Major US Airlines Are Eliminating Change Fees
Many airlines have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dramatically reduced travel demand. First, we saw United Airlines announce that they will eliminate all change fees for domestic US travel. Following the decision from United, several other US carriers like Delta and American Airlines came out with similar announcements.
United Airlines Eliminates Change Fees
United Airlines announced that effective immediately they will eliminate all change fees on domestic US travel. The change fee policy applies to all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the US, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Also, starting January 1, 2021, all United passengers can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service. MileagePlus Premier members will be able to confirm a seat on a different flight on the same day with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket if a seat in the same ticket fare class is available.
From the official press release:
Change is inevitable these days – but it's how we respond to it that matters most. When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request. Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service. United Airlines won't be following that same playbook as we come out of this crisis. Instead, we're taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.
American Airlines Eliminates Change Fees
Similarly to United, American Airlines announced that they are eliminating change fees for all domestic and short-haul international flights on Premium Cabin fares and most Main Cabin fares. The no change fee policy will now apply to any of the 50 US states, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean in all other fare classes except the Basic Economy. The airline will also allow customers to keep the full value of their original tickets if they change their travel plans before the scheduled travel. In other words, customers will receive a voucher for any residual value. AAdvantage elite members will be able to apply their travel benefits (upgrades, preferred seating) on all tickets, including Basic Economy. Also, starting October 1, 2020, all customers will have the ability to fly standby on earlier flights for the same destination on the same day at no charge.
Delta Eliminates Change Fees
Another major US airline, Delta, announced that they would eliminate domestic change fees for all other than Basic Economy fares effective immediately. This no fee waiver will apply to the US, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Delta will also extend its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year and will extend its expiration on travel credits through December 2022 for tickets booked before April 17, 2020.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement:
We’ve said before that we need to approach flexibility differently than this industry has in the past, and today’s announcement builds on that promise to ensure we’re offering industry-leading flexibility, space, and care to our customers. We want our customers to book and travel with peace of mind, knowing that we’ll continue evaluating our policies to maintain the high standard of flexibility they expect.
It will be interesting to see if Delta and United follow the change fee policy from American and add a voucher for the residual value.