First United Airlines announced it was eliminating domestic change fees, then Delta Air Lines and American Airlines followed suit. This move comes as airlines are doing their best to fill seats.
United says it is permanently getting rid of change fees on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S., effective immediately. And starting on January 1, 2021, any United customer can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service, a first among U.S. carriers, while MileagePlus Premier members can 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.
United is also extending its waiver for new tickets issued through December 31, 2020, to permit unlimited changes with no fee. This policy applies to all ticket types issued after March 3, 2020 and is valid for domestic and international travel.
“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,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, in a video message to customers. “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.”
The new change fee policy applies to all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S. 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and customers will not be limited in the number of times they adjust their flights.
Delta implemented a waiver to eliminate change fees in March 2020 and is now making it easier for customers to book, change or cancel their travel plans by making this policy permanent for tickets purchased for travel within the U.S.
“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,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “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.”
The elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands in Delta’s First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, with the exception of Basic Economy tickets.
Additionally, Delta will 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 is also offering a 24-hour risk free cancellation policy when customers purchase a new ticket.
Effective immediately, American is eliminating all change fees for First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Main Cabin tickets for all domestic and short-haul international flying.
American customers can also now fly standby for free, and all customers will have the ability to fly standby on earlier flights for the same destination on the same day at no charge starting Oct. 1, 2020.
In addition, Basic Economy fares now come with the ability to tailor the travel experience including upgrades, Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats, priority boarding and same-day flight changes.
“In a world that’s constantly changing, American is resolute to our purpose of caring for customers at all points of their travel journey,” said American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja. “American is offering more flexibility and ease than ever before, should travel plans change. By eliminating change fees, giving customers an opportunity to get where they want to go faster with free same-day standby on earlier flights and providing access to upgrades and seats for all fare types, we’re giving customers the freedom to make their own choices when traveling with American.”
American will also allow customers to keep the full value of their original tickets if they change their travel plans prior to the scheduled travel. Although customers will have to pay the fare difference for a new flight, customers will not lose their ticket value if the new flight is less expensive. For example, if a customer paid $500 for their flight and change to a flight that costs $300, American will give the customer a $200 voucher to use for a future trip.
The new change fee policy applies to AAdvantage award tickets as well.
Starting Oct. 1, 2020, all customers will have the ability to stand by on flights on the same day as their original departure for the same destination at no charge. This flexibility extends to domestic and international travel, regardless of the ticket purchased.
American is also enhancing Basic Economy fares, keeping the same competitive low price, but now allowing customers to purchase products to enhance their travel experience. Customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets on Oct. 1, 2020, and beyond will be able to purchase upgrades, priority boarding, Preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats, same day confirmed flight changes.
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