Editor’s note: We’re constantly updating this post with the latest information about airline change and cancellation waivers. It was last updated Jan. 4, 2022.
Believe it or not, there’s been a major silver lining for travel during the pandemic: Airlines went to extraordinary lengths to give travelers more flexibility. Had a flight scheduled over the last year that you didn’t want to take? You could change it without hefty fees – or cancel it and get a voucher.
But now, that free change free-for-all is over. As the pandemic recedes and travel rebounds, airlines have ended that practice. The cheapest basic economy fares no longer can be changed or canceled, period – not even for a fee. Fortunately, you can still get free change and cancellation on your flights … you’ll just have to pay a bit more for it.
In the midst of COVID-19, airlines permanently ditched change fees: first on domestic tickets, and then on international trips, too. But on nearly all airlines, basic economy fares no longer qualify. So if you want that flexibility, you’ll have to pay a bit extra for a main cabin ticket. In many cases, that additional flexibility can easily be worth the extra $50 to $70 above what you’d pay for basic economy.
But with travelers on edge and COVID-19 cases skyrocketing,
Want a full refund instead of a voucher for future travel? Read our guide on getting refunds from your airline.
Here’s a look at how each airline handles changes and cancellation policies now.
U.S. Airlines’ Change Fee Policies
For more than a year, Alaska offered free change and cancellation on any flight, from a first class ticket to even the cheapest basic economy fare. But those days are over.
Going forward, you’ll need to buy at least a main cabin fare with Alaska to be able to change or cancel for free. New Alaska basic economy fares (which the airline calls “Saver fares”) can no longer be changed or canceled.
Alaska has gone a bit farther than its competitors with some added flexibility over the next month or so, but it’s very narrow. Any ticket booked before Dec. 28, 2021 for travel through Jan. 16, 2022, can be changed for free – and without a fare difference. But that’s only true if your rescheduled trip is done by Feb. 16, 2022.
American Airlines ended the free change free-for-all earlier than almost anyone.
While its competitors extended those policies much farther, American let it lapse way back on March 31, 2021. American basic economy fares purchased from April 1 and onwards can’t be changed or canceled.
That means you’ll have to buy at least a main cabin fare to get a one-time free change or cancellation when flying with American.
Delta Air Lines
Delta was one of the first major airlines to extend free change and cancellation to any ticket. These days, it’s a bit more complicated.
Like other major U.S. carriers, Delta has done away with change fees so long as you buy a main cabin fare or higher. That means you can change flights without paying a fee (though you’d be on the hook for a fare difference) or cancel and get a Delta eCredit. Delta main cabin fares typically cost $50 to $70 more roundtrip within the U.S. – or $150 or more for international flights.
But the airline has done something a bit different with Delta basic economy. Just last month, the airline announced it would allow flyers buying its cheapest tickets to cancel … for a fee.
Canceling a flight within the U.S. or to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America will cost $99. To cancel a long-haul international flight, it’ll cost you $199. That means canceling a $250 flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Denver (DEN) would get you a $151 Delta eCredit. For a $700 flight to Amsterdam (AMS), you’d get just $501 in eCredits.
That’s more flexibility than these fares had prior to the pandemic, as they couldn’t be changed or canceled, period. Still, it might be worth paying a bit more to get free change and cancellation – plus all the other perks like free seat assignment and earning Delta SkyMiles.
JetBlue was the last major U.S. airline still offering free change and cancellation on all fares. But those days are over, too.
As of June 9, 2021, you can still change or cancel any newly booked JetBlue basic economy fares. Like Delta, you’ll just have to pay for it.
More expensive Blue fares and up can still be changed or canceled for free going forward. But if you buy a Blue Basic fare, you’ll have to pay $100 to change or cancel a flight within the U.S. or to the Mexico or Caribbean, and $200 for all other routes.
Both cash bookings and award tickets booked with points are eligible. Canceled flights will get a travel credit for JetBlue.
There’s one exception: JetBlue is waiving change and cancellation fees on all fares for travel through January 2022. And you can change your flights or use a travel credit to rebook a trip all the way through the end of JetBlue’s schedule, which will go as far out as
Even budget airlines have gotten back to normal.
For many months, Spirit waived all change and cancellation fees on its fares. But now, the airline has returned to its normal change fee system, with higher fees to change or cancel a flight the closer you get to departure.
- 60+ days: Free
- 15-59 days: $39
- 7-14 days: $59
- 0-6 days: $79
All Southwest tickets can always be canceled or changed without incurring a fee, though fare differences may still apply.
Sun Country no longer has a special policy in place to handle change or cancellation during COVID-19. But its normal change policy waives change and cancellation fees for all flights at least 60 days ahead of departure.
New United basic economy fares can no longer be changed nor canceled, period – not even for a fee. After extending a policy through the end of 2021, that has ended.
And that means you’ll need to buy at least a main cabin economy ticket or higher in order to change or cancel your United flight for free down the line.
Free Cancellation on Tickets Booked with Miles?
You’re in luck – maybe.
Many of these same major U.S. airlines are applying the same free change and cancellation policies to award tickets booked using miles. But it varies by situation, so read closely.
- Alaska Airlines: Alaska is treating award bookings essentially the same as cash tickets. That means any award ticket booked using Alaska miles can be changed or canceled for free to get your miles back. But there’s one big catch: That only applies to flights on Alaska itself. Canceling partner award tickets on carriers like Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific will still incur a fee.
- American Airlines: American has completely eliminated its $150 redeposit fees for award tickets.
- Delta: Delta was among the most generous policies for SkyMiles award tickets, with free change and cancellation on any of them. But now, only main cabin award tickets can be canceled without fee – you’ll get your miles and taxes and fees back automatically. For Delta’s basic economy awards, you’ll forfeit 9,900 SkyMiles when canceling a domestic award trip (or to Mexico, Canada, Central America, or the Caribbean) and a whopping 19,900 SkyMiles for international journeys.
- Southwest: Same as always: You can change or cancel your flight booked with Rapid Rewards points for free.
- United: United allows you to change a mileage redemption without paying a fee, and it will waive redeposit fees for all award travel so long as you cancel more than 30 days before departure.
Travelers are returning and airlines are climbing their way out of the crisis. And that means the days of unprecedented flexibility when booking flights are over. Even as uncertainty creeps back into travel with the spread of the Omicron variant, few airlines are willing to go back to the old ways.
But it’s not all bad news. Airlines’ moves to eliminate most change fees for good means there’s still a way to book your flights worry-free. You’ll just have to pay a bit more for it.