Unhealthy air qualities prompt airlines to waive change fees

  • Canadian wildfire smoke created low visibility, unsafe flying conditions
  • Airlines waiving fees: American, United, Southwest
  • Expert: "We want to make sure we don't have smoke in the cockpit or cabin"

A Southwest Boeing 737 airplane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on June 8, 2023, as smoke from wildfires in Canada blankets the area. Smoke from Canadian wildfires have shrouded the US East Coast in a record-breaking smog, forcing cities to issue air pollution warnings and thousands of Canadians to evacuate their homes. The devastating fires have displaced more than 20,000 people and scorched about 3.8 million hectares (9,390,005 acres) of land. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described this wildfire season as the country’s worst ever. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

CHICAGO (NewsNation) — As the smoke from the Canadian wildfires that blanketed much of the East Coast begins to clear, several airlines are allowing passengers affected by unhealthy air quality conditions to change their flights.

American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines have all waived their change fees for passengers traveling to and from the Northeast, Midwest and Canada on Friday due to the unhealthy air quality, according to USA Today.

Airlines have experienced an increase in delays and cancellations over the past week due to the unhealthy conditions, and the FAA even grounded flights due to low visibility in some major cities engulfed by the hazardous, thick smoke.

“We also want to make absolutely sure that we don’t have smoke at all in the cockpit or in the cabin whatsoever,” Capt. Laura Einsetler, a commercial airlines pilot, said. “The airplanes have very high-quality, excellent HEPA air filters now to keep those types of things out. But we just don’t want to take any chances or risk with safety that way.”


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