Delta becomes the latest airline to tighten its refund policy

Jul 30, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many would-be flyers have decided to postpone or cancel their flights.

And because of all the future uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, airlines have been much more liberal about flight changes. Most have issued flexible travel waivers for those looking to rebook travel or hold on to travel funds for future use. Some, like Southwest, have even introduced the capability to convert credits into frequent flyer points.

But if you prefer a refund, the rules are clear — if your flight to, from or within the U.S. is canceled or significantly rescheduled, you’re entitled to a refund.

That’s thanks to Department of Transporation (DOT) policy. But the DOT doesn’t explicitly state what constitutes “significant.” And as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, some carriers have redefined what exactly “significant” means.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter!

Delta’s revised schedule change refund policy

The latest policy update comes from Delta. The Atlanta-based carrier previously issued refunds for itineraries that were changed by 90 or more minutes.

But as of July 30, Delta’s tightening the rule. Now, for any U.S. domestic tickets issued on or after July 30, 2020, you’re only eligible for a refund if the flight is canceled or changed by 120 minutes or more. (The revised rule doesn’t apply to international tickets.)

Delta ticket counters (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Though this is just a 30-minute bump from the previous policy, it’s important to note that this is Delta getting stricter about refunds.

Related: These airlines have been the worst — and best — about refunds

However, it’s great that Delta isn’t applying this rule retroactively, and they’ll still offer refunds if your flight goes from nonstop to connecting. Additionally, Delta’s been one of the best carriers about providing refunds during the pandemic, so hopefully that won’t change with this policy update.

How this change compares to American, United

Aside from the fact that Delta’s change isn’t being applied retroactively, a 30-minute bump is relatively minor compared to the other major U.S. carriers.

American Airlines made a very similar update to its schedule change policy earlier this year. As of April 8, AA will only refund nonrefundable tickets that were changed by four or more hours. Like Delta, this update doesn’t apply retroactively, but it does represent a two-hour increase from the previous policy. (For tickets issued before April 8, you could get a refund if your flight was changed by two or more hours.)

Related: United’s back to issuing refunds for 2-hour schedule changes

And then we have United. The Chicago-based carrier made multiple changes to its schedule change policy throughout the pandemic. It irked customers when it went from a two-hour schedule change policy to a 25-hour one.

Delta jets at JFK (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

UA then backtracked to six hours but decided to redefine the meaning of a “canceled” flight. As such, even if your flight was canceled, you couldn’t get a refund if United reaccommodated you within six hours.

Related: You are entitled to a refund for your canceled flight — even if the airline says you aren’t

Fortunately, that’s all behind us since United went back to issuing refunds for 2-hour schedule changes on June 6. And United will retroactively convert vouchers into refunds for those who weren’t given their money back during the saga.

Bottom line

Getting a refund for a canceled flight isn’t too hard. You’ll need to wait for the airline to cancel your flight (don’t make any voluntary changes.)

But what happens if instead of canceling your flight, the airline changes the departure or arrival time? Well, that’s considered a schedule change and falls under a different set of rules.

Delta’s become the latest carrier to restrict refunds for schedule changes. Previously, you’d be eligible for a refund for a 90-minute change, but now it’s up to two hours.

Though the 30-minute bump is certainly noteworthy, I’m not necessarily faulting Delta for inching closer toward the industry average.

For more refund-related coverage, check out:

Featured photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.