Airlines have canceled enormous portions of their scheduled
flights for the remainder of March, April and going into May due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the U.S. carriers’
policies widely vary when it comes to refunds.
The following is a list of the current refund policies of
the 10 largest U.S. airlines. The list is based upon the carriers’ explanation
of their policies to Travel Weekly and is augmented in some cases by the
airline’s contract of carriage.
International carriers aren’t included here. Under European
Union law, carriers are required to refund passengers whose flights have been canceled,
according to Christian Nielsen, chief legal officer for Air Help.
Aside from refunds, carriers around the world have largely
waived change fees and are issuing flight credits for cancellations initiated
by passengers, though the specific terms of those credits vary. This list
includes links to the policies of many large U.S. and foreign carriers.
For those who want refunds, it’s important not to reschedule
travel until an airline formally cancels a flight.
With refunds easily outpacing sales right now, some carriers
have begun managing all agent channel refunds themselves and are prohibiting
refunds through the GDSs or ARC.
Alaska Airlines will refund international tickets for
flights that it cancels due to current network cuts. The carrier says it will
also refund tickets for the “majority” of canceled domestic flights.
American Airlines customers can receive a full refund in any
case in which a flight, domestic or international, is canceled. American’s
contract of carriage guarantees such refunds.
Allegiant says that when it cancels a flight, “we work with
each individual on best options for them, including re-accommodating to another
flight, providing a full credit voucher or a refund. This has not changed.”
Refunds are guaranteed as an option under Allegiant’s contract of carriage.
Delta customers are eligible for a refund if a flight is
canceled. Delta’s contract of a carriage guarantees refunds at the passenger’s
request for all cancellations, delays and diversions of more than 90 minutes.
Frontier said that if a customer’s flight is canceled due to
Covid-19, they are entitled to a refund or may opt for a future credit.
Hawaiian Airlines customers can request refunds for all
flights canceled due to Covid-19 capacity cuts.
JetBlue said customers are eligible for waived cancellations
and change fees when flights are canceled. However, JetBlue’s Jan. 16, 2020
contract of carriage says that when a flight is canceled, passengers can opt
for a full refund.
Southwest Airlines will provide refunds for impacted flights at the
customer’s request, but the carrier cautions that the policy is subject to
change. Refunds aren’t guaranteed in the Southwest contract of carriage.
Spirit Airlines answered questions about its refund policy
for canceled flights by referencing its website, which only says that travel
credits can be used to make bookings in the next six months (though the flights
themselves can be for beyond six months away.) However, Spirit’s contract of
carriage says customers have the option to get a refund for cancellations.
United Airlines customers whose travel is disrupted by more
than six hours because of schedule changes are eligible for a refund on
domestic flights. On international flights, United will provide a credit for
travel disrupted by 6 hours or more. The credit is good for 12 months from time
of purchase. Customers who don’t use the credit will get a refund at the end of
those 12 months.
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