Airlines Extend Their Flight Change Flexibility Policies

New bookings made until the end of June with United, Delta, American, and JetBlue can be changed to a later date with no fee. Southwest doesn’t charge for changes but has extended the deadline for using travel credits into 2022.

Airlines Extend Their Flight Change Flexibility Policies

Delta will also give you a credit for the difference in airfare if the new fare is lower than the original one.

Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Some good news for those of you who are ready to start booking air travel, but only if you’ll be able to change your flights: Delta, United, American, and JetBlue have all updated their policies to allow flights booked up until June 30, 2020, to be rebooked without a change fee. These change fee waiver policy deadlines have been extended several times throughout the coronavirus crisis, and most recently had been set to expire on May 31, 2020.

The updates come as airlines are beginning to expand capacity and add more flights in light of gradually increasing demand. American Airlines on Wednesday announced that in response to improving demand, it’s planning to fly 55 percent of its domestic schedule (compared to 35 percent in April and 20 percent in May versus the same year-ago periods) and nearly 20 percent of its international schedule in July 2020 compared to July 2019—in total approximately 40 percent of the flying that took place in July 2019. The last week of May, the airline carried an average of around 110,000 customers per day—more than triple the 32,000 daily average it experienced in April.

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The number of travelers going through TSA checkpoints in the United States has increased as well. The daily count has surpassed 300,000 several times since May 22, after dropping to below 100,000 per day in early April. That’s a far cry from the approximately 2.5 million travelers who were passing through TSA checkpoints at this time last year, but the uptick is still notable as states throughout the nation continue to reopen after months in lockdown. As travelers’ confidence begins to rebuild, airlines have acknowledged that flexible options remain key to encouraging people to book.

The airlines’ updated policies

Delta’s change fee waiver applies to both domestic and international travel set to depart March through September 30, 2020 (regardless of when it was booked), and to tickets for travel that takes place anytime in the future that are purchased between March 1 and June 30, 2020. An attractive component of Delta’s newly updated policy is that while you will pay a difference in airfare if the new fare is higher, you will also get a credit if the new fare is lower than the original fare. The fare difference will be waived entirely for changes to existing travel that was set to take place between March and September 2020 for flights originally purchased before April 17, 2020, and for travel to the same destination that takes place by September 30, 2020.

At United, tickets that were purchased up until March 31, 2020, for travel until December 31, 2020, can be changed sans fee for travel up to two years from the original ticket issue date. For flights purchased between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020, customers can change their flight without a fee up to one year from the original ticket issue date (a fare difference will be charged, and if the new flight costs less, no credit will be given).

If you have booked or plan to book a new flight on American Airlines by June 30, 2020, there will be no change fee for new travel that takes place by December 31, 2021 (but if the new flight costs more, you will pay the fare difference). If you have a flight already booked for travel that was due to take place by September 30, 2020, you can rebook it for travel through December 31, 2021.

Similarly, JetBlue has dropped its change and cancellation fees for bookings made before June 30. A flight credit will be issued for use up to 24 months from the date of issue (you’ll be charged for a difference in fare if the new flight is more expensive).

As for Southwest, the carrier’s standard policy included no change fees for flight changes since before COVID-19. However, it has made some adjustments due to the pandemic. Typically, the new flight must be booked within a year of the travel credit being issued. But if you have funds that have expired or will expire between March 1, 2020, and September 7, 2020, they will now expire on September 7, 2022. And any travel funds that resulted from a flight that you canceled between March 1 and September 7, 2020, will expire September 7, 2022.

What about refunds for canceled flights?

If you have any questions or concerns about an airline’s policy, always be sure to get those addressed before you book. You don’t want to get locked into something only to find out the conditions for changing or canceling aren’t what you had thought or hoped. As for refunds, airlines are obligated to provide them when the flight is canceled by the airline. A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in May would require airlines to offer refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, including when passengers cancel their flights. But unless that bill becomes law, airlines aren’t required to provide a refund in that scenario.

>> Next: How to Make Flexible Travel Bookings in Uncertain Times

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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