All Three US International Carriers Are Now Waiving Fare Differences On Select International Fares (Very Limited Time)


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With the United States shortly bringing in a requirement for pre-departure COVID testing for a significant number of international passengers wishing to enter the United States, the major US airlines have now all announced that they will waive any fare differences arising from passengers wishing to change their dates of travel so that they may enter the US before the new rule comes into effect.

The New Rules

In brief: From 26 January 2021, most passengers of two years of age or older and traveling to the United States from an international destination will have to provide evidence of a negative COVID test or evidence that they have recovered from SARS-Co V-2.

No exceptions are being made for US citizens or permanent residents, but there are a few exemptions are being made. Specifically, the following categories of people will not have to provide evidence of a negative COVID test (or proof that they have recovered from COVID) before traveling to the United States:

  • Crew members of airlines or other aircraft operators (provided they follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19)
  • Airlines or other aircraft operators transporting passengers with COVID-19 (with CDC authorization and in line with CDC guidelines)
  • Federal law enforcement personnel while on official duty and carrying out a law enforcement function.
  • Members of the US military (when traveling under orders)
  • Airlines or other aircraft operators granted specific waivers based on the CDC’s determination that a foreign country lacks testing capacity.

As the order refers specifically to departures “from a foreign country“, travelers arriving directly from US territories are also exempt.

Follow this link for details and commentary on the new rules

What The Big 3 Airlines Have Said

On Wednesday, Delta was the first of the major US airlines to announce that it would waive any fare differences arising from passengers wishing to change their dates of travel because of the pre-departure testing requirement that’s being introduced. Since then, and rather quietly, American Airlines and United Airlines have said the same.

Delta’s Waiver

Delta’s offer to waive any fare differences applies to travelers who meet all of the following requirements:

  • The international travel bookings must have been made on or before 12 January 2021.
  • The booking must be for travel that sees the passenger scheduled to return to the US on or before 9 February 2021.
  • Rebooked travel must begin on or before 25 January 2021

If your travel booking doesn’t meet the first two requirements or if you’re not willing to travel on or before 25 January, Delta will not waive any fare difference that arises if you change your dates of travel (link).

United’s Waiver

United’s offer to waive any fare differences applies to travelers who meet all of the following requirements:

  • The international travel bookings must have been made on or before 12 January 2021.
  • The booking must be for travel that sees the passenger scheduled to return to the US on or before 15 February 2021

United’s waiver doesn’t appear to specifically mention that rebooked travel has to be complete by 25 January (link) for any fare difference to be waived, but considering the reason for the waiver, it’s probably fair to assume that this is implied.

American’s Waiver

American’s offer to waive any fare differences applies to travelers who meet all of the following requirements:

  • The international travel bookings must have been made on or before 12 January 2021.
  • The booking must be for travel that sees the passenger scheduled to return to the US on or before 9 February 2021.
  • Rebooked travel must begin on or before 25 January 2021
  • Rebooked travel must be for the same cabin of service with the same origin and destination.

If your travel booking doesn’t meet the first two requirements or if you’re not willing to travel on or before 25 January or if you want to change your cabin of service, your origin, or your destination, American Airlines will not waive any fare difference that arises if you change your dates of travel (link).

Bottom Line

All three major US international carriers have made provisions to waive any fare differences for customers impacted by the soon-to-be-introduced pre-departure testing requirement that comes into effect on January 26th. Customers wishing to make the most of these provisions should contact the airlines directly and be prepared to adhere to the conditions set out above.

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