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The latest flexible policies at major airlines in the wake of coronavirus

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

With the coronavirus outbreak now a global pandemic, the travel industry has come to a halt.

U.S. airlines have responded to the virus by suspending travel to various international destinations through the spring, and most gatherings around the world have been canceled altogether amid a steady rise in new infections.

To help quell travelers’ worries over trips that are being disrupted, airlines have begun adding flexibility to their policies. If you had planned a trip for the near future, or were considering one further out, here are your options.

(Note: Due to the rapidly changing nature of coronavirus and its effects on air travel, it’s a good idea to check directly with your airline.)


Delta is waiving change fees for travelers on both international and domestic flight through May 31 for tickets issued during the months of March, April and May. In an unprecedented move for the industry, Delta is extending the life of previously purchased tickets for two years, meaning they can be rescheduled or used as “eCredit” for future tickets purchased through May 31, 2022.

In addition to suspending travel from the United States to Shanghai and Beijing, Delta is giving customers the option to make a one-time change without any fees for people whose plans included Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul and all locations in Italy, including such popular locations as Bologna, Milan, Rome, Turin and Venice, through April 30.

Virgin Atlantic

For tickets originally purchased during the month of March and including all travel dates through Dec. 31, Virgin has waived change fees for travel through April 30, 2021. Tickets that travelers have selected for a future date can be reissued up to the day before departure for the one-time change.

“Virgin Atlantic wants to offer as much flexibility as possible for our customers impacted by the rapidly accelerating Covid-19 situation,” representatives for the airline said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“We’re helping customers with upcoming travel plans rebook free of charge, to change their destination or date of travel, or receive a voucher and hold their ticket open, up until 30th April 2021. Where a flight is cancelled, we encourage our customers to discuss their options with us, including booking on an alternative date.”

Alaska Airlines

Alaska has waived change and cancellation fees for travel through April 30 for tickets purchased through the end of February until now. In addition to the fee waiver on all fares, travelers can deposit the funds from canceled trips into their accounts for use on any future Alaska flights through Feb. 28, 2021.

American Airlines

As of this week, American has extended its change-fee waiver through Sept. 30, 2020, for flights that were set for this summer, bought on or before April 7. The waiver encompasses all of American’s fare types, and travelers can rebook for travel through Dec. 31, 2021.

Change fees are also ditched for new flights purchased recently, on or after March 1, and through May 31.

The waiver extension is on top of the already-in-place no-change fee for trips that have been scheduled for various dates and international locations including Italy; South Korea; Hong Kong; Wuhan, China; and the rest of mainland China.

United Airlines

United Airlines tweeted this week that, through April 30, it is waiving change and cancel fees on all new flights booked through the end of the year. This new policy is in addition to all of their previous waivers.

Through June 30, United is waiving the change fee and any difference in fare for the same cities as the original ticket for many affected areas, including Northern Italy and South Korea. Due to flight suspensions in place for Asia, United is refunding flights, even nonrefundable tickets, to mainland China and Hong Kong.

Hawaiian Airlines

Travelers who booked any Hawaiian flights between the months of March and May can change their tickets to a future date without incurring change fees. This is a one-time change fee waiver for future travel.

Customers can take advantage of the waiver up to 24 hours before their flight, but if the future flight costs more than the previous one, Hawaiian won’t cover the difference.

Spirit Airlines

For travel plans interrupted due to the outbreak, Spirit travelers will receive a credit for the full value of their reservation. This credit can be redeemed for travel within 12 months of the issue date. For those who were previously issued a six-month credit, they will be automatically extended to the full 12.

In a statement to The Washington Post, the airline says "the credit can be used over multiple bookings until the full value is used and can be applied toward airfare, bags, seats and vacation packages.”


JetBlue will waive change and cancel fees for travelers who bought tickets from March 10 through April 30. For travel through Oct. 24, the original ticket must have been booked on or before March 10.

The airline announced in February it was suspending change and cancel fees for new flights booked from Feb. 27 through March 11. The policy runs through June 1 as the company anticipated the spread of the coronavirus into one of JetBlue’s travel areas.

Read more:

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