Consumer Alert: What to do if you have the flu before a flight

Posted: Updated:

From cancellations without penalty, no questions asked…to no exceptions to the regular cancellation policy, airlines in the tristate area are taking widely different approaches to accommodating patients with the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu cases are up almost 400 percent this winter, and doctors have asked anyone who thinks they might be infected to stay away from others. Some airlines have adopted policies that encourage sick passengers to stay home by waiving cancellation or change fees. 

“We require a doctor’s note [but] the customer may apply the value of the ticket to future travel," says Charles Hobart, spokesperson for United Airlines.

Southwest Airlines goes one better. The airlines has a standard policy of allowing cancellations, without penalty, up to 10 minutes before departure. Customers “can have the peace of mind that they will not be penalized for changing their plans, no matter what the reason,” Southwest Airlines spokesperson Emily Samuels says.

On the opposite extreme is discount carrier Spirit Airlines, which is making no accommodations for flu-infected passengers. “We haven’t seen any noticeable impact in cancellation or change requests related to flu season,” says Spirit Airlines spokesperson Stephen Schuler. For more information about the airline’s regular cancellation policy, Schuler referred News 12 New Jersey to Spirit’s website.

Most carriers fall somewhere in between. American Airlines and JetBlue both say they handle requests “on a case by case basis.” Delta says its employees “are empowered to use situational flexibility to waive change or rebooking fees” and that “refunds may also be an option."

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