UPDATED 3/27/20

I hope all of you and your loved ones are coping during this trying time. Whether you’re hunkering down at home with work or study, or are still needed in public as a healthcare professional or otherwise essential employee, I wish you all good health and peace of mind.

Below I will go into detail on the current policies for the top five US airlines (defined by passengers carried). If the airline you are flying is not listed below, check out Tiffany at One Mile at a Time‘s compilation of change and cancellation policies for most airlines and hotels, as well as a list of travel advisories for every country.

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To keep call volume down, change or cancel your flight online if possible. You may to see within your reservation on the appopriate website if your flight is eligible for changes/cancellations. Find your…

If you aren’t given the option to change it online, and are traveling within the next 72 hours, then go ahead and call.

Regarding Flight Vouchers in Place of Actual Refunds

Unfortunately various airlines right now, in particular United, are pushing travel vouchers instead of outright refunds for flights cancelled by the airlines themselves, not customers.

The following is from United’s website:

“For any customer whose international travel is cancelled or disrupted by more than 6 hours because of schedule changes resulting from government restrictions, they will retain a travel credit equal to the value of their ticket. That credit can be used towards any flight, to any destination, for 12 months from the time of purchase. If the customer chooses not to use the credit, they will receive a refund to their original form of payment at the end of that 12-month period.”

In other words, United wants a year interest-free loan.

If this happens to you, know that you have the right to demand an actual refund if a travel voucher is not what you want. If they will not process a refund, don’t accept the voucher as that waives your right to the refund. Instead, the next best course of action is to dispute the charge with your credit card issuer.

American Airlines

COVID-19 Info Page

  • Customer Service Number: 800-433-7300
  • AAdvantage Customer Service Number: 800-882-8880
Photo by Colin Brown
  • If you bought your ticket before March 1, 2020, for travel through May 31, 2020, you can rebook without change fees.
  • If you booked your trip March 1 – April 15, 2020, for travel through February 28, 2021, you can also change your reservation at a later date without change fees.
  • You can make a change or use the value of your ticket later if you are supposed to fly before March 31 even if you cannot get through to AA reservations over the phone.

Note that the waived change fees only apply to one change per trip, and fare differences may apply. Check AA’s Travel Alerts page for more specifics on your destination, as they vary by country.

Outside of the dates above, you can request a refund if your flight falls under a travel waiver. What you get, however, isn’t an outright refund but a travel credit for a future trip. It depends on your country of travel as far as the policy, but generally either your travel must start:

  • by December 31, 2020, or within 1 year of date the ticket was issued, whichever comes first
  • within a year of ticket issuance

Make sure to check AA’s Travel Alerts page for more specifics on your destination which vary by country.

What about flights booked with miles?

While not published by AA, in One Mile at a Time’s experience calling in, award tickets for travel through April 30, 2020 are not being charged redeposit fees.

Delta

COVID-19 Info Page

  • Customer Service Number: 800-221-1212
  • SkyMiles Customer Service Number: 800-323-2323
Photo by brando

All travel booked between March 1 and April 15 can be changed for free.

All travel departing in March, April, or May 2020 are eligible for one free change. You can change the travel date as well as the destination if you wish. Fare differences may apply.

All change fees are waived for all travel, domestic and international, with departure dates through May 31, 2020. No fare difference will apply if the new flight departs by May 31. You can move your flight to depart as late as December 31, 2020, but if it’s after May 31, fare difference will apply.

If you don’t know when you’ll want to reschedule your trip you can cancel and use the credit towards a future flight. The credit will need to be used either by December 31, 2020 or before your ticket expires (again, whichever comes first).

What about flights booked with miles?

The same policies apply to award flights.

United

COVID-19 Info Page

  • Customer Service Number: 800-864-8331
  • MileagePlus Customer Service Number: 800-421-4655

United is allowing free changes for 12 months on all flights booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020.

There are no change fees for all tickets issued on or before March 2 — domestic or international — with original travel dates of March 9 through May 31. Your new flight must depart by December 31, 2020, or a year from issuance (whichever is earlier).

  • If you have travel planned to Northern Italy departing before June 30, 2020, that was purchased February 26 or earlier, you can change your flight for free and fare differences will not apply. For travel to northern Italy past June 30, changes remain free but fare differences may apply.
  • The policy for travel to South Korea is the same, but instead of February 26 the purchase cutoff time is February 23.

Just like AA and Delta, if you don’t know when you want to rebook you can cancel your flight and “rebook later with change fees waived” (as long as the flight was booked March 2 or before). You must travel within 12 months of when the original ticket was issued.

What about flights booked with miles?

While not published by United, One Mile at a Time reports that award tickets for travel through April 30, 2020 are not being charged redeposit fees.

Southwest

COVID-19 Info Page

  • Southwest Customer Service: 800-435-9792
  • Rapid Rewards Customer Service: 800-248-4377

Southwest has never charged change nor cancellations fees. Change your Southwest flight here.

From their website: “If a Customer’s plans change, or they decide they no longer want to travel, the funds used to pay for their flight can be applied to future travel – as long as they cancel their flight at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The funds are valid for future travel up to one year from the original purchase date and must be used by the individual named on the ticket”.

That policy is for “Wanna Get Away Fares”, which are the cheapest. If you purchased an Anytime or Business Select Fare, those are fully refundable in the form of cash or a statement credit on your credit card.

What about flights booked with miles?

No change or cancellation fees, nor mileage redeposit fees. Any taxes and fees paid, if you cancel your award flight, can be used towards future travel.

Alaska

COVID-19 Info Page

  • Alaska Customer Service: 800-654-5669
  • Mileage Plan Customer Service: 800-654-5669

For tickets purchased on/before February 26, 2020:

  • If you purchase(d) a Saver fare for travel through May 31, 2020, you can cancel your trip without a fee and get credit for future travel, to be used within a year of ticket issuance.
  • If you purchased a nonrefundable First Class, main, or award ticket for travel through May 31, 2020, you may:
    • Change your trip without a fee. Travel must be completed by February 28, 2021. Fare difference may apply.
    • Cancel your trip without a fee and get credit for future travel, to be used within a year of ticket issuance.

For tickets purchased on/before February 27 to March 31,2020:

  • If you purchased a Saver fare for travel through February 28, 2021, you can cancel your trip without a fee and get credit for future travel, to be used within a year of ticket issuance.
  • If you purchased a nonrefundable First Class, main, or award ticket for travel through February 28, 2021, you may:
    • Change your trip without a fee. Travel must be completed by February 28, 2021. Fare difference may apply.
    • Cancel your trip without a fee and get credit for future travel, to be used within a year of ticket issuance.

What about tickets booked with miles?

The policy outlined above applies to award travel as well.

What’s Up with Me

There’s been radio silence content-wise on my end as I spent last week scrambling to first makes sense of the situation and then get out of Argentina. For those unaware, I spend a good portion of each year in Buenos Aires.

On Wednesday the Argentine government announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those arriving from the United States (as well as a list of other infected countries). Then the President signed a decree cancelling all flights that originate in the United States, without a clear message on when exactly flights would stop. It doesn’t make sense for planes to fly empty one way, so I knew what this ultimately would mean. If I wanted to get back to the US for an essential medical treatment I have coming up in the beginning of April, I needed to hightail it out of there before I lost the option. On Friday we learned that flights would stop as of today, Tuesday, March 17.

I left Friday evening on a United redeye via Houston that delivered me to Charleston, SC, where my parents live.

Bottom Line

These policies will continue to change over the coming days and weeks as the situation develops, particularly as the overwhelming advice now is to avoid non-essential travel.

My advice to you in regards to your own travel plans is to sit tight if your trip is not in the immediate future, for two reasons:

  1. Most importantly, we need to help one another by giving priority to those who have imminent travel that needs to be addressed. Phone lines are incredibly overwhelmed. Airlines are asking that if you are not traveling within the next 72 hours, to please hold off on calling.
  2. These policies may get more generous (in regards to outright refunds) as the situation develops, especially if the airlines end up getting any sort of bailout package. That may be wishful thinking, but hey, I’m an optimist.

I will update this post every day for the time being, as airlines are changing their policies periodically to reflect progression of the disease and subsequent government action. Always refer to your airline of travel for the most up to date info.

Feel free to comment below if you see something wrong or that needs to be updated. I could use your help.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.


K2

Kevin and his wife, Katia, live to travel. And one could also easily argue travel to live, as they have leveraged credit card points, airline miles, and cheap(er) cash fares across 40-some countries to date: from Kazakhstan to Curaçao, Argentina to Georgia (not that Georgia, The Republic of Georgia!)