Travel News

The US Airlines’ Coronavirus Waivers Are About Business, Not Customers

Written by Charlie

The US airlines have announced their coronavirus change fee waivers. However, these waivers make it clear it is all about business, not the customers

With United adding their coronavirus waivers last night, we now have all the major US airlines offering change fee waivers on travel, due to coronavirus. However, these coronavirus change fee waivers are not about helping their customers but all about attracting business. Let’s take a look.

Edit: US airlines have made adjustments to their policies to cover earlier flights as well but only up through the end of April. Check this post for more info.

The US Airlines Offering Coronavirus Change Fee Waivers Are Not As Generous As They Appear

Want to change your ticket due to coronavirus? If you are an early booker, you are out of luck

Here are the coronavirus change fee waivers by US airlines. Watch for a common denominator in these fee waivers. All bolding in the waivers is mine.

The Airlines’ Coronavirus Change Fee Waivers

Alaska Airlines – Coronavirus Change Fee Waiver

Link: Alaska Change Fee Waiver

If you purchase a Saver fare between February 27, 2020 and March 12, 2020 for travel through June 30, 2020, you may:

  1. Cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet.

If you purchase a nonrefundable First Class or Main fare between February 27, 2020 and March 12, 2020 for travel through June 30, 2020, you may:

  1. Make a one-time change with no change fee. New travel must be completed by December 31, 2020. A fare difference may apply to your new itinerary.
  2. Cancel your trip and deposit the funds into My Account wallet.
American Airlines – Coronavirus Change Fee Waiver

Link: AA Change Fee Waiver

  • If you purchased a ticket on American Airlines between March 1, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. CT and March 16, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CT, you may change your flight once without paying a change fee if the change is made at least 14 days in advance of your outbound travel date.
  • Tickets must be purchased for travel between March 1, 2020 and January 26, 2021.
  • We will waive the change fee only on published Non-Refundable Fare tickets.
  • Tickets must be purchased between March 1, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. CT and March 16, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CT, with original travel between March 1, 2020 and January 26, 2021.
  • Changes must be made at least 14 days prior to the departure of your original flight.
  • New travel must be completed within 1 year of original ticket issue date.
Delta Air Lines – Coronavirus Change Fee Waiver

Link: Delta Change Fee Waiver

We are allowing customers to make a one-time change to travel plans without a fee if your plans include these cities:

  • Shanghai and Beijing, China – through April 30. Details here.
  • Seoul, South Korea – through April 30. Details here.
  • All locations in Italy, including Bologna, Milan, Rome, Turin and Venice – through April 30. Details here.

We made these changes after receiving updated CDC guidance regarding travel to these locations. Read CDC’s travel health notices here.

In addition, we are waiving change fees for all flights booked with departures between March 1 and 31 to any international destination, as well as international flights previously booked that are scheduled to fly in March. These waivers apply to all travel outside the U.S. as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. See more details on delta.com.

(RwM Note)There is something strange with this policy, however. The above says that change fees are waived for all flights booked with departures between March 1 and 31. But, another page says it applies to all flights booked between March 1 and 31. So, if you booked a flight for travel this month prior to this month, check your reservation to see if it allows for fee-free changes.

JetBlue – Coronavirus Change Fee Waiver

Link: JetBlue Change Fee Waiver

  • Due to evolving coronavirus concerns, we are suspending JetBlue change and cancel fees for all new flight bookings made between February 27, 2020 and March 11, 2020 for travel through June 1, 2020.
  • While there are no current travel restrictions to the locations we fly, customers can book with confidence on jetblue.com and jetbluevacations.com and know that changes or cancellations will be allowed without penalty should the situation change.
  • In the event you need to make a change to bookings made between the qualifying dates above, visit the Manage Flights section of jetblue.com or contact us for assistance.
  • JetBlue change/cancel fee waiver applies to bookings made February 27 through March 11, 2020 (“Booking Window”) for travel on or before June 1, 2020.
  • Fare differences may apply.
  • Eligible changes made will receive a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit in the amount of the flight fare plus any applicable taxes and fees, valid for one year from date of issuance toward future JetBlue air travel only.
  • Rebookings are permitted during the Booking Window; after the Booking Window, only the first rebooking will be eligible under this policy, and will be subject to the fare rules and Contract of Carriage in effect at time of this rebooking.
United Airlines – Coronavirus Change Fee Waiver

Link: United Change Fee Waiver

  • Tickets: For tickets issued March 3 through March 31, 2020, customers will be permitted to change free of charge to a flight of equal or lesser value up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date. If the new flight is priced higher, the customer may change for no fee but must pay the fare difference. If the customer decides to cancel their flight, they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without fee for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.
  • Cancellations: If the customer decides to cancel the flight they booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020, they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without fee for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.
  • Fare Validity: This applies to all tickets, all fare types, all destinations, all points-of-sale, all travel dates available for sale, provided ticket number starts with 016.
  • Minimum Stay: No minimum stay.
  • Blackout Dates: No blackout dates.
  • Miscellaneous: Fares, fees, rules and offers are subject to change without notice. Seats are capacity-controlled and may not be available on all flights or days. Fares are nonrefundable except during the first 24 hours after purchase. Other restrictions may apply.

(RwM Note) For sure, the United Airlines change fee waiver is more encompassing than the others since it works on any kind of ticket anywhere in their network (not just international which is what Delta is doing).  Plus, it can be cancelled or changed without having to do it more than 14 days out (like AA requires). Still, it does not protect the thousands of ticket holders who booked prior to March 3.

What Is Missing In All These Change Fee Waivers?

So, how is this about business and not about past customers? You may notice that each of these change fee waivers (with the somewhat contrary wording by Delta as a possible exception) follow two key common denominators:

  • You don’t get your money back but it is rather travel credit that must be used within a certain timeframe
  • None of these policies apply to any customers that booked prior to February 26, 2020

That’s right – these policies for change fee waivers are meant to attract customer purchases, not respect the customers that had made ticket purchases long before coronavirus became a global concern. This means that if you have a ticket purchased for travel someplace and you feel it is not in your best interest to travel by air right now, you are out of luck and will have to eat the change fee.

These policies were meant to draw people towards purchasing airline tickets while so many are nervous about travel right now. It is to increase airline business in the face of a travel drought, not support the customers that had been in the system long before coronavirus/COVD-19 was even a thing.

On one hand, I get it. If they offered a fee waiver to everyone, there very well could be a mass stampede of cancellations/changes occurring that could leave certain flights flying out pretty empty.

On the other hand, the airlines are still not giving people the money back – it is a travel credit that still must be used. That means the only thing that the airlines are saving on is the change fees that are pure profit for them since it is all IT and doesn’t even require a human on their end.

Bottom Line

If you booked your tickets before February 26/27, the airlines do not currently offer you a waiver for your change fees. The one exception is if they have cancelled/suspended flights to your destination. This shows their latest waiver offers are all about getting new customers, not keeping their current customers feeling comfortable with the situation.

However, if the virus continues to spread and become an issue where you are set to fly to, changes may come your way from the airlines. So, just keep your eyes open for those waiver/suspension notices!

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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