Can I Get a Refund for Travel Canceled or Delayed Due to the Coronavirus?

American Airlines Boeing 737-800
••• Photo courtesy of American Airlines

If you’re dealing with changing travel plans due to COVID-19 concerns, are worried you might in the near future, or aren’t comfortable traveling right now, all is not lost. Major airlines, hotels, and cruise operators are offering deals for customers who have had travel plans disrupted.

Here’s what travel providers are offering consumers whose trips have been impacted by the pandemic:

What Major U.S. Airlines Are Doing

The good news: The three largest airlines in the U.S.—United, American, and Delta—recently announced that they will stop charging change fees on many flights. Southwest has never charged such fees. Plus the airlines have temporary provisions in place to cover other types of flights during this time. 

American Airlines

With American’s new policy, you’re allowed to change first, business, premium economy and main cabin American Airlines flight tickets—domestic or short-haul international—one time without paying a change fee. 

Additionally, for any type of ticket (including basic economy and award travel reservations) bought by Sept. 30, 2020 and for travel scheduled the end of 2020, the airline is waiving change fees. Your rebooked travel must be completed on or before Dec. 31, 2021. 

The same is true for any new tickets bought between now and the end of the year for travel on or after Jan. 1, 2021. For more about what American Airlines is doing for travelers, see the “Current travel updates” page on the airline’s website, which also includes details about current travel restrictions.

Delta

This airline has permanently eliminated ticket change fees for travel within the U.S., and to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, except for basic economy tickets. 

Delta has also extended its earlier COVID-related change fee waiver for previously purchased flights, including international and basic economy tickets. You now have through Dec. 31, 2020 to cancel or rebook your trips without paying a change fee. Furthermore, any travel credits you receive from canceled trips booked before April 17, 2020 are also now good through December 2022.

If you bought your ticket before April 17, 2020 with a departure date up until September 30, you can rebook for travel to the same destination departing before Sept. 30 with no fare difference costs. On all other rebookings, you will have to pay for any fare differences.

For more details about the latest Delta flight change options and how to rebook travel, see the airline’s change and cancellation answer page.

JetBlue

JetBlue won’t charge cancellation and change fees for any new bookings made through Oct. 15, 2020. If you cancel your flight, JetBlue will give you a travel credit valid for 12 months. If you have a travel credit that was set to expire on or before June 30, it’s now good until Dec. 31, 2020.

Travel credits issued between Feb. 27 and June 30 for flights will also now be good for 24 months instead of 12. To keep tabs on additional changes and trip options, see the JetBlue Travel Alerts webpage, which also includes some handy charts outlining current domestic and international travel restrictions and coronavirus testing requirements.

United

United has also permanently done away with change fees for most economy (except basic economy) and premium cabin tickets for flights within the U.S. and its territories, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For all other flights, change fees have been waived through Dec. 31, 2020.

If your trip schedule has been significantly changed or your flight was canceled without another option, you may be able to request a refund online or by contacting the airline.

See the airline’s important notices page for destination-specific details on how United is handling travel rescheduled or canceled because of COVID-19.

Southwest

This airline never charges fees to cancel or change flights, and that still holds true. You can cancel your flight up to 10 minutes before your flight is scheduled to leave. When your flight is canceled, you would normally have a year to book a new trip, but Southwest has extended the expiration so that any credits set to expire between March 1, 2020 and Sept. 7, 2020, are now valid until Sept. 7, 2022. For more information, see the Southwest Coronavirus travel information webpage, which also includes details about routes that are currently disrupted or suspended due to COVID-19.

Southwest Rapid Rewards members who have credits that are set to expire or are created before Sept. 7, 2022 now have the option to convert those credits into Rapid Rewards points at the same rate of purchasing a flight ticket. Rapid Rewards points never expire so if you don’t want to worry about the constantly changing expiration dates of travel vouchers, this is a good option.

What Hotels Are Doing 

Hilton

Hilton is waiving change fees for all reservations booked on and between March 12 and Sept. 30, 2020, even prepaid, normally nonrefundable ones. They can be canceled or changed up to 24 hours before arrival for no additional charge. New trips booked on or before Sept. 30, 2020 for any future date can also be changed without a fee up to 24 hours before check-in day.

Hilton Honors members who cancel rooms booked under an advance purchase rate can opt to receive a free night certificate per canceled night instead of a cash refund. Certificates must be used by Aug. 31, 2021. See the Hilton website for more information. 

Marriott

Travelers who made or will make new reservations after July 6, 2020 for arrival before Sept. 30, 2020 can change or cancel them with no additional charge up to 24 hours before check-in. Those with existing reservations for a future arrival date or who book a new stay after Oct. 1, 2020 are subject to the cancellation policies that were in place when they first made the reservation. Details about these policies can be found on the hotel’s COVID-19 update page

Hyatt

Almost any new reservations made on or after July 1, 2020 for a future arrival date through July 31, 2021 can also now be canceled or changed up to 24 hours before your scheduled check-in with no change fees. Reservations made after April 1, 2020 at Destination Residences (and after June 3, 2020 at Hyatt Residence Club properties) or under special event rates are subject to the cancellation policy you agreed to when you made the booking. For more information, see the Hyatt travel update webpage

Choice Hotels

The Choice hotel network (which includes brands such as Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, and Econolodge) is waiving cancellation fees for travelers who made new reservations after July 10 for arrival before Sept. 30, 2020. In that situation, you can cancel up to 24 hours before checking in.

If you made a reservation on or after July 10, 2020 for arrival after Oct. 1, 2020, the individual hotel’s cancellation policy in place when you booked will apply. See the Choice Hotels travel alerts webpage for policy specifics. 

What Cruise Lines are Doing

Carnival Cruise Line

Travelers with canceled Carnival cruises have two options: Get a full refund, or get a cruise credit and up to $600 in onboard credit per room (depending on the length of your trip) if you book a new cruise trip by May 31, 2021 for a departure by April 30, 2023. You can make your reimbursement selection online

Celebrity Cruises

This cruise line has suspended all trips through Oct. 31, 2020, including those departing from Australia and New Zealand. If your trip is impacted, you’ll automatically receive a cruise credit for 125% of the original trip cost that will be good through Dec. 31, 2021. If you prefer a full refund to your original form of payment, you can submit a request online to get 100% of what you paid back.

If you have an existing or new cruise trip booked before Sept. 30, 2020, you can cancel at any time up to 48 hours before departure to get a full cruise credit valid through May 4, 2022. Cruise credits that were set to expire by Oct. 31, 2020 are now good through Dec. 31, 2020, too. 

Disney Cruise Line

All sailings are suspended through at least Oct. 31, 2020. The company is offering all affected travelers a full refund or a cruise credit. It will be reaching out via email with additional details. For a full list of impacted trips, see the Disney Cruise Line travel alert webpage.

MSC Cruises USA

This cruise line has resumed operations for a few ships in the Mediterranean (and limited to travelers from the Schengen countries), but many trips are still canceled, including all Asia cruises through Oct. 26, 2020.

Affected travelers (as well as anyone sailing before Oct. 31, 2020) can get a full refund or a credit toward a future cruise worth 100% of the original fare for any trip departing on or before Dec. 31, 2021. You may be eligible for some onboard credits to use when you take your next cruise, too. For more details about the latest cruise changes, see the MSC Cruises itinerary updates webpage

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian has canceled all cruises through October 2020. Travelers can receive a full refund (by submitting requests online starting Aug. 3 and no later than Aug. 14, 2020) or a cruise credit worth 125% of the amount paid. Credits must be used on a trip scheduled to leave on or before Dec. 31, 2022. See the cruise line’s travel and health update page for more information. 

Princess Cruise Lines

Princess has a webpage detailing all suspended trips, including some trips that have been paused until Dec. 15, 2020, and some early 2021 trips that have already been canceled. If your trip has been canceled, you may have two refund options: Receive a 125% credit to use on a future trip, or request a cash refund by filling out an online form. Refund application deadlines may apply. See the Princess website for more information. 

Royal Caribbean International

 The cruise line has now suspended operations through Oct. 31, 2020, and some trips even longer than that. If your trip has been impacted, there are two refund options: a full refund to your original form of payment or a 125% credit good toward a future cruise that sails by April 30, 2022 (just make sure you rebook your cruise by Dec. 31, 2021).

If you want to reschedule the trip, you can do so while maintaining the same itinerary and pricing within four weeks of your original sail date. For more information about travel refunds, see Royal Caribbean’s Health and Travel Alerts webpage

Viking Cruise Line

All cruises scheduled to depart through Dec. 31, 2020 have been suspended. The cruise line is offering a voucher for 125% of your trip cost that can be put toward a future cruise and is good for 24 months. Viking Customer Relations is reaching out to affected travelers, and you can call or email customer service to find out more.

Not Satisfied? Contact Your Credit Card Issuer

If you paid for your trip with a credit card, there’s probably not much any travel insurance benefits offered by the card can do to help recoup lost costs. However, if you want to dispute a travel expense, reach out to your card issuer. For more information about what credit card issuers are and aren’t doing to help with disrupted travel during the pandemic, see “Can Your Credit Card Help With Travel Disrupted by the Coronavirus?

Article Sources