AirTran and Delta say, “No change fees for H1N1 patients” but not in writing


Airlines are all talking a good game about H1N1 (Swine Flu) and whether they want passengers flying with the highly contagious disease. However, when it comes to walking the walk, all (except United) provide nothing in writing to let passengers know their policies.

AirTran Airways in a recent Atlanta Journal and Constitution the airline spokesperson said, “AirTran will waive any cancellation or change fees for people who can show a doctor’s note saying they had swine flu. However, when I searched the airline’s contract of carriage, the official contract that the airline has with its passengers, there is no mention of this waiving of cancellation or change fees.

The Consumer Travel Alliance has sent letters to every major airline CEO and to the Secretary of Transportation asking that change fees and penalties associated with making flight changes because of H1N1 be forgiven during the flu season.

At this point only United Airlines has a clear policy in its contract of carriage, updated, 6/23/2009.

In the event of a travel emergency out of the control of the passenger and upon submitting appropriate documentation to the refunds department, UA will refund any change/penalty/cancellation fee applied to itnerary changes due to the following.
— Serious illness of the passenger traveling companions or immediate family members
Supporting documentation: Doctor’s note stating inability to fly.

This is by far the most generous cancellation policy for serious illness of not only the passenger, but the passenger’s traveling companions or immediate family members.

Kudos to United Airlines.

Southwest Airlines has no cancellation fees, therefore, no need to include such a provision in their contract of carriage.

The Delta Air Lines spokesperson sent me an email with the following cryptic missive:

Delta works with passengers who are ill and unable to travel on a case-by-case basis. When a doctor note is supplied change fees will be waived and travel must be completed within one-year from the purchase date of the original ticket.

I like the second sentence from Delta spokesperson, but it is qualified by the first, noting case-by-case treatment. The spokesperson noted that the contract of carriage makes no mention of this policy. That means it is not really part of your contract with Delta and would be probably be discretionary. It would be nice if Delta would add this to their official contract of carriage.

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, JetBlue and US Airways make no mention of waiving change fees and penalties for passengers with contagious diseases.

Each of these airlines reserves the right to refuse to fly passengers should the airline determine that a passenger is a threat to the health of other passengers. However, should a doctor or medical professional (or a passenger their self) make such a diagnosis these airlines officially will make no commitment to waiving cancellation and change fees and associated penalties.