Airline Cancellation Policies Including Award Tickets (September 2020)

Advertiser disclosure: The Miles Genie has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products.  The Miles Genie and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Editorial disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses, and recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

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:

Is it safe to travel again?

The official guidance from the CDC is to avoid nonessential travel. If you must travel by air, there are precautions you should take. You can find more information and guidance for travel on the CDC website.

Generally, there is no way to guarantee that you will be able to distance yourself from other passengers

Although airlines are attempting to distance passengers as much as possible, you should expect that there is a possibility of a packed or even full flight.

Check your destination for any restrictions/quarantine requirements

Several states still have a mandatory 14 day quarantine in place for visitors from certain areas. Some states are enforcing mandatory quarantines more strictly than others, but just know that you can be fined and even given jail time for not obeying quarantine orders.

On June 24, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey announced a joint policy that restricts travel from affected areas. Anyone traveling to NY, NJ, or CT from areas with high levels of community spread must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. High community spread is defined as a state with a 10% or greater positive test rate on a rolling 7 day average.

As of today, July 31, visitors from 36 states will be required to quarantine.

Southwest actually has a frequently updated page regarding quarantine requirements by state. Click here.

EU has banned travelers from the US

The European Union opened its borders for international travel on July 1. Several countries, including the US are excluded.

I’m honestly not surprised by this, and I’d be surprised if Europe allows US travelers at all this year.

You can read the official EU council recommendations here:

The criteria to allow countries to visit the EU is based on these factors:

-The number of new cases over the last 14 days per 100k population similar or below EU average. (For reference, that’s about 16 right now. US overall is over 200 right now)

-Stable or decreasing trend of new cases for a 14 day period over the previous 14 day period 

-Overall covid response such as testing, contact tracing, treatment, mortality, etc.  

-this will be revisited every 2 weeks 

We have a long way to go if countries continue to use this criteria. While this is the official recommendation from the EU council, countries are not bound to it. Some countries may eventually deviate. In fact, Croatia already has.

Croatia is the only EU country that is allowing US citizens for tourism. Croatia requires US citizens to bring proof of a negative test where the swab was taken 48 hours or less prior to entering the country. That’s going to be tough with the way testing is right now. Most flights from the US to Croatia route through other EU countries, and it’s unclear if EU countries would allow US citizens transit if the destination is Croatia.

In addition to EU, several other countries have either banned or restricted tourists from the US. This map is pretty sad.

It shows all of the countries where US citizens should be able to enter without a visa, then the ones we can currently visit.


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

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.

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 beyond September, you may want to wait to change/cancel

Most US airlines have change fee waivers in place for flights scheduled through the end of September or beyond.

If you have a flight scheduled now for travel later this summer or fall, 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.

Change fees on any new or existing American Airlines flight are waived if the following conditions apply:

  • Travel is scheduled to begin September 30, 2020 or earlier
  • You are able to travel on or before December 31, 2021

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

Change your trip or cancel and rebook later

American Airlines will allow you to make changes to your trip once. If you are not ready to commit to new dates, you can cancel and receive a voucher for later use. 

Travel must be completed on or before December 31, 2021. The change fee will be waived but you may still owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip. 

You may be able to do this online. Find out if your trip is eligible.  

If you booked a ticket on American Airlines through a third party (such as Expedia), you may need to contact the third party for assistance.

Booking future flights on AA

New tickets booked through September 8, 2020 for future travel (including travel beyond September 30) can be changed once with no change fees. Travel must be completed by December 31, 2021. Note that this excludes Basic Economy tickets.

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

AA is extending the validity of travel funds

If you have a ticket that is expiring between March 1 and September 30, 2020, the value of the ticket can be used through December 31, 2021.

Award tickets booked with AAdvantage miles

Award tickets booked by September 8, 2020 will have waived reinstatement/change fees.

For award travel ticketed on or after September 9, 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.

To change your flight, visit My Trips on

Change fee waivers apply to domestic and international travel departing March through September 30, 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.

The fare difference will be waived for changes to existing travel between March – Sept 2020 if originally purchased before April 17th and traveling to the same destination before September 30, 2020.

Click here for more details.

New tickets purchased before September 30, 2020 are eligible for change fee waivers

Tickets purchased between March 1 and September 30, 2020, can be changed without a change fee for up to a year from the date you purchased it. 

Fare differences may be collected if you do change.

If you are not ready to rebook your flight, you can cancel and receive the funds for use at a later date.

If your flight was scheduled to depart March through September 30, 2020, you can cancel, receive a credit, and use the credit at a later date. The credit is valid for one year to the date you purchased the ticket.

Delta extends flight credit validity

Any travel credits from travel that was purchased prior to April 17, 2020 and was supposed to take place before December 31, 2020 is valid until September 2022. 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 flights that qualify for a change fee waiver, Delta will also waive the mile redeposit fee if the flight was booked with miles.  


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

United is permanently waiving change fees for most economy and premium economy tickets for travel within the US (Including Puerto Rico and the USVI).

Travel to all other destinations booked by December 31, 2020 can also be changed with no fees. See Terms and conditions

If your flight has been affected by a significant schedule change or if your flight was cancelled, you may be able to request a refund online.

Change fee waivers

If your ticket was issued before March 31, 2020 for travel through Dec. 31, 2020

You can change to a flight of equal or lesser value for travel up to 24 months from the original ticket issue date.

For tickets issued April 1, 2020-December 31, 2020

You can change 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 change fee is waived but the fare difference applies. If the new flight is lower, the change fee is waived but no residual credit will be given.

Cancellation fee waivers

Cancelling a ticket booked before March 31, 2020

You can cancel and retain the value of the ticket. The credit is valid for 24 months from the original ticket issue date.

Cancelling a ticket booked between April 1, 2020-December 31, 2020

You can cancel and retain the value of the ticket. The credit is valid for 12 months from the original ticket issue date.

Tickets booked with United Mileage Plus miles

United is waiving redeposit fees for travel through December 31, 2020 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.

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.


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).

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 September 7, 2020 will now expire September 7, 2022.

Any funds received from a flight that you cancelled between March 1, 2020 and September 7, 2020 will expire September 7, 2022.

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.

Travel restrictions

Southwest actually has a page with helpful info about potential quarantines and travel restrictions to destinations they serve. Here is the page: Traveling to/from disrupted destinations.


See JetBlue’s website for more details.

Previously booked travel

JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees for existing reservations. Fare difference may apply. If you choose to cancel, a travel credit will be issued. The credit would be valid for 24 months from the date of issue. If you choose to rebook, a fare difference may apply.

Booking future travel

New bookings made prior to September 8, 2020 can be changed or cancelled without fees.

Alaska Airlines

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

Alaska Airlines is waiving change fees for travel through the end of the year, 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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Want to save money on travel?

Subscribe now to receive the latest tips and tricks straight to your inbox (for free!)


Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: