How much does it cost to change or cancel a flight?

How much does it cost to change or cancel a flight?

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The cost to change or cancel a flight depends upon the specific details of an airline's policy, which vary by airline. In some cases, you can make changes to your itinerary with no fee.

A simple way to change or cancel a flight without paying a fee is to do so within 24 hours of booking. After this window, the next option is to wait for the airline to make a change to the flight — the departure time, the aircraft, etc. — which will automatically grant you a refund if you change or cancel. Otherwise, you can cancel at no cost if your flight is with Southwest, if you have proof of a family emergency or, in some cases, if you hold elite status with an airline.

If you intend to cancel a flight due to COVID-19, many airlines are making special exceptions to waive cancellation fees. We detail the cancellation policies of 10 major U.S. airlines, and changes they have made to these policies in reaction to the outbreak.

How much does it cost to change a flight?

Every major U.S. airline (except Southwest Airlines) charges penalty fees to change or cancel an economy fare flight. The fees, however, can vary from as low as $75 on a domestic flight to more than $500 on an international flight. If you have elite status with a particular carrier, however, you can likely change your flight for free or for a reduced cost. Below, we've broken out the fees for these 10 major U.S. airlines.

Airline Flight Change and Cancellation Fees for Economy Fares

CarrierDomestic changeInternational changeSame-day change
Alaska Airlines$125$25/$50
Allegiant Air$75
American Airlines$200Up to $750$75/$150
Delta Air Lines$200$200–$500$75
Frontier AirlinesUp to $119Up to $119
Hawaiian Airlines$200$50–$300
JetBlue$75–$200$75–$200$75
Southwest AirlinesFreeFreeFree
Spirit AirlinesUp to $100Up to $100
United Airlines$200Up to $400$75

Alaska Airlines change fees

If you've booked an Alaska Airlines ticket far enough in advance, you might be able to change it for free — the airline offers free ticket changes up until 60 days before a flight. For same-day confirmed changes, you’ll usually have to pay $50. The fee is only $25, however, if your same-day change is within California, between Alaskan cities Anchorage and Fairbanks, between Seattle and Portland, Ore., or between Seattle and Spokane, Wash. Flights that are wholly within the state of Alaska can be changed on the same day for free.

Alaska Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Alaska Airlines is offering no change or cancellation fees for the following:

  • Tickets purchased on or before Feb. 26, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2020.
  • New tickets purchased between Feb. 27 and March 31, 2020.

If your travel is planned after these dates, the Alaska Airlines website will have up-to-date information on the coronavirus situation.

Allegiant Air change fees

On Allegiant Air, an ultra-low-cost carrier, all flights are nonrefundable, but the airline gives a credit voucher if you change or cancel an eligible trip. Allegiant charges a $75 fee to change a segment, which means that the total cost of altering both legs of a round trip would be $150. Within seven days of travel, no changes are allowed and no credit is given, unless you purchased Allegiant's “Trip Flex” add-on at the time of booking.

Allegiant Air coronavirus change fee policy

If you decide to cancel, a voucher for the full amount of the current itinerary will be issued for future travel on Allegiant. The voucher must be used to purchase and complete travel within one year of the original booking date.

For updated information, see the Allegiant Air website.

American Airlines change fees

If you book your flight at least two days before departure, American Airlines allows you to cancel and get a refund within 24 hours of purchasing. If you wait, you’ll have to pay a $200 change fee on domestic flights and up to $750 on international flights. For nonrefundable fares, American Airlines will grant a refund if a traveling companion dies, the flight schedule changes by more than an hour or, in the case of military personnel, orders change or if there is a change in duty.

American Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

American Airlines is currently charging the following fees:

  • Any ticket purchases prior to March 1 will not incur change fees prior to travel. Customers must pay any fare difference, if applicable, at time of ticketing of the new fare.
  • This is available for any of American’s fares for travel through April 30.
  • The new ticket must be reissued on or before Dec. 21, or 12 months from the original ticket date (whichever is earlier). Travel must also commence on or before Dec. 31 or one year from original issue date, whichever is sooner.

For updated information, see the American Airlines website.

Delta Air Lines change fees

Delta Air Lines ties with American and United for least consumer-friendly flight change policies in the industry. The airline charges a minimum $200 change fee, with an extra $50 on top of that if tickets were purchased through a travel agency (Delta cites both “traditional” and online agencies) or a partner airline. The airline also does not allow changes on basic economy tickets and tickets purchased through a third-party website, like Expedia.

Delta Air Lines coronavirus change fee policy

Delta Air Lines currently lists the following fees:

  • All travelers departing in March or April 2020 are eligible to have their change fees waived.
  • Any tickets expiring in March or April can be reused as credit until Dec. 31, 2020.
  • Any missed flights will become unused eCredit within 24 hours of the flight departing.

For updated information, see the Delta Air Lines website.

Frontier Airlines change fees

Frontier Airlines charges up to a $119 cancellation fee and refunds the remainder of the ticket price in the form of a travel credit, which is valid for three months. If at the time of booking, however, you purchased THE WORKS, a ticket add-on, you can get a full refund on your ticket. THE WORKS also provides other benefits that don't come with Frontier's basic ticket, such as a carry-on bag, checked bag, seat selection and priority boarding.

Frontier Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Before the outbreak of coronavirus, Frontier Airlines didn’t have change fees 60 days or more before departure, and this policy remains consistent. However, Frontier Airlines’ current change fee policy lists these additional details:

You can complete a one-time change free of charge if one of the following steps are taken:

  • Change to new flight of equal or lesser value
  • Change to new flight at higher price
  • Cancel flight. You will keep the value of the ticket, and it can be applied toward the purchase of a future ticket. This future ticket can be booked, but not traveled, within 90 days of cancellation.
  • To change your reservation for travel before April 30, visit the Manage Trip page on the Frontier page. The change fee will automatically be waived. For changes needed for travel booked between May 1 through Nov. 9, 2020, call Frontier.
  • To cancel your reservation and retain the ticket value, go to Frontier’s website to manage your itinerary. The cancellation fee will be automatically waived for bookings with travel through April 30. To request a cancellation for travel from May 1 through Nov. 9, 2020, complete this form. Select the “COVID-19 Cancel” option from the drop down.
  • For changed flights, travel must be completed by Nov. 9, 2020.

For updated information, see the Frontier Airlines website.

Hawaiian Airlines change fees

Hawaiian Airlines charges a relatively steep change fee — $200 — in comparison to other domestic airlines. The airline also doesn’t allow same-day changes on flights between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii, though it does allow free same-day changes on flights between neighboring islands. To get a full refund on a Hawaiian Airlines flight, the airline must make a significant change to your flight itinerary. If it moves the departure time by more than 90 minutes, for example, you're eligible for a refund.

Hawaiian Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Hawaiian Airlines currently has waivers for flights purchased between March 1 and March 31 with the following terms:

  • This waiver allows a one-time change per ticket without fee. Any subsequent changes will be subject to regular change rules and applicable to the originally ticketed fare(s).
  • The change fee will be waived, but any applicable fare difference will be collected for the new flight.
  • To receive the one-time waiver of change fee, guests must contact Hawaiian Airlines no later than 24 hours prior to departure.
  • Guests who have purchased their tickets through a travel agency will need to request changes directly through their agency.
  • Voluntary changes made to the origin, destination and/or via/stopover point will be permitted without a change fee. However, any applicable fare difference will apply.
  • Refund rules of original ticketed fares will apply.
  • Hawaiian Airlines Reservations handling fees and HawaiianMiles award redeposit fees will be waived.

Additional details are available for travel waivers affecting Australia, New Zealand and other countries directly affected by coronavirus on the Hawaiian Airlines website.

JetBlue change fees

For Blue and Blue Plus tickets, JetBlue charges $75 plus the difference in fare if you change your ticket more than 60 days before departure. You only have to pay the difference in fare if you change 60 days before departure. Within 60 days of the flight date, JetBlue has different rules for changes: $75 plus the difference in airfare for fares under $100; $100 plus the difference in airfare for fares between $100 and $149; and $150 plus the difference in airfare for fares $150 and above. Blue Basic (basic economy) does not allow for any changes. Blue Extra allows changes, while Mint requires a $200 change fee.

JetBlue coronavirus change fee policy

JetBlue currently has the following change fee policy:

  • Customers with existing bookings will have their waive change/cancel fees waived for itineraries planned for March 10, 2020 through April 30, 2020.
  • Customers may rebook their flights through Oct. 24, 2020. You can rebook online or by calling JetBlue prior to the departure time of their originally scheduled flight. The original itinerary must have been booked on or before March 10, 2020.
  • Cancellation funds will be issued as a JetBlue Travel Bank Credit, which is valid for one year from the day it was issued.

For updated information, see the JetBlue website.

Southwest Airlines change fees

On Southwest, both flight changes and cancellations are free. If you want to change a ticket, you only have to pay the difference in fare. Refunds on canceled flights are given as a travel credit, which can be used within one year of the booking date. Southwest also offers free same-day changes.

Southwest Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Southwest Airlines is known for one of the most relaxed cancellation policies. Even with the coronavirus outbreak, they have kept their change fee policy the same. Their change fee policy reads:

  • The funds used to pay can be applied to future travel on Southwest Airlines — as long as customers cancel their flights at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.

For updated information, see the Southwest website.

Spirit Airlines change fees

Spirit Airlines, like all the airlines on this list, provides free changes within 24 hours of booking. After that period, the airline charges a $90 fee for modification or cancellation made online (with an extra $10 if you do so at the airport). If you want to change your flight time with same-day standby, the airline charges a $99 fee. However, if you buy Flight Flex — which is similar to Allegiant’s Trip Flex and Frontier’s THE WORKS — for as much as $45 at the time of booking, you can change your flight for free.

Spirit Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

The Spirit Airlines change fee policy currently reads:

  • Customers who must change their itinerary are eligible to receive a reservation credit for the full value of their reservation. This reservation credit can be used for up to six months to book any flight available (including beyond that six-month timeframe). It can also be used toward other options, not including third party products.
  • To change your reservation and claim your reservation credit, fill out this form.
  • If you want to request a refund of their travel insurance premiums from Travel Guard, if eligible, visit the Travel Guard website.

For updated information, see the Spirit Airlines website.

United Airlines change fees

United, along with American and Delta, has the most expensive domestic flight change fee at $200, and on international flights, this fee can be as much as $400. If you’re flying basic economy, however, it's important to note that you can’t change your flight after the 24-hour post-booking period — and if you want to cancel, you won’t be refunded at all.

United Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

The United Airlines change fee policy currently states:

  • If you are scheduled to travel March 10 through April 30, 2020 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so. United previously issued a waiver that applied to all change fees — domestic and international — for tickets purchased March 3 through March 31, 2020.

For updated information, see United Airlines website.

How to change airline tickets without a fee

The primary way to avoid paying a change fee on an airplane ticket is to change or cancel the ticket within a day of booking your trip. The Department of Transportation has a long-standing policy that requires airlines to provide free changes to consumers within 24 hours of purchasing, so long as a ticket is bought at least seven days before a flight. Once the 24-hour grace period ends, your options for modifying your itinerary for free depend on what type of ticket you have.

For travelers in coach, it’s likely that you’ll have to pay a substantial change fee if you want to alter any aspect of your trip. Discounted fares are often nonrefundable, meaning that airlines require a fee anywhere from $75 to $300 in order to change a domestic flight. Southwest Airlines is the notable exception to this standard, as the airline offers free itinerary changes.

Outside of Southwest, your best chance at changing your coach flight for free is to wait and see if the airline changes some aspect of the flight. If the airline moves the flight time by a significant margin or changes the type of aircraft, then you might be eligible for a refund.

If you haven’t yet purchased tickets for a trip and your itinerary may change, you can either book with Southwest, purchase a refundable ticket or purchase a premium cabin ticket (first and business class tickets are usually refundable). Booking with Southwest is one of the more affordable options, as the airline's tickets have the option to modify your trip baked into the cost. Other low-cost carriers also offer flexibility add-ons to their base fares, which allow travelers to make modifications to their tickets without added fees later on.

Round-trip vs. one-way

The most cost-effective strategy for altering your flight plans will depend on whether you need to change an entire round-trip itinerary or a one-way flight. If you purchased a round-trip flight and need to change the first leg to a different day, your best bet will likely be to pay the change fee and book a new flight. If you only need to change the return portion of a round trip, however, it may be cheaper to book a new one-way flight than to pay the cancellation fee.

For those looking to move their flight time to earlier or later in the day, airlines offer two different options — standby and same-day confirmed change — which usually cost $100 or less. With a same-day confirmed change, you forfeit your current ticket and pay a fee to get a guaranteed seat on another flight. With standby, you pay a fee to be placed on a waiting list for the next available flight to your destination, and you get to keep your current reservation.

If your ticket is one-way rather than round-trip, the most affordable way to change your flight may be to skip the current ticket and buy a new fare, depending on the cancellation fee charged by your airline. In some cases, the cancellation fee alone can cost more than booking a new flight altogether. Plus, airlines charge the difference in fare when you purchase a new ticket — so if you bought your ticket at $150, for example, and the current price for that fare is $275, you'd need to pay $125 on top of any cancellation fee.

While skipping a flight and buying a new one can be less expensive than paying a modification fee, it's important to note that most airlines will cancel your entire itinerary if you miss the first leg of a round trip. As such, this strategy should be used only on one-way flight reservations and return legs of round trips. If you do pursue this option, it's advisable to compare fares at different airlines to find the cheapest one-way flight from your origin to destination.

Credit cards with travel insurance

If you can't get your money back by canceling a trip through an airline, you may be able to do so through your credit card company. Credit cards with travel insurance can be used to reimburse nonrefundable expenses on canceled trips. If you used a credit card with this perk to purchase any part of your trip, you might be eligible for a refund if your trip is a “covered loss.” Depending on the card, you may be refunded up to $20,000. For most card issuers, covered losses include: injury, illness or death of a traveling partner or business partner, weather, terrorism and jury duty.

In general, trip cancellation and trip interruption are covered by credit cards with travel insurance. Both cardholders and immediate family members tend to be covered with credit card travel insurance, even if the primary cardholder isn't traveling on a trip. Card issuers typically don't cover trips that last over a certain length, such as 60 days, or ones that are canceled because of a change in your plans or your personal finances.

Common reasons airlines waive change fees

In a few circumstances, airlines allow travelers to cancel or change their flights for free. The most common cancellations for which airlines waive change fees are in cases of personal injury or illness, jury duty, natural disasters, family death and military deployment. In all of these cases, you should call the airline's customer service line to explain your situation. Be prepared to provide proof of the reason for the requested change or cancellation, as most airlines will require you to submit supporting documentation.

Depending on the airline and your situation, you'll either receive a travel credit or a monetary refund after your change is approved. Airlines will usually waive the change fee and grant a travel credit that can be used within a year of the original booking date.

Many airlines are waiving their change fees during the COVID-19 outbreak, and allowing customers to receive full refunds or credits for flights at a later time. Each airline has a slightly different policy, so be sure to contact them for the exact terms.

Award tickets change and cancellation policy

If you booked your tickets with credit card points, you'll likely still have to pay a change or cancellation fee. United Airlines, for example, charges a fee of $125 if, 60 or fewer days before departure, you want to change your flight or cancel with a redeposit of awards points. Before 60 days, the United fee to change or cancel a rewards flight is $75. Other major airlines have similar fees to change your awards travel or cancel and redeposit your miles.

It's important to note that the rules for awards programs vary from airline to airline. In addition, there may be different rules depending on whether you transferred points from your credit card's general rewards program. If you're unsure about the rules of your particular program or airline, it's best to call the customer service number and speak with a representative about your options.

Yowana is a former product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

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Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).