True Nature Travels Blog

A Guide to Airline Refunds & Flexible Policies During COVID-19

Airline - Covid-19

Airline - Covid-19

During this time where your travel plans may have been impacted by COVID-19, you may wonder what are your options when canceling or rescheduling a flight and what are the next steps.

Whether you have purchased a flight with airline miles, a debit or credit card, or rewards here are some tips that you will hopefully find helpful.

The Golden Tip: During this time, the airlines want you to continue to travel. They have instituted policies, many of which you will find below. Know that there is also some flexibility. For example, if your retreat was postponed until July 2021 and the airline is only offering the option a credit through 2020, let them know your situation and that you are requesting an extension to travel next year. Whatever your story is, know that it is very common right now and the airlines want to do their best to help you.

Scenario 1: You booked your flight with airline miles

If you used airline miles to purchase a flight, go directly to the airline you booked with for flight cancellation information.
Many U.S. airlines are offering reimbursements, no-fee cancellations, or credit-earning opportunities for flights canceled due to COVID-19. You can read official statements and other information from the following U.S. airlines, below, including any elite status extensions.

Delta Airlines

Flight change and cancellation policies

If you wish to cancel your flight, you can do so through May 2020 and receive a flight eCredit for use through May 31, 2022. This includes customers who:

  • Canceled a flight for March, April or May of 2020
  • Already have eCredits from a flight canceled in March, April or May 2020
    You also have the option of rebooking your flight with a waived change fee up to one year from the date of purchase. To qualify, the ticket must have been purchased between March 1, 2020, and May 31, 2020. Additional information can be found on Delta’s coronavirus travel updates page.

Delta Medallion® Program

Delta Medallion Members’ 2020 status is extended through 2021. This means whatever elite status you earned with Delta this year will extend through January 31, 2022, or the end of Delta’s Medallion year. Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) will also extend into 2021.

You can expect an extension of six months to a year for all other Delta programs and credit card-specific benefits. More detailed information can be found here.

“We are continuously monitoring how coronavirus impacts travel and will make additional adjustments to support our customers’ needs as the pandemic evolves,” said Sandeep Dube, senior vice president, customer engagement and loyalty, in a statement.

Airline - Covid-19

American Airlines

Flight change and cancellation policies

You’ll receive a waived ticket change fee when rebooking American Airlines flights that were:

  • Originally purchased prior to March 1, 2020, for flights departing through May 31, 2020
  • Booked between March 1, 2020, and April, 30, 2020

You can also cancel flights that meet the above requirements for no additional charge and then rebook with a waived change fee at a later date. More information on American Airlines’ policies can be found here.

AAdvantage® program

American Airlines released a statement late last week confirming miles scheduled to expire between April 2, 2020, and June 30, 2020, will receive an extension.

“Miles that were set to expire during this time will now expire on July 1, if there is no additional activity in your account during that time period,” said American Airlines in a statement. “You may have previously received an email advising that your miles would expire soon. We’re taking action to protect the rewards you’ve earned in this time of uncertainty and reduced travel opportunities.”

Additionally, American Airlines has stated elite status will be extended through January 31, 2022, including those set to expire January 31, 2021. AAdvantage members should see these changes reflected in their accounts by May 15, 2020.

The airline also announced lowered elite qualification requirements for 2020, which you can view, here.

United Airlines

Flight change and cancellation policies

Flight change fees are waived for tickets that are issued by April 30, 2020. You’ll have 12 months to rebook the ticket free of charge.

If you cancel a United flight, you’ll be awarded an electronic travel certificate for use within the next 24 months from issue date. For more information, you can read United’s guide to canceling and rebooking flights.

United MileagePlus® program

MileagePlus® members will receive an extension of their elite status through the end of the 2021 program year (January 31, 2022).

United also stated its lowering Premier qualification thresholds for 2021 status levels by 50 percent and offering membership and subscription benefits for an additional six months. You can read more details, here.

Airline - Covid-19

Southwest Airlines

Flight change and cancellation policies

Southwest Airlines has a long-standing policy that allows you to cancel or change flights without a fee. In light of current events, the airline has made modifications to its policy.

“If your plans change or if you decide to postpone your travel, the funds used to pay for your flight can be applied to future travel as long as you cancel your reservation at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure,” said Ryan Green, SVP and chief marketing officer, in a statement.

Upon cancellation, you’ll receive travel funds, or credits, valid for one year. Travel funds issued between March 1, 2020, and May 31, 2020, are valid through June 30, 2021. Additional information can be found on Southwest’s official coronavirus travel information page.

If you’d rather rebook, flights scheduled between now and April 30, 2020, can be changed to a date at least 60 days from the original departure date and won’t incur a fare difference charge.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® program

A-List and A-List Preferred Members whose status expires December 31, 2020, will receive an automatic extension of their status through December 31, 2021, including members with elite statuses earned through a Southwest promotion. If you’re currently enrolled in a Southwest promotion to earn elite status and have yet to reach the flight requirements, you’ll now have until October 30, 2020, to do so.

Additionally, those who earned a Companion Pass with an expiration date of December 31, 2020, will get an extension through June 30, 2021. Learn more, here.

Alaska Airlines

Flight change and cancellation policies

You’ll receive flight credit certificates toward future Alaska Airlines flights purchased:

  • On or before February 26, 2020, for travel through May 31, 2020
  • Between February 27, 2020, and April 30, 2020, for travel through February 28, 2021

Flight credits must be used by February 28, 2021. In both instances, you can also cancel your flight for no fee and receive either a credit certificate or funds deposited into your online account.

Saver fares aren’t eligible for trip rescheduling, but you can still cancel.

Links to additional coronavirus travel information from Alaska Airlines can be found here.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan™

Whichever Mileage Plan status you currently hold with Alaska Airlines will be extended through December 31, 2021.
In regard to companion certificates, those expiring in 2020 are now extended until December 31, 2020, for travel up until November 26, 2021. You can read more, here.

Jet Blue

Flight change and cancellation policies

As of April 7, 2020, JetBlue is waiving flight change and cancellation fees for travel dates up until May 31, 2020. Flights can be:

  • Rebooked for travel through January 4, 2021
  • Canceled in exchange for JetBlue Travel Bank Credit (expires 18 months from the date issued)

You can read more information on JetBlue’s travel alerts page.

Airline - Covid-19

Didn’t see your airline?

Here are a few additional U.S. airlines that have commented on ticket changes and cancellations:

Scenario 2: You booked your flight with a debit or credit card

You’ll have the best luck reaching out to the airline — rather than your issuer — to cancel and collect reimbursement for a flight booked with your credit card.

“Airlines are offering very generous refund and fee waiver policies related to COVID-19,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate. For nonrefundable tickets, “Customers should know that they probably won’t get the actual money back — instead, the airline will hold it and apply it towards future travel.”

Delta Air Lines, as noted above, is offering eCredit equal to the value of your original ticket for future use with the airline.

“Look for an expiration date on those funds,” Rossman says. “And know that you might have to pay a fare difference if your eventual ticket cost is higher than what you already paid. Still, this is a very good deal.”

It’s important to note that for refundable tickets (such as tickets purchased with trip cancellation coverage), you’ll be refunded in U.S. dollars, rather than flight credits.

Trip cancellation and interruption benefits

Typically, travel credit cards offer trip cancellation protection, but it likely won’t cover broader coronavirus concerns.

“Credit card trip cancellation protection typically doesn’t allow you to cancel just because you’re afraid you might get sick,” Rossman says.

For example, American Express’ trip cancellation and interruption FAQs sheet for COVID-19 states, “Fear of traveling due to sickness, epidemic, or pandemic (such as the Coronavirus) is not a Covered Loss under your American Express Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance benefit.”

You may, though, be able to submit a claim if you fall under one of the traditionally covered situations, like accidental injury or harsh weather. American Express’ list of approved situations conveniently includes “quarantine imposed by a physician for health reasons.”

Trip cancellation policies for an issuer can vary based on the exact card you own, so make sure to sign in to your online account for benefits information on your specific card.

Airline - Covid-19

Scenario 3: You booked your flight with credit card rewards

It’s not ideal, but whether or not your credit card rewards are refunded can vary based on your issuer’s guidelines and the COVID-19 cancellation policy of your airline.

Chase, for example, is offering the option to submit a trip cancellation request for flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and trips paid for using rewards earned by an eligible Chase card. You must first confirm that your airline has waived trip cancellation fees.

“If you booked with points or miles, you should get those back (not a dollar equivalent, but the actual points or miles),” Rossman says — and most likely with a waived redepositing fee.

If you transferred your rewards to book a flight

In many instances, you cannot undo a rewards transfer from your credit card to an airline partner. If you booked your flight in this manner, reach out to your airline, rather than your issuer, for reimbursement information.

Is your flight a few months down the road? Consider this

“If your flight is scheduled for early summer or later on in the year, there’s no reason to cancel or pay a change fee,” says Rossman.

“A lot of people are confused about what to do with trips in May, June, etc.,” Rossman says. “I recommend waiting for now. We can hope things will improve quickly, and maybe you’ll be able to travel as planned after all. But if not, then the fee waivers will likely be extended, or maybe the flight itself will be canceled.”

Updated 5.4.20

Airline - Covid-19