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. United Airlines was the first major U.S. airline to permanently eliminate change and cancellation fees — and other airlines quickly followed suit. While there are a few exceptions to be wary of, it's easier than ever before to adjust your itinerary. 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

Domestic change
International change
Same-day change
Alaska Airlines$0$25-$50
Allegiant Air$75
American Airlines$0$0$75-$150
Delta Air Lines$0$0$75
Frontier Airlines$0-59$0-$59$59
Hawaiian Airlines$0$0
Southwest Airlines$0$0$0
Spirit Airlines$90-100$90-100$99
United Airlines$0Up to $400$0
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Alaska Airlines change fees

Alaska Airlines is among many airlines that have permanently eliminated its change and cancellation fees, applying to both standard and first class fares. However, same-day change fees will still apply. For standard and first class flights, same-day confirmed changes incur a $50 fee, while flights entirely within California or Alaska's shuttle markets will incur a $25 fee. MileagePlan MVP Gold or 75K members can make free same-day flight changes.

Alaska Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Alaska Airlines is currently offering their "Peace of Mind" waiver, offering no change or cancellation fees for all tickets (including saver fares) purchased through March 31, 2021. You can receive a refund on your Alaska Airlines account or receive a credit for future travel.

For tickets purchased after the Peace of Mind waiver expires — on or after April 1, 2021 — change fees remain permanently eliminated on Main and First Class tickets. The major change that will take into effect is that saver fares cannot be changed or canceled.

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

Allegiant Air has a stringent change and cancellation policy, which should come as no surprise as an ultra-low-cost carrier. You must change or cancel your flight at least seven days before travel, and Allegiant charges a $75 fee per segment — meaning that the total cost of altering both legs of a roundtrip flight would be $150. Allegiant will not refund the difference nor the carrier charges or any other booking fees, and you'll receive a non-refundable, non-transferable voucher for future travel up to two years from the original booking date. 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

Customers can currently make a one-time flight change without any fees, but you will be responsible for any fare difference. If canceling your flight, you'll receive a flight voucher for the full amount of the current itinerary, good for two years after the initial reservation.

For updated information, see the Allegiant Air website.

American Airlines change fees

American Airlines has also revamped many of its change and cancellation fees, allowing much more flexibility than ever before. For tickets issued on or after Aug. 31, 2020, American Airlines has permanently eliminated its change and cancellation fees for flights within the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For tickets issued on or after Nov. 19, 2020, American also permanently eliminated its change and cancellation fees on international flights originating from North and South America to Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, South America and the United Kingdom.

With either amendment, all fares except basic economy apply. Fare differences will apply, but if your new booking is cheaper, you'll receive a travel credit for a future trip.

Same-day flight changes are available on select flights for a $75 fee. Meanwhile, same-day flight changes between New York (JFK) and London (LHR) will incur a $150 fee. Customers can stand by for a same-day flight on flights within the U.S., to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for no charge.

American Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

For any existing tickets or new tickets booked by Dec. 31, 2020, change fees are waived — including basic economy and award tickets. Customers must pay any fare difference, if applicable, at the time of ticketing of the new fare. You have until Dec. 31, 2021, to use your voucher for future travel.

For updated information, see the American Airlines website.

Delta Air Lines change fees

Delta Air Lines has permanently eliminated many of its change and cancellation fees, which previously started at a minimum of $200 per ticket. There are no longer change fees for tickets within the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as for all international travel originating from North America, including SkyTeam and codeshare flights. However, basic economy fares are not included in this new policy and cannot be changed or canceled.

Same-day flight confirmed changes incur a $75 fee. While it also costs $75 for a same-day standby change, you'll only be charged if your stand-by request clears. Delta Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members are exempt from all same-day standby and change fees.

Delta Air Lines coronavirus change fee policy

Delta's Peace-of-Mind purchasing waiver has been extended until March 30, 2021, allowing you to change any flight with no fees — including basic economy. If you're canceling your flight, you'll receive an eCredit, good for one year from the original date of issuance.

For updated information, see the Delta Air Lines website.

Frontier Airlines change fees

Although Frontier Airlines is an ultra-low cost carrier, it offers a somewhat flexible change and cancellation policy compared to its competitors. Keep in mind that these fees apply per direction, meaning that changing a round-trip flight will incur fees cost double the amount listed below:

  • 60 or more days prior to departure: Incur no change fees
  • 7 to 59 days prior to departure: $39
  • 6 days or less prior to departure (including same-day changes): $59

You will be responsible for any additional fare difference. However, if your new itinerary is cheaper than your original flight, you will not receive a refund for the fare difference. Flight cancellations will be refunded as a travel credit.

If you purchased THE WORKS bundle at the time of booking, you can get a full refund on your ticket. THE WORKS also provides other benefits that don't come with Frontier's basic offerings, such as a carry-on bag, checked bag, seat selection and priority boarding.

Frontier Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Frontier Airlines is waiving all change and cancellation fees for all travel until Jan. 7, 2021 and must be made before the time of check-in. Fare differences apply for flight changes, and you'll receive a travel credit if you decide to cancel your reservation.

For updated information, see the Frontier Airlines website.

Hawaiian Airlines change fees

Hawaiian Airlines has dropped many of its change and cancellation fees, alongside many domestic airlines. You won't have to pay any fees for main cabin, extra comfort, first and premium tickets. Main cabin basic tickets cannot be changed or cancelled.

Pulani Platinum and Gold members and corporate customers are eligible for same-day standby changes to neighbor flights for no charge. All other flyers will not be able for standby.

Hawaiian Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Hawaiian Airlines currently is waiving change and cancellation fees for flights purchased until Dec. 31, 2020, for any flight — including main cabin basic tickets. For ticket cancellations, you must rebook your ticket or use your travel credit within two years of the original ticket purchase date.

Additional details are available on the Hawaiian Airlines website.

JetBlue change fees

JetBlue Airways has different change and cancellation fees based on the ticket class. The airline has not yet made any permanent changes to its policy. These are the change and cancellation fees once the coronavirus travel waiver expires on Feb. 28, 2021, plus any fare difference:

  • Blue Basic tickets: Ineligible for change or cancellation
  • Blue and Blue Plus tickets: JetBlue charges a change and cancellation fee based on the ticket price. For fares $200 or more, JetBlue charges a $200 fee. For fares $150 to $199, JetBlue charges a $150 fee. For fares $100 to $149.99, JetBlue charges a $100 fee. For fares under $99.99, JetBlue charges a $75 fee
  • Blue Extra tickets: No change or cancellation fees
  • Mint tickets: Requires $200 change fee
  • All same-day changes: $75 per person

JetBlue coronavirus change fee policy

JetBlue is currently waiving all change and cancellation fees for bookings made through Feb. 28, 2021, including Blue Basic tickets. Fare differences will apply. You'll receive a flight credit through JetBlue's Travel Bank for flight cancellations, good for one year from the date of issuance and for any traveler.

For updated information, see the JetBlue website.

Southwest Airlines change fees

Before the pandemic, Southwest Airlines was the only domestic airline not to charge any change or cancellation fees. 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 typically be used within one year of the booking date.

If you're looking for a same-day flight change, it will depend on the original ticket purchased. With a Wanna Get Away ticket, you must upgrade to the full Anytime fare in order to change to another same-day flight. Meanwhile, Southwest A-Listers can access same-day changes for free.

Southwest Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

Even with the coronavirus outbreak, they have kept their change fee policy largely the same. However, travel funds with an expiration date of Sept. 7, 2022, can be converted into Rapid Rewards points, which never expire.

For updated information, see the Southwest website.

Spirit Airlines change fees

Spirit Airlines charges a $90 fee for flight changes or cancellations 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 — you can change your flight for free.

Spirit Airlines coronavirus change fee policy

In response to the coronavirus, Spirit Airlines is waiving all change and cancellation fees for travel booked through Dec. 31, 2020. If you decide to cancel your flight, you'll receive a full credit that can be applied for future travel. Changes can be made up until an hour before departure.

For updated information, see the Spirit Airlines website.

United Airlines change fees

United Airlines has permanently eliminated its change and cancellation fees for Economy, Economy Plus, First, Business and Premium Plus tickets within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and flights from the U.S. to Mexico and the Caribbean. If you’re flying basic economy, it's important to note that you can’t change or cancel your flight. For other international flights, change and cancellation fees apply.

Same-day standby changes are free, and same-day confirmed changes are available for MileagePlus Premier members.

While domestic change fees no longer exist, this fee can be as much as $400 on international flights. 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 allows change and cancellation fee waivers for all tickets issued by Dec. 31, 2020 — including basic economy tickets and all destinations. For flight cancellations, you'll receive a travel credit valid up to 12 months from the original ticket issuance date.

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.

Basic economy fares are often nonrefundable. Your best chance at changing your basic economy ticket 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.

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 nonrefundable tickets 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).

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