U.S. Airlines Temporarily Improve Change Fees Due to COVID-19

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Editor's Note: Due to the rapidly evolving situation with travel disruptions and changing airline policies, we are no longer updating this post. Forbes has an excellent resource that is being updated multiple times per day and covers an extensive list of airlines.

As the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) spreads, several U.S. airlines have improved their change and cancelation policies to accommodate travel arrangements impacted by the virus.

U.S. airlines typically charge up to $200 in fees to make changes to your flight, and modifications to low-fare tickets are next to impossible depending on the fare rules. Change fees on many of these tickets have now been temporarily removed, but some limitations still apply.

JetBlue

Updated: 03/12/2020 – JetBlue has updated its change fee waiver to offer three separate policies based on when you booked your flight:

  • If you booked your trip between February 27 and March 5, JetBlue won't assess change/cancel fees for flights booked through June 1, 2020.
  • If you booked your trip between March 6 and March 31, there are no change/cancellation fees for flights booked through September 8, 2020.
  • If you booked your trip on or before March 10, there are no change/cancellation fees for flights scheduled between March 10 and April 30, 2020. New flights may be rebooked for travel through October 24, 2020.

If you cancel, JetBlue won't issue you a refund. Instead, you'll receive a travel credit to apply toward a future JetBlue flight. The change even applies to JetBlue Basic Economy tickets. You will need to pay the price difference if the new flight is more than the credit you receive from the first.

JetBlue was the first airline to waive change and cancellation fees. The original waiver was originally announced on February 26 for flights purchased between February 27 and March 11, 2020 for flights before June 1, 2020.

Alaska Airlines

Updated: 03/12/2020 – Alaska is currently offering two types of change/cancel fee waivers. The first covers tickets purchased on or before February 26, 2020 for travel through March 31, 2020. The second covers tickets purchased between February 27 and March 31, 2020 for travel through February 28, 2021. In both cases, the same policies apply:

  • Travelers who booked JetBlue's basic economy “Saver” fares can cancel their flight for a credit toward future travel.
  • First class, main cabin, and award tickets can be changed for no fee for flights through February 28, 2021, or you can cancel for a credit toward a future flight or a “credit card certificate.”

Delta Airlines

Updated: 03/09/2020 – Delta has updated its change fee waiver to include all flights booked between March 1st and March 31st as well as international flights previously booked that are scheduled to depart in March.

Delta's original change fee waiver only applied to international flights (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) booked before March 1st and departing between March 1st and March 31st, 2020. This was expanded on March 4th to encompass all flights, domestic and international, for tickets issued between March 1 and March 31, 2020. The waived change fee applies to travel dates between March 1, 2020, and February 25, 2021 and allows for a one-time change that must be reissued on or before February 28, 2021.

American Airlines

Updated: 03/12/2020 – American Airlines has made multiple updates to their change fee policy since this post was originally published. Here is the webpage listing American's current change-fee-waiver terms and conditions. As of this update, the “book your flight with confidence” policy covers flights booked between March 1 and March 31 with the following conditions:

  • Change fees are waived on tickets purchased between March 1-31, 2020 for travel now through January 30, 2021.
  • Changes must be made prior to your original flight and the new itinerary must be within a year of the original date you purchased the ticket.
  • You are limited to one free change; multiple changes to the same itinerary may not be covered by the waiver.
  • For paid (revenue) tickets, the fare difference will still be assessed.
  • Award tickets aren't covered by this policy.

If you are traveling to China, Hong Kong, South Korea, or Italy, there are different options than the general waiver policy covered above. Check the Travel alerts page for the most up-to-date information.

It's worth noting that AA's policy no longer requires that you change your flight 14 days before the original departure date (originally a requirement).

United Airlines

United Airlines was the last of the big three U.S. airlines to waive its change fees for new flight bookings. United's change fee waiver applies to all tickets issued March 3 through March 31, 2020. In addition, travelers who booked a flight on or before March 2 with travel dates between March 9 and April 30 can rebook travel within 12 months from the original ticket issue date.

Spirit Airlines

Updated: 03/12/2020 – Even infamously fee-heavy Spirit Airlines is allowing some travelers the chance to change or cancel their flights for free. Spirit passengers “who must alter their travel plans due to COVID-19” are allowed one free change. While the change fees are waived, passengers would need to pay extra if the new flight costs most. Spirit directs guests to call 855 728-3555 to process this change.

In addition, Spirit passengers “who must alter their travel plans due to COVID-19” can cancel their booking outright and get a travel credit that can be used anytime in the next 6 months. Passengers are directed to this page to cancel their reservation and claim the travel credit.

Frontier Airlines

Updated: 03/12/2020 – On March 10, Frontier announced a flexible booking policy similar to the largest U.S. airlines.

  • For tickets issued prior to March 10, 2020 with original travel dates between March 10 and April 30, 2020 customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee by contacting Frontier at 801-401-9000
  • For tickets issued March 10 through March 31, 2020, customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee by contacting Frontier at 801-401-9000

Frontier Airlines updated its change fees on September 13, 2019 to drop the minimum number of days before departure from 90 to 60 to qualify for no change fees when changing your booking. Frontier is one of the only airlines that allows ticket changes to Basic Economy-style fares, and the only one with no fee (if changed 60 days or more before the flight), outside of Southwest.

Southwest

Speaking of Southwest, it's worth noting that Southwest never charges travelers a fee to change or cancel their flight. As long as you cancel or change your flight at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time, you'll receive a travel credit toward future travel for up to one year from the original purchase date.

Summary

The improvements to change fee waivers have been made to ease the anxiety travelers are experiencing due to COVID-19. While there are differences between airline policies, flights booked now through the end of March 31 will generally feature flexible change/cancellation fees. Flights booked in early March or before may or may not be changeable depending on the date of travel and the airline's policy.

While all these changes are temporary, it's great to see most of the U.S. carriers jump on board and drop change fees to help travelers feel confident booking during these turbulent times. We can only speculate how these changes might continue after March as the situation develops.

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Comments

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if airlines decided to keep these rules after the pandemic ends?!

  • I have three award tickets issued in December 2019 to travel to New York in July 2020, I don’t know what American’s policy will be regarding this, but I hope to get my miles back at least.

  • In argentina the travel agencies are given changes for the flight up to december 31 2020… but actually nobody knows if you could travel at that time…

  • Wondering how these perks programs will evolve after this corona mess is done with. Hopefully they will extend their points programs.

  • Same here… hoping for mileage expiration extensions, but I guess that is low on their priority list right now.

  • Maicon Fernandes says:

    After the quarantine everything will be much better

  • Apathorn Karnasuta says:

    The miles never post into my account even though my comment was posted on March 14,2020. As follow:

    March 14, 2020 at 8:58 am
    Apathorn Karnasuta says:
    Have difficulty contact AA agent regarding my son’s ticket who suppose to travel this 10/03 but with Covid-19 his plan change. Since the agent cannot be reached, we decided to do it online since I saw a note that just cancel and the screen will offer you to change the date or leave it as a credit to use in the future. But it did not happen that way. When I click cancel, my ticket was just canceled without offering any change and I can’t retrieve the ticket anymore.

    • Hey there, we’re experiencing problems with awarding miles, including the popup message asking where you want to credit the miles. Our team is investigating, and we’ll update this post as soon as we have more information. If your miles will expire soon, check out some of the alternative methods to extend your expiration date.

  • here’s hoping this calms down soon

  • Need southwest to extend the expiration of those travel funds!

  • I wish United got a bit lenient and atleast allowed people to re-use their credits for flights before March 9th, the covid-19 situation had already started to get critical towards the end of feb.

  • I think we need an updated post… though TBH the situation is evolving so rapidly it’s hard to keep track. Hope we’ll still have flights to talk about in a few months!

  • Carlos Rufino says:

    I think there should be a global policy for changing dates. I realize that it are not the airlines that cause the problem but we have to think globally to stop this pandemia.

  • American Airlines flights to Argentina are canceled until June 2020.

  • I just have found the whole thing so frustrating! I have called United multiple times and have actually gotten an old school busy signal twice, and was also on hold for 39 minutes before being disconnected. The information on how to go about changing or cancelling flights seem so unclear, given that I have award flights and I’m not sure how the redeposit fees will work. I’m hoping the phone lines will calm down next week!

  • Not too much information in some companies about if they apply or not fee for change or cancel.

  • Dan Gibbons says:

    They are allowing changes but they aren’t making it easy, especially if you didn’t book via the airline. Had a heck of a time changing my flight to an earlier date to get home – I leave tonight. Still got charged $190 because the price had gone up on the fares. Didn’t care, I am just feeling lucky to get home. At least they didn’t charge a penalty fee, just an “admin” fee and difference in fares.

  • Apathorn Karnasuta says:

    Have difficulty contact AA agent regarding my son’s ticket who suppose to travel this 10/03 but with Covid-19 his plan change. Since the agent cannot be reached, we decided to do it online since I saw a note that just cancel and the screen will offer you to change the date or leave it as a credit to use in the future. But it did not happen that way. When I click cancel, my ticket was just canceled without offering any change and I can’t retrieve the ticket anymore.

  • It really is going to hurt the airlines with the global reduction in flying over the next few months

  • So for those of us who booked flights on American, PRIOR to March 1st, we’re SOL? I just clicked on the link to their page and that’s how I read this. Kind of crap that they reward people who booked after the virus was a known issue but punishes those who booked before coronavirus was even known. Am I reading that wrong, or does someone know something else to be true?

  • “Changes must be made prior to your original flight… “

    Any ideas on whether this means only the outbound flight of a round trip or each individual flight? I assume (and hope) it’s the latter, but I would appreciate some certainty since I’m away from home right now and my plans may change due to all the moving parts related to this outbreak. Thanks!

  • En argentina también han cancelado todo ingreso de vuelos europeos.
    Muchos pasajeros que ya han llegado a mi país, se han rehusado a ponerse en cuarentena .

  • I was able to cancel our reservation made before March 2020 after the changes made by AA on March 10th without any issues. I haven’t had a chance to reuse the credit for a new reservation yet.

  • Karthikeyan Chidambaram says:

    Wish airlines removed cancellation fee and gave refund to original payment method, i have to cancel a international travel plan and definitely dont have plans for next 1 year

  • With all the flights being cancelled, and schedules permanently changed, will they offer cancellations or just changes?

  • In Argentina, Latam and Aerolíneas Argentinas have cancelen flights to Europa and Miami.
    Arriving passengers must be quarantined for 14 days.

    • Since Monday all of them will be cancelled flight to Argentina and Aerolineas Argentinas that will try to back to Argentina to all of Argentina Citizen.

  • This is really good move from airlines and helps to maintain trust from their customers! Really appreciated, especially now when the situation is basically changing daily and nobody knows how long it will last.

  • Now almost all airlines allow changes to bookings.
    This so to let people book for the future but knowing that if there will be problems they could change date.

  • I wish this finish soon.

  • In Southamerican most airlines continue to charge for cancelations!!

  • Thanks for sharing this information. I don’t really understand why tickets purchased after the coronavirus became a known event would have change fees waived, whereas tickets purchased earlier, for travel during the window, are likely subject to change fees.

  • Rena Blatt says:

    I know of people who have had success calling up and making changes. If they can’t help you, ask for supervisor. It’s important to mention that your need to change is covid-19 related (i.e. meeting/event cancellation, concern of quarantine)

  • I’m seeing $280 round trip tickets to Rome from NYC right now. This is a crazy time.

  • Does this include all the conditions of the flight (luggage, class, airport) ?

  • I do not think the airlines pay enough attention to the evolving understanding of the virus.

  • They should let you cancel your ticket outright and receive a full refund.

  • Well, even the Star Alliance award tickets issued by United begins with the ticket number 016.

  • Very odd that the waiver is booked within a certain date range AFTER the virus outbreak is already known but for those of us who booked before this announcement are SOL. It shows they don’t care about people but rather want to install confidence and assurance to keep the revenue coming in.

  • Let’s hope this epidemic is over by May!

  • Obviously trying to stimulate new purchases. If they already have your money, you’re stuck.

  • Muralidhar says:

    I notice most airlines have waived date change fees, but not cancellation charges. This does not help much for holiday leisure travel as my new dates are not known yet or whether I will be able to travel within the season.

  • Brian Gwinner says:

    What about flights to SXSW?

  • This may be a stupid question, but I have spring break plans scheduled for April where we’re flying on American Airlines. We booked these months ago. Do we have any options to cancel and/or change these flights and get any money back or vouchers?

  • Florencia says:

    Does this flexibility in exchange rates apply to all destinations or only those countries most affected by the virus?

  • American Airlines not yet exchange policies to travel to Japan

  • I also got my tickets earlier than March 1, so it looks like I don’t qualify to change, even though I’m 72 and Iceland is declaimed state of emergency and CDC recommends people my age not fly. I hope they loosen up more.

  • Barbara Alexander says:

    This is very helpful for those of us who have taken the plunge and gotten tickets for travel. It’s also helpful to compare policies between airlines. Our flight is on American and we will mark our calendar with a reminder on the last day we can cancel according to the rules listed here.

  • I received an email from Avianca stating that they won’t charge for changes if you buy your ticket before March 15. Yo can use it any time during 2020. I think others like Latam will do the same

  • The Alaska waiver policy is exemplary. Travelers simply do not need more complications right now.

  • Hopefully, airlines will update their policies as the situation evolves.

  • This is a nice gesture on the part of the airlines. I hope we can all get past this COVID-19 business.

  • It appears those that purchased tickets very early which is outside of the purchase window is being punished. The airlines love it when we buy tickets far in advance but currently not taking into account that no know knew about this issue arising causing issues with travel plans.

  • I can’t understand why these airlines just don’t have a blanket change fee waiver for everything while this virus issue plays out..

  • So, if I bought a UA ticket before March 3st then I cannot be waived the fee even if I can prove that I have to change the ticket because the event I was attending was postponed?

  • The catch is that no one knows when the pandemic will eventually be over.

  • What about rebooking award travel – will there be a charge to redeposit or change united mileage travel?

  • Cruises are also being more flexible now

  • Glad they reduced the change fees with so much uncertainty regarding travel.

  • María de los Dolores Sanchez says:

    I have organized to travel to Europe in April. I don’t know whether to cancel it because of the Corona virus issue. What do you advise me?
    Thank you

  • Since the spread of the disease, it is good to know that airlines are being proactive on this. Hope the others like cruises would do the same.

    • American Airlane has temporarily changed a number of policies in response to COVID-19. These changes include a relaxed seating policy, reduced food and beverage service, and suspension of checked pets. All details regarding these temporary modifications can be found on aa.com!!!

  • I’m not liking American’s policy. I booked one way flights several months ago for the end of a point to point cruise. If I’m denied boarding, I’ll know 12 days out if my flights need changed. 🙁

  • Anthony Coulson says:

    This seems to be a rapidly changing space, as airlines adapt to dramatic changes to demand. Will it be enough to generate new sales? (I for one, am holding off on new bookings while ‘I wait and see’)

  • Harvey Kwan says:

    Hoping EVA Air changes their change fees soon to thailand.

  • Hopefully the airlines will work with people on this.

  • I’m particularly impressed with Delta’s policy. Well done, Delta, for having the window go through Feb 2021.

  • It’s hard not to be cynical. But it’s pretty obvious that the airlines have ZERO concern for passengers with already-booked tickets and have HUGE concerns for protecting future revenue against customers clearly not booking travel due to the uncertainty.

    An actual “we care about our customers” policy would have a “no questions asked” zero fee change or cancellation policy for all travel within the next month or two…

  • What happens if I have a flight to Canada on one airline and fly back on another? So my flight home might be fine but I’m flying through Sydney and Honolulu on the waythere so there’s a lot that can happen.

  • AA’s motto is: leading from the rear. 🙂

  • In these exceptional conditions, common sense should prevail. It looks like that’s what’s going on. I hope.

  • Is there an issue with AwardWallet. Accounts can’t be updated. Please advise m.

  • Michaelj1 says:

    Now if I was an airline and I wanted to be fair the change fee exception should benefit all ticket holders not just those purchasing in March. If I was an airline and I wanted to boost sales that went through the floor and nail all my pre-purchasing customers I would add the change fee exception solely to all NEW tickets. What do you know, they chose door number two.

  • Just flew yesterday on Frontier to Cancun. Considered canceling the flight due to the Corona virus. They Did not offer changes without a fee, Disappointed with that, but glad that we chose to continue the vacation!

  • Correct me if I’m interpreting this wrong, but if I purchase flight tickets with AA between now and March 16th for, as an example, a family vacation in, say, August…and then something happens and I need to change the flight…as long as I do it before 14 days before departure I can have the change fee waived? Did this come with any fine printed end date for how far out you can book your flights?

    • Yes, that is correct. And, it’s actually even more generous than you state. The 14 day requirement has been removed. No tricky fine print other than what is clearly stated above.

  • Any waivers if you purchased your flight earlier but are traveling within the window?

    • That is a great question. We didn’t find anything official, but I expect airlines will be handling changes outside of the published waivers on a case-by-case basis. I would definitely call to see if they will make an exception. Anyone have success with free changes on tickets not strictly within the published window?