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Airlines Get Super Flexible with Change and Cancellation Fees to Cope with Today’s COVID-19 Climate

New week, new policies.

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the airline industry.
COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the airline industry.
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The panic has escalated to new levels this week concerning the current outbreak of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a previously unknown strain of coronavirus. With new travel restrictions daily plus enforcement of social distancing, major airlines are making current and future travel plans easy to cancel and change.

Just a week ago, airlines were trying to help restore faith by allowing flexibility for new tickets purchased through the end of March. Much has changed since then.

Here, an overview of the current official policies of several major airlines, as of March 18, 2020, in response to the coronavirus.

American Airlines and COVID-19

For all destinations served by American Airlines, if you “bought your ticket before March 1, 2020, for travel through April 30, 2020, you can rebook without change fees.” And if you, “booked your trip March 1 – March 31, 2020, for travel through January 30, 2021, you can also change your reservation at a later date without change fees.” Moreover, for countries that have travel restrictions in place, if you “are scheduled to travel between now and May 31, 2020,” you can rebook without change fees.

It’s important to note that you can only rebook once and any difference in fare will apply. The best solution is to cancel the reservation and then apply the reservation credit once you feel comfortable re-booking. In addition, if your flight has been cancelled, you can call in to request a refund. In our experience, American Airlines has also been waiving fees for re-depositing miles on AAdvantage® award tickets for flights up to May 31, 2020 to countries that have travel restrictions.

Delta Airlines and COVID-19

“Delta is broadly waiving change fees for travel impacted by coronavirus. That means all travel departing in March or April 2020, as well as all tickets purchased in March 2020.” For the former, Delta is asking to “Please select a flight that begins before December 31, 2020 or your ticket expiration date. Your unused ticket will be applied toward your new flight. If the new fare is lower, you will receive a Delta travel voucher for the difference. If the new fare is higher, the difference will be applied.” For the latter, “You have the option to change your ticket, one time, and the change fee will be waived. Please note, if your new flight is more expensive, the fare difference will apply.” Delta asks that for “For flights May 1, 2020 or later, please continue to check back as the situation evolves.”

The verbiage of Delta’s policies indicates that all of them also apply to Delta SkyMiles® tickets.

JetBlue and COVID-19

JetBlue has suspended all change and cancellation fees for “customers with existing bookings, booked prior to March 10 and traveling March 10, 2020 through April 30, 2020.” Customers may rebook their flights for travel through October 24, 2020. In addition, Jet Blue is waiving “change and [cancellation] fees for all new flight bookings made between March 6, 2020 and March 31, 2020 for travel through September 8, 2020.The change/cancel fees suspension still applies for bookings made between February 27, 2020 and March 5, 2020 for travel through June 1, 2020.”

Southwest Airlines and COVID-19

Southwest’s policies remain as per usual. “Southwest Airlines never charges Customers a fee to change or cancel their flight. If a Customer’s plans change, or they decide they no longer want to travel, the funds used to pay for their flight can be applied to future travel – as long as they cancel their flight at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The funds are valid for future travel up to one year from the original purchase date and must be used by the individual named on the ticket.”

United Airlines and COVID-19

For new flights “[booked] between March 3 and March 31, 2020, you can change [flights] for free over the next 12 months.” “For all tickets issued on or before March 2 — domestic or international — with original travel dates of March 9 through April 30,” change fees will be waived. Mileage Plus® award tickets are eligible for both waivers.

There are special refund and change policies for tickets purchased to international destinations with restricted air travel due to government mandates.

Let’s see what next week holds!

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 132 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Florida Design, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, and Robb Report.