Major U.S. Carriers Eliminate Change Fees and Restrictions in Repurchase of Less Expensive Tickets

American and Delta join United in foregoing change fees.

Passengers will enjoy more flexibility in planning and booking with more liberal change policies.
Passengers will enjoy more flexibility in planning and booking with more liberal change policies.

In a step to remove another obstacle in making travel decisions, American and Delta Airlines have joined United Airlines in eliminating travel change fees. A change fee is an amount charged or levied for the altering of a material, condition, or requirement in an already purchased airfare ticket.

The airlines are responding to the fact that a modest recovery in air travel at the start of summer started stalling out in July, Baggaley said. With the end of the summer travel season a week away, they had no choice but to throw in the towel on anything that might be keeping people from booking.

This is only one of the administrative changes that improves the flexibility in making air reservations. A ticket buyer who are dealing with many variables, along with multiple travelers, views this as a major improvement in the travel process.

A brief review of the change fee adaptations for each airline follows;

American Airlines

Effective immediately, American is removing most change fees.

The no-change-fee policy applies to all domestic flights, as well as those to select short-haul international destinations, including between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Basic economy fares and other international flights are excluded from the new policy.

Going forward, most AA tickets will be changeable — but remain non-refundable. Though you’ll be able to change or cancel flights without penalty, you won’t get your money back should you decide to cancel. You’ll need to pay for that privilege by purchasing a refundable ticket. Of course, if your flight ends up getting significantly delayed or canceled, then you’re entitled to a refund.

As part of the news, American is also adding additional flexibility for tickets purchased on or before Dec. 31, 2020. Any ticket, including basic economy and international flights, can be changed without penalty. You’ll just be on the hook for a possible fare difference.

In explaining the move to TPG, Vasu Raja, American’s chief revenue officer, offered that this move will hopefully help stimulate demand. He said “American has had this in the works for a while.

Delta Airlines

Delta is dropping change fees as well. Delta’s offer includes domestic flights, including those to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Delta’s move is effective immediately and excludes basic economy fares.

Additionally, Delta will extend its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and basic economy fares, for tickets purchased by the end of the year. Delta will also extend the expiration on travel credits through Dec. 2022 for tickets booked before April 17, 2020.

United Airlines

After Southwest made their fee change in April, United made the following announcement on August 29th

United Airlines is eliminating ticket change fees on domestic flights, effective immediately. They are already waived at least through the end of the year due to the pandemic.

The new no-change-fee policy applies to travelers with standard economy and premium cabin tickets for travel within the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Passengers must still pay any fare difference.

“When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of fees is often the top request,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement. “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.”

Repurchasing less expensive tickets

In a noticeable break from United’s policy, American will offer credits when moving to a lower-cost ticket. This move closely mirrors Southwest’s longstanding no-change-fee policy.

When moving from a $2,000 round-trip flight to a $200 economy ticket, for example, you’ll be able to make the change for free — and keep the remaining $1,800 credit for future use.

This is great news for flyers who are on the fence about booking travel with American. Even if you need to change your destination, you’ll still be able to use the full value of your ticket on another flight.

Raja highlighted how American’s telling customers that “they should have full confidence to do business with American. We will be giving a voucher to customers when they switch to lower-cost tickets.”

Delta’s policy is more restricted. For flights booked through the end of the year, you’ll receive a voucher if you change to a cheaper flight. For flights booked in 2021, Delta still hasn’t made a final decision about what it’ll do if you decide to change to a cheaper flight. 

Metropolitan Airport News is reporting the latest airline programs and processes and cannot guarantee that these policies will be carried forward indefinitely. Travelers should always make it a practice to review carrier websites to ensure that their expectations are being met. The Editor 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.