With the pending arrival in the U.S. of coronavirus outbreaks forcing travelers to rethink large gatherings and confined quarters, cancellations for industry meetings have been piling up.
Though avoiding crowds may be prudent in containing the spread of the virus, the airlines have been mixed in their willingness to waive sometimes hefty charges for cancelling or rescheduling fares.
Here is a breakdown of the current change fee policies as of Monday March 2:
— " Southwest never charges fees to change or cancel flights," writes company spokesperson Dan Landson, "and any unused funds from cancelled, nonrefundable flights can be utilized for one year from the date of original ticket issuance."
Southwest declined to state if it had seen travelers dropping off in recent days.
— Like most carriers not named Southwest, American Airlines charges a hefty $200 to change or cancel a domestic flight and does not allow changes for economy tickets. American was already waiving change fees for travel previously booked to China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Italy.
On Sunday, American announced that tickets purchased during the coming two weeks will not be subject to these fees if changes occur up to 14 days of travel date. According to the company website: "Tickets must be purchased... for travel between March 1, 2020 and January 26, 2021."
— This is an eight month extension of deals already offered by Jet Blue and Alaska Airlines, both of which had previously dropped change fees on new tickets purchased for travel in the next three months.
None of these waivers apply to tickets purchased prior to Sunday. That makes the new policies more of an attempt to calm prospective buyers than provide relief for those currently holding tickets, though some observers believe the major airlines could change that prohibition if the spread of the coronavirus in the United States worsens.
— Delta charges $200 to change a domestic flight. Unlike its competitors, the airline will continue to require these fees for those who wish to change or cancel domestic travel out of concern for the wisdom of gathering in large groups.
On Monday however the airlines said it is "waiving change fees for all flights booked between March 1 and 31 to any international destination the airline serves" for travel within the next year, fees that can run as high as $500 otherwise.
The airline also has been waiving change fees on tickets to Italy, China and South Korea.
That said, Delta's forgiveness of change fees on new international tickets also appears to have been designed as a way to ease the minds of new buyers than in making concessions for customers already holding tickets.
— Except for the three countries facing travel restrictions (Italy, China and South Korea) United has not announced fee waivers for any air travel change, be it domestic or foreign.