Coronavirus Flight Cancellation and Change Policies: What You Need to Know

Sam KemmisJuly 31, 2020

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Updates:

July 31

  • Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and United extend flexible booking windows.

  • Delta restricts changes on previously booked flights.

July 1

  • Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and United extend flexible booking windows through July.

May 29

  • Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue and United extend flexible booking windows through June.

  • Southwest extends travel fund expiration through September 2022.

April 27

  • United extends flexible window on new and existing bookings.

April 27

  • Frontier reinstates change and cancellation fees.

  • JetBlue extends flexible window on new bookings through May.

April 23

  • Delta extends flexible window on existing bookings through September 2020, further extends voucher expiration.

April 17

  • Alaska extends flexible window on existing bookings through the end of 2020.

April 9

  • American extends flexible window on existing bookings through September 2020.

  • JetBlue extends flexible policy for travel through Jan. 4, 2021.

  • United allows free changes on existing bookings for all 2020 travel (until April 30, 2020).

April 3

  • Delta extends cancellation voucher expiration through May 2022 and extends flexible booking window through May 2020.

March 31

  • Most airlines extend flexible booking window through April 2020.

  • Hawaiian Airlines extends flexible booking window through May 2020.

March 20

  • Southwest extends the expiration date of "travel funds" from canceled 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 introduced flexible change and cancellation policies for both existing and new bookings.

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, our guide to travel insurance 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 has stopped inching its flexible policy for existing bookings out month by month, and is now waiving change and cancellation fees on all (existing) bookings for travel through Dec. 31, 2020. The airline is also waiving these fees on new bookings made through Sept. 8, 2020.

To summarize:

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

  • For new bookings made on or before Sept. 8, 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 compared to 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

After nudging its flexible change/cancel policies out by weeks at a time like other airlines, American has now extended change fee waivers on existing bookings through September, and has now extended its flexible policy on new bookings through Sept. 8.

  • If you booked a flight at any time before April 7, 2020, for travel through Sept. 30, 2020, you can change or cancel it without fees.

  • If you make a new booking before Sept. 8, 2020 (for travel after Oct. 1, 2020), you can change flights at a future date without fees.

Delta Air Lines

Delta has (further) extended the expiration date on the vouchers (credits) earned by canceling flights. Vouchers are now usable through September 2022. That is, if you cancel a new or existing reservation, you'll get a voucher with Delta that is now usable through September 2022.

Delta allows free changes on both bookings made before April 17, 2020 and new bookings made through August 2020. There are two separate change policies: one for new bookings and one for existing bookings.

To clarify:

  • If you booked a flight before April 17, 2020, for travel at any future date, you can change or cancel it without fees.

  • If you make a new booking on or before Aug. 31, 2020, you can change or cancel your flight within a year of booking without fees.

Delta allows unlimited changes on new bookings under this policy.

Frontier Airlines

After offering change and cancellation fee waivers in March and early April, Frontier has reinstated these fees for all bookings made on or after April 16, 2020. This means you should not book with Frontier unless you are (somehow) very confident in your travel dates, or have no other option.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian is now waiving change fees on new bookings made through August 2020. So:

  • If you book a new ticket on or before Aug. 31, 2020 (for travel at any time), you can change it later without incurring a fee.

Like several other airlines, Hawaiian allows only one free change per ticket under their policy.

Note: The state of Hawaii has issued strict quarantine regulations for visitors. Make sure to check current limitations and dates before purchasing or completing any travel to Hawaii.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue offers a flexible booking window for flights purchased through Sept. 8, 2020. In other words:

  • If you book a new ticket on or before Sept 8, 2020, you can change it later 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 canceled flights through September 2022.

Basically, if you cancel a flight any time before Sept. 30, 2020, you will receive a "travel fund" credit to book another flight. The value of this credit will not expire until September 2022. This policy even applies to Southwest's (usually nonrefundable) "Wanna Get Away" fares.

United Airlines

United now allows free changes and cancellations on existing bookings for travel through 2020. This policy is now simpler:

  • If you have an existing booking, you have until Aug. 31, 2020, to change it for free.

  • If you book a new ticket through Aug. 31, 2020, for travel at any time, you can change it later without incurring a fee.

All rebooked travel must be within 12 months of the original ticket issue date. However, United does not have a limit on how many times you can make free changes.

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.

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: How to find the best travel insurance The top credit card offers for travel protection Should you insure your cruise?

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