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Struggling with flight cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic? You are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the world and all major airlines to a standstill. Many people are now trying to figure out what to do with their flights.
And it is not easy.
Every major airline has its own cancellation and refund policy. Moreover, your options depend on your personal case. That includes the date you booked the flight, the type of your ticket and more.
However, there are some common policies and airline practices you should be absolutely aware of. This will greatly increase your chance to get the best solution for your specific case.
Flight Cancellations And Refunds Must-Knows
First and foremost, if the airline cancels your flight you are eligible to receive a full refund by LAW. End of discussion.
Despite that, all airlines will try to give you a voucher or travel credit instead of a refund. If you accept this you LOSE your right to claim a financial(cash) refund.
Airlines know that and they do it on purpose. Since they are having a pretty hard time they can’t afford to lose fresh cash flows. For that reason, they will try everything under the sun to convince you to take a voucher or travel credit.
Don’t be fooled by their tactics. If you prefer a cash refund, you can get it. In the majority of cases, the same applies if you booked your airline ticket through an agency. Most big online travel agencies like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, etc. allow you to cancel flights in alignment with the airline’s terms and conditions.
Nevertheless, it’s best if you check the travel agency policy before you book your flight. You are subject to the third-party agency conditions not only the airline policies. If the travel agent refuses to cooperate you can still get in touch with the airline directly as they might be able to help.
If getting reimbursement in other forms doesn’t bother you, still consider some of the following:
- The expiration date of the vouchers
- Hidden fees for rescheduling the flight
- The flexibility of the travel credit usage
The coronavirus outbreak pushed airlines to change some of their strict policies.
Now even if your ticket is non-refundable you are still able to get your flight rescheduled without any fees. Some even allow you to cancel the flight yourself and get travel credit.
Want to know more about the overall process of flight cancellations? Or maybe how to file a formal complaint with the department of transportations? You can read our article discussing the general guidelines for coronavirus flight cancellations.
Now, let’s get a little more specific. Below we are going to examine the cancellation policies of some major US airlines.
1. American Airlines
American Airlines extended their policy to waive change fees by Sep 30 on existing tickets booked by June 30. They are also waiving the change fee for any new tickets without a specified expiration date. Despite that, you can change your flight for free only once.
Your new flight should be completed by Dec 31, 2021, which is a solid amount of time for things to cool down. You also have the option to change your departure and your destination cities which is a pretty cool feature. However, you may owe any difference in the ticket prices when you reschedule.
AAdvantage members, of course, have more benefits than regular clients. American Airlines’ rebooking process is pretty straightforward. You can go to their website, enter your 6 character flight code and choose to cancel or rebook the flight.
You will receive a confirmation email when you are done. Then you simply have to call their “Reservations” department to book a new flight. Bear in mind airlines’ phone lines are extremely busy lately so load yourself with patience. You can find more information here.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Delta was one of the most restrictive airlines when it came to flight cancellations or changes.
However, they adapted very fast and now offer one of the most flexible policies. For example, tickets bought between March 1 and June 30, 2020, can be changed without a fee for up to a year from the original purchase date.
Fees will be also waived for any domestic and international flight departing between March and September 30, 2020. Delta gives the opportunity to rebook your travel as long as it takes place before Sep 30, 2022. A period well over 2 years, which is admirable.
As with American Airlines, Delta may charge the difference fee if the new flight is more expensive. However, they specify they will issue an e-credit if the new ticket cost is lower. You can find more about Delta’s cancellation policy on this page.
The benefits of using Southwest have never been more evident than now. Southwest never charges a fee for changing your flight. That means the “exceptions” that other carriers are doing due to COVID-19 are the way Southwest does business all the time.
Nevertheless, the company still has a page for coronavirus travel information. If you usually decide to cancel your travel with Southwest up to 10 minutes before your flight (for non-refundable ticket) the amount can be used for up to 1 year ahead.
Considering other carrier policies, some of which demand that be done at least 48 hours before the trip, we can definitely say bravo to Southwest. But that is not all.
Because of the coronavirus, travel funds of Southwest customers that expired or will expire between March 1, 2020 and September 7, 2020, now have a new expiration date – Sep 7, 2022.
They have some amazing options for their Rapid Rewards Members that provide even further flexibility. So make sure you check them if you are part of Southwest’s client loyalty program.
4. United Airlines
United Airlines also have their page about coronavirus updates with their own AI cancellation assistance that can answer your common questions. Their page is not as organized as the ones of other companies and you can get confused.
However, we synthesized the most important information as with other airlines.
For global travel, all change fees are waived for tickets bought on or before March 2, 2020, for travel in the same year between June 1 – Dec. 31.
However, you should rebook before June 30, 2020, and travel within 24 months(2 years) from the ticket purchase date.
Also if you go and book a new flight with them by June 30, 2020, you have one year to change it without incurring any fees.
Moreover, United Airlines are extending their electronic certificates. The currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020, are valid for 2 years from the issue date.
Points Panda Concierge
If you feel unsure about booking or rescheduling your next travel you don’t have to figure things out alone. We know how overwhelming it can be, especially during these uncertain times.
You can spend countless hours on research but there is a high chance you end up even more confused. We warned you.
The other option you have is to save time and energy and have confidence in your future trip with our coronavirus travel concierge. We offer unlimited help and even some “done for you” features. So you can sleep peacefully at night dreaming about your next adventure.
Also if you are looking to make additional savings or get extra points we recommend checking these airline credit cards.