Delta variant is on the rise — Here’s what to do if you need to cancel your trip

Aug 25, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information. 


Cases of the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant are rapidly rising around the world. It’s now by far the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. and has been detected in countries around the world.

Earlier this summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance and is recommending people in high-risk areas wear masks indoors again — vaccinated or not. Some states, local governments and even theme parks are again requiring it.

Although the U.S. isn’t planning to return to widespread lockdowns, given the evolving nature of the situation, you might be rethinking your own upcoming travel plans.

Luckily, many travel providers are letting you change or cancel your bookings for free, including ones that originally let their COVID-19-related flexible travel waivers expire. Even better, in most cases, these changes and cancellations can be made online. Some airlines that had reintroduced some more restrictive ‘Basic Economy’ fares that aren’t as flexible are adding some temporary waivers for those fares as pandemic-related cases spike up once again.

Today, we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know if you’re considering modifying your plans — again.

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In This Post

Airline change and cancellation policies

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines A320
(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Trips booked between Feb. 27, 2020, and April 30, 2021, can be changed or canceled for no fee, as long as the new travel takes place within a year of the original travel date. Additionally, Alaska has permanently removed change and cancellation fees for new main cabin and first-class bookings. Newly booked Saver fares (basic economy) cannot be changed or canceled.

You must change or cancel your flight before departure to be eligible for flight credit. Apart from same-day confirmed changes, you will be liable for any fare difference if you choose to change a flight.

For more information: See the full Alaska policy.

Allegiant

Allegiant’s change and cancel fees have been temporarily reduced to $25 per person, per segment. However, any changes or cancellations must be made within seven days of departure unless you’ve purchased Trip Flex. This add-on, which can only be purchased at the time of booking, allows a one-time change or cancellation until one hour before departure.

For more information: See the full Allegiant policy.

Related: How to avoid airline change and cancellation fees

American Airlines

AA American Airlines LAX
(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

American Airlines no longer charges change or cancellation fees for domestic U.S. flights, short-haul international flights or select long-haul international flights. You will only pay the fare difference when changing flights.

The one exception is Basic Economy tickets. Basic Economy fares bought on or after April 1, 2021, for travel originating in the U.S. cannot be changed or canceled unless a travel waiver is in place. As of now, there’s no travel waiver specifically for the delta variant.

For more information: See the full American policy.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Plane at The Gate in London
(Photo by Uskarp/Shutterstock)

Delta no longer charges change or cancellation fees on flights within the U.S. or international itineraries starting in the U.S. You’re only liable for the fare difference if you change to a more expensive flight. While basic economy tickets usually don’t get this flexibility, Delta is temporarily allowing free changes on basic economy tickets for travel through Dec. 31, 2021.

For more information: See the full Delta policy.

Related: Delta just made basic economy tickets fully flexible once again, but why?

Frontier Airlines

Frontier is currently waiving all change fees through Sept. 30, 2021.

Normally, Frontier only offers free itinerary changes when requested 60 days or more before departure. There’s a $49 change fee from 59 to seven days from departure ($39 for bookings made through 7/26/21). That climbs to a $79 fee within six days of departure ($59 for bookings made through 7/26/21). You can also get no change fees by purchasing the add-on option called The Works. All of these change fees are in addition to any fare differences.

For more information: See the full Frontier policy.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian airlines in Seattle
(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Hawaiian has discontinued change fees for all destinations on Main Cabin fares or higher. You’re only responsible for paying the fare difference if switching to a more expensive flight. If the airline cancels the flight, you can request a full refund to your original form of payment.

Although new Main Cabin Basic bookings cannot be changed, under the airline’s COVID-19 travel waivers, you can make free changes if you purchased your ticket before March 1, 2020, and through April 30, 2021.

For more information: See the full Hawaiian policy.

JetBlue

JetBlue Embraer 190 jets
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

JetBlue normally doesn’t charge change or cancellation fees unless you’re booked in Blue Basic. These tickets can be changed or canceled for a $100 to $200 fee, based on the route. However, JetBlue is waiving these fees for Blue Basic bookings made between Aug. 25 and Oct. 31, 2021.

You’ll need to pay the fare difference if switching to a more expensive flight. Also, note that you will be charged a $25 fee if you process your change or cancellation over the phone. Further, same-day changes cost $75 and the fee is waived for Mosaic elite members.

For more information: See the full JetBlue policy.

Southwest

Southwest jet
(Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

Southwest has a long-standing policy of not charging change or cancellation fees. While you’ll usually have to make up for any difference in fares, there have been some reports of Southwest offering completely free changes if you keep your original routing. Also, note that the credit received for a canceled flight can only be used by the person whose name originally appeared on the ticket. Paid Wanna Get Away tickets must be canceled at least 10 minutes before your scheduled departure time.

For more information: See the full Southwest policy.

Related: How to reprice a Southwest flight when the fare decreases

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines aircrafts
(Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Spirit has a tiered fee structure for flight changes and cancellations. Changes made 60+ days from departure are free. Then, flights changed or canceled 15 to 59 days from departure are $39, 7 to 14 days are $59 and 0 to 6 days are $79. That said, flights booked before March 31, 2021, can be changed or canceled for free. Spirit elite members are also eligible for free same-day standby to an earlier flight.

Note that if you choose to cancel, the flight credit you will receive will only be valid for six months.

For more information: See the full Spirit policy.

United

United 737 Landing at SXM
(Photo by Skycolors/Shutterstock)

United removed change and cancellation fees for all flights within the U.S. and Puerto Rico, between the U.S. and Mexico and the Caribbean and all international flights departing the U.S. Basic economy tickets are normally excluded from this flexibility.

However, in light of the current climate, United will allow customers to make free changes to basic economy tickets purchased through Dec. 31, 2021. Beyond then, you’ll be able to “upgrade” these tickets to standard economy for a nonrefundable fee and then cancel your ticket. Keep in mind that you’re liable for any fare difference.

For more information: See the full United policy.

Related: Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

Hotel change and cancellation policies

Best Western

Individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of the reservation will apply.

For more information: See the full Best Western policy.

Choice

All new reservations will follow the individual hotel’s policy that was in place at the time of booking.

For more information: See the full Choice policy.

Hilton

Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa
Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of the reservation will apply. That said, all hotels offer fully flexible booking options. Most hotels offer rates that give you the flexibility to change or cancel up to 24 hours before your arrival day.

For more information: See the full Hilton policy.

Related: An inside look at how Hilton is cleaning hotel rooms between guests

Hyatt

Hana Maui Resort Hyatt
(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

All reservations booked on or after July 1, 2020, are subject to the cancellation, deposit and/or refund policy disclosed at the time of reservation. Hotels are allowed to adjust their policies during high-demand periods, so you should always review the cancellation policy of the specific property you’re looking at before confirming your booking. That said, Hyatt shared that it remains committed to offering rates with flexible cancellation options at all hotels globally.

For more information: See the full Hyatt policy.

IHG

Individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of the reservation will apply.

For more information: See the full IHG policy.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott sign
(Photo by MariaX / Shutterstock.com)

For guests with reservations made on or after July 6, 2020, for arrival dates through Aug. 31, 2021, Marriott will allow the reservation to be changed or canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Reservations with pre-paid rates and other limited exclusions will be subject to the rate offer rules communicated at the time of reservation.

For guests making new reservations for arrival dates on or after Sept. 1, 2021, individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of the reservation will apply. Note that changes to reservations are subject to any rate differences.

For more information: See the full Marriott policy.

Related: All of the elite qualification changes you need to know about this year

Radisson

Radisson Blu Chicago exterior
(Photo by Tupungato/Shutterstock)

For stays until Dec. 31, 2021, in any Radisson Hotel Group hotel in Europe, Middle East, Africa, India and Asia Pacific, the most flexible options allow free cancellation or modification of your reservation up to 24 hours before arrival. For other rates and/or promotional offers, you’ll need to consult their terms and conditions.

For stays in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean and Latin America, the individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of booking will apply.

For more information: See the full Radisson policy.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

All new reservations will follow the individual hotel’s policy that was in place at the time of booking. While many rates have flexible cancellation policies, some rates are non-cancellable.

Guests who are prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel under applicable law will have their cancellation or change penalties waived on direct bookings.

For more information: See the full Wyndham policy.

Cruise change and cancellation policies

Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line
(Photo by Lorraine Boogich/Getty Images)

If you cancel a booking for a cruise scheduled during a declared emergency or must cancel your booking because you are prohibited from traveling to the vessel due to a governmental travel restriction, but the cruise is not canceled, you are entitled to a future cruise credit for the amount paid to Carnival. The standard cancellation policy will apply in all other cases, as outlined in the ticket contract for your cruise.

If you, your family members living with you in the same household or traveling companions assigned to the same stateroom cancel a cruise booking due to testing positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of embarkation, you and they are entitled to a future cruise credit for the amount paid to Carnival. You’re also eligible for a future cruise credit if you had close contact with a positive or suspected COVID-19 case within 14 days of embarkation and Carnival deems you are unfit to travel.

For more information: See the full Carnival policy.

Related: Here’s how to cancel or postpone a cruise due to coronavirus

Celebrity Cruises

The Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Equinox.
(Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

When you book by Aug. 31, 2021, you’ll have up to 48 hours before you sail to cancel and receive 100% future cruise credit to use by April 30, 2022, toward any sailing through Sept. 30, 2022.

For more information: See the full Celebrity policy.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal is offering waived admin fees and relaxed cancellation schedules for cruises set to depart in 2021. You can cancel up to 60 days before sailing and receive a 100% credit that may be redeemed on any future voyage through the end of 2022. Meanwhile, for cancellations made at least 30 days in advance, you’ll get a 75% back for cancellations made 60-31 days in advance, 50%  back for cancellations made 30-8 days prior and no refund for cancellations made 7 days in advance or less.

For more information: See the full Crystal Cruises policy.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Dream at Port Canaveral, Florida
(Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

For sailings through Dec. 31, 2021, the cancellation fee schedule has been temporarily relaxed from beginning as early as 119 days before sailing to 59 days before sailing for guests booked in non-suite and non-concierge categories. For guests booked in suite and concierge categories, cancellation fees over the deposit amount will temporarily begin 59 days before sailing. Reservations for inside, outside and verandah categories with restrictions remain nonrefundable and nontransferable.

Within 14 days of the sailing, booked guests with COVID-19-related health concerns (symptoms or exposure) can receive a full refund without Disney-imposed cancellation fees or apply their cruise fare toward a future sail date.

For more information: See the full Disney Cruise Line policy.

Related: Will I need a COVID-19 vaccine to cruise? A line-by-line guide

Holland America Line

For bookings made by Sept. 30, 2021 (that depart through Dec. 31, 2021), you can cancel for any reason up to 30 days before departure and automatically receive a future cruise credit. You may cancel up to your sailing date if you, or someone in your immediate travel party, test positive for COVID-19.

For more information: See the full Holland America Line policy.

Lindblad Expeditions

For new bookings made by Sept. 30, 2021 (for departures through March 31, 2022), you can cancel your expedition at least 14 days before departure and receive 100% future travel credit for expedition fare paid to be used on any future 2021 or 2022 expedition.

For more information: See the full Lindblad Expeditions policy.

MSC Cruises

Bookings made through Sept. 30, 2021, for cruises departing through Sept. 30, 2022, can be canceled for a credit up to 48 hours before departure. If you would like to change your cruise plans, you must call the contact center and advise them you would like to take advantage of Total CruiseFlex 48 hours before your cruise by 5 p.m. EST.

For more information: See the full MSC Cruises policy.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Encore
(Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

For cruises departing through Oct. 2021, you can cancel up to 15 days before departure and get a refund in the form of a future cruise credit. Additionally, for all cruises departing in 2021, you can cancel up to 60 days prior for a full refund.

For more information: See the full Norwegian Cruise Line policy.

Princess Cruises

The Princess Cruises ship Sky Princess.
(Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

For bookings made through Sept. 30, 2021, for voyages departing through Dec. 31, 2021, you can cancel up to 30 days before you sail and get your cancellation fees back as a future cruise credit. Within 30 days of your sail date, you will receive a future cruise credit for the amount of non-refundable unused services and a refund to the original form of payment for all taxes, fees, port expenses and pre-paid onboard experiences and shore excursions purchased through Princess, if you or your immediate travel party in the same stateroom tests positive for COVID-19.

For more information: See the full Princess Cruises policy.

Quark Expeditions

If you’re booked or plan to book Antarctica 2021/2022 or Arctic 2022 by Aug. 31, 2021, you can easily rebook your trip for any reason up to 30 days before your voyage. If you have to cancel due to COVID-19 reasons, you can easily rebook your trip within 29 to one day of the voyage.

If Quark Expeditions cancels a voyage due to COVID restrictions, you have the option to get a cash refund.

For more information: See the full Quark Expeditions policy.

Viking Cruises

When you make your reservation by Aug. 31, 2021, you can change your cruise date up until 14 days before your planned departure and Viking will waive any fees. Reservation changes under the risk-free guarantee will be reimbursed in the form of a future cruise voucher in the amount of 100% of all monies paid to Viking. You’ll then have 24 months to make a new reservation and redeem your voucher.

For more information: See the full Viking Cruises policy.

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Bookings made through Aug. 31, 2021, for any sailing in 2021, can be canceled up to 48 hours before the voyage date for a 100% future voyage credit.

For more information: See the full Virgin Voyages policy.

Windstar Cruises

Travelers who cancel a 2021 cruise booking at least 48 hours before departure will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of the cancellation fees collected, excluding fees collected for air, transportation, and hotels. All future cruise credits must be used within 24 months of issuance on another Windstar departure.

For more information: See the full Windstar Cruises policy.

Train change and cancellation policies

Amtrak

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Amtrak is waiving all change fees for reservations made by Jan. 4, 2022. It is also removing some restrictions on Multi-Ride tickets on the Northeast Corridor through that date. Changes to reservations can easily be made directly through Amtrak’s website or app.

For more information: See the full Amtrak policy.

Things to keep in mind

Why you might want to wait to change or cancel your flight or cruise

In most cases, when you voluntarily change or cancel a flight or cruise, you’ll receive a credit for future use with the company — not a refund. However, if the company ends up canceling your flight or cruise or making a schedule change, then you are entitled to your money back. Airlines typically wait until the last minute to process flight cancellations, so it could pay for you to also wait until the last minute to make any changes.

You can cancel bookings made through travel portals

Travel portals like American Express Travel, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Travel Center and Capital One Travel let you make changes to your bookings per the policies of the individual airline, hotel or car rental agency. If you’re eligible for a refund, you’ll typically be refunded in your original form of payment. This means that if you paid with points, you should be credited back with points. That said, data points have suggested this isn’t always the case. Your best bet would be to call in before canceling and confirming how your refund will be issued before canceling.

Pay with a credit card that offers trip protection

Several of the top travel rewards credit cards come with travel insurance benefits, including trip cancellation and interruption protection. This can help you get your money back for nonrefundable travel expenses when you need to cancel a trip for a covered reason (though many pandemic-related reasons are excluded). Cards that offer trip cancellation and interruption benefits include the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Featured photo by martin-dm/Getty Images

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

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More Things to Know
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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