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Airlines

We Contacted US Airlines: Here’s the Best Way to Handle Coronavirus Changes

We Contacted US Airlines: Here’s the Best Way to Handle Coronavirus Changes
Joe Cortez

With one speech, the travel world was sent into a state of grave concern. Flyers from around the world met the news with uncertainty as America prepared to close air travel to foreign nationals flying inbound from continental Europe effective Midnight, Mar. 13, 2020. What did this mean for frequent flyers? How will this affect travel overall?

FlyerTalk reached out to all nine American air carriers to get their reaction to the Coronavirus situation, and to ask about specific policies as it pertains to flyers. It was made clear that frequent flyer choices are limited by which air carrier they are flying.

What we asked the airlines

Earlier this week, we reached out to the public relations teams of all major U.S. carriers: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and United Airlines. For each, we asked the same questions:

  • What your current policies are regarding passengers requesting cancellations due to concerns of Coronavirus?
  • Are you taking any additional precautions to prevent the spread of Coronavirus?
  • If a customer wants to request a cancellation due to the fear of Coronavirus, how do they go about it? What criteria will their request need to meet?

Each airline declined specific answers to our questions. Alaska, American, and Frontier offered no response to our requests. Every other airline offered a brief statement or referred to their websites for additional details.

Across all carriers, we discovered:

  • Airlines are adding additional cleaning policies to reduce potential Coronavirus spread.
  • Most airlines are not offering refunds, but rather fee waivers for flight changes for those departing before April or May 2020 (depending on the airline).

The following are the statements and websites we were referred to, as well as reaction from FlyerTalkers who attempted to navigate the congested customer service channels.

 

Alaska Airlines Change Coronavirus Policy

Alaska Airlines

Alaska was one of three airlines who did not provide a statement on our questions, despite their home city of Seattle being among the hardest hit. According to KIRO-TV, Seattle and King County has 270 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 27 deaths attributed to the disease.

On their website, Alaska is offering some clarity on their amended cancellation policy. Alaska will waive change or cancellation fees for:

  • Tickets purchased on or before Feb. 26, 2020, for travel through Apr. 30, 2020
  • All new tickets purchased between Feb. 27 and Mar. 31, 2020

The policy will apply to all tickets, including nonrefundable fares, purchased in those windows. However, those under nonrefundable fares will have fewer options. Nonrefundable fares, award tickets, and Saver fares can be canceled for credit towards a future flight.

In regards to cleanliness, Alaska notes on their website that aircraft “are equipped with systems that contain two HEPA, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters. They’re the same kind of filters found in hospital operating rooms.” The airline also released a video about their “enhanced aircraft cleaning process.”

On the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan forum, FlyerTalkers have not made any notes about cancellations getting disregarded or refused. Some have noticed different flights are taking service change precautions. This includes no hot towel service, glassware isn’t being reused and water refills are not offered.

 

Allegiant Air Coronavirus Policy Change Cancellation Refund

Allegiant Air

Ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air offered the following statement to our request:

“At this time, we have not made changes to our flight schedule. Allegiant is a domestic carrier serving only U.S. cities. We are in constant contact with the Centers for Disease Control, the US Department of Homeland Security / TSA and the Department of Transportation, and to date they have made no recommendations for domestic airlines to alter service. All of our flights are nonstop, and our customers are leisure travelers who are flying from their hometowns to a US vacation destination. Allegiant passengers aren’t connecting from airlines that fly internationally.

“Our customer support teams can take inquiries through our call center, on social media or through web chat. We will re-accommodate with no fee or provide full credit to passengers with any concerns about traveling.”

While there is no Allegiant Air board on the forums, FlyerTalkers have shared experiences and advice for flying with the airline.

 

American Airlines Cancellation Cornavirus Refund Change Fee Waiver

American Airlines

Despite reaching out, American provided no response to our request for comment. However, their press website has a subsection of information available on their response to the Coronavirus outbreak. In the latest statement, American indicated they will comply with the order.

“American continues to work closely with U.S. authorities to comply with these new orders while treating all of our customers with respect,” the website reads. “American is committed to taking care of any affected customers by assisting them with rebooking options. Our team is proactively reaching out to customers who may be affected by these travel restrictions to ensure they are accommodated.”

Flyers trying to navigate changes are getting mixed results when trying to cancel or change their itineraries. While most within the waiver period are getting cancellations, others are experiencing difficulties.

“I had a domestic trip scheduled Mar 12-Mar 15. Last night (Mar 11) I decided to cancel,” writes FlyerTalker QueenOfCoach. “My reservation was canceled. No change fee for ONE change. I have to commence travel before 3/4/2021 on that ticket number. It took about 45 min, as the change fee policies have been updated several times. The super-helpful, super-pleasant agent had to sift through various fare rules and wanted to get it right. She was fabulous.”

“I have traveled through Doha and New Delhi, and when I called them I was told I have to pay a fee,” reports FlyerTalker iridium. “The issue I see is that AA.com travel advisory has not been updated since 3/10. India revoked the tourist visas on 3/11. Hopefully they update the advisory soon as I cancelled the ticket online.”

The current rules for changing flights are posted on the FlyerTalk forum.

 

delta air lines change fees waier coronavirus refund travel ban

Delta Air Lines

Delta declined to offer specific comment to FlyerTalk about our questions, but instead pointed us to their website.

Online, the Atlanta-based airline noted they will waive change fees for flyers under the following conditions:

  • Customers traveling both international and domestic through April 30 for all tickets issued on or before March 9.
  • Customers purchasing flights between March 1-31.

In addition, they are also allowing flyers with the following tickets to make a “one-time” change to their plans:

  • Europe and the U.K. – through May 31.
  • Shanghai and Beijing, China – through May 31.
  • Seoul, South Korea – through May 31.

Delta also released a video about their cleaning processes, including fogging aircraft.

Before the European travel ban was announced, Delta flyers experienced difficulties adjusting their flights both over the phone and on the website. Wait times for assistance over the phone are reported to last between five minutes and over two hours. Some have suggested calling the airline’s number in Singapore for assistance.

“I have called Delta in Singapore several times over the past few days,” writes FlyerTalker sydneyracquelle. “Got through right away and dealt with all highly trained and exceptionally professional people.”

The most current information on Delta’s policies can be found on the Delta Air Lines | SkyMiles forum.

 

frontier change fees waiver cancellation coronavirus travel ban

Frontier Airlines

Frontier did not respond to our request for comment. On their website, the airline notes they continue “to closely monitor developments with respect to COVID-19.” Although it appears they are not allowing refunds, their current travel waiver policy is as follows:

  • For tickets issued prior to March 10, 2020 with original travel dates between March 10 and April 30, 2020 customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee by contacting us at 801-401-9000
  • For tickets issued March 10 through March 31, 2020, customers may make a one-time change to their itinerary without a change/cancel fee by contacting us at 801-401-9000

FlyerTalkers have not reported on any customer service engagements on the Frontier Airlines forum.

 

jetblue change fee waiver cancellation coronavirus refund

JetBlue

JetBlue did not provide a response, but instead directed FlyerTalkers to their website. The page covers cleaning concerns, inflight service standards and information resources.

Like other carriers, JetBlue is not offering a direct refund for flights. Instead, their website outlines the following policy:

“Customers with existing bookings now have additional flexibility. Due to continued concerns about the coronavirus, we will waive change/cancel fees for customers traveling March 10, 2020 through April 30, 2020. Customers may rebook their flights for travel through October 24, 2020.”

Getting through to JetBlue may be difficult. The airline announced logins to their loyalty program, TrueBlue, is currently unavailable.

“Trying to cancel a trip departing Monday [Mar. 16],” writes FlyerTalker oopsz on the forums. “It says it can’t be canceled online, and the phone line hangs up saying ‘please call again later.’”

On Twitter, the airline provided a brief statement on their current state of customer service.

 

spirit airlines change fee waiver cancellation coronavirus refund

Spirit Airlines

A spokesperson for ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit offered the following statement:

“Since late January, we’ve been offering flexible travel options to our Guests who reach out with concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus, and Guests who have travel concerns due to COVID-19 are eligible to make a one-time free modification (fare difference applies) by contacting Spirit Guest Care. We will continue to monitor the situation, comply with federal and international requirements, and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Our Guests are welcome to reach out to us any time if they have questions.”

According to their website, the airline is offering flyers the option to either change flights, or receive a “reservation credit” good for six months to book flights or pay for ancillary products. FlyerTalkers have not reported any experiences with requesting a free change.

 

southwest airlines change fee waiver cancellation coronavirus refund

Southwest Airlines

A spokesperson for Southwest provided the following statement:

“We’re pleased that our brand-standard ‘no change fees’ policy has already been of great use to Customers who have been moving their travel plans. Any nonrefundable ticket retains its full value for future same-name travel one year from the original date of purchase, as long as the Customer lets us know they won’t be traveling up to 10 minutes before scheduled departure. A Customer can change or cancel their ticket on Southwest.com, or by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA.”

Southwest also provided a link to their website, detailing their response to the COVID-19 situation, including cleaning processes.

FlyerTalkers have not reported any difficulty in changing flights with Southwest, but are instead discussing low-cost flight options due to the situation.

 

sun country airlines change fee waiver cancellation coronavirus refund

Sun Country Airlines

Regional carrier Sun Country referred FlyerTalkers to a published a statement on their website. The airline notes they do not fly to “any destinations with an active travel advisory,” and will waive change fees for flyers traveling through Apr. 15, 2020.

FlyerTalkers have not posted any reports about changing flight information on their website.

 

united airlines change fee waiver cancellation coronavirus refund

United Airlines

A spokesperson for United Airlines declined to comment on our questions but instead referred us to their COVID-19 website with cleaning information and flyer resources. According to that page, their cancellation policy is as follows:

  • Flights booked between Mar. 3 and 31, 2020, can be changed for free over the next 12 months.
  • Flyers booked to travel between Mar. 10 and Apr. 30, 2020 can change their plans without paying a change fee, regardless of when tickets were purchased or destination.

These temporary changes are despite the airline’s new policy over refunds for changed flights.

When requesting flight changes, FlyerTalkers report long wait times over the phone, but relatively faster customer service requesting help on Twitter.

“The wait for the 1K line has been well north of an hour since the President shut down EU travel,” FlyerTalker jasonp622 reports. “My wife waited about 2.5 hours late last night.”

“I also had a long wait time when calling in (90 minutes) and I was not recognized by the automated system,” writes FlyerTalker jb691809. “I hung up and canceled an award flight via Twitter. Took a couple of DMs over 30 minutes.”

The most up-to-date information on changing United flights can be found on the FlyerTalk forums.

View Comments (6)

6 Comments

  1. flyshooter

    March 13, 2020 at 7:01 am

    Virus-scare, death in the family, schedule change…it doesn’t matter with Southwest Airlines. It’s policy is the same…no change fees.

  2. POatParker

    March 13, 2020 at 7:32 am

    After 9/11, the airlines, including AA, froze everyone at their elite status levels for the following year. My questions is, will they do this again, or something similar? Similar, meaning lower requalification requirements during 2020. My company has grounded everyone. Plus, our customers are not allowing sales calls. Thus, it will be doubtful to maintain status for 2021. Precedent was set after 9/11. I have asked AA this. But no response so far.

  3. randysea

    March 13, 2020 at 10:00 am

    10am PDT today, Friday.
    Delta elite phone line says minimum 6 hour wait time for service agent. Not even a “we can call you back when it’s your turn.”

  4. Artpen100

    March 13, 2020 at 10:05 am

    I’ve cancelled everything I could online. But a problem has been that, where you need to do it by phone, it is impossible to get through in the current environment. AA and BA are unresponsive to calls, and AmexTravel has essentially ceased to function (they even turned off their LiveChat function online)…

  5. randysea

    March 13, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Tried Delta again at 4:20 pm PDT. Called 404-765-5000. Since my phone number was recognized, I got “Thank you for calling a Delta Elite line.” I am Delta Gold.

    Estimated wait time was 12 minutes. I didn’t believe it, but took a chance on a call back. The call back came around 10 minutes later.

    I said I’m scheduled for Seattle -Paris in less than a week but wanted to cancel. Reply: “Credit to Delta account or refund to credit card?

    No muss, no fuss. End of story.

  6. dginil

    March 16, 2020 at 8:06 am

    While Southwest has always had no change fees, travel funds that are banked with them when you change or cancel expire in a year from the date of the original booking. So, if you booked 6 months ago, you will have only 6 months to use those funds which may be difficult to do by the time this all settles down. But much worse, if you are cancelling or changing a Southwest flight now — the SWA policy provides that if, when you booked upcoming travel, you paid even in small part with previously banked travel funds then all of your upcoming fare will have an expiration date of the oldest travel funds you used. SO, I am canceling a $398 flight for which I used about $130 of travel funds expiring in April 15– not only will I lose the $130 in travel funds if I cannot fly in the next 30 days, but I will also lose the additional $269 I paid by credit card just a few weeks ago at that time as well, because that will also become a travel fund with an April 15 expiration now. This has never seemed a fair policy, but under the circumstances of this virus and the likelihood that travel will be affected for many months, it is far worse. Southwest really ought to extend all travel fund expirations for their members for at least the next 6 months.

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