Change fees are charged by most airlines when a customer changes the time or date of their trip. However, as the pandemic continues to affect the way we travel, a few major airlines have announced they’re doing away with this fee.
As airlines adapt to the new normal, they’re finding new ways to accommodate travelers. In addition to limited time offers designed to support valued customers with points and status extensions or extra rewards, some changes are becoming permanent.
Namely, a few airlines have announced permanently removing change fees, which are typically charged when a customer needs to adjust their trip to a new time or date.
In the current travel climate and beyond, this change can help travelers save money and enjoy greater flexibility should their travel plans change.
Southwest Airlines has set an example – the airline has never charged change fees for changes made more than 10 minutes before departure. Other airlines are just now catching up. Read on to see which have dropped change fees and what their new policies look like.
Major airlines eliminating change fees
On Sept. 1, 2020, Alaska Airlines announced it was eliminating change fees permanently on all domestic and international tickets, except for Saver fares. Fortunately, Saver fares are still covered by the airline’s flexible travel policy through Dec. 31, 2020, as part of COVID-19 relief measures.
“COVID has taught us that flexibility in travel is key. As we evolve our approach to travel to include more than 100 safety actions, it’s important to give our guests flexibility when they book by eliminating change fees,” said Andrew Harrison, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Alaska Airlines, in an announcement.
American Airlines announced it was removing change fees on Aug. 31, 2020. Change fees will be eliminated for all domestic and short-haul international flights on Premium Cabin fares and most Main Cabin fares. Additionally, starting Oct. 1, 2020, all customers will be able to fly standby on earlier flights for the same destination on the same day at no charge.
Customers will pay the fare difference for a new flight if it’s more expensive or receive credit toward another ticket if the new fare costs less.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines also announced the permanent removal of change fees on Aug. 31, 2020. The airline’s new policy covers tickets purchased for travel within the domestic U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands in Delta’s First Class, domestic Delta One, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin.
Though international flights and Basic Economy tickets are not included in the policy, these fares will be covered by Delta’s waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights through the end of the year.
“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 in an announcement. “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.”
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Hawaiian Airlines followed suit and announced the removal of change fees on Sept. 3, 2020. The airline dropped change fees for customers who purchase tickets or redeem HawaiianMiles for Main Cabin, Extra Comfort or First/Premium Cabin Class seats.
Those flying in the Main Cabin between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii can change their flight date without a change fee for tickets purchased through the end of 2020 under the airline’s COVID-19 waiver.
“We know our guests’ plans change for a variety of reasons, and we want them to book a flight with confidence and the flexibility to travel when they are ready to take that special Hawaii vacation, visit friends and relatives or do business on our neighbor islands,” said Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Peter Ingram in an announcement.
United was the first airline to announce permanent removal of change fees on Aug. 30, 2020. The policy covers all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S. Additionally, customers can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service, starting Jan. 1, 2021.
On top of that, MileagePlus Premier members can confirm a seat on a different flight on the same day with the same departure and arrival airports as their original ticket, provided a seat in the same ticket fare class is available.
The airline is also extending its waiver for new tickets issued through Dec. 31, 2020, to allow unlimited changes with no fee. This policy applies to all ticket types 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 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… Instead, we’re taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.”
Removal of change fees is great news for travelers, especially in the times when travel flexibility is more important than ever. We’re hoping more airlines will follow suit getting rid of this costly fee and working to meet customers’ needs in the evolving travel landscape.
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