior to your scheduled departure, and cancellations must be made before the first flight of your itinerary departs.
Sun Country Airlines: Sun Country Airlines is waiving change fees on qualifying flights affected by the pandemic. Their standard change fee policy (outlined below) is already pretty flexible, allowing passengers to make changes free of charge on flights that are 60 days or more away from departure.
Sun Country’s standard policy is that airfare is not refundable but may be changed prior to your scheduled departure. Changing a flight more than 60 days prior to departure is free. A change fee of $60 applies for paid flights which are still 59-14 days from departure, and it will cost $100 to change your flight 13 days or less from your departure time. Change fees are charged for each direction and per each traveler.
United Airlines: United Airlines is waiving change fees on new bookings purchased prior to April 30, 2020. Travel must be completed within 12 months of the original ticket issue date.
For flights purchased before March 2, 2020 with a departure through April 30, 2020, change and cancellation fees are also waived. For flights purchased prior to March 2 with a departure date between June 1 and December 31, 2020, fees are also waived provided you change or cancel your flight before April 30, 2020. New tickets and travel must commence within 24 months of the original purchase in both situations.
Normally, United Airlines has one of the most complex and restrictive change and cancellation policies of all. For paid flights, a $200 change fee applies to domestic flights. You could be charged $400 or more to change flights included in international itineraries. For passengers who are not MileagePlus Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, or Premier 1K members, same-day changes run $75 per person. Changes are not permitted for Basic Economy.
United’s change and cancellation fees for award flights are based on your membership level and when the change or cancellation is made. (Don’t forget, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points here at a 1:1 ratio.) Charges run between $25 and $125. MileagePlus Premier 1K members are exempt from all award flight change fees except the $125 redeposit fee after a “no show.”
7 Ways to Avoid Airline Change and Cancellation Fees
Don’t want to pay a fee to cancel or change your flight? Here are a some tips for avoiding or minimizing those costs.
- Be sure before you buy. – The easiest and best way to avoid an airline change or cancellation fee is to be sure everything is ready before clicking the buy button. Triple check that your flight itinerary is correct (dates and cities), then check again. If you’re booking a flight for vacation, be sure you’ve thoroughly searched for the best deals and are committed to your flight origin and destination.
- Know the airline’s cancellation policy. – Before booking, it’s important to know the airline’s change and cancellation policy. Some carriers (like Southwest) allow you to cancel or change your reservation without a fee. In that case, there’s no reason to wait on booking your flights. With that said, most airlines aren’t nearly that generous.
- Book round-trip flights whenever possible. – If you book two one-way tickets, a change in plans could affect both tickets. That means you could end up paying an expensive change or cancellation fee on both ends. If you book a round-trip flight and need to change it, at least you’ll only pay one fee.
- Make use of the 24-hour rule. – For flights operating within or coming to the U.S., carriers are required to hold reservations for a quoted fare or allow penalty-free cancellations on paid reservations which are cancelled within 24-hours of booking. However, this rule only applies if the reservation was made at least 7 days before the departure date. Each airline also applies the rule differently (ie: you may be able to hold flights but not cancel paid flights), so use it carefully.
- Have your documentation ready. – On rare occasions (like a death or natural disaster), an airline may forgive any change and cancellation fees as long as you can provide the proper documentation.
- Consider getting travel insurance. – Obviously, you don’t want to add expenses if you don’t have to. However, if you have to cancel or change your flights due to illness, injury, or another unexpected event, chances are good that you may have more than just airline fees to worry about. Depending on the situation, certain travel rewards cards may provide insurance to cover some of these costs. You should also consider adding a good travel insurance policy to help cover any unreimbursed expenses, including flight cancellation fees.
- Wait to pay the fee. – If all else fails, wait as long as you can to pay the change or cancellation fee. Airlines routinely modify their flight schedules due to weather and other events. There is always a chance that a change in schedule could benefit you.
Navigating the various airline change and cancellation policies can be a tedious and expensive affair – especially if you don’t understand a carrier’s policy in advance. Whenever possible, it’s best to do everything in your power to avoid these situations entirely. Trust me, your wallet will thank you.
We hope this guide to changing and cancelling flights has been helpful. As always, please leave any comments or questions below. Happy traveling!
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I didn’t know about the 24 hour rule, how could I not know that!? Thanks for this post!
Absolutely. Be careful with the 24-hour rule because each carrier applies it differently. For instance, American only allows you to hold the reservation for 24-hours WITHOUT payment, not cancel. If you pay, you pay for it, you don’t get your money back.
Spirit is offering to change reservations at no cost. I was given a travel voucher after cancelling a flight this weekend. You have to go to their app, go to travel alerts and there is a link to cancel flight and receive a travel credit to use at a future date.