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Changes Airlines are Making to Address Coronavirus Concerns

by Editor
in Travel Advice March 19, 2020

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International air travel has come grinding to a halt amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With the US closing it's borders with Mexico and Canada except for essential travel, the amount of international traffic has dropped significantly. Overseas travel to Europe is also impacted, as many European countries have restricted travel to essential trips only. If you are a US citizen or resident already in Europe, Mexico, or Canada, coming home is allowed as an essential reason to travel, but you may be asked for documentation. The CDC has setup screening at major airports for travelers coming from international flights. 

For domestic US travel, there are 17 states that have "stay at home" or similar executive orders that limit all travel (including air travel) except for essential purposes. The most populous state with this order in place is California, which includes both LAX in Los Angeles and SFO in San Francisco, two of the busiest airports in the country. People in other states without these orders are free to take trips, but risk that an order goes into place while they are traveling.

Because of this disruption, airlines have reduced routes and frequency of flights to respond to the reduction in demand. They may also cancel or postpone an already booked flight, if new restrictions come into place. It is highly unlikely that state or city governments would restrict someone from trying to return home, however, as that is normally considered essential travel. Airlines are asking to not call their reservations department unless your flight leaves within 72 hours, and to instead use their online cancellation and re-booking systems instead. 

Below is a list of domestic airlines with links to their coronavirus pages:


Delta Airlines

Delta says that tickets purchased from March, 2020 can be canceled or changed with no change fee, for up to one year. They are extending any Delta ticket for travel in March or April that is set to expire before June 30, 2020, to permit travel until December 31, 2020. Though tickets can be canceled, the are refunded in Delta eCredits and not cash. Read the full Delta coronavirus details


American Airlines

American says that if you bought your ticket before March 1, 2020, for travel through May 31, 2020, you can rebook without change fees. If you booked your trip March 1 – March 31, 2020, for travel through February 28, 2021, you can also change your reservation at a later date without change fees. Read the full Amerian Airlines coronavirus details


Southwest Airlines

Southwest says that if you are scheduled to travel between today and April 30, you can change your travel to a date 60 days from the original date of travel without paying any difference in fare if you are traveling between the same origin and destination. If you wish to cancel, you have to do so at least 10 minutes before a scheduled departure. Customers' funds that have expired or will expire between March 1 – May 31, 2020, will now expire June 30, 2021. Any travel funds created because of a flight cancellation between March 1 – May 31, 2020, will have an expiration date of June 30, 2021. Read the full Southwest Airlines coronavirus details


United Airlines

United has taken a different approach by offering waivers for specific countries and destinations, including Hawaii. They aren't offering a blanket re-book or cancellation policy. Read the full United Airlines coronavirus details


Jet Blue Airlines

Jet Blue has stated that change fees are waived for any previously booked ticket for travel through May 31, 2020. For new bookings, they have suspended change and cancel fees made between March 6, 2020 and March 31, 2020 for travel through September 8, 2020. The change/cancel fees suspension still applies for bookings made between February 27, 2020 and March 5, 2020 for travel through June 1, 2020. Read the full Jet Blue coronavirus details


Spirit Airlines

Spirit has a broad policy for anyone impacted by the coronavirus that wants to cancel to receive a reservation credit for the full value of their reservation. This reservation credit can be used for up to 6 months to book any flight currently available (including beyond the 6-month timeframe). Read the full Spirit Airlines coronavirus details

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