Cancellation policies of major US airlines and online travel agencies

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Miles and points enthusiasts are usually meticulous in planning their travels. But sometimes life gets in the way, and we have to change our plans or cancel altogether. Other times, we might jump on a super low fare and realize afterwards that it doesn’t work for our schedule.

In those situations, the best travel insurance credit cards may not have potent enough benefits to provide a full refund. If you need to change your plans, airlines and online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz, Expedia, and Priceline all have different cancellation policies. And with airlines, fare rules can be rather complicated. Here’s a rundown of what to expect when you cancel a ticket.

(by Antonio Rico/Shutterstock)

Airline Cancellation Policies

Generally speaking, airlines may refund you for a cancelled ticket, depending on the fare paid.  Most low fares, regardless of the class of service, are completely non-refundable.

And policies vary on award tickets, too. Very few award tickets are completely refundable (you’ll get all of your miles or points back with no fee), while other airlines charge penalties to return miles to your account.

Alaska Airlines

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Fully refundable ticket: Refunded to your original form of payment, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets: $125, plus difference in fare

Same day confirmed change: $50 ($25 if flying entirely within California or other shuttle markets)

Exceptions: Passengers with MVP Gold elite status or higher won’t pay change fees

Change/cancellation fee: $125 if changing your ticket more than 24 hours after booking

Exceptions: MVP Gold Alaska Airlines elite status or higher

Flights reserved through June 30, 2020, for travel until May 31, 2021, can be canceled or changed with zero fees — no cash refunds. You must rebook your flight for travel within one year of your original itinerary. You are responsible for the difference in fare.

American Airlines

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund as long as you book at least two days prior to departure. You will not receive a refund on certain taxes or fees for booking via phone

Fully refundable ticket: Refunded to your original form of payment, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets: $200 for domestic flights, up to $750 for international flights

Same day confirmed change: $75 ($150 between New York-JFK and London Heathrow)

Exceptions: Executive Platinum American Airlines status receives free same-day flight changes. Basic Economy flights cannot be changed

Change/cancellation fee: Free date changes (origin and destination must remain the same), $150 for origin and destination change. $150 cancellation fee for first passenger, and $25 for each additional passenger on the same reservation

Exceptions: Executive Platinum members exempt from award change fees

Flights reserved through June 30, 2020, for travel through Sept. 30, 2020, can be cancelled or changed for free — no cash refund. You’ll be responsible for difference in fare.

Delta

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Fully refundable ticket: Refunded to your original form of payment, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets: $200 per domestic ticket (plus difference in fare). International change fees cost up to $500. You’ll receive an eCredit for future use with Delta in the amount of your ticket minus the fee.

Same day confirmed change: $75

Exceptions: Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion Members Delta status exempt from same day change fees. Basic Economy cannot be altered

Change/cancellation fee: $150 (changes must be made 72 hours or more before departure)

Exceptions: Platinum and Diamond elites are exempt from award change fees

Flights reserved through June 30, 2020, can be canceled or changed for free for up to one year after the purchase date — no cash refunds. You’ll be responsible for the difference in fare.

Frontier

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Fully refundable ticket: The WORKS fare bundle gives you fully refundable and changeable tickets, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets:

  • $0 if changed or cancelled 60+ days prior to departure
  • $79 if changed between 59 and 14 days prior to departure
  • $119 if changed 13 days or less prior to departure
  • You’re responsible for difference in fare. If you change your flight to a cheaper option, you will not be refunded any value
  • If you cancel your itinerary, you’ll receive a travel credit valid for 90 days (you must use it within 90 days, but you can book travel further out)

Same day confirmed change: $119

Exceptions: Elite 100K members receive the WORKS bundle

Change/cancellation fee: $99.

Exceptions: $0 change fees if change is made eight or more days prior to travel and the same class of service is available on your new flight

None

JetBlue

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees (ticket must be booked seven days or more prior to departure)

Fully refundable ticket: Refunded to your original form of payment, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets: For Blue and Blue Plus, you’ll pay:

  • $75 for fares costing $99 and under
  • $100 for fares costing between $100 and $149
  • $200 for fares costing $200 or more

For Mint class, you’ll pay $200

Same day confirmed change: $75

Exceptions: Mosaic status exempt from all change fees except for Blue Basic fares

Change/cancellation fee: Same as non-refundable tickets

Exceptions: Mosaic status

Flights book through June 30, 2020, can be changed or canceled for free. You are responsible for difference in fare. If you change to a lower-priced ticket, you’ll receive a travel credit valid for 24 months from its issue date.

Southwest

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Fully refundable ticket: Refunded to your original form of payment, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets: Wanna Get Away fares (the cheapest) are refunded in the form of Southwest travel funds. You can use these toward any Southwest purchase, but they typically expire within one year of the issue date.

Same day confirmed change: No fees as long as you change more than 10 minutes before boarding. You’ll be responsible for the difference in fare

Exceptions: A-List and A-List Preferred Southwest elite status members can jump on an earlier Southwest flight for no charge if there’s room

Change/cancellation fee: Fully refundable up to 10 minutes before boarding

Exceptions:

None

If you change or cancel your Wanna Get Away fare by September 7, 2020, the travel credits you’ll be issued won’t expire until Sept. 7, 2022.

Spirit Airlines

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees as long as reservations are made more than seven days prior to departure

Fully refundable ticket:

None

xistent

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets:

  • $90 per person via the Spirit website
  • $100 per person via Reservations/Airport Modification or Cancellation
  • $50 per person for Group Booking Itinerary Modification or Cancellation

Same day confirmed change: $99 per person for standby

Exceptions:

None

Change/cancellation fee: $110

Exceptions:

None

Fares booked by June 30, 2020, can be changed or canceled for free. If you cancel your itinerary, you’ll receive a travel credit valid for 12 months. If you change your flight instead of canceling, you’ll need to pay the difference in fare. If you book a cheaper flight, you’ll receive a travel credit for the difference.

Mile redeposit fees for canceled award flights are waived.

United Airlines

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Fully refundable ticket: Refunded to your original form of payment, no fees

Change/cancellation fee for non-refundable tickets: $200 for domestic flights, up to $1,000 for international flights

Same day confirmed change: $75

Exceptions: Basic Economy fares cannot be changed. Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K status are charged no fees for same day changes. Premier 1K is exempt of all change fees

Change/cancellation fee:

  • $75 for changes made 61+ days in advance
  • $125 for changes made within 60 days
  • $125 for no-shows

Exceptions: United Airlines elite status offers varying discounts on change fees.

Price when booking 60 days of departure:

  • $100 with Premier Silver
  • $75 with Premier Gold
  • $50 with Premier Platinum
  • $0 with Premier 1K

Price when booking 61+ days from departure:

  • $50 with Premier Silver
  • $25 with Premier Gold
  • Free with Premier Platinum
  • $0 with Premier 1K

You can cancel or change flights purchased through June 30, 2020, for free. If you change, you’re responsible for the difference in fare. If you book a cheaper fare, you will not be reimbursed. If you cancel your flight, you’ll receive travel credits valid for 12 months.

Mile redeposit fees are waived for canceled award flights.

Online Travel Agency (OTA) Cancellation Policies

If you book a paid ticket through an Online Travel Agency, you may be able to cancel your ticket and get a refund or apply the value of the ticket towards future travel.

Bear in mind that even though you’ve purchased a ticket through an OTA, your ticket will still be subject to the fare rules, cancellation policies, and fees from the airline you’re traveling.

Orbitz

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Change/cancellation fees: $30, generally. This is on top of the fees charged by the airline. You may receive travel credit for canceling non-refundable flights, minus any fees. Fully refundable tickets can take up to 45 days to be redeposited to your form of payment

COVID-19 policy changes: All Orbitz policy changes appear to have ended. You’ll still save with most airlines, as they may not pass along change and cancellation fees during this time

Expedia

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Change/cancellation fees: You’re only charged fees passed along by airlines. You may receive travel credit for canceling non-refundable flights, minus any fees

COVID-19 policy changes:

None

, really. Expedia invites you to try and cancel directly with the airline (with the exception of low-cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit)

Priceline

Cancel within 24 hours: Full refund, no fees

Change/cancellation fees: It APPEARS that Priceline simply follows the policies of its airline partners — so be prepared to pay whatever the airline charges. A very select few airlines may not be eligible for refunds no matter what (again, low-cost carriers). If someone has firsthand knowledge of fees incurred by Priceline, leave a comment.

COVID-19 policy changes:

None

, except the ability to reach customer service agents more easily through chat if you’re departing within 72 hours

Bottom line

If your plans change and you need to cancel or change a paid or award airline ticket, you’ll have to look closely at the policies of the specific airline or online travel agency you booked with — especially in the time of coronavirus.

Generally, you can get a refund on fully refundable tickets (but may pay a fee). Non-refundable tickets can sometimes have their value applied to future travel, but you’ll always pay a difference in fare and airline change fee (except on Southwest, which doesn’t have change fees). Online travel agencies have similar policies, and will defer to the airline’s fare rules and fees.

Have you had to change or cancel a ticket recently? What was your experience?

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Ernest Simmons
2 months ago

Booked flight on Argentina Airlines through on line agency, Despegar for flight on 3-16-20. Cancelled flight with airline and notified Despegar. To date have yet to receive refund. Letters to Miami and Buenos Aires Despegar address have been returned, “no forward” or “refused.” Multiple phone numbers but only get recording in Spanish. E-mail responses have also been in Spanish. U.S. or foreign, going through 3rd party appears to be more of a hassle than booking direct.

Steve
6 months ago

I booked my May 3rd flights in January, my wife has a lung disease with immune deficiencies, so I did take out the insurance, just in case. The doctor told us we can’t fly now do to the virus. I went to Frontier and tried to cancel, they said I had to go to Priceline, since I purchased the tickets thru PriceLine. I was on hold for 2 hrs 47 minutes before I hung up. I don’t know what to do. We can’t afford to travel much. If anyone can help, I am open to suggestions. Thank You

Nancy Holter
6 months ago

I had a reservation for Monday March 16, 2020 at the LaQuinta north for 1 night. Tried to cancel Friday March 13 & was told by website your only working w/customers win 72 hrs of arrival. Well I was in that window and tried to send email but no response back. I’m very disappointed that you didn’t have a better plan in place to assist customers. I’m a 5 yr Delta employee and my friends and family travel all over the world often on a dime at least 10 to 20 times a year. I will be sure to spread the word that Priceline doesn’t have the compassion or the decency to help assist with cancellations especially within a 72 hour notice on the hotel cancellation. I was going for a job promotion interview at Delta Airlines at world headquarters and it got canceled due to the coronavirus. We work with your customers Daily at Delta Reservations helping assist them with there rebooking of a flight. We’ll charge a $50 3rd party fee for Delta to take over the ticket from you Priceline. And here I have a $109.00 hotel that you could refund in any way due to something beyond my control. Priceline needs to rethink their customer Cancellation policy. The whole world is suffering from the coronavirus and you have a chance to make it right with your customers. I hope you rethink what your company is doing otherwise you’re gonna lose a lot of business good luck. From a very disgruntled customer.

Curtis waterman
6 months ago

Our Scandinavian flight (oawobp) has had a travel ban to Ireland. I would prefer a tickets voucher or since I paid the insurance a refund of ticket cost.

Thank you,

Curtis Waterman

Dennis
6 months ago

Does anyone know how to cancel your flight because of all the corona viris stuff going on?

My flight leaves Wed out of chicago

Tanya
6 months ago

I have been calling the customer service line since my 72hr of cancellation time and all I have been getting is the dam answering machine, I even call early and still get the same answering machine. It seem like price line is not helping people change there flights like the policy suggest.

Nel
1 year ago

Wish I knew this information earlier as I went with Priceline and because it was shown upon checkout the option of canceling within 24hrs I booked tickets. Little did I know these tickets were non-refundable as its an “Express Deal.” The tickets cannot be refunded nor transferred as it was booked less than 7 days prior to the date of departure. Needless to say I’m out of luck but oh wells, now I know. I will say this though, customer service in regard to asking for help on the cancellation was not completely horrible but still could have been better – I like transparency and it really felt like they were hiding behind something. I know they must get chewed out consistently but at least with transparency there is more of an understanding and trust between the company and the customer. I would really like to say the same for their website but that’s a no go.