Coronavirus travel alerts: How airlines, hotels, cruise liners and trains are responding to COVID-19

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In a Nutshell

Until it’s safe to travel again, many airlines, hotels, cruise liners and trains are changing their policies to accommodate you during this difficult time.

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In light of the coronavirus, you might be rethinking your travel plans.

To help you navigate these challenges, we’re tracking the steps that many airlines, hotels, cruise liners and trains are taking in response to the COVID19 pandemic.



Airlines

Typically, airlines have strict policies that discourage you from making changes to, or cancelling, your flight. But in light of COVID-19, many airlines are temporarily loosening these restrictions for passengers who don’t feel safe flying.

The accommodations that each airline is offering depends on the dates of your flight or when you purchased your tickets, and the date thresholds are changing rapidly. We recommend checking each airline’s website for the latest updates as the situation evolves.

Here’s an overview to help you understand what each of these major U.S. airlines has been offering.

Alaska Airlines

Change or cancel flight: Alaska is temporarily waiving change and cancellation fees, depending on the type of fare you have. If you have a first class, main or award fare, and you’re not keen on flying right now, you can push back your flight to a later date. You’ll be charged only for the fare difference if your new flight is more expensive.

Or, regardless of which type of fare you have, you can cancel your flight and receive a credit for a future trip. Just be aware that there may be an expiration date for the credit if you go this route. Once you cancel, you should receive a credit certificate via email, with a PIN in a separate email that will allow you to redeem your certificate.

Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™: If your Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare expires in 2020, Alaska will give you until the end of the year to buy travel through Nov. 26, 2021.

Mileage Plan™ Status: If you’re currently an Alaska Mileage Plan member, your 2020 elite status will be extended through 2021. Unfortunately, Alaska isn’t offering anything to help people who don’t currently have elite status earn it this year.

Alaska Lounge membership: If you have an active Alaska Lounge membership as of April 1, 2020, it will be extended by six months.

Mileage Plan Miles: From what we can tell, Alaska Airlines isn’t offering anything to prevent your miles from expiring. So if your account has been inactive for two years, Alaska Airlines will delete your account and your miles will expire. If that happens, you’ll have an additional year to pay a $75 reinstatement fee to get your miles back.

American Airlines

Change or cancel flight: American is temporarily waiving change fees under certain circumstances.

For flights booked and taking place within a certain time frame, you can change the dates and location of your flight, or you can cancel and wait until things get better to rebook. For its members, American might also waive the reinstatement fee it usually charges before it returns your miles when you cancel an award ticket.

Even though you won’t be charged these fees, you’ll still owe the fare difference if your new flight costs more. But it’s unclear whether American will reimburse you for the fare difference if your new flight is cheaper.

AAdvantage elite status: If you’re currently an American Airlines AAdvantage member, your 2020 elite status will be extended until Jan. 31, 2022. You’ll also be eligible for up to $400 in credits for an American Airlines Vacations package. For those who don’t currently have elite status, American Airlines is temporarily lowering the requirements to make it easier to qualify.

Admirals Club: If you have an Admirals Club membership or a one-day pass, American Airlines will extend the expiration by six months.

Miles: Your miles no longer expire at many major airlines. The exception is American Airlines, where your AAdvantage miles typically expire after 18 months of inactivity.

From what we can tell, American Airlines hasn’t publicly announced any changes to this policy in light of the coronavirus pandemic. But some reports indicate the airline is delaying expirations by several months.

If your miles are about to expire, we recommend you contact American Airlines and ask for clarification.

American Airlines credit cards: If you have an eligible co-branded AAdvantage credit card from Citi or Barclays, you’ll temporarily earn one mile toward lifetime Million Miler status for every $1 you spend on purchases.

Delta Air Lines

Change or cancel flight: Delta is temporarily waiving change fees for certain flights. If your flight falls within the impacted time frame, you can pick new dates or fly to a new destination. You may still have to pay the fare difference if your new flight is more expensive, but the fare difference will be waived for some summer travel. And if your new flight is cheaper, Delta will give you an eCredit for the remaining amount.

If you prefer to cancel your flight altogether, Delta will give you an eCredit equal to the amount you paid that you can use toward a future flight.

Medallion status: If you’re currently a Delta SkyMiles Medallion member, your 2020 elite status will be extended through 2021. Delta is also rolling over any medallion qualification miles, or MQMs, you earn this year to help you qualify for elite status in 2022.

Sky Club: Your Delta Sky Club membership could also be extended by six months, depending on your membership’s expiration date.

SkyMiles: Delta SkyMiles never expire, so you can wait until you feel safe again to book a rewards flight.

Delta Air Lines credit cards:

  • If you have the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, the expiration date of any remaining funds you have from your $100 Delta flight credit will be extended by six months.
  • If you have the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, the expiration date of any companion certificate you may have will be extended by a minimum of six months — so long as the date of the original expiration date falls within a certain time frame.
  • If you have the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, you’ll also get an additional six months to use your one-time Sky Club guest passes.

JetBlue Airways

Change or cancel flight: JetBlue is temporarily waiving change and cancellation fees. If you have no interest in traveling right now, you may be able to change your flight to a later date and pay only for the fare difference. But with all the uncertainty about when it will be safe to travel again, you might prefer to cancel your flight. In this case, JetBlue will give you a travel credit that you can use toward a future flight for up to two years.

TrueBlue Mosaic® elite status: From what we can tell, JetBlue hasn’t made any changes yet to accommodate TrueBlue Mosaic members.

TrueBlue points: Your JetBlue TrueBlue points never expire, so there’s no rush to use them before you lose them.

Southwest Airlines

Change or cancel flight: Southwest has always waived change fees. And if you choose to cancel your flight, Southwest will let you use the money you paid for your ticket to book a future flight within a certain time frame.

In light of the coronavirus, Southwest is extending the amount of time you have to use the travel funds from certain cancelled flights. And Southwest is adding the ability for Rapid Rewards Members with qualifying travel funds to convert those funds into Rapid Rewards points, which never expire.

A-List and A-List Preferred: If you’re currently an A-List or A-List Preferred member, Southwest will extend your 2020 elite status through the end of 2021.

If you don’t currently hold elite status but were working toward it before the coronavirus interrupted your travel plans, Southwest will make it easier for you to qualify by offering all Rapid Rewards® members a one-time boost of tier-qualifying points.

Companion Pass: The Southwest Companion Pass lets you bring a guest anytime you fly for as little as $5.60 in taxes and fees. If you currently hold a Companion Pass that’s scheduled to expire at the end of the year, Southwest will extend your benefits through June 2021.

But if COVID-19 put a dent in your plan to earn the Companion Pass this year, remember that Southwest will give Rapid Rewards members a one-time boost, which could make it easier for you to qualify for it.

Rapid Rewards: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® points never expire, so you can take your time and hold onto your points until you’re ready to travel again.

United Airlines

Change or cancel flight: United is temporarily waiving change fees with several different waivers in place, depending on your original travel dates. If you’re eligible and don’t want to risk flying, you can choose a different day or place to travel. But if you prefer to cancel your flight, United may let you apply the value of your ticket to a future flight. It’s unclear if the airline will issue refunds if you cancel your flight and don’t want to rebook. United is also waiving the redeposit fee for people who cancel award flights and want their miles back.

Unfortunately, you’ll still be charged for the fare difference if your new flight is more expensive, but if it’s less expensive, United won’t reciprocate.

Premier Status: If you’re currently a United MileagePlus premier member, United is extending your elite status through Jan. 31, 2022. For those who find themselves on the outside looking in, United will lower the 2021 qualification requirements to make it easier to earn elite status.

United Club℠: Your United Club membership will be extended by six months.

Miles: There’s no rush to use your United miles or lose them, because they never expire. But if you have no plans to travel in the foreseeable future, there are lots of other ways to use your miles.

United Airlines credit cards: If you have a co-branded United Airlines credit card, it will be even easier to earn elite status. People who have a United℠ Explorer Card will be eligible to earn twice as many premier qualifying points, or PQPs, while people who have a United Club℠ Infinite Card will be eligible to earn four times as many PQPs, based on total spending during 2020.

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Hotels and homestays

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels often had more flexible cancellation policies than airlines.

In some cases, the hotel won’t even charge your credit card until you check in. So as long as you cancel your reservation at least a few days in advance, in accordance with the hotel’s cancellation policy, you won’t pay a dime.

But sometimes hotels offer cheaper rates if you book a prepaid, nonrefundable (or noncancellable) reservation. If you have one of those reservations, you could stand to benefit from your hotel’s COVID-19 policy.

But policies are changing rapidly, as are each hotel’s guidelines for which bookings qualify for waived fees or other protections. We recommend checking your hotel’s website for updates as the situation evolves.

Here’s a summary of what several major hotel and homestay companies are offering.

Airbnb

Cancel reservation: Airbnb is temporarily allowing people with existing reservations that meet certain restrictions to cancel and receive either a travel credit for the full amount booked or a cash refund as part of the travel website’s coronavirus-related extenuating-circumstances policy.

If your reservation doesn’t meet Airbnb’s extenuating-circumstances policy, your host’s normal refund policy will apply.

Hilton

Change or cancel reservation: Hilton will allow you to cancel or modify qualifying reservations up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival day.

If you haven’t paid yet and need to cancel, Hilton won’t charge you. But if you already paid for a qualifying noncancellable reservation, Hilton will temporarily offer you a full refund. For Hilton Honors members, Hilton may offer you a free night certificate.

Status: Hilton will extend your elite status by one year. So if you were scheduled to be downgraded in March 2020, your status will last through March 2021, and if you were scheduled to be downgraded in March 2021, it will be good through March 2022.

Weekend night rewards: If you received a weekend night reward through your Hilton credit card, but it’s scheduled to expire this summer, Hilton will extend it through the end of next summer.

Points: Hilton will pause the expiration of your Hilton Honors™ points if they’re set to expire between now and the end of 2020.

Hyatt

Change or cancel reservation: Hyatt will allow you to change or cancel eligible reservations up to 24 hours before check in.

If you haven’t paid yet and want to cancel an eligible reservation, Hyatt won’t charge you. But if you were already charged for an advance purchase rate on an eligible reservation, Hyatt may temporarily offer you a choice between a full refund or 10,000 World of Hyatt bonus points.

Status: Unfortunately, if your elite status expired at the beginning of 2020, Hyatt won’t extend it to make up for any trips you couldn’t take earlier this year due to COVID-19. But if you hold elite status as of March 31, 2020, it will be good for an extra year, through February 2022.

Free nights: If you have a free night, suite upgrade or club lounge access award that expires between March and December of this year, it will be extended through the end of 2021.

Points: World of Hyatt points are typically forfeited after 24 months of inactivity. But if you’re on track to lose your points this year, Hyatt will delay the expiration through the end of 2020.

Marriott

Change or cancel reservation: Marriott will allow you to change or cancel your qualifying reservations up to 24 hours prior to arrival.

If you make a change that results in your new reservation being more expensive, you’ll be charged the rate difference. If you haven’t paid yet and decide to cancel, Marriott won’t charge you.

Status: For current members, Marriott will extend your elite status by one year until February 2022.

But if you were still in the process of qualifying for elite status when the coronavirus put a cramp in your travel plans, you might be out of luck. Marriott isn’t temporarily loosening the requirements in 2020.

Free nights: If you received a free night award from your Marriott credit card — or by any other means — that expires this year, Marriott will extend it through the end of January 2021.

Points: Marriott Bonvoy™ points typically expire after 24 months of inactivity. But if you’re about to lose your points, Marriott will pause the expiration until Feb. 1, 2021.

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Cruises

The cruise industry is currently facing a No Sail Order.

Unlike airlines, which may continue to fly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has temporarily prohibited cruise ships from sailing.

The compensation options vary by cruise liner.

If your cruise was cancelled by the cruise liner in response to this No Sail Order, the cruise liner may be offering only a future cruise credit. But some liners will give you a choice between a full cash refund and a future cruise credit that is worth more than you originally paid.

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Trains

Amtrak

Amtrak is temporarily waiving change fees. While you won’t be charged a change fee if you modify your reservation, you might have to pay the fare difference if your new ride is more expensive. If you don’t plan on rescheduling your trip, you can also cancel your reservation free of charge.

From what we can tell, Amtrak has yet to make any accommodations for Amtrak Guest Rewards members with elite status or expiring perks like companion coupons, one-class upgrades or lounge passes.

Your Amtrak Guest Rewards points will continue to expire after 24 months of inactivity.

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Frequently asked questions

What happens if the airline cancels my flight?

If the airline cancels your domestic U.S. flight — or one to or from the U.S. — you’re legally entitled to a refund.

When the airline returns the money, you might notice a negative balance on your credit card. All this means is that the credit card issuer owes you money. You can spend that much on future purchases without being charged, or you can request that the money be paid out to you.

If I cancel my trip, how will I get my money back?

If you cancel your flight, instead of waiting for the airline to cancel, you’re subject to the airline’s COVID-19 policy, or its standard policy if no COVID-19 policy is in place. In many cases, you’ll receive a travel voucher or credit that you can use to book a future flight instead of a full refund.

When it comes to hotels, some are offering cash refunds, even to customers who booked prepaid, nonrefundable reservations.

You can learn more about each airline’s and hotel’s specific policies above.

Can I get a refund if I booked my trip through a travel website?

You may be able to get a refund booked through a travel website, but there’s no guarantee. For example, the rules that airlines are held to don’t necessarily apply to these travel websites and the process could be more confusing.

If you try to cancel a trip that was booked through a third-party website by calling the airline or hotel directly, you could be turned away. You may be instructed to request any changes to your trip through that same website where you booked it.

What should I do with any points and miles that are expiring?

Many travel rewards programs are extending the deadline for points that are about to expire. But some programs have yet to announce any COVID-19 accommodations for their members.

Typically, in these situations, your points expire only after your account has been inactive for a long period of time.

If your points are about to expire, you might be able to save them by earning more points or redeeming some of the points you already earned. Here’s how you can do that without booking a new trip right now.

Earning: You might be able to earn points by spending money on a credit card that’s co-branded by that rewards program. Another option is to shop on the reward program’s online portal.

Redeeming: You also might be able to redeem your existing points by shopping online or giving charitable donations.

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