United, Delta and seven other airlines are waiving flight change fees because of the coronavirus outbreak

United, Delta and seven other airlines are waiving flight change fees because of the coronavirus outbreak

3 Mar    Finance News

Travelers are changing their flight plans in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and many airlines are helping them in the process.

In recent weeks, airlines have cancelled hundreds of flights to East Asia and, more recently, northern Italy as the number of coronavirus cases grew in those regions. As of Monday, there were 89,254 cases of the illness and 3,048 people had died from the coronavirus, which first emerged in the Hubei provice of China late last year.

With public health officials in many countries advising caution against traveling to regions with high numbers of coronavirus cases, airlines have stepped in to offer waivers for fees and fare differences for travelers who reschedule flights because of health concerns.

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Here is what the airlines are doing:

Frontier Airlines

Customers with existing reservations for travel between March 3 and March 16 will be able to make a one-time change to their reservation without incurring a fee. Customers will be responsible for any differences in fare.

The new travel must be completed by June 1. Customers have the option of changing the origin and/or destination city when they alter their reservation.

People who want to cancel their reservation will be able to do so without paying a cancellation fee and will receive a refund in the form of a credit valid for 90 days. The company said it will continue to monitor the situation going forward.

American Airlines

For people who book flights between March 1 and March 16, American Airlines AAL, -5.36%  will not charge a change fee if they alter their travel plans. To be eligible, the original travel must be scheduled for between March 1, 2020 and January 26, 2021, and the change must be made at least 14 days in advance of the outbound travel date.

The new travel will need to take place within a year of the original ticket issue date, and travelers must pay for any difference in fares. The fee waiver excludes bookings through AAdvantage award tickets.

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Additionally, for people who had plans to fly to Hong Kong or China, refunds are available if cancellations are made before the flight’s departure date and the ticket was issued by American Airlines.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue JBLU, -3.60%  is suspending change and cancellations fees for all new flight bookings made between Feb. 27, 2020 and March 11, 2020 for flights scheduled through June 1, 2020. Where applicable, customers will need to pay for differences in airfare.

Those who change or cancel flights will receive a credit worth the amount of the flight fair plus taxes and fees that is valid for one year from the date of issuance toward a JetBlue flight.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines ALK, -5.32%  is offering a so-called “peace of mind” waiver. Those who purchased tickets between Feb. 27 and March 12 for travel dates between Feb. 27 and June 1 will be able to cancel or change their trips.

Those who choose to cancel their flight will have their funds deposited into an Alaska account for use for future travel. Those who choose to rebook their travel must set a new travel date that occurs before Dec. 31, and fare differences do apply.

This option is only available for people who booked directly with Alaska — those who booked flights through third parties such as Expedia EXPE, -1.59%  will need to amend their travel plans through the company they purchased their airfare with.

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United Airlines

United Airlines UAL, -4.85%  is waiving the change fee and fare difference for travelers who book new flights to airports in Northern Italy, China, Hong Kong and South Korea through June 30, though the new airfare must be in the same ticketing class as the original booking.

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For those who are rescheduling previously-booked travel, fare differences may apply. United is also offering refunds for flights booked to China, even for tickets that were originally nonrefundable.

Delta Air Lines

Travelers who have booked transpacific flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Incheon, South Korea and transatlantic flights to Italy can make a one-time change to their Delta booking DAL, -2.08%  without incurring any change fee, though fare differences may apply.

The policy applies to travel dates through April 30. Tickets must be reissued on or before May 31, and rebooked travel must begin no later than that date.

Alternatively, travelers can cancel their booking and use the value of that ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket. The new ticket must be purchased within a year of the original issue date, and change fees and fare differences will apply.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines HA, -4.11%  has suspended service between Honolulu and Incheon, South Korea, through April 30. Those who rebook for new travel on or before Oct. 31 will have change fees and fare differences waived, so long as the new booking is in the same department and there are no changes to the ticket’s origin and departure.

After Oct. 31, rebooked flights won’t incur change fees, but could require travelers pay the difference in fares.

Hawaiian is also waiving cancellation fees and providing refunds for affected flights.

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Spirit Airlines

Unlike other airlines, Spirit SAVE, -7.48%  has not announced a widespread fee-waiver policy. Instead, it’s “been offering flexible travel options to our guests who reach out with concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus” since late January. The company said travelers can reach out if they have questions.

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Lufthansa Group DLAKY, +3.25%  has cancelled flights to mainland China until April 24, reduced flights to Hong Kong and expects to further reduce short- and medium-haul flights in the coming weeks as the coronavirus spreads in Europe.

Customers whose flights are affected by these changes can request a refund free of charge. When flights are cancelled, Lufthansa will rebook customers at no additional charge, in most cases automatically.

Air France

Air France AFLYY, -0.76%  travelers can modify planned trips to China and Italy. In the case of flights to China, for flights booked on or before Feb. 19 for dates through May 31, consumers can postpone trips at no additional cost until June 30. Alternatively, they can cancel their trip for a full refund.

For flights to Italy scheduled between Feb. 25 and April 30, travelers can postpone their trip to a later flight until May 31 at no additional charge if their original ticket was issued on or before Feb. 27. If they choose to cancel instead, they will receive a voucher valid for one year for Air France and KLM flights.


KLM is waiving change fees for customers currently booked on flights to China, South Korea, Singapore and Italy, depending on when their original flights were booked for. Applicable dates vary for each region.

For those who have flights booked for China and Singapore, they are also entitled to a full refund if they did not travel or choose not to. For Singapore and Italy, travelers will only receive a full refund if their flight is cancelled or delayed for more than three hours, in accordance with European Union law.

The U.S. Global Jets ETF JETS, -2.15%  is down 25% since the beginning of the year, while the S&P 500 SPX, -2.81%  and Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -2.94%  are down 4% and 6% respectively over that same timeframe.

This story has been updated.

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