JetBlue’s temporary new schedule change policy is the strictest of all the major U.S. airlines

2d ago

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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

Well now, JetBlue’s just made one of the most customer-unfriendly moves we’ve seen since the outbreak of the virus. Specifically, as first noted by Scott’s Cheap Flights, it just updated its schedule change policy to arguably the strictest of all the major U.S. airlines. JetBlue describes the move as “temporary,” saying it will remain in effect until April 15 and apply to all flights, regardless of departure date. TPG has reached out to JetBlue for more details.

Before the update, if your flight time was changed by two or more hours, you’d be entitled to a full refund for your flight.

Now, the new policy states that your flight needs to have been changed by at least a full day in order to qualify for a refund! If it’s changed by anything less than a day, you’ll get a travel credit to use within 18 months of when it was issued.

This change comes as all major U.S. airlines have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights. In some cases, we’ve seen airline schedules change by the day. As such, this updated policy is likely an effort by JetBlue effort to conserve cash and limit how many refunds it distributes as revenue has dried up at most carriers.

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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.

American and Delta, on the other hand, are much more lenient. American’s parameters permits 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. But neither gets close to JetBlue’s new 24-hour rule.

While the airlines are trying their hardest to avoid giving refunds for changed and canceled flight, you should know your rights. If an airline cancels your domestic flight (or international one that arrives or departs the U.S.), you are entitled to a refund — no matter what the airline says. This is thanks to the Department of Transportation regulation that states that airlines must give an option for a refund if your flight is canceled.

It would seem that JetBlue’s new rule does not comply with DOT rules, though the agency has yet to weigh in on the growing number of customer complaints regarding refunds for canceled flights. It’s also unclear how the agency might view a “temporary” two-week change amid the unusual circumstances surrounding the pandemic.

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

For JetBlue, however, this change is sure to rankle its customers. It’s clearly designed to save the carrier cash in the short-term, so let’s hope it’s rolled back once the coronavirus pandemic ends (hopefully soon).

All photos by the author.

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