Just when you think it’s safe to travel again, another variant comes along. That’s the challenge many travelers have faced in booking and rebooking (and rebooking again) travel that continuously faces pandemic-related hurdles. Enter: Delta Air Lines’ new flight credit extension.
Effective January 12, Delta is giving all its existing eCredit (what Delta calls flight credit) holders one extra year to rebook flights that they either chose to or had to cancel for various reasons. (COVID has resulted in countless canceled trips.) Prior to January 12, customers had until the end of 2022 to rebook flights, but now they can do so by December 31, 2023, for travel through the end of 2024.
The updated policy also applies to all new flights purchased throughout all of 2022.
“Don’t worry if you aren’t seeing the new expiration date on your eCredit documents; it will take us some time to update our system, but rest assured you can continue to book tickets for travel anytime in 2022 or 2023 with your existing eCredits,” Delta said in a statement about the new policy.
Delta Vacations customers who are in possession of travel vouchers or have upcoming travel plans will be entitled to a one-year travel credit extension as well.
Delta has waived the change fee on all but Basic Economy tickets.
Should flight credits expire at all?
While Delta’s extended flight credit policy is the most generous thus far, some lawmakers think the airlines should go even further. In a June 2021 letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, lawmakers asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action to eliminate the expiration date on pandemic-related travel credits entirely and to address the failure of airlines to provide refunds.
In summer 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that calls on Secretary Buttigieg to investigate and take enforcement action regarding airlines’ failure to provide refunds for flights canceled due to the pandemic.
Travelers should be reminded that airlines are obligated to reimburse travelers—not just offer future flight credits—for flights that the airline canceled.
Without any governmental intervention, however, for now a future flight credit will have to do for any changes and cancellations initiated by the passenger.
So, what are the other airlines doing when it comes to flight credits? As of press time, these are the latest policies. (There have been numerous updates and extensions to these policies throughout the pandemic so be sure to check the latest.)
United’s latest policy regarding cancellations and future flight credits states that for any flight credits issued for flights that were booked between May 1, 2019, and December 31, 2021, “the credit is valid through December 31, 2022.”
For flights booked in 2022 (and then canceled), the future flight credit must be used for travel within 12 months of the date your original ticket was issued.
As for change fees, United has gotten rid of them for all but Basic Economy tickets.
At American, most existing future flight credits (American has three different categories of them) must be used by March 31, 2022. New travel booked by March 31, 2022, can be for travel as far out as January 2023.
For “trip credits,” which is any leftover value from a future flight credit that has already been used, they can be used up to one year after the trip credit was issued.
American has waived the change fee for all but Basic Economy fares purchased after April 2, 2021. (Basic Economy seats bought between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, can be changed without a fee.)
For the most part, JetBlue’s future flight credits expire one year after the date they were issued (so from the day you canceled an existing flight). One exception to this rule is for flight credits that were issued between February 27, 2020, and June 30, 2020, which expire after two years (versus one year).
JetBlue has waived its change fees for all fares, and for its lowest-tier Blue Basic fares, change fees have been waived for travel that takes place up until January 31, 2022.
Southwest proudly never charges a change fee, a policy the carrier had in place well before the pandemic.
Future flight credits are valid up to one year from the original travel purchase date—that’s different than the date of flight credit issuance, so mark your calendar when canceling a flight.