What to Count on if You’re Flying in 2021
At a time when everything to do with travel seems to be in the air with the exception of planes, aviators at least have the opportunity to remain flexible. The major airlines have permanently waived change fees on all flights except the cheapest flights within the US, Mexico and the Caribbean. And while the policy for waiving fees for basic economy or international bookings is not set in stone, some airlines are currently expanding the policy to include these tickets as well.
For example, Delta Airlines has promised “Peace of Mind booking” by spring and waived change fees on all flights, including international flights, booked before March 31st. United waives change fees for international travel originating in the United States The airline no longer waives change fees for basic economy flights. Similarly, American Airlines waives all change fees to First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy, and Main Cabin Fares for all domestic flights, as well as flights to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean for as long as the ticket is issued on or to on August 31, 2020. American is expanding its no-change fee policy to include base rates purchased on or before January 31.
With the pandemic not going away tomorrow, it makes sense to keep your options to change your plans for free. For example, Southwest allows you to rebook a flight free of charge for up to 12 months after your original purchase. If you forego basic economics, you don’t have to worry about confusing change fee guidelines when changing your plans – no matter when you buy your ticket.
Use flight credit. If you cancel or change your flight, you will usually receive credit towards future travel with the airline. How the airlines apply for a loan is different. If you rebook a cheaper flight, some airlines will refund the difference, while others will use the rest of the credit on another flight in the future. Some airlines, including United, have restrictions on how often you can rebook and whether or not you can change your destination. United has two types of credits: Travel Credit and Flight Credit. A travel credit can be used for multiple trips until you have used up the full value. However, you can only rebook a single flight with flight credit. If the flight you book is more expensive, you’ll pay the difference, but if it’s cheaper, the airline will pocket the difference.
Be sure to look at your balance and read the fine print as the actual expiration date (usually a year) may vary – not just when you can travel, but when you can book that trip. If you cannot or do not want to travel within this period, contact the airline. “Even if your travel credit expires before you’re ready to travel, you should call the airline to see if you can renew it,” said Scott Keyes, founder of ScottsCheapFlights.com. Do it politely and many airlines will commit, he says.
While it is possible that Airmen will lose flexibility in air travel in 2021, you can count on the continuation of COVID-19 security protocols, says Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor at The Points Guy. Travel experts are counting on the Biden administration to issue a federal mask mandate for air travel.
According to a recent survey by The Points Guy, strict COVID-19 security protocols were more important to travelers than the cost of a ticket. All international passengers to the US must have a negative COVID test. And as vaccinations become more widely available, having vaccinations can make it easier to travel across borders. Apps that prove the vaccination status or should check a current negative test result could also become commonplace, according to Keyes.