These Are the Most Flexible Airlines, According to a New Study

The travel search company Next Vacay analyzed the policies of airlines — including change fees, refund options, and flight cancelation policies — to see how each stacked up.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made flexibility in travel a non-negotiable, some U.S. airlines have addressed the need in their policies — but there are just

In a February analysis conducted by travel search company Next Vacay, findings shared with Travel + Leisure show that major U.S. airlines including American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest meet customers' demands when it comes to flexibility.

The study specifically looked at airlines' change fees, refund options, flight cancelation policies, and travel insurance options at 10 U.S.-based carriers to see how their current standards stack up, by giving a higher score to those which were most accomodating to passengers.

"Whether it's across the globe or closer to home, many passengers are becoming more cautious about the reliability of flights as the travel industry attempts to get back to normal," the company's founder and CEO said in a statement shared with T+L. "Each airline has different specifications so make sure you do your research before booking your ticket to find the best option for the flexibility you're looking for."

Alaska airlines (R) and Southwest airlines aircrafts wait at the runway for takeoff at the San Jose del Cabo International Airport (SJD) in Baja California state, Mexico, on April 29, 2021.
DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

The study deemed American Airlines as one of the most flexible as it doesn't have change fees on all domestic flights or short-haul and select long-haul international flights, and offers an option for a refundable ticket. Next Vacay also accounted for its strong partnership with Allianz Global Assistance, though they warn that tickets for the basic economy class are still not refundable or changeable.

Also on top was Southwest Airlines with no change fees and refundable tickets in select classes of Anytime and Business Select. Additionally, what makes the Dallas-based carrier stand out is that passengers can cancel up to 10 minutes before a flight departure for a refund. The only reason it was a notch below American is due to the fact that the company doesn't offer travel insurance with flight bookings, though they do with Southwest Vacations packages.

United Airlines Boeing 737 on departure taxiing past a Delta Airlines plane at Seattle Tacoma airport.
Ceri Breeze/Getty Images

Delta and United were also among the most flexible since the former has no change fees for Main Cabin and up. United has no change fees for economy and premium seats, with refunds on select fares. Both also have insurance — Delta through Allianz and United through Travel Guard — but on United, passengers who cancel a Basic Economy ticket.

On the other end, Allegiant has some of the least flexible policies, charging $25 per person for each flight segment to change a booking. Also, 24 hours after the booking has been made, there will be a $75 cancelation fee per person for each segment with flight credit being issued for the remaining balance. Though that can be avoide by buying insurance through Trip Flex to avoid change fees.

Also notable is Alaska Airlines, which doesn't have change fees for its Main and First Class fares, only allows for one change and implements a $25 to $50 fee for same-day changes.

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