United Airlines delivered a disruptive message that it would no longer collect change fees from passengers that wish to change their tickets. This shook the industry, and put the other legacy carriers under pressure to match United’s offer. Sure enough, other carriers have now followed suit.
On Aug. 31, Delta Airlines and American Airlines announced they would eliminate change fees, effective immediately. On Sept. 1, Alaska Airlines did the same.
While change fees have been eliminated by United, Delta, American and Alaska Airlines, note that the difference in fare between the old ticket and the new ticket will still apply.
Here’s what you need to know and how these changes may affect how you fly.
Delta Airlines has followed United Airlines’ lead by eliminating change fees.
Details Of Delta’s New Change Fee Policy
- This new policy applies to domestic flights, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- For flights booked through the end of the year, you’ll receive a voucher for the difference in cost if you change to a cheaper flight. This applies to flights in 2020 only. Details for flights in 2021 have not yet been announced.
- This policy does not apply to award flights booked with Delta SkyMiles. Change fees to award tickets cost $150 but are waived for Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members.
American Airlines said it is eliminating the fees for those flying in first class, business or main economy. However, their changes are a bit more robust than Delta’s.
Details Of American Airlines’ New Policy
- Basic economy fares will still be subject to change fees after Dec. 31.
- The new policy applies to all domestic flights, and select short-haul international destinations, including between the U.S. and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Basic economy fares and other international flights are excluded from the new policy.
- If you change flights and your new flight is cheaper, you will be given a credit for future use.
- This new policy applies to award tickets that are purchased on or before Dec. 31, 2020. The policy for award tickets purchased after this date has not yet been announced.
Alaska Eliminates Change Fees
Alaska Airlines announced on Tuesday they are following the pack by eliminating change fees, effective immediately.
Details Of Alaska’s New Policy
- All Alaska Airlines routes are eligible.
- All ticket fares, except basic economy (called Saver), are eligible.
- You can change award tickets with no fees.
How Consumers Will Benefit (And Suffer) From Eliminating Change Fees
Airlines earned billions of dollars in revenue through these fees, but now that airlines are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the pandemic, they are pulling out all stops to ensure solvency by giving customers more reasons to fly, rather than fewer. On the front, it sounds like a great deal for consumers.
Many customers are, rightfully so, worried about planning travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. These consumer-friendly policies should provide more confidence when it comes to booking upcoming travel. Potential travelers can now book a trip that they hope to take without having to worry whether or not COVID-specific change fee waivers are in place. Keep in mind any change in price between the fares.
Overall, this is a great shift in the industry for travelers. No one enjoys paying extra fees, and certainly not a $200 fee to change dates of travel.
These 4 airlines now join Southwest who for years have been the only airline not to charge change fees.
Here’s an excellent breakdown by The Points Guy to illustrate what is and isn’t included with the changes.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics this is how much each airline collected in fees for changes and cancellations in 2019:
- JetBlue $195 million
- United $625 million
- Delta $830 million
- American $818 million
- Alaska $191 million