Airline Coronavirus Change and Cancellation Policies


Airlines have been reeling as the coronavirus pandemic has spread across the globe. They have slashed schedules, laid off staff and some have temporarily suspended operations altogether as passenger numbers have slowed to a trickle. Nearly all have waived fees and are offering flexible rebooking options. But, for cancellations, some airlines have made it more difficult than others to receive refunds instead of vouchers. That back-and-forth is still playing out in the U.S., with several senators even weighing in on the subject. Meanwhile, European flights are subject to EU rules that are generally very passenger friendly when it comes to compensation for delays and cancellations. Customers with flights to, from or within Europe should be aware of those rules.

For those booking future trips, using miles is always a great hedge against uncertainty and often cheaper than travel insurance. Those with the top elite status can typically redeposit miles without any cost within a few days of their travel dates. Some airlines, like Southwest, don’t charge anybody to cancel and redeposit the miles; others charge $50 to $200 a ticket for most travelers. While not cheap, those fees can be much less than the fees for changes to cash bookings.

Delta

Already-booked trips (booked on or before April 17): Customers with tickets to travel through Sept. 30, 2020, may cancel or rebook their itineraries for no fee. Those who are not sure when they wish to travel will receive a voucher for the value of their ticket, which will remain valid through Sept. 30, 2022. Existing vouchers can also will also be

extended through that date. If the airline cancels the flight, you are entitled to a cash refund. Fare differences will be waived for changes to existing travel between March and Sept 2020 if the ticket was originally purchased before April 17 and the new itinerary is for the same destination and takes place before Sept. 30, 2020.

Award tickets: Delta is waiving mile redeposit fees for any award flights that qualify under the listed change waivers.

Future travel: Any tickets purchased through June 30, 2020, can be canceled or changed for up to a year from the date of purchase without any fees. Passengers cannot get a cash refund. If passengers rebook flights, they will have to pay the difference in fare between the original ticket and the new price.

Frontier

Already-booked trips (booked on or after March 10): Customers may cancel or rebook their itineraries for no fee. The new, changed itinerary must be completed by Nov. 9, 2020. Customers who cancel their flight will receive a voucher for the value of their ticket that is valid for 90 days from the day they cancel. If the airline cancels the flight — which is likely in the coming weeks — customers can request a full refund to their credit card.

Already-booked trips (booked between March 10 and April 15): Customers may cancel or rebook their itineraries for no fee. The new, changed itinerary must be completed by Nov. 9, 2020. Customers who cancel their flight will receive a voucher for the value of their ticket that is valid for 90 days from the day they cancel. If the airline cancels the flight — which is likely in the coming weeks — customers can request a full refund to their credit card.

Award tickets: Frontier is letting customers redeposit their miles for no fee.

Future travel: Frontier is not offering any protection for trips booked after April 15. However, the airline’s general policy allows for free itinerary changes, so long as the modifications are made 60 days or more from the original departure date. A $79 change fee will be applied 59-14 days before departure,and will go up to $119 for changes 13 days before departure or less, including same-day modifications.

Southwest

Southwest has a long-standing policy of not charging change or cancellation fees, but it has adjusted its policies slightly in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Already-booked trips: Customers may cancel or change their itinerary for no fee. Those who purchased a nonrefundable ticket will be issued a travel credit. Those are generally valid for one year, but Southwest has extended the validity for any existing travel credits that were originally set to expire between March 1 and Sept. 7, 2020 to Sept. 7, 2022. Any new credits issued between

March 1 and Sept, 7, 2020 will remain valid through Sept. 7, 2022. Existing bookings for travel through the end of April can be changed for up to 60 days from the original travel date and no fare difference will be applied.

Award tickets: Southwest does not charge a redeposit fee for points on canceled award itineraries.

Future travel: As with already-booked trips, any new credits issued for changed or canceled itineraries between March 1 and Sept. 7, 2020 will remain valid through Sept. 7, 2022. New bookings for travel through the end of April can be changed for up to 60 days from the original travel date and no fare difference will be applied.

United

Already-booked trips (booked after March 2): Customers may cancel or rebook their itineraries for no fee. Those who choose to cancel will receive a travel credit valid for 24 months from the date of issue. If the airline cancels the flight — which is likely in the coming weeks — and travelers cannot be rebooked to a new itinerary that gets them to their destination within six hours of their original arrival time, those customers can request a full refund to their credit card.

Already-booked trips (booked on or before March 2): Customers who booked tickets for travel through June 30 can cancel or change their itinerary for no fee, so long as the new travel commences within 24 months of the original ticket’s issue date. Those with plans to travel between June 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 can also cancel or change their itineraries for no fee, or for a 24 month travel credit, so long as the change is made by June 30, and the new itinerary commences within 24 months of the original. Those who choose to cancel will be issued a 24-month credit for future travel. If the airline cancels the flight — which is likely in the coming weeks — and those customers cannot be rebooked to a new itinerary that gets them to their destination within six hours of their original arrival time, those customers can request a full refund to their credit card.

Award tickets: United is waiving the mile redeposit fee for canceled award flights covered by the waivers.

Future travel: Any tickets purchased through June 30, 2020, can be canceled or changed without any fees. Passengers cannot get a cash refund. If passengers rebook flights, they will have to pay the difference in fare between the original ticket and the new price, and they will not be issued a credit or refund if the new itinerary costs less than the original booking. Credits on cancellations are valid for 12 months from the original ticket date.

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