Airline Cancellation Policies Including Award Tickets (6/24/20)

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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:

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.

For example, at the time of publishing, Florida still has an order in place that requires visitors from the tri-state area or Louisiana to quarantine for 14 days. That means no leaving your hotel/condo/house. Sorry but going to the beach does not count as quarantining (Update: the ban for travelers to Florida from Louisiana has been lifted). For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with these restrictions, but that’s not the point. The point is that you are violating the governor’s order if you do not quarantine for 14 days. In Florida, you can be fined up to $500 and/or jailed up to 60 days.

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 June 24, this includes Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

EU expected to ban travelers from the US

The European Union is set to open its borders for international travel on July 1. Per several media reports, it looks like the US is going to be excluded. I’ll update when/if this is made official.

I’m honestly not surprised by this, and I’d be surprised if Europe allows US travelers at all this year. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m just trying to be realistic.

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 June, you may want to wait to change/cancel

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

If you have a flight scheduled now for travel later this summer, 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 American Airlines flight are waived if the following conditions apply:

  • You bought a ticket for an American Airlines flight on or before June 30, 2020
  • Travel is scheduled for June 1 – September 30, 2020
  • 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 June 30, 2020 for all future travel 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 June 30, 2020 will have waived reinstatement/change fees.

For award travel ticketed on or after July 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.

Delta

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 delta.com.

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 June 30, 2020 are eligible for change fee waivers

Tickets purchased between March 1 and June 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.

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 flights that qualify for a change fee waiver, Delta will also waive the mile redeposit fee if the flight was booked with miles.  

United

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

Any travel for the remainder of the year that you have already booked can be changed without fees.

New travel booked by June 30 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.

If your ticket was issued before March 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.

If your ticket was issued April 1, 2020-June 30, 2020

You can change to a flight of euqal 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.

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-June 30, 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 June 30, 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.

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

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.

JetBlue

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 June 30, 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.

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