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Can you get a refund for a flight? A credit? A guide to what airlines are doing

As  airlines continue to cancel flights and change schedules, LAX and all airports are growing quieter.
As airlines continue to cancel flights and change schedules, LAX and other airports are largely empty.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Just as each airline has a different personality, each has a different way of conducting business. In the time of coronavirus and flight disruptions and mayhem, many airlines are more liberal than usual if you decide to change your flight, sometimes waiving change fees.

If the airline cancels the flight, under most circumstances it will try to reaccommodate you, but if it can’t within a time it specifies, it may give you a voucher or a refund. Don’t be surprised if the airline mentions the voucher first or doesn’t mention the refund at all (unless it’s Southwest). If its website or agent doesn’t mention a refund for a flight it canceled, ask and ask again. Not all are forthcoming about refunds.

Your best and most persuasive tool in pressing a refund case often is the airlines’ own terms and conditions, sometimes called a contract for (or of) carriage or conditions of carriage. We’ve included that information so you will have it if you need to clarify its policies.

Note that the airline’s website will provide more information, although it may not disclose clearly when a refund is available to you. We have included the telephone number, but airlines are asking that you not call unless your flight is leaving within 72 hours. Be sure to contact the airline even if the flight has been canceled just to be sure you have started whatever process you want to happen— reaccommodation, credit or refund.

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Alaska

If you want to change your flight: No change or cancellation fees through Dec. 31.

If your flight is canceled: Alaska will reassign you, and if you’re fine with that, that’s the end of it. If, however, your scheduled flight is thrown off by an hour or more, you can move to a different flight, cancel your flight and receive a credit or cancel your trip and receive a refund.

Where to find terms and conditions: Alaska contract of carriage

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Info: Alaska, (800) 252-7522

Allegiant

If you want to change your flight: Allegiant will let customers change or cancel their plans without incurring fees. They can choose another flight, choose a credit voucher good for two years from the date of the original reservation or request a refund. And passengers will receive credit for any seat selection or priority boarding fees.

If your flight is canceled: Section 85 of its terms and conditions says it will reaccommodate the passenger, refund the unused part of the ticket or provide a credit.

Where to find its terms and conditions: Allegiant contract of carriage

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Info: Allegiant Air, (702) 505-8888

American

If you want to change your flight: For tickets bought before May 31 for travel from March 1 to Sept. 30, no change fee will be assessed. You will also not pay a change fee if you want to alter plans for new tickets bought between March 1 and May 31.

If your flight is canceled: Under the “if your flight is canceled” section of its coronavirus travel updates, American says,We’ll send you an email with the information you’ll need, including your ticket number. Keep this handy so you can refer to it when you call reservations to rebook.” That assumes you want to rebook. But if you don’t want to rebook and want a refund, the contract of carriage says that it will rebook you or will refund the value of your ticket.

Where to find its terms and conditions: American conditions of carriage

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Info: American, (800) 433-7300

Delta

If you want to change your flight: Tickets bought between March 1 and May 31 may be changed with no fee for a year within its purchase date.

If your flight is canceled: Under Rule 19, if your flight is delayed by 90 minutes or more, you may be reaccommodated or offered, under Rule 22, a refund.

Where to find its terms and conditions: Delta contract of carriage

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Info: Delta, (800) 221-1212

Frontier

If you want to change your flight: Frontier is allowing travelers to cancel or change tickets without paying fees. Those holding tickets bought before March 10 for flights through April 30 will be allowed a one-time change with no fee. Flights must be completed before April 11, 2021. Those who booked March 10 to April 15 also may make a change free of charge. Flights must be completed before April 11, 2021.

If your flight is canceled: Under Rule 18 of its contract of carriage, Frontier will refund your money if it cannot get you to your destination on a Frontier flight. It will not use other carriers to fly you. If you want a refund for a flight that it has canceled, you will need to ask.

Where to find its terms and conditions: Frontier contract of carriage

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Info: Frontier, (801) 401-9000

Hawaiian

Note that Hawaii is under a 14-day quarantine. If you fly to the islands, you will need to quarantine at your lodging and you may not use common areas at hotels such as pools, fitness centers or other gathering places. Many beach parks are closed. You can read about restrictions on its “Go Hawaii” pages. Note that failure to comply may result in a $5,000 fine or a year in prison or both.

If you want to change your flight: You may cancel your flight without a change fee, but it must be used within a year of purchase and you must rebook before Dec. 31.

If your flight was canceled: Hawaiian says it will send an email with information about how to proceed. If you did not receive an email, you will need to call reservations. Rule 21C of its contract of carriage says it will reaccommodate you if it cancels your flight or it will refund your money.

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Where to find its terms and conditions: Hawaiian Contract of Carriage

Info: Hawaiian, (800) 367-5320

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JetBlue

If you want to change your flight: Change/cancel fees are waived through June 30. Customers must rebook by Jan. 4.

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If your flight was canceled: You will receive a refund or reacommodation.

Where to find its terms and conditions: JetBlue contract of carriage

Info: JetBlue, (800) 538-2583

Southwest

Southwest operates differently; it does not charge change fees, although if you rebook, your might pay if the fare has increased.

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If you want to change your flight: Between now and April 30, you can change your flight to a date that’s 60 days from the day you were to travel without paying a difference in fare. Go to Southwest.com/rebook.

If your flight was canceled: Southwest generally does not issue refunds but offers travel credits for flights. If you cancel a flight between March 1 and Sept. 7, your credit will not expire until Sept. 7, 2022.

Where to find its terms and conditions: Southwest contract of carriage

Info: Southwest, (800) 435-9792

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Spirit

If you want to change your flight: A refund or a credit on this no-frills carrier. If you want to postpone your travel, you can go online and receive a credit for a future flight without paying any change fees. The credit is good for 12 months from the travel date (and if you had a previous six-month credit, it will be extended to 12 months).

If your flight is canceled: You can accept or decline the change, and take a refund or a credit.

Where to find its terms and conditions: Spirit contract of carriage

Info: Spirit, (801) 401-2222

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United

If you want to change your flight: For travel booked through the end of the year, you have until April 30 to make changes or cancel without fees. If you cancel your flight, you’ll have 24 months to use the credit that’s given. (Some waivers were already in effect for travel through May 31.)

If your flight is canceled: If your flight schedule was significantly affected or no other flight accommodation was available, you may be eligible for a refund. Here is United’s refund request page.

Where to find its terms and conditions: United contract of carriage

Info: United, (800) 864-8331


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