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Updates:

March 20

  • Southwest extends the expiration date of "travel funds" from cancelled flights.

  • American extends waivers on existing bookings for travel through May.

March 17

  • Frontier waives change and cancel fees for all flights through April.

March 12

  • Hawaiian waives change fees on previously booked flights for travel through April.

March 11

  • JetBlue waives change fees on previously booked flights for travel through April.

  • Alaska waives change fees on previously booked flights for travel through March.

March 10

  • American waives change fees on previously booked flights for travel through April.

  • United waives change fees on previously booked flights for travel through April.

March 9

  • Delta allows free changes on all previous bookings for travel until April 30, 2020.

  • Hawaiian adds flexible change policy.

March 6

  • JetBlue extends flexible travel policy through March, expands travel window through summer 2020.

March 3

  • Alaska expands flexible travel policy through March, adds limit to the number of changes allowed.

  • Delta expands policy to all bookings (not just international flights), adds limit to the number of changes allowed.

  • American expands purchase window through the end of March.

As the coronavirus and COVID-19 illness spread globally, domestic airlines have begun rolling out “free” change/cancellation policies for some bookings. However, these differ significantly from one another.

Here we untangle these policies to help you manage your upcoming air travel plans. To learn more about canceling an existing reservation, check out our roundup of coronavirus-related policies and how to decide whether to cancel your trip.

Nerd tip: All change fee waivers apply only to the fee associated with changing a booking, not the difference in cost of the airfare. For example, if the new fare is $200 higher than the previous fare, and would usually come with an additional $100 change fee, only this $100 is waived. You still have to pay the $200 difference for the more expensive ticket.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska is now offering waived changed fees on previously held bookings for travel through March. Most other airlines have waived these changes through April. Alaska has also kept its flexible travel policy for new bookings.

To summarize:

  • If you booked a flight at any time before Feb. 26 for travel until March 31, 2020, you can change it without a fee.

  • If you make a new booking between Feb. 27 and March 31, 2020, you can change or cancel your flight at a later date without incurring a fee.

Alaska has a different policy for its “Saver” (basic economy) fares and all other fares. Saver fares may be canceled without fees but cannot be changed. All other nonrefundable fares can be canceled or changed one time without fees.

American Airlines

American has extended its flexible booking window to include April. Like Delta and United, American is allowing free changes for previously booked tickets for travel through May.

There are now two different policies that waive change fees:

  • If you booked a flight at any time before March 1 for travel until May 31, 2020, you can change it for free.

  • If you make a new booking between March 1 and March 31, 2020 (for travel until Jan. 20, 2021), you can change your flight one time without fees.

Delta Air Lines

Delta has expanded its change fee waivers to include all bookings for travel until April 30, 2020, regardless of when you booked. Delta is the first airline to offer such a broad policy; it will be interesting to see how the others respond.

This new policy for previous bookings adds to Delta’s earlier policy for new bookings through March. That is, there are now two separate change policies: one for new bookings and one for existing bookings.

To clarify:

  • If you booked a flight at any time before March 9 for travel until April 30, 2020, you can change it for free.

  • If you make a new booking between March 1 and March 31, 2020 (for travel until Feb. 28, 2021), you can change your flight at any point in the future without fees.

Delta allows unlimited changes on new bookings under this policy. The rebooked travel must start before Feb. 28, 2021.

Delta notes that a fee may appear on its site while trying to make a change, but that it will be waived at the final checkout screen.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier is offering a one-time change and cancellation fee waiver on all previously booked flights for travel through April. It is also offering the same waiver on newly booked flights for travel until Nov. 9, 2020.

In other words :

  • If you booked a flight for travel before April 30, 2020, you can cancel it or make a one-time change without incurring a fee. Note: These fees will be waived if you make the change using the Frontier website — there is no need to call.

  • If you make a new booking (through March 31, 2020) for travel until Nov. 9, 2020, you can cancel it or make a one-time change without incurring a fee. If the booked travel is after April 30, 2020, you must call Frontier to make the change.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian is now waiving change fees on previously booked flights for travel through April, as well as flights newly booked in March.

  • If you already have flights booked for travel between March 9 and April 30, you can change your flight to a later date (up to Dec. 31, 2020) without incurring a fee.

  • If you book a new ticket between March 1 and March 31 for travel at any time, you can change later it without incurring a fee.

Like several other airlines, Hawaiian allows only one free change per ticket under these new policies.

JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue has joined other airlines in waiving change fees on previously booked flights for travel through April. It have also maintained its flexible change policy for new flights booked through March. In other words:

  • If you already have flights booked for travel between March 10 and April 30, you can change your flight to a later date (up to October 24, 2020) without incurring a fee.

  • If you book a new ticket between March 6 and March 31 for travel before September 9, you can change later it without incurring a fee.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest always offers an extremely flexible change/cancellation policy, and remains a good option for booking travel in uncertain times. The airline has sweetened its generous policy further by extending the expiration date of any "travel funds" earned from cancelled flights through June, 2021.

Basically, if you cancel a flight any time before May 31, 2020, you will receive a "travel fund" credit to book another flight. The value of this credit will not expire until June 30, 2021. This policy applies to Southwest's (usually nonrefundable) "Wanna Get Away" fares.

United Airlines

United has matched Delta’s waived change fees on previous bookings (for travel through April). There are now two situations where this flexible travel policy applies:

  • If you booked a ticket before March 2 for travel between March 9 and April 30, you can change your flight to a later date without incurring a fee.

  • If you book a new ticket between March 3 and March 31, you can change it later without incurring a fee.

United does not seem to have placed a limit on how many times you make a change under these policies, which is quite generous.

The bottom line

The coronavirus threat is hitting the airline industry hard, and domestic airlines are scrambling to offer greater flexibility (and keep bookings from dropping off a cliff).

If you’re thinking about booking travel in the coming months, check which airline offers the most flexible travel and change/cancellation fees waiver policy based on your plans. Keep in mind that these policies are changing daily, so make sure to check the airline website for the latest policy announcement before making any decisions.

NerdWallet Guide to COVID-19

Get answers about stimulus checks, debt relief, changing travel policies and managing your finances.

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