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En español | The federal government still requires passengers to wear masks on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation as well as in airports and train stations.
Remember when airlines instituted those consumer-friendly policies during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak — when demand for flights had plummeted and they were doing anything they could to persuade passengers to travel? Most helpful during the pandemic: Customers were allowed no-fee changes and cancellations on the cheapest economy flights.
Depending on the airline, that may no longer be the case. Many reinstated the nonrefundable economy fare. Inexpensive, maybe, but not a great choice as the pandemic continues, says Zach Honig, editor at large at The Points Guy, a travel advice website. Unless you’re sure of your plans, he notes, you should avoid non-refundable tickets where “you’re going to be locked in to your ticket."
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That's especially true as the highly infectious omicron variant is sending COVID-19 rates soaring, and travelers are facing new uncertainty about their plans. Meanwhile, airlines are struggling with labor shortages, flight cancellations and fed-up customers. That may mean the imminent return of free flight changes for economy travelers but until then, here are the major airlines’ current policies:
Alaska Airlines has eliminated change fees on main and first-class fares, although fare differences apply. Saver fare tickets are nonrefundable and cannot be changed. Baggage fees are $30 for the first checked bag, $40 for the second (waived for Alaska Airlines credit card holders and elite-level Mileage Plan members).
On most flights of more than 350 miles, limited food is available but through preorder only. More details here.
American Airlines has eliminated change fees for many tickets on domestic and international flights originating in the U.S. and North and South America, although fare differences apply. But basic economy tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable. Customers can fly standby on earlier flights for the same destination on the same day at no additional charge. Find details on flight credit policies here.
Baggage fees (which vary by flight and destination, but generally are $30 for the first bag, $40 for the second) are charged to main cabin customers unless they have elite status or a co-branded credit card.