When it comes to planning travel in 2021, flexibility is in high demand. With so much uncertainty on when borders will reopen and when vaccinations will become widespread, airlines have relaxed, or completely eliminated, one of the most annoying fees in the industry — the change fee.

Change Fee Waivers for U.S. Airlines

Airlines used to rake in hefty fees from travelers who simply wanted to change travel dates — sometimes up to a $750 fee for international flights. And when the major airlines introduced the dreaded “Basic Economy” fare, changes simply weren’t allowed.

The pandemic has changed the game and multiple U.S. airlines have decided to permanently eliminate change fees for flyers that purchase at least a standard Economy or Main Cabin Economy fare. While this is overall great news, the marketing is aimed to make consumers believe change fees are no more, but the truth is that the lowest available fares (Basic Economy) will still have restrictions on changes after the pandemic has passed.

For now, most airlines are allowing free flight changes on all tickets — even Basic Economy — but the exact policies vary by airline and the goal posts keep moving, so you’ll want to always double-check the fine print before you make a booking. Airlines will likely end these blanket free flight changes on all fares once travel picks up again, but if you’re fairly certain you’ll travel with a certain airline at some point in the future, booking a great fare for future travel poses little risk with these great no change fee policies.

Note: Even though change fees may be eliminated, keep in mind that a fare difference may still apply. For example, if the new fare is $100 more than you originally paid, you’ll have to pay $100, but won’t be charged an additional fee on top of that. If the fare is less, some airlines will issue a credit, while others will not.

Don’t Be a No-Show

Most airlines still have no-show policies (so you can’t simply just not show up for your flight and expect to be able to retain a flight credit for future use). Instead, make sure to make any changes to or cancel your itinerary by the day before departure, or at least before the required check-in time. Otherwise, the airline may cancel your trip and all remaining segments without issuing any flight credit.

Last, but certainly not least, if you are traveling to, from, or within the U.S., and the airline cancels your flight or makes a substantial schedule change, you are entitled to a refund.

Alaska Airlines

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through March 31, 2021.

Permanent Change/Cancellation Fee Policy

Main (or higher fare class): Free changes/cancellations for all destinations.

Saver Fares: No changes or cancellations allowed more than 24 hours after booking.

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • Saver fares purchased through March 31, 2021, for travel through February 28, 2022, can be canceled and a credit will be issued for future travel within one year from the original travel date.

See the full Alaska Airlines change fee policy

American Airlines

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through March 31, 2021. 

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Main Cabin (or higher fare class): Free changes for all flights starting in North or South America and flying anywhere in the world (except Africa), for tickets issued on or after November 19, 2020.

For flights within North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, there are no change fees for flights issued on or after August 31, 2020.

Basic Economy: No changes or cancellations allowed more than 24 hours after booking for flights within North America, Central America, and Caribbean. Basic Economy fares to other regions, such as Africa, Europe, and South America, can be changed for a fee.

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • All fares, including Basic Economy, can be changed once without a fee for new travel booked by March 31, 2021, or for existing bookings with travel dates through March 31, 2021.
  • The new travel dates or the unused value of your ticket can be used for travel through December 31, 2021.
  • If the new fare is lower than what you originally paid, you’ll receive a travel credit for a future trip.

See the full American Airlines change fee policy.

Delta Airlines

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through March 30, 2021. 

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Main Cabin (or higher fare class): Free changes for all travel originating in North America and flying anywhere in the world, for tickets purchased on or after December 9, 2020.

For all flights within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands), there is no change fee for tickets purchased on or after August 31, 2020.

Basic Economy: No changes or cancellations allowed more than 24 hours after booking.

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • All fares, including Basic Economy, can be changed without a fee for new travel booked by March 30, 2021, or for existing bookings with travel dates through March 31, 2021.
  • The new travel dates or unused value of your ticket can be used for travel up to one year from the original date of purchase.
  • If you purchased your flight prior to April 17, 2020, your ticket may be rebooked for travel until December 31, 2022.
  • Tickets purchased after April 17, 2020, may only be rebooked for travel up to one year from the date the ticket was issued.

See the full Delta change fee policy

Frontier Airlines

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through February 28, 2021.

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Fares purchased with the WORKS bundle: No change fees; entire purchase is refundable.

Standard fares without bundle: $0 if change is made 60+ days prior to departure; $39 when made 59 to 7 days prior; and $59 if made 6 days prior or less (including same day).

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • For bookings made through February 28, 2021, no change fee will apply as long as you change or cancel prior to the required check-in time for your flight.
  • Frontier simply states that “you will retain the value of your itinerary.” In the past, vouchers needed to be redeemed within 90 days of issue and were valid for travel dates through the end of the current booking schedule.
  • The policy varies for existing bookings depending on when you booked.

See the full Frontier Airlines change fee policy

Hawaiian Airlines

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through March 31, 2021.

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Main Cabin (or higher fare class): Free changes for all destinations.

Main Cabin Basic: No changes or cancellations allowed more than 24 hours after booking.

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • All fares, including Main Cabin Basic, can be changed without a fee for new travel booked by March 31, 2021, or for existing bookings with travel dates through February 28, 2021.
  • If you purchased your flight prior to March 1, 2020, flights can be rebooked for travel that begins on or before May 22, 2022.
  • Tickets purchased between March 1 – December 31, 2020, are valid for up to two years from the original date of purchase.
  • Tickets purchased after January 1, 2021, are valid up to one year from the date of issue.

See the full Hawaiian Airlines change fee policy

JetBlue

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through February 28, 2021.

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Blue Extra: Free changes for all destinations.

Blue & Blue Plus: $75 - $200 depending on the fare.

Blue Basic: No changes or cancellations allowed more than 24 hours after booking.

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • All fares, including Blue Basic, can be changed without a fee for new travel booked by February 28, 2021, or for existing bookings with travel dates through February 28, 2021.
  • If the new fare is lower, JetBlue will issue a credit valid for one year.

See the full JetBlue change fee policy

Southwest

  • No change fees, ever.

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Southwest has never charged a change fee and you can always change or cancel any Southwest flight up until 10 minutes prior to departure without any fees. If the new fare is lower, you will be issued a flight credit for the difference. Any flight credit will be valid for 12 months from the original date of purchase.

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • Previously unused credits with an extended expiration date of September 7, 2022, will revert to normal ticketing rules once a flight is booked with the credit, and the new flight value will only be valid for one year after the booking date.

See the full Southwest policy

Spirit Airlines

  • Spirit is waving change/cancellation fees for impacted travelers, but there isn’t a blanket policy for all new bookings. 

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Fares purchased with Flight Flex: One no fee flight change.

Standard fares: $90 - $100

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • Spirit is waiving change and cancellation fees for guests whose travel plans are impacted by COVID-19.
  • There aren’t any set dates for this waiver published by Spirit Airlines on its website. You should receive a credit voucher if you cancel, which is usually valid to redeem for 60 days from the date of issue.

See the Spirit Airlines COVID-19 Information Center

United Airlines

  • No change fees for all fare types on new bookings made through March 31, 2021.

Permanent Change Fee Policy

Economy (or higher fare class): Free changes for all travel originating in the U.S. to anywhere in the world, and for flights between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean.

Basic Economy: No changes or cancellations allowed more than 24 hours after booking (except in connection with same-day standby).

Covid-19 Change Fee Waiver

  • All fares, including Basic Economy, can be changed without a fee for new travel booked by March 31, 2021, or for existing bookings with travel dates through March 31, 2021.
  • If the new fare is lower, you will not be issued a credit and will not retain any residual value on your ticket. Once you rebook a flight, the value of the ticket will be pegged to the new fare.
  • For tickets issued between March 3 – March 31, 2020, travel can be rebooked up to 24 months from the original date of purchase.
  • For tickets issued after April 1 ,2020, travel can be rebooked up to 12 months from the date of issue.

See the full United change fee policy

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