Airline Cancellation Policies Including Award Tickets (4/20/20)

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Hi everyone! I hope everyone is hanging in there. I wanted to drop an update about airline cancellation policies. I’ll cover policies for tickets already purchased, newly purchased tickets, and award travel for US common carriers.

Before we get started, I want to answer the question that everyone is asking:

When can we travel again?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer, but I’ll give my thoughts.

For now, Ryan and I have cancelled/postponed all of our plans through the summer. I think it’s possible that things will get better by late summer, but I would not be surprised if this continues into the fall or even winter. We’re fully prepared to cancel/postpone plans for the remainder of the year if necessary.

We just want to do what needs to be done to stay healthy and for the world to get back to normal. Right now and for the foreseeable future, that means avoiding non-essential travel.

I have seen some amazing flight deals and I think it’s reasonable to make some plans for the fall IF you are able to book with flexible cancellation terms.

One other thing to point out before I discuss policies is that if an airline cancels your flight, you are entitled to a refund. Not a credit.

U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Enforcement Notice Clarifying Air Carrier Refund Requirements, Given the Impact of COVID-19

If an airline cancels a flight or makes a significant schedule change, the airline must provide a refund if the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative (an airline credit). This has always been the policy of the US Department of Transportation, but airlines have tried to get around it during this pandemic.

Instead of offering a refund, airlines have been trying to make passengers accept vouchers/travel credits for future travel. The US Department of Transportation has clarified that if a passenger chooses not to accept the travel credit, the airline must refund the passenger.

You can read more about this on the US DOT’s website.

If you have a flight scheduled in April or May, you may want to wait to change/cancel

If you have a flight scheduled now, do not cancel yet, even if you are 100% sure you are not traveling. If you wait, there is a chance the airline cancels your flight. If that happens, you can receive a refund rather than a travel credit.

American Airlines

You can find more information on the American Airlines Coronavirus page.

Changes fees on any American Airlines flight are waived if the following conditions apply:

  • You booked an American Airlines flight
  • The ticket was purchased on or before March 1, 2020
  • Travel is scheduled any time between March 1 – May 31, 2020
  • You’re able to travel March 1 – December 31, 2020 or within 1 year of date the ticket was issued, whichever is earlier

You may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.

You can also cancel and rebook later

Keep in mind:

  • Travel must start by December 31, 2020 or within 1 year of date the ticket was issued, whichever is earlier.
  • The change fee will be waived but you may still owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.

Booking future flights on AA

Tickets booked between March 1 and April 30, 2020 for all future travel can be changed once with no change fees. Travel must begin within 1 year of original ticket issue date.

You may have to pay a difference in fare if you do change.

Award tickets booked with AAdvantage miles

Award reinstatement and change fees may be waived

Award tickets booked by May 31, 2020, for travel through September 30, 2020 will have waived reinstatement/change fees.

For award travel ticketed on or after June 1, 2020, change and reinstatement fees are waived when the change is made at least 60 days before travel.

You can find more info about AAdvantage award tickets here.

Note: If you booked an award ticket operated with a partner airline’s miles, but that flight is operated by AA, you will likely need to contact the partner to discuss change and cancellation options. For example, if you use British Airways Executive Club Avios to book an American Airlines flight, you would need to contact British Airways.


You can find more details on Delta’s coronavirus page.

Delta is waiving all change fees for travel impacted by coronavirus.

This applies to all domestic and international travel departing in March, April or May 2020, as well as all tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020. 

A fare difference may apply. If the new fare is lower, you will receive eCredit for the difference. If the fare is higher, you will have to pay the difference.

If travel is rescheduled to begin prior to May 31, 2020, you will not have to pay a fare difference. But if you want my opinion, I don’t think anyone should plan to travel before May 31, 2020.

Change fees are waived on tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020

Tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020, can be changed without a change fee for up to a year from the date you purchased it. 

Delta extends flight credit validity

Any travel credits from travel that was supposed to take place in March, April, or May are valid for two years. Normally travel credits would be valid for one year.

Delta Award tickets

The same rules apply whether a flight is booked with cash or miles. For award flights that qualify for a change fee waiver, Delta will also waive the mile redeposit fee.  


You can find more details on United’s coronavirus page.

All change fees waived for tickets issued on or before March 2, 2020

Flight changes for original travel dates March 3, 2020 – May 31, 2020:
  • New tickets must be reissued on/before December 31, 2020 or 12 months from original ticket date, whichever is earlier
  • Rebooked travel must commence within 12 months from the original ticket issue date

No change fee for new bookings

For tickets issued March 3-April 30, 2020, customers will be permitted to change free of charge to a flight of equal or lesser value for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date. If the new flight is priced higher, the customer may change for no fee but must pay the fare difference. If the new flight is priced lower, the customer may change for free but no credit will be offered.

No cancellation fee

If the customer decides to cancel a flight, they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without fee. This is valid for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.

United is now extending electronic certificates

Like Delta, travel credits/certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020.

Tickets booked with United Mileage Plus miles

United is waiving redeposit fees for travel through May 2020. For the remainder of 2020, redpeposit fees are waived if travel is cancelled more than 30 days before the departure date.

You can find more Mileage Plus changes, including elite status, here.

For more info, see United’s website.

Alaska Airlines

You can find more details on the Covid-19 page that Alaska Airlines has created.

Alaska Airlines is waiving change fees, but fare differences may apply. Rules vary and depend on when your ticket was purchased. You can find more details on the change policy page.


Southwest now has a dedicated page to Covid.

Southwest has one of the best change/cancel policies even on a normal day. Normally, you can cancel or change a Southwest flight with no fees, but fare differences do apply. If you cancel, you will receive a Southwest credit to use for another flight, not a refund (unless you purchased a refundable ticket).

Between now and April 30, you can change your travel date to a date up to 60 days form the original date and you will not have to pay a fare difference.

Companion Pass holders

If your Companion Pass was set to expire December 31, 2020, it will now be valid through June 30, 2021.

Southwest extends travel credit expiration dates

Funds that expire between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020 will now expire June 30, 2021.

Any funds received from a flight that you cancelled between March 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020 will expire June 30, 2021.

For flights booked with Rapid Rewards points, you can cancel with no fees

Points will be redeposited. You can receive a refund for any fees in the form of original payment or as a credit.

This is Southwest’s normal policy, which is awesome.


Previously booked travel

JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees for travel through May 31, 2020. You can rebook through January 4, 2021. Fare difference may apply. If you choose to cancel, a travel credit will be issued. The credit would be valid for 18 months from the date of issue.

Booking future travel

New bookings made between March 27, 2020 and April 30, 2020 for travel through January 4, 2021 can be changed or cancelled without fees.

See JetBlue’s website for more details.

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