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How Much Does It Cost to Change or Cancel a Flight?

frustrated customer on the phone

The best 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.


How Much Does It Cost to Change a Flight?

illustration of money

How Much Does It Cost to Change a Flight?

illustration of money

Every major U.S. airline except for Southwest 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 on an airline, however, you can likely change your flight for free or for a reduced cost. Below, we've broken out the fees for the 10 major U.S. carriers.

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 Airlines$99$99
Hawaiian Airlines$200$50–$300
JetBlue$75–$150$75–$150$75
Southwest AirlinesFreeFreeFree
Spirit Airlines$90$99
United Airlines$200$200–$500+$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—as 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 Anchorage and Fairbanks, between Seattle and Portland, or between Seattle or Spokane. Flights that are wholly within the state of Alaska can be changed on the same day for free.

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. Trip Flex—which we found to cost about $26 on a $100 round-trip—allows you to change your flight up until one hour before departure.

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 non-refundable fares, American Airlines will grant a refund if a traveling companion dies, if the schedule changes by more than an hour or if, for military personnel, orders change or there is a change in duty.

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 an online travel agency, like Expedia, or a partner airline. The airline also does not allow changes on basic economy tickets and tickets purchased through a third-party website.

Frontier Airlines change fees: Frontier Airlines charges a $99 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 purchase "THE WORKS" ticket add-on, which is similar to Allegiant's Trip Flex, 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.

Hawaiian Airlines change fees: Hawaiian Airlines charges a relatively steep change fee, $200, in comparison to other domestic airlines. The airline also does not allow same-day changes on flights between the mainland U.S. and Hawaii, but it allows 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.

JetBlue change fees: For Blue and Blue Plus tickets (basic economy and coach), JetBlue charges $75 plus the difference in fare if you change your ticket more than 60 days before departure. For "Blue Flex" tickets, 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.

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.

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. 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 $45 at the time of booking, you can change your flight for free.

United Airlines change fees: United, along with American and Delta, has the most expensive domestic flight change fee at $200. On international flights, this fee can be as much as $500. 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.


How to Change Airline Tickets without a Fee

illustration of boarding pass and passport

How to Change Airline Tickets without a Fee

illustration of boarding pass and passport

The primary way to avoid paying a modification fee on an airplane ticket is to change or cancel the ticket within a day of booking your trip. The Department of Transportation requires that airlines 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.

For all airlines other than 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, for example, the airline moves the flight time by a significant margin or it changes the type of aircraft, then you might be eligible for a refund.

If you haven't yet purchased tickets for a trip and you think 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 that 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 you have a one-way ticket rather than a round-trip package, 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 (listed below). 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'll 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

illustration of travel credit cards

Credit Cards with Travel Insurance

illustration of travel credit cards

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/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 that are canceled because of a change in your plans or your personal finances.


Common Reasons for Which Airlines Waive Change Fees

illustration of jury duty, hurricane, and military deployment

Common Reasons for Which Airlines Waive Change Fees

illustration of jury duty, hurricane, and military deployment

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. In most cases, airlines will waive the change fee and grant a travel credit that can be used within a year of the original booking date.


Award Tickets Change and Cancellation Policy

illustration of boarding pass

Award Tickets Change and Cancellation Policy

illustration of boarding pass

If you book your tickets with rewards 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.

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