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

Sam KemmisSep 10, 2021

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July 2021

Delta announced new temporary rules for their basic economy tickets. For travel starting July 28, 2021 through through Dec. 31, 2021 you can make changes to basic economy tickets without a change fee. The ticketed date must be May 1, 2021 or later and you must re-book travel no later than Dec. 31, 2022.

March 2021

As the coronavirus and COVID-19 illness continues to dominate the travel world, domestic airlines have introduced flexible change and cancellation policies for both existing and new bookings.

Many airlines have now permanently eliminated change fees and some fares, though the COVID-era policies, which were generally more flexible, remain in effect in some cases.

Here we untangle these policies to help you manage your upcoming air travel plans. To learn more about canceling an existing reservation, check out , and .

Alaska has joined other major airlines in eliminating change and cancellation fees on most fares. However, its "saver" basic economy fares booked after March 2021 cannot be changed or canceled.

For new bookings through Mar. 31, 2021: Saver fares and all other fares can be changed or canceled without a fee.

For new bookings made after Mar. 31, 2021: All fares except saver fares can be changed or canceled without a fee.

For existing bookings: Most fares, including saver fares booked in 2020 for travel in 2021 should still be eligible for free changes and cancellation, per the COVID policies Alaska had in place at the time of booking.

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American Airlines has introduced one of the most generous of the major airlines and has bumped out its fully flexible policy through March 2021.

For new bookings through Mar. 31, 2021: All fares, including basic economy fares, can be changed once without a fee.

For new bookings made after Mar. 31, 2021: Change fees are waived on all North American, non-basic-economy fares. Changes on tickets to other international destinations will still carry a fee.

For existing bookings: Most bookings made in 2020 for travel in 2021 can be changed once without incurring a fee, depending on the COVID policy in place at the time of booking.

Delta has jumped on the , with some (generous) wrinkles. The new changes effectively kick in after Mar. 30, 2021, since Delta has expanded its COVID flexibility policy through then. Specifically:

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.

Frontier has altered its change fee policy throughout the pandemic and is now waiving change fees for travel through Mar. 31, 2021. Previously, Frontier had applied this policy based on the booking time frame, not the travel time frame. Changes made to travel after Mar. 31, 2021, are subject to its tiered change policy, based on when the change is made:

Hawaiian has also eliminated change fees on some future fares, though the existing COVID policies remain in effect, and offer more flexibility.

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

JetBlue announced in February 2021 that it would eliminate change and cancellation fees on Blue, Blue Extra, Blue Plus and Mint fares. Customers traveling in Blue Basic, which is JetBlue's lowest fare class, will be able to change or cancel Blue Basic tickets for a fee.

Southwest always offers an extremely flexible change/cancellation policy, and remains a good option for booking travel in uncertain times. Previously, Southwest had extended the expiration date on vouchers earned from canceled Wanna Get Away fares through 2022, but that offer has now expired and these funds are now good for one year.

In other words, Southwest fares have always been fully flexible and will continue to be so.

Spirit didn't offer any flexible booking options for most of the year but is now waiving change fees for all flights booked through Mar. 31, 2021.

United started the trend of permanently eliminating change fees on some fares, though it is more restrictive than some others It now offers two policies, depending on booking date.

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The coronavirus threat is hitting the airline industry hard, and domestic airlines are offering greater booking flexibility than ever.

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. These policies change often, so check the airline's website for the latest policy announcement before making any decisions.

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