As the novel coronavirus continues to disrupt air travel to an unprecedented degree, Delta and other airlines have hurried to adjust policies, schedules and communication to help customers. However, it can feel overwhelming to find answers to simple questions like "What is Delta’s cancellation policy?" in the face of these ever-changing conditions.
Here we’ll break down Delta’s coronavirus response, from change and cancellation policies to extensions for Medallion elite members. We’ll also explain what these new rules mean for you — and how to make the most of them.
» Learn more: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program: The complete guide
Change and cancellation policies
Delta has joined other airlines in permanently eliminating change fees on domestic flights, excluding basic economy fares. This means you can change your ticket to an earlier or later date without incurring a hefty fee, though you will still have to pay the fare difference if the new flight is more expensive.
In terms of canceling your ticket, Delta has generally been offering free cancellations on new bookings in 2020, though this policy is constantly changing. Check this page for the most recent updates.
With fewer and fewer passengers, airlines have been cutting routes and canceling flights at a breakneck pace. If you have a flight planned in the short term (for some reason), there’s a good chance that Delta will change your schedule.
Generally, airlines will automatically rebook you on another flight (usually on the same day) and ask for your confirmation to accept the changes. If no other flights are available, Delta should refund your payment. Here’s the language from the Department of Transportation: "If your flight is canceled and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation — even for nonrefundable tickets."
What does this mean? You’re not obligated to accept changes made to your itinerary because of a canceled flight. Call Delta and speak to a representative about finding an alternative schedule or canceling your itinerary altogether.
» Learn more: What to do if an airline changes or cancels your flight
Medallion elite member extensions and benefits
Delta has joined other U.S. airlines in extending 2020 Medallion elite status through 2021, regardless of how much you fly in 2020. So if you earned Silver Medallion status for 2020 (by flying in 2019), you’ll keep this status through Jan 31, 2022. No action is required — this extension will automatically be applied for all current elites.
Adding another interesting wrinkle to this offer, Delta will allow Medallion Qualification Miles earned in 2020 to roll over to your 2021 qualification year. So if you earn 10,000 MQMs in 2020, you’ll start 2021 with those 10,000 already applied to earning 2022 status.
Note, however, that Medallion Qualification Dollars don't roll over, making this offer less appealing and generous than it first seems, since for many, MQD thresholds are harder to hit than MQMs.
Finally, unused Medallion drink vouchers will be extended for six months. We might not mention such a small change under normal circumstances, but we could all use a few extra vouchers once this is over.
Overall, these changes are only positive for Delta elites, who won’t have to worry about weighing the benefits of earning status with the risks of flying in 2020.
Inflight service changes
If you do find yourself needing to fly this year, Delta has made many changes to the inflight experience to reduce risk and increase comfort. These include:
Suspending most food and beverage service to reduce contact for crew and passengers.
Blocking middle seats to improve social distancing.
Managing premium cabin upgrades at the gate to ensure that "getting upgraded" doesn’t mean "sitting closer to someone."
Reducing service at SkyClub lounges.
These changes are not unique to Delta, but it can be comforting to see the airline do what it can to make flying at least somewhat less risky. It will be interesting to see how these policies change if the pandemic threat diminishes and planes begin filling again.
Travel credits and other expiring benefits
Delta has extended the expiration on its eCredit travel vouchers through May 2022. This means that you have two years to book flights with these credits, which can be used for travel even later than that. This is a great move by Delta to ensure none of its customers feel pressure to book travel in the near future.
Other extended benefits include:
Sky Club memberships set to expire after March 1, 2020, are automatically extended by six months.
Benefits from Delta’s co-branded American Express cards, including companion certificates, flight credits and Sky Club guest passes are all automatically extended by six months.
These extensions are helpful, though it seems unlikely that six months will be long enough to offset the disruption caused by the coronavirus. We might see Delta extend these benefits further if travel doesn't resume.
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 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Want to learn more? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: