JetBlue backtracks on its strict schedule change policy in light of DOT ruling on refunds
JetBlue was one of the first U.S. airlines to waive change and cancellation fees for new bookings in light of the coronavirus pandemic. As the virus continued spreading, the airline then expanded this policy exception to existing bookings as well. At the time, I called the customer-friendly move "great news." Other airlines quickly followed suit, and now all airlines have some form of flexible waivers due to the virus.
Related: All the latest flight waivers and cancellations: an airline-by-airline list
Before April 2, if your flight time was changed by two or more hours, you’d be entitled to a full refund for your flight. Then on Thursday, JetBlue made one of the most customer-unfriendly moves we've seen since the outbreak of the virus. Specifically, as was first noted by Scott's Cheap Flights, it updated its schedule change policy to the strictest of all the major U.S. airlines.
The temporary policy stated that your flight needed to have been changed by at least a full day in order to qualify for a refund! If it changed by anything less than a day, you'll get a travel credit to use within 18 months of when it was issued.
Well, just two days after the update, the airline has heeded the enforcement notice of the Department of Transportation and retracted its strict policy. Once again, you'll be able to get a refund if your flight time is changed by two or more hours.
Even though airlines are trying to conserve cash and limit how many refunds they distribute, the Department of Transportation has reinforced its rule that passengers are entitled to refunds for canceled or significantly disrupted flights.
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United pulled a similar move a few weeks ago. It updated its schedule change policy four times, before landing on the current version. The policy now states that your flight needs to be changed by six or more hours before being entitled to a United travel voucher. If you'd like a refund instead, you need to wait until the voucher expires — a full year from when it's issued.
Related: You are entitled to a refund for your canceled flight — even if the airline says you aren’t
American and Delta, on the other hand, are much more lenient than United. American’s parameters permit a full refund in case a flight is changed by 61 minutes or more. Delta is just a bit more restrictive, with a 90-minute threshold.
Thanks to the DoT guidance, JetBlue's now retracted its strict schedule change policy. That's great news for customers, especially for those looking to get their money back for canceled flights.
All photos by the author.