Travel advisor resource: A list of airlines' refund policies

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JetBlue at JFK
Photo Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock

Airlines have canceled enormous portions of their scheduled flights for the remainder of March, April and going into May due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Under DOT rules, passengers are entitled to a refund from a U.S. airline if their flight is canceled, provided they request one. Nevertheless, U.S. carriers’ stated 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. Still, not all carriers are doing so. For example, the Swiss website states that it is not presently processing any refunds on any sales channels so that it can focus on cancellations and rebookings.

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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