Airline Cancellation Policies, What You Should Know

What You Should Know About Airline Cancellation Policies

Airline Cancellation Policies, What You Should Know

When it comes to the three legacy carriers of airlines in the US, United, Delta, American, you are extremely restricted in the flexibility of the ticket that you purchased based on a number of factors. Knowing an airline’s policy when it comes to a cancellation or schedule change can save you a lot of time.

Did you pay for a full fare economy or basic economy? Possibly purchased a flexible fare ticket? Are you a top tier status holder with the particular airline you bought the ticket with? Knowing what you are entitled to is something the airlines count on you not being aware of. Even when it comes to booking award flights using your miles. There are fees to cancel and have miles redeposited back into a frequent flyer account.

Recently, airlines have made some drastic changes to their cancellation policies that can adversely effect your travel plans. With the airlines severely hurting financially at this current moment in time and with people being forced to cancel their travels plans. Airlines are doing what they can to keep their assets. I’m sure you guessed, Airlines are changing cancellation policies in their favor. This is not good for the customer.

There was a standard. Airlines that changed your itinerary by more than two hours, would entitle a person to a full refund. The cancellation fees would be waived. There was also the ability to re-book another flight, with waived changes fees . If you do have a schedule that doesn’t work for you, DO NOT accept the changes. Instead contact the airline to discuss your options with an agent.

It should be known, with any flight booked in the US, customers are entitled a 24 hour refund grace period in which they can cancel any flight that they booked. Provided the flight falls within that 24 hour window per the US DOT.

This Post Contains Schedule Change/Cancellation Policies Info for…

  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines

American Airlines

The biggest airline, American Airlines has just recently changed their schedule change policy, for the worse in my opinion. American Airlines will refund a flight if it is cancelled. Or, if the newly scheduled flight that was changed from the original flight, falls within a 4 hour time difference. Also, if your flight was a non-stop flight and is now changed to an itinerary with a connection. This only applies to NEW BOOKINGS as of April 8, 2020. It used to only apply to a 2 hour rule and not a 4 hour rule.

So if you booked a ticket before April 8, 2020 and your itinerary changed by more than 2 hours, or you are rebooked from a non-stop to a connecting flight, you are entitled to a refund.

What happens if your flight falls under a 4 schedule change? Well you are still able to rebook a different flight without incurring the normal change fees(for now), you can also cancel and rebook at a later date while still retaining the full value of the ticket. This is subject to change however, albeit after this COVID pandemic.

For irregular operations within 72 hours of your flight, American Airlines will refund a non-refundable ticket if a delay of 90 minutes or more happens.

Delta Airlines

Per Delta’s Website:

“Delta is waiving all change fees for travel impacted by coronavirus. This applies to all domestic and international travel departing in March, April or May 2020, as well as all tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020. Delta has been very flexible in all of this.

If your travel is eligible for a waiver, you can move your travel dates and even select a new destination. An unused ticket will be applied toward a new flight. In some instances a fare difference will apply. If the new fare is lower, you will receive an eCredit for the difference. If the new fare is higher, the difference will be collected.” 

Delta has been quite relaxed on their cancellation policy during the COVID outbreak.

Delta’s normal cancellation policy goes a little something like this…

“If you purchased a non-refundable ticket, a cancellation fee will be deducted from the original cost of your flight. Any remaining value will be provided as an eCredit that can be used towards the purchase of another ticket. Some tickets, such as Basic Economy fares, cannot be changed or cancelled.

Cancellation fees start at $200 depending on your itinerary (subject to change – the applicable fee is listed in the Fare Rules for your ticket), and you will receive the remaining value of your ticket as an eCredit. You must use your eCredit within one year from the date the ticket was issued.

If there is a flight cancellation or significant delay, you will be rebooked on an alternative flight or your ticket will be converted to an eCredit for future Delta travel.  However, in some instances, you may be entitled to request a refund of any unused portion of your non-refundable ticket. Fill out the form to request a refund for an upcoming trip if Delta canceled or significantly delayed your flight, and you would like a refund to the original form of payment.” Quoted from

United Airlines

Since March 6, 2020, United has changed their policy now 4 times. The former policy stated, that if United gave you a schedule change that was 2 hours or more or put you on a flight that included a connection when you booked non-stop, you were entitled to a refund.

United’s policy was, you could only get a refund if your flight schedule was changed by at least 25 hours. This even applied to tickets bought before the policy was implemented.

Then United changed their policy to offer a refund on a “case-by-case” basis.

United, once again, updated their policy. You’re entitled to a refund if you have a schedule change of at least six hours.

This applies to all retroactive tickets which makes this even better for customers (heavy sarcasm). Now here is the real kicker. With a new schedule change, United will give you a voucher to re-book with. That is only good for 12 Months. If you as the customer do not use the voucher after it expires in 12 months, you can “then” request a cash refund.

Per United:

Our goal remains to automatically re-book as many customers as possible within 6 hours of their originally scheduled flight. For any customer whose international travel is disrupted by more than 6 hours because of schedule changes resulting from government restrictions, they will retain a credit equal to the value of their ticket. That credit can be used towards any flight to any destination for 12 months from the time of purchase. If the customer chooses not to use the credit, they will receive a refund to their original form of payment at the end of that 12 month period.

Importantly, this new way of helping customers manage through changing flight schedules also applies to residents from other countries that effectively can no longer travel to the U.S. because they would face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival as well as customers impacted more broadly by government-mandated travel restrictions or quarantines. In addition this change also maintains our ability to manage our business through this evolving and difficult set of circumstances.

United has probably been the worst airline to try and get a refund from. They do not make it easy whatsoever for its customers. Furthermore their literature regarding their cancellation/schedule change policies are extremely difficult to find, if not almost impossible.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines have been quite clear and concise with their refund policies. in order to cancel your ticket online and receive a refund or credit, your purchased reservation must:

  • Have been issued at, Alaska Airlines reservation call center or an Alaska ticket counter.
  • The ticket does Not contain a Saver Fare (basic economy) beyond the first 24 hours after booking.
  • It doesn’t contain a government fare.
  • Must not be more than one year from date of original purchase. May not be partially used tickets and not be more than one year from original outbound travel date.
  • It cannot be part of a group or vacation package booking.
  • Not contain an unaccompanied minor booked on a carrier other than Alaska Airlines.
  • Have been ticketed using US dollars as the form of currency.

Refundable reservations that meet the criteria above may be refunded to original form of payment.

If your reservation is not eligible for an online refund or credit. You may still cancel your reservation online and use the value in an exchange for another ticket.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest is by far one of the best airlines out there. Many people criticize them but I however love them as they are an absolutely “No-frills” airline. They are upfront on almost everything and you get what you pay for. Not only that, they have one of the best refund and schedule change/cancellation policies out there.

Southwest is known for having “ZERO” change fees. Simply pay the difference in fare price. If the fare is less than what you paid, you will be refunded the difference.

For cancelled flights you are eligible for a refund to the original form of payment.

If you want to or if you need to cancel your flight. It can be credited for a future use and will show up in MyTrips on Keep record of the flight locator number on the itinerary in order to use the funds on a later date. With the COVID Crisis being a real jerk. Southwest is making major exceptions to their already flexible policy. So getting a full refund is very likely.

Southwest is known for having zero change fees

Bottom Line

When it comes to attempting to get any type of refund from an airline, its always tricky. This is because each has a different policies and some of which make it extremely difficult.

If you find yourself in a situation with a cancellation or a schedule change. Currently or in the future, the best advice for dealing with any of the airlines would be:

  • Familiarize yourself with the Dept of Transportation’s guidelines and laws regarding schedule changes and cancellations.
  • Press your case and be persistent with the airline agents while being polite and keep yourself calm. Representatives handling calls are very overwhelmed. Remember, “you get more bees with honey than vinegar.”
  • Cite the policies from DOT. Try contacting the airline through social media like Twitter.
  • If you get someone who will just not budge or doesn’t let you talk with a supervisor, (HUCA) Hang-Up and Call Again. You may have to do this a couple of times to get someone who really knows what they are doing.
  • Make sure you keep record of dates and times you contacted the airline. Also, giving them all pertinent flight info as well. The more info, the stronger the claim you have.
  • File a complaint with the airline, again citing the DOT Policies.
  • Contact your Credit Card company. Dispute the charge, especially if it was paid and a product was not delivered on. Make sure you use a credit card with travel protections.