During the COVID-19 pandemic, many airlines began allowing free changes on award bookings and cash tickets. Some of them have friendlier policies than others. Moreover, some of these policies are permanent, while others are temporary.
Now’s a great time to revisit these policies, as many of them are changing as we near the two-year mark of the pandemic. Here’s a look at how to avoid change fees on your award bookings.
Change Fee vs. Cancellation Fee
There are two different types of fees that you will see kicked around with airline tickets. These are change fees and cancellation fees. Put simply, “change fees” are for when you change the ticket — the date of travel, cities in the itinerary, what class of service you’re flying in, etc. “Cancellation fees” are for when you cancel the ticket, full stop.
These two fees can apply very differently according to several factors:
- Your status with the airline
- Who initiated the change/cancellation (you or the airline)
- Covered reasons — such as military obligations, natural disasters, death in your family, etc.
- Amount of time since booking
- How far in advance you’re changing (ahead of the time of departure)
- Travel waivers in effect
Be sure to understand these before booking. When all else fails, paying with a credit card that offers good protections for trip cancellation and trip interruption.
In this article, we are considering the first type of fee: which airlines allow free changes on award bookings?
Policies by Airline
The following is the latest information from each airline regarding changes to award bookings.
Air France / KLM Flying Blue
There is an FAQ here, but the gist is that award bookings have a fee waiver. You can change to a new date without any fees, as long as you fly in the same cabin.
If you want to change your routing, cabin, or fly on a different airline, the value of your original booking will be applied to the new flights. If there is a fare difference, you will have to pay it.
Make sure to read the details. The Flying Blue information page starts with “reward tickets are changeable without a fee and refundable from now on,” but there are terms that make this not as great as it sounds at first.
All award tickets can be changed or canceled for free.
In September 2020, Alaska announced it was permanently removing change and cancellation fees. To be eligible, you must change or cancel before departure. If you are a “no show,” this perk doesn’t apply.
Fare differences will apply when you change a ticket — meaning you get credit for switching to a lower-priced ticket or pay more when changing to a higher-priced itinerary. Saver fares — Alaska’s term for basic economy cash tickets — cannot be changed or canceled.
Same-day confirmed changes are $50. However, if the flights are entirely in California or Alaska Airlines’ shuttle markets, the fee is $25. These fees are waived for MVP Gold and higher-status members. You do not have to pay a fare difference for these changes.
Changes and cancellations are possible via an add-on to your reservation.
Low-cost carrier Allegiant charges per person and per segment to change or cancel a ticket — up to $75 in fees. However, if you add Trip Flex to your ticket at the time of booking, you can make a one-time change or cancellation without fees. You must add it at the time of booking and make your changes at least one hour before departure.
As of November 2020, American Airlines removed fees for changing and canceling award bookings. The AA website says:
If your travel plans change, you can contact Reservations to change your flight award. There is no fee to make a change. Keep in mind, you still need to redeem miles for any award price difference when making a change.
While you may not make changes to a trip that includes a Web Special award, you can cancel it and reinstate your miles at no charge.
For those who need it, here’s how to cancel an AAdvantage award booking online.
Free changes — but not cancellations — on your award bookings.
While you will pay to cancel award bookings with ANA Mileage Club (a measly 3,000 miles), changes are free. Except for complex itineraries, you should be able to change the reservation in your online account.
Note that changes to award itineraries must follow a list of rules, which you can read here.
Delta Air Lines
You can make free changes on award bookings that originate in North America. Free changes for flights that start in international destinations are allowed if they were booked on or before March 30, 2021.
Delta offers free changes and cancellations on award bookings as long as your itinerary originates in North America. This does not include Basic Economy flights, though. Those are only covered if they fall under a current change fee waiver.
No or minimal fees, depending on your desired changes.
Nearly all award bookings are covered with free changes, extensions of expiration date, and generous conditions for date/destination changes, as well as flexibility in canceling. You can change your destination to another airport in the same region as your original booking without fees, which offers some great opportunities for booking a ticket to a cheaper destination and then changing to a more expensive locale.
Find the specific terms for your booking date here.
You can make free changes more than 60 days out.
There are no change fees (just fare difference) if you change your booking more than 60 days in advance. From 59 days down to 7 days before your flight, there’s a $49 change fee. Within 6 days of departure, that fee goes up to $79. The details can be found here, and note that these fees were less on past bookings, so check the chart for the date you originally reserved your flight.
There’s also an add-on called “The Works”. Adding this to your itinerary enables free changes and full refundability.
Main Cabin and premium fares can be changed or canceled without fees.
If you have a ticket booked in Main Cabin or higher (meaning Main Cabin Basic is excluded), you can change or cancel for free. Fare differences, if any, will apply. There are travel waiver periods that will cover some Main Cabin Basic awards. Details are here.
It’s not possible to change TrueBlue award redemption bookings. You’ll have to cancel and then make a new booking.
However, you can make same-day changes to a different flight for $75 (waived for Mosaic status members).
Changes are only free on domestic award itineraries.
You will pay fees to change or cancel nearly all international itineraries — both cash and award bookings. The exceptions to this are international awards canceled (not changed) within 24 hours of booking or 90+ days before departure.
Domestic itineraries paid with cash have fees, while domestic award bookings have no change fees. The table of fees is here.
Free changes and cancellations on award bookings; deadline depends on the itinerary.
You can make free changes to itineraries within Australia for travel through September 30, 2022. For international itineraries, book by September 30, 2022, and make free changes through the end of 2022.
Fees for changes and cancellations on these itineraries are waived, and the details are here.
Make unlimited free changes through July 31, 2022, then only one change after that.
Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program is offering unlimited free changes to award bookings through July 31, 2022. After that, you can make one change for free, then you will pay for any additional changes.
You can make changes to dates and itineraries, but all changes must be done before the date of departure or within one year of booking — whichever is earlier. Fare differences will apply.
Free changes on all award bookings.
Famous for offering free changes on cash tickets and award bookings, the only thing you’ll pay is applicable fare differences. The same is true in reverse: if you change to a cheaper fare, you’ll receive a credit. If you booked using miles, the miles go back into your account like normal. However, if you paid cash, you’ll receive a credit in the passenger’s name, which can’t be used by anyone else.
You need to change or cancel at least 10 minutes before departure if your fare type is Wanna Get Away. These fares are lost if you are a “no show”, but other fare types will automatically be converted to credits.
Free changes on cash and award bookings 60+ days in advance.
Spirit Airlines uses a tiered system for fees (listed here), based on how much time remains until departure.
- 60+ days until departure: free
- 7-59 days until departure: $59
- 3-6 days until departure: $79
- 0-2 days until departure: $99
If you have elite status, you can have free same-day changes to get on the standby list for an earlier flight. Spirit also allows free cancelations within 24 hours of your original booking.
Free changes on award itineraries originating in the U.S. plus international awards with 31+ days’ notice.
United eliminated fees for itineraries originating in the U.S., except for basic economy fares. There are no fees to change award tickets within or from the U.S., no matter how many days it is until your flight. For foreign city origins, you need to change or cancel your award 31+ days in advance to not pay fees.
Basic Economy fee waivers may apply to some dates/tickets. The full details are here.
[Booking Closed] Air Canada Aeroplan
The important date to keep in mind is July 5, 2022.
If you book before this, you have added flexibility. For flights booked by July 5, 2022, you have unlimited changes without fees until that date. As long as you book by this magic date, you also get one free change after the magic date.
For bookings from July 6, 2022 and onward, you will pay the normal change & cancellation fees associated with your status and ticket type.
Bookings made before September 30, 2021, have no cancellation fee. If you booked after that, fees apply. However, those fees are waived for the following booking classes: Economy Latitude, Premium Economy Flexible, and Business/First Class Flexible. Also, fees are waived for Aeroplan Super Elite Status members.
Air Canada lays out the rules and fees for changes and cancellations here.
[Booking Closed] British Airways
Free changes on award bookings for flights through September 30, 2022 if you booked by June 7, 2022. You can change the dates or change the itinerary on flights through September 30, 2022. If you make changes, you will play applicable fare differences but no fees.
Details are available here.
[Booking Closed] Virgin Atlantic
Virgin’s policy covers flights booked between February 16, 2022 and June 23, 2022 for travel through August 31, 2022. You can make unlimited changes to dates, destinations, and even one name change — all without a change fee.
Fare differences will apply, and your new travel must be complete by December 31, 2023. You also must make changes before your original date of travel.
The Bottom Line
With ongoing uncertainties related to travel, changing and canceling tickets is not uncommon. Luckily, numerous airlines are offering free changes to award bookings. Some policies are more generous than others, so be sure to understand the specifics of your ticket before confirming. Things like origin point, date of travel, your elite status, the cabin of travel, and other factors can change the fee waivers applicable to your ticket.
We at AwardWallet are working hard to keep this list up-to-date. If you see something that’s no longer accurate, please let us know in the comments below and we will update the post.