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Airlines offering changes, refunds for canceled flights
Seattle Times travel staff
Many airlines are loosening their rules for rebooking and cancelling flights after a foiled terrorist plot to blow up planes flying between Britain and the United States threw air traffic into disarray today.
Security and restrictions on carry-on baggage have been drastically tightened, creating long delays at airports worldwide, including Sea-Tac Airport.
In response, both European and U.S. airlines, including Alaska Airlines, are waiving penalty fees for changes and have eased restrictions on what otherwise would be nonrefundable tickets.
Here's a look at some airlines' policies:
British foil plan to kill thousands over the Atlantic.
How to cope: Travel tips
British Airways: The airline, one of the world's largest, canceled today's flights between London's Heathrow Airport and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and New York. Flights between Seattle and Heathrow were still scheduled. British Airways flights leaving from London's Gatwick Airport may also be affected by delays and cancellations today, the airline's website said.
Travelers due to leave from United Kingdom airports today but who don't want to travel as planned have two weeks to rebook flights for departure to the original destination. The new departure date must come on or before Dec. 1. They can also get a refund. Passengers flying from airports outside the U.K. can rebook under the same conditions or get refunds. Get more information at www.ba.com (Other European airlines flying into London, including Air France and Lufthansa, also canceled flights, and have implemented their own rules for rebooking and refunds.)
Given the new, restrictive carry-on baggage rules, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are offering ticket refunds and waiving change fees for passengers who are due to travel through Aug 14. Refunds will be offered to travelers who don't have new dates for travel; change fees won't apply if travelers rebook their flights for travel starting by Sept. 10.
People whose Alaska Airlines cruise vacations have been disrupted by airport security measures should call the airline directly at 1-800-468-2248. Fees will be waived for the air portion of the package.
Because of extensive delays today, Alaska said it would not accept unaccompanied minors or pets traveling with passengers. That may change Friday. See www.alaskaair.com
Because of airport congestion, American is allowing passengers traveling within/between the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (with tickets bought by Aug. 9) to change their travel date up until Sept. 1 or get a refund in the form of a travel voucher.
International travelers can change their flights through Sept. 1 without fees (as long as tickets were purchased no later than Aug. 9). For those who want to cancel a trip, a refund will be offered; for non-refundable tickets it will be a travel voucher that can be used to purchase tickets at some other time. Like many other airlines, for travelers using frequent-flier tickets, the mileage will be refunded to their accounts.
Get details at www.aa.com
For passengers with tickets to, from or through the United Kingdom between today and Aug. 20, Northwest is waiving normal change fees. Passengers may postpone their travel for up to one year from the date their ticket was issued as long as they rebook by Oct. 31.
Passengers who miss any flights today because of security delays can go on the next available flight without the normal penalty fees. Go to www.nwa.com.
Travelers scheduled to fly to, through or from any United Kingdom airport today through Sept. 1 have several options, as long as they purchased tickets before today. For people who are already en route and want to change their return date, change fees, black-out rules and stay requirements have been waived.
Travelers who have yet to depart can make one free change and avoid advance-purchase requirements, as long as the departure and arrival points remain the same. One free change is allowed when rebooking on a new itinerary.
Changes must be made by midnight of your original travel date. Only travelers whose flights have already been canceled can get a refund.
Visit www.united.comfor more information.
Travelers scheduled to fly inside the United States between today and Monday have until Monday to rebook their flights for free. Change fees will be waived only once. For those scheduled to travel to or from the United Kingdom between today and Sept. 1, a free one-time route or schedule change is available through Sept. 1. Passengers whose flights have been canceled can get a refund.
Go to www.continental.comfor details.
Passengers whose flights to and from the United Kingdom have been cancelled or severely delayed due to increased security measures can get a refund, according to the airline's website. The airline is offering a free one-time change policy for passengers who want to rebook their flights, provided they were scheduled to leave between today and Sept. 1 and purchased their tickets on or before Aug. 10. Any free changes have to be made by Sunday and new travel must start no later than Sept. 1. More information is available at www.delta.com.
Airlines are recommending arriving at airports three hours ahead of departure for overseas flights and at least two for domestic flights, although Seattle-Tacoma Airport officials are urging passengers to use the two-hour rule for all flights to avoid back-ups.
"Coming any earlier doesn't necessarily get people through earlier. It just puts more people in line," said airport spokeswoman Rachel Garson. Some people waited in line at Sea-Tac for two or more hours yesterday and many missed flights, but Garson said things should be better Friday even through it will be one of the heaviest days of the year, with 51,000 passengers expected to depart.
"We think things will improve significantly," she said. "We put into place as many improvement as we could."
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company