Are You Due a Refund if Your Airline Changes Your Flight? U.S. airlines vary substantially when it comes to how big a schedule change entitles you to a refund. It pays to be aware of these changes, since you may want to book with an airline with a more generous schedule change policy. For example, when we recently received a 1.5 hour schedule change for an Alaska Airlines flight, we requested and received a full refund, enabling us to book a different, cheaper flight since airfares had gone down since we booked the flight. That wouldn't have been possible with most other major U.S. airlines, which require anywhere from a 2 hour to 4 hour schedule change in order to be eligible to receive a refund.
In all cases, do NOT accept the schedule change when you're emailed about it. You'll usually have to call customer service. Be sure to request a refund if that's what you want, as typically airlines won't proactively offer it.
Here are all the major U.S. airline schedule change policies, from best to worst:
1. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has the best schedule change refund policy of all major U.S. airlines: if Alaska changes your flight time so that no comparable routing is available within 60 minutes of your originally booked flight time, you can request a full refund to your credit card or original form of payment. See Alaska Airlines' Contract of Carriage, which defines a Schedule Change.
2. Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines permits passengers to obtain a full refund of their ticket if there's been a schedule change of 120 minutes (2 hours) or more or if an additional stop is added to the itinerary or if the equipment changes from a Delta mainline flight to a Delta Connections flight.
JetBlue, similar to Delta, permits a full refund if the schedule change is 120 minutes or greater. If the schedule change is between 60-119 minutes, you aren't eligible for a refund, but you can request cancellation of the ticket without penalty and keep the ticket in open status to use the value of it within one year from the ticket's date of issue. Note that you'll need to rebook at whatever the prevailing rates are, which could be higher than your original ticket.
4. United Airlines
United Airlines states that it will offer a refund if “the scheduled departure or arrival time changes significantly” and the new flight options offered don't work for you. In practice, this means the schedule needs to have changed by 2 hours or more, which is as good as Delta, even if not as good as Alaska, and much better than American Airlines.
5. Hawaiian Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines permits a full refund if the new departure time or arrival time is over 2 hours earlier or later than the original time, or if the service changes from Hawaiian Mainline to ‘Ohana. See Hawaiian Airlines' Schedule Change Policy.
6. American Airlines
We don't recommend flying American Airlines if you can help it, especially after the customer unfriendly American Airlines Rule Changes for Delayed or Cancelled Flights. AA won't refund your ticket unless American Airlines has changed your flight by more than 4 hours. See AA Customer Service FAQs.
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