With coronavirus now spreading across the United States, many people have become apprehensive about air travel and traveling in general. But this may actually be the best time to book airline tickets for your next trip…

As Jon Ostrower reported in The Air Current, the commercial airline industry has not faced such a swift downturn in demand since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

With companies restricting employee travel, conferences being cancelled and families postponing vacations, airlines have been left with thousands of empty seats. And, due to the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, people have stopped booking travel well into the future.

U.S. airlines, desperate to generate revenue, have offered concessions to customers purchasing tickets this month. In nearly all cases, tickets purchased during the month of March, for travel this month or through the end of the year, are flexible. That means, for whatever reason, customers can modify tickets without a change fee being assessed. Flexible tickets normally sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars more than nonrefundable fares, which makes this a great opportunity for all travelers, but especially those with disabilities.

Here’s what the 10 largest U.S. airlines are offering:

Allegiant Air

No flexible travel offers have been announced.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has instituted a “flexible travel options policy” on all nonrefundable fares purchased between February 27, 2020 and March 31, 2020 for travel through February 28, 2021.

For Saver fares, passengers may:

  1. Cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet, which can be used toward the purchase of a new ticket.

For Main Cabin and First Class fares, passengers may:

  1. Make a one-time change with no change fee. New travel must be completed by February 28, 2021. A fare difference may apply to your new itinerary.
  2. Cancel your trip and deposit the funds into your My Account wallet, which can be used toward the purchase of a new ticket.

More information is available on the Alaska Airlines website.

American Airlines

Any ticket purchased between March 5, 2020 and March 31, 2020 will not incur change fees if the change is made prior to travel. The offer is available for any of American’s published nonrefundable fares, including Basic Economy tickets.

Additional details are available on the American Airlines website.

Delta Air Lines

Change fees will be waived for all Delta Air Lines tickets purchased between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020, for travel through February 25, 2021.

Passengers can take advantage of the following options:

  1. Change to a different flight: Delta will allow you to make a one-time change and will waive any applicable change fee.
  2. Cancel your flight: Delta will allow you to cancel your trip without a cancellation fee, and the ticket value will be refunded in the form of a voucher, which can be used toward the cost of future travel on Delta.

Additional information is available on the Delta Air Lines website.

Frontier Airlines

No flexible travel offers have been announced.

Hawaiian Airlines

Tickets purchased between March 1, 2020 and March 16, 2020 will be eligible for a one-time change to a future travel date, without the applicable change fee. The following conditions apply:

  • The change fee will be waived, but any applicable fare difference will be collected for the new flight.
  • To receive the one-time waiver of change fee, guests must contact Hawaiian Airlines no later than 24 hours prior to departure.

Additional terms and conditions can be found on the Hawaiian Airlines website.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue has suspended change and cancellation fees for all new flight bookings made between February 27, 2020 and March 11, 2020 for travel through June 1, 2020.

To read more about the specific terms of this offer, visit the JetBlue website.

Southwest Airlines

From the Southwest Airlines website:

Southwest Airlines never charges Customers a fee to change or cancel their flight. If a Customer’s plans change, or they decide they no longer want to travel, the funds used to pay for their flight can be applied to future travel – as long as they cancel their flight at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure. The funds are valid for future travel up to one year from the original purchase date and must be used by the individual named on the ticket. More information on policies related to travel funds can be found on Southwest.com. We hope these policies provide our Customers with flexibility and peace of mind as they plan their travel.

Spirit Airlines

No flexible travel offers have been announced.

United Airlines

Customers purchasing any United Airlines ticket between March 3, 2020 and March 31, 2020 can take advantage of no change fees on that ticket, according to the following terms:

  • If the new flight is priced higher, the customer may change for no fee but must pay the fare difference.
  • If the new flight is priced lower, the customer may change for free but no residual value will be given.
  • If the customer decides to cancel their flight, they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without fee for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.

For more information, visit the United Airlines website.

Final Thoughts

The flexible travel options offered for tickets purchased this month are a great feature, and can protect you not only from the coronavirus, but from any other unexpected events that may cause you to delay or cancel future travel. With the added protection of flexibility, you can continue to book travel confidently and take advantage of low fares for an upcoming trip.

Featured image courtesy Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

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