How to cancel a flight – and how airline policies are changing temporarily in the time of coronavirus

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By law, you have a 24-hour free cancellation (or change) window for any flights traveling to/from the U.S., as long as you book at least seven days in advance. After 24 hours, the policies vary by airline. Almost all of them (except Southwest) charge sizable change or cancellation fees and you’ll be responsible for paying any difference in the fare price as well.

However, as the COVID-19 coronavirus disease continues to affect the airlines, we are seeing most of them adjust their cancellation and change policies. Many have announced fee waivers,  but some of these waivers only apply to travel booked after a certain date. Keep in mind that if you get sick and you need to cancel a nonrefundable trip, you may be covered by your credit card’s travel insurance if the card has trip interruption/cancellation insurance as a benefit.

Let’s review the policies of each of the major U.S. airlines and what you need to do to cancel flights. We have included updated information on fee waivers caused by the spread of coronavirus.

How to cancel with United Airlines

To modify a United Airlines ticket you can call a United customer service center. Click here for the information for each center. You can also change your reservation in the My Trips section of the United app or the United website.

United charges a $200 change/cancellation fee for domestic flights and much more for international flights ($400+). Also, Basic Economy tickets are not eligible for changes. The fee for a change or to cancel and redeposit your miles from an award ticket is $75-$125, but you can get reduced or waived fees if you have United elite status. Again, you cannot make changes to a Basic Economy ticket.

You can see all of United’s novel coronavirus waivers here. If you book between March 3 and March 31, 2020, all change fees will be waived for the next year. Also, if your ticket was issued before March 2, 2020, and your travel is for March 9 to April 30, 2020, all change fees are being waived.

How to cancel with American Airlines

You can change or cancel an American Airlines flight by contacting the appropriate call center, which you can find here. You can also log into your AA account and select a flight under the Your Trips section to modify it online.

American charges $200 for changes/cancellations to domestic tickets and up to $750 for international flights. The fee to redeposit miles from a canceled award ticket is $150 for the first award and $25 for each additional award redeposited at the same time to the same account. Those with American Airlines elite status may have reduced or waived fees.

American will waive change fees on all flights booked between March 1 at 4:30 p.m. CT and March 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CT. The waiver affects tickets purchased for travel through Jan. 31, 2021. Also, any new travel that you book must be completed within one year of the original ticket issue date and the changes must be made before your original flight departs. The airline is also waiving change fees for flights purchased before March 1 for travel through April 30. There are restrictions on any new travel.

You can also find up-to-date information about American’s novel coronavirus waivers here.

How to cancel with Delta

Delta’s cancellation fees start at $200 and go up to $500, depending on the itinerary. Basic Economy tickets cannot be changed or canceled. For award tickets you must cancel at least 72 hours before departure and the fee is $150.

To modify your flight you can log into your account or look up the trip here. You can also call Delta customer service at 1-800-221-1212.

Delta is waiving change fees (one time) for all tickets issued before March 9, 2020, for travel through April 30, 2020. Also, if you’re booking a flight between March 1 and March 31, 2020, your change fees can be waived once.

You are eligible for a fee-free, one-time itinerary change if you were ticketed on or before March 9 for travel through April 30. This waiver applies to both domestic and international itineraries. Any tickets booked between March 1 and March 31 are also eligible for fee-free changes, regardless of travel dates.

There are also additional waivers for travel to specific locations, including Europe, China and South Korea.

How to cancel with JetBlue

With JetBlue’s version of basic economy (Blue Basic Fare) no changes are allowed. For Blue Extra Fares and any refundable fare, there are no change or cancellation fees. All other fares have fees that vary depending on how expensive the ticket was:

You can adjust your flight reservation online or by calling in, but there is an additional $25 per person for changing or canceling over the phone.

JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees for anyone traveling through April 30, 2020. You may rebook your flight through Oct. 24, 2020. This applies to travel booked on or before March 10, 2020. Additionally, any flight booked by March 31 will have change/cancellation fees waived for travel through Sept. 8, 2020.

You can find up-to-date information on JetBlue’s travel waivers here.

How to cancel with Southwest

Southwest has no change or cancellation fees. For cancellations of nonrefundable fares, you will receive a travel voucher for the value of the fare that is valid for one year.

How to cancel with Alaska Airlines

Alaska’s Saver Fares (i.e., basic economy) are ineligible for changes and most other changes cost $125, but the fees can vary with fare classes and whether or not you have Alaska Airlines elite status:

You make make changes to your trip on Alaska’s site or by calling customer service at 1-800-654-5669.

For tickets purchased before Feb. 26, 2020 for travel between March 9 and March 31 you can rebook for free for travel through Feb. 28, 2021. If you purchased a ticket from Feb. 27 to March 31, you can make fee-free changes for travel through Feb. 28, 2021. You can see all of the details of these waivers here.

How to cancel with Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines charges the following fees for changes and cancellations:

Main Cabin Basic fares (i.e., basic economy) cannot be changed. You can change your flight online or by calling customer service at 1-877-426-4537.

All Hawaiian Airlines flights booked between March 1 and March 31 can be changed one time with no fee. There are also waivers for specific countries, including Japan, China and South Korea. You can find more details about these waivers here.

Bottom line

Changing or canceling a flight more than 24 hours after you’ve booked usually involves paying a substantial fee. But with the spread of the novel coronavirus airlines are issuing special fee waivers for certain new and existing bookings. If you can make a change online, that is what I would suggest doing. There are long wait times currently at most call centers.

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Featured photo by muratart/Shutterstock.

Jason Stauffer is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

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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