Which Airlines Have the Best Flexible Change and Cancellation Policies During Coronavirus?

Mar 23, 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic brought air travel to a screeching halt. Airlines began offering flexible travel policies to help with the ensuing uncertainty. OVer the course of the past two years, airlines offered varying change and cancellation policies, some more generous than others. Here we’ve rated the flexible booking policies for eight major U.S. airlines on several criteria, and ranked them from most flexible to least. We’ve also included some tips for when, how and whether to book your upcoming flights.

Note: These policies are changing constantly. Check this page for the most recent updates on specific airline policies.

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Airlines with the best flexible travel policies

If you have the option to book future air travel with several airlines, here are our current rankings of which ones offer the most flexible policies:

Airline

Rank

Southwest

1 (best)

United

2

Delta

3 (tied)

Hawaiian

3 (tied)

Alaska

3 (tied)

American

3 (tied)

JetBlue

4

Frontier

5

These rankings are based on the policies outlined below. For many travelers, even the more restrictive policies will still offer plenty of value, so compare this table against your own travel plans and uncertainties.

Airline

Change and cancellation policy

Alaska Airlines

Saver (Basic economy): Nonrefundable and non-changeable.

Main cabin: No change or cancellation fees.

American Airlines

Basic economy: Nonrefundable and non-changeable.

Main cabin: No change or cancellation fees for flights originating in North America.

Delta Air Lines

Basic economy: Nonrefundable and non-changeable.

Main cabin: No change or cancellation fees for flights originating in North America.

Frontier Airlines

All fares: Change and cancellation fee applies if done less than 60 days before departure.

  • 60 or more days before departure: No fee.

  • 7 to 59 days before departure: $49 fee.

  • 0 to 6 days before departure: $79 fee.

Hawaiian Airlines

Main cabin basic: Nonrefundable and non-changeable.

Main cabin: No change or cancellation fees.

JetBlue Airways

Blue basic: $100 change or cancel fee per person for flights entirely within the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. $200 fee for all other routes.

Blue (Main cabin): No change or cancellation fees when done online, but a $25 fee applies on changes and cancellations made over the phone.

Southwest Airlines

No change or cancellation fees on all fares.

Spirit Airlines

All fares: Change and cancellation fee applies if done less than 60 days before departure.

  • 60 or more days before departure: No fee.

  • 7 to 59 days before departure: $49 fee.

  • 3 to 6 days before departure: $79 fee.

  • 0 to 2 days before departure: $99 fee.

United Airlines

Basic economy: Nonrefundable and non-changeable.

Main cabin: No change or cancellation fees for flights within North America and the Caribbean. Fees apply for other international flights.

Tips for booking

  • Book directly through the airline. Generally, using a third party like Expedia, Orbitz or a credit card rewards portal is a fine alternative to purchasing directly through the airline. However, as anyone who has tried to deal with these online travel agencies this month can tell you, it adds an extra layer of uncertainty and customer support wrangling for changes and cancellations.

  • Canceling a ticket doesn’t mean you get your money back. Most airlines issue a credit for canceled bookings that can be used for some amount of time (often 12 months) after the cancellation. So you shouldn’t book a dozen flights for this year assuming you can cancel them and simply get your money back.

  • Award flights (using miles) have the same flexible policies as cash flights. And booking last-minute one-way flights with miles is often a good strategy.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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