How to change or cancel a Delta Air Lines flight
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Delta Air Lines is often seen as one of the best domestic U.S. airlines in the sky. At the 2019 TPG Awards, the airline took the award for the best U.S. airline loyalty program, and its top-tier Diamond Medallion status took home the honor for best elite status. However, how does Delta stack up when it’s time to change or cancel a ticket?
This isn’t something that most travelers think of until it’s time to actually adjust a nonrefundable ticket. This may not happen often, but travel plans do change, especially when you’re traveling during a natural disaster or another time of uncertainty — like the worldwide coronavirus outbreak that’s having far-reaching impacts on the travel industry.
Unfortunately, Delta has one of the most restrictive change and cancellation policies for both nonrefundable and award tickets, so in this article, we’ll walk you through all there is to know about changing or canceling Delta tickets. We’ll start by taking a look at Delta travel waivers related to the coronavirus (and other times when the airline may issue a travel waiver), and then dive into canceling both paid and award tickets.
Canceling or changing Delta tickets during a travel waiver
Delta frequently publishes travel waivers during bad weather, natural disasters and other times when the airline expects to cancel lots of flights. This lets the airline make changes before customers arrive at the airport, saving congestion at the gate and ticket counter. Sometimes these waivers let you change your tickets for free during a very specific period, and other times it offers broader change periods. The specifics of each travel waiver will vary based on the situation.
These travel waivers are usually listed at the top of Delta’s website when in effect. Likewise, Delta may email you if you’re traveling on a ticket that’s eligible to be changed or canceled for free under a travel waiver.
One example of a broad waiver is the blanket travel waiver that — as of the time of writing this article — is in effect for flights booked during the coronavirus outbreak. This travel waiver covers all flights across Delta’s network and it’s been updated several times since the outbreak took over U.S. news headlines. You can view the full policy on Delta’s website, but at the time of writing, the following waivers are in effect:
- All change fees are waived for U.S. domestic and international travel through May 31, 2020. Travel between June 1 and December 31, 2020, can be changed, but a fare difference will apply.
- Delta tickets can also be canceled in exchange for a travel credit equal to the amount of the ticket for free.
- Tickets purchased in March can be changed as many times as you’d like without a change fee. Other tickets can be changed once.
Again, make sure to review Delta’s website for up-to-date info on the carrier’s coronavirus travel waivers. These may be extended or adjusted depending upon how long the outbreak continues.
It’s important to understand the full terms of the travel waiver you’re using. For example, canceling a ticket under the coronavirus travel waiver won’t entitle you to a full refund to your credit card. Instead, you’ll be issued a Delta flight credit that you can use toward a future Delta ticket. If you cancel an award ticket, on the other hand, you’ll receive a full refund of your SkyMiles to your Delta account. According to a Delta spokesperson, the carrier is waiving the standard fee for redepositing your miles — normally $150.
If you booked your trip using an Online Travel Agency (OTA) like Orbitz or Expedia, you won’t be able to cancel your ticket through the Delta website. If your ticket is covered by the travel waiver, you have to call your OTA and request a change or cancellation. All fees should still be waived for eligible tickets.
One exception to this rule is tickets booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or Amex Travel. Delta tickets booked through these credit card portals can be canceled or changed on the Delta website, so simply find your reservation on the Delta website and make the requested changes online.
Changing or canceling paid Delta tickets
Paid Delta tickets that aren’t covered by a travel waiver can still be changed or canceled, but you’ll typically be charged a hefty fee. The only types of Delta tickets that cannot be changed or canceled are basic economy tickets — unfortunately, these tickets can only be changed or canceled under very specific circumstances, which we’ll cover later in this article.
If you’re not eligible for a travel waiver or another special situation that lets you adjust a ticket for free, you’ll be subject to one of the following fees if you need to cancel or change a Delta flight.
|Ticket Type||Change/Cancellation Fee|
|Basic Economy||N/A (not allowed)|
|Nonrefundable ticket||$200 for domestic tickets
$200 — $500 for international tickets
In the case of international flights, you’ll pay a minimum of $200 to change your flight and a maximum of $500. The actual cost of the change or cancellation depends on the length of your flight. Delta does note, however, that all flights to Canada cost a flat rate of $200.
As noted previously, Delta will not issue a refund for nonrefundable fares. Instead, the change or cancellation fee will be subtracted from the cost of the ticket, and the remainder will be issued as a flight credit that you can use towards a future Delta flight. As an example, if you cancel a $600 flight from New York-JFK to Vancouver (YVR), you’ll get a $400 flight credit that can be applied to any future Delta flight.
Refundable Delta fares can be canceled for free at any time before the flight departs for a full refund to the original form of payment. You can make changes to or cancel a ticket by pulling up your Delta itinerary on the Delta website.
Changing or canceling Delta award tickets
Canceling or changing a Delta award ticket booked with SkyMiles is more straightforward than paid flights. Like paid tickets, basic economy awards can’t be changed or canceled. All other award tickets can be changed or canceled for a flat fee of $150, including both domestic and international flights.
When you cancel an award ticket and pay the $150 fee, your miles will be redeposited back into your Delta account. If, on the other hand, you opt to change a ticket instead, you’ll be responsible for both the fee and any mileage difference between your current flight and the new flight you book. For example, if you’re changing a trip that initially set you back 100,000 SkyMiles to a flight that now costs 120,000 SkyMiles, the extra 20,000 SkyMiles will be deducted from your account in addition to the $150 change fee.
This fee is waived for Diamond and Platinum Medallion members, though travelers with lower tiers of elite status still need to pay it.
One major downside to Delta award tickets is that they must be changed or canceled 72 hours before departure. Changes cannot be processed after this time, and you’ll forfeit your miles if you cancel a ticket within 72 hours of travel.
You can change or cancel a Delta award ticket by pulling up your reservation on the Delta website and clicking the Modify Flight button at the top of the screen and following the on-screen prompts. The mileage refund may take a couple of hours to appear back in your Delta account but usually processes on the same day.
Changing or canceling tickets booked with credit card points
Delta tickets booked through credit card travel portals like the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, Amex Travel or Citi ThankYou Travel Portal are subject to the same cancellation fees discussed earlier. As discussed earlier, this includes tickets covered by travel waivers.
The Chase travel portal and Amex Travel are both letting customers covered by the coronavirus travel waiver to change or cancel tickets directly on Delta’s website. All of the same travel restrictions apply to tickets booked through these portals, so make sure you know the ins-and-outs before you cancel your ticket.
Check out our full guide to canceling tickets booked with credit card points for more information.
How do you change or cancel your Delta flight?
All Delta flights (that were purchased directly from Delta) can be quickly changed or canceled online. Just head to Delta.com and follow these steps:
- Log in to your Delta account.
- Click Manage My Trips and select the trip you’d like to change or cancel.
- Click the Modify Trip button at the center of the screen.
- Choose if you’d like to change or cancel your trip.
- Follow the on-screen prompts.
If you do cancel a paid ticket, Delta will email you an eCredit within 24 hours. Make sure to save this email and use the eCredit towards your next paid Delta booking.
If you’re unable to access your reservation online — for example, if you booked with an OTA — you’ll need to call your OTA of choice to cancel or book your ticket.
Do note that same-day changes are processed differently than standard flight changes for paid Delta flights. Same-day changes are cheaper at $75, but you can only move to flights on the same route that are departing on the same day that you’re booked to travel. This fee is waived for Delta Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion, and Diamond Medallion customers. You can make this change at check-in or by pulling up your reservation and selecting the same-day confirmed option.
READ MORE: How to refund a nonrefundable airline ticket
How can you avoid change and cancellation fees on Delta?
Beyond travel waivers, there are a few ways to avoid paying change and cancellation fees on Delta flights. Here are some scenarios where you may be able to change or cancel your flight for free.
Within 24 hours of booking
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires all airlines to give customers a 24-hour window to cancel flights after booking. Tickets booked directly through Delta can be canceled for free on Delta.com during this 24-hour grace period, and your refund will be processed to the original form of payment. Note that your flight must be departing at least 48 hours after booking to be eligible for this refund.
If your Delta flight is subject to a schedule change of 90 minutes or more, you can cancel or change your flight for free. This usually happens when you book a flight far in advance, as Delta will generally finalize its flight schedules at the start of the season, meaning that flight schedules booked before this are determined by the airline’s current and historic flight schedules.
Likewise, smaller changes that leave you with a too-short (or illegal) connection may also make you eligible for a free flight change. Delta will generally notify you about these changes as soon as they’re made, but you should also review your existing trips regularly to identify these as soon as possible. When one happens, give the airline a call to assess your options and see if you’re eligible for a complimentary change or cancellation.
Sometimes an airline may cancel your flights outright. This can happen when an airline anticipates decreased demand or makes a change to its route network after you’ve already booked a ticket. It can also happen at the last minute due to bad weather, mechanical problems or other unforeseen issues. If you’re subject to a flight cancellation, Delta will often try and book you on an alternate flight free of charge. However, you should also be able to request a free cancellation and refund to your credit card.
As noted earlier, Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion customers can change or cancel award tickets for free. Also, customers with Gold Medallion status or higher can make same-day changes for free online or by calling the airline. Finally, these higher-tier elite customers may be granted additional leniency when it comes to these fees. As we say here at TPG, it never hurts to ask.
Some special situations could allow you to change or cancel a Delta flight for free. You’re eligible for a full refund of your flights if you receive an unexpected military deployment or change in orders, or if you or one of your travel companions passes away before departure. In either of these cases, Delta will likely require that you send supporting documentation before it processes your refund.
Finally, even if your specific reason for changing or canceling a flight isn’t covered by any of the above waivers, it’s still worth calling to plea your case. Some phone representatives may be sympathetic to the reason you need to cancel your ticket and offer a one-time waiver of the change or cancellation fee. Just make sure to go into the call without expectation and be kind to the representative regardless of the outcome.
Canceling or changing an airline ticket is never fun, but the experience is a lot less stressful when you know what to expect. Delta charges up to $500 per ticket for changes or cancellations, so it’s in your best interest to stay on the lookout for travel waivers, schedule changes and other circumstances that could make you eligible for fee waivers. This is especially true with the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, so be sure you review all of Delta’s policies so you aren’t surprised when you need to adjust your next Delta itinerary.
Feature photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images
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