Let’s talk flexible cancellation for award tickets. We recently published a consolidated list of the travel industry’s response to COVID-19, and our reader Tim had a great point – what about award tickets?
Unfortunately, at this stage most airlines aren’t doing much about award redemptions. I have to imagine their focus is primarily on revenue tickets. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the travel industry right now. Some companies have already asked for government assistance, travel bans are in place globally, and people are simply nervous to travel. Can’t say I blame them. I’ve gathered all the airlines below I can find that are currently waiving award change and cancellation fees.
(SEE ALSO – What Happens When You Cancel a Flight Booked with Points? (And How to Get Your Points Back))
Which Airlines are Waiving Award Cancellation Fees?
Aeroplan (Air Canada) – Award members can cancel any flight reward free of charge until March 31, 2020. You’ll receive all of your Aeroplan Miles back in your account, plus a full refund of any associated taxes, fees, and surcharges. Aeroplan has paused mileage expiration until May 14th, 2020. This means that between now and May 14th, any Aeroplan Miles which would have expired will not. Effective May 15th, 2020, the normal expiration policy will once again apply. If you had miles would have expired, prior to May 15th, 2020, they will still expire if an eligible transaction has not been completed by May 15th.
Mileage Plan (Alaska Airlines) – If you purchased an award ticket for travel through May 31, 2020, you can change or cancel your trip without a fee New travel must be completed by February 28, 2021. A fare difference may apply to your new itinerary, but cancellation will result in a full refund.
AAdvantage (American Airlines) – It seems as though American’s current travel waiver policy also applies to award bookings. (Nick Ewen over at TPG was able to confirm with the airline directly.) They’re waiving change fees on tickets purchases March 1, 2020 or earlier for travel between March 1 and May 31, 2020. If you cancel, you’ll be able to use the same funds for a flight departing through the end of 2020 or 1 year from the date of ticketing (whichever is sooner).
Avios (British Airways) – When canceling flights booked with Avios, you’ll always get your Avios back, but you’ll often forfeit some of the taxes and fees. So far BA hasn’t changed their award redeposit structure in light of COVID-19, so you’re looking at a maximum of $55. If you paid taxes/fees over $55, you should get the remainder refunded back to you. (Note, that’s only for flights departing the US, different amounts apply to other flights.)
TrueBlue (JetBlue Airways) – JetBlue is waiving all cancellation and change fees for flights through May 31st, 2020, or any future travel plans booked through March 31, 2020. All TrueBlue points used will be automatically refunded to the account used to book, and any taxes and fees will be deposited to your JetBlue Travel Bank. Travel Bank credit is valid for 1 year from the issue date.
Rapid Rewards (Southwest Airlines) – I always tout Southwest as a fantastic carrier for those that need flexible plans, and this is no different. Southwest always allows travelers to refund flights booked on points up until boarding for a full refund of the points and fees incurred. This policy is especially useful when you can’t yet lock in your travel plans, and I’ve taken advantage of it a few times before.
MileagePlus (United Airlines) – UPDATED 3/31/2020 – According to Dan’s Deals, United confirmed that they now allow free mileage redeposits on all travel from now through May 31st, even if your flight is not cancelled. This policy applies regardless of when you booked travel and applies to both United and partner award travel.
Most other airlines seem to be on a case by case basis, or have adopted relatively vague answers to the award cancellation question. The Points Guy was able to confirm with Delta that they’re waiving mileage redeposit fees right now, despite no mention on their dedicated COVID-19 page.
As the worldwide situation continues to progress, I have no doubt there will be shifts in the airline industry’s response. I hope to update this post and my previous post as policies change, but feel free to let me know if you catch something before I do!
Check out these posts from Dan’s Deals and The Points Guy that helped me compile some of this information!
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Cancelled a LifeMiles award booking via phone and paid the $200. Cancelled an American Airlines award booking online / DM Twitter and paid $0. Not an issue one way or another. LifeMiles completed the cancellation quickly, regardless of the $200.
United is definitely NOT waiving the redeposit fees since they canceled one of my legs on the award redemption ticket. When I called to cancel the rest of the trip (I simply can’t fly across the Atlantic when the international leg is canceled… and take the return trip back… ). When speaking with the agent, he told me it is not a foreseeable circumstance, and similar to the weather, it is not their responsibility for canceling the flight (hmmm… also Japan does not have travel restrictions, so cutting the flight was definitely the carrier’s choice, even with good reasons)…
So they said, we urged me to take the flight change option instead of cancelation for that matter and stated that the redeposit fee will apply if I chose to cancel. What a bully!
I can definitely confirm that Delta returned our points and the tax on the award tickets we had for NYC in May.