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American and Delta Join United in Eliminating Change Fees for Tickets

American and Delta Join United in Eliminating Change Fees for Tickets
Joe Cortez

Hours after United Airlines announced they would end the practice of charging change fees on flights, American Airlines responded with a number of changes of their own. The Fort Worth-based carrier announced they would also eliminate change fees, and expanded benefits for AAdvantage elite flyers.

After United Airlines announced they would eliminate change fees for all tickets booked, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines both responded quickly with policy shifts of their own. The legacy carriers announced they would also eliminate change fees for certain tickets.

American Policy Extends Benefits to Certain International Destinations

Unlike United, which limited their change fees to domestic travel, American will allow flyers to change flights without any fees to a number of North American destinations. The new policy is effective immediately and will extend to main cabin, premium economy and premium flyers traveling across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

American created a table that describes where the change fee waiver applies. Image courtesy: American Airlines

American is taking their policy a step further by allowing flyers to keep the value of their ticket if they book a lower-priced fare. For example: If a flyer originally books a $500 flight, and then decides to change to a $300 flight, they will be left with a $200 voucher valid towards a future flight. The elimination of change fees will also apply to award travel booked with AAdvantage miles.

The carrier will also allowing flyers to go standby on a different flight to their final destination on the same day for free. The new policy starts on Oct. 1, 2020, and applies to domestic and international travel, including Basic Economy fares.

There are two new benefits coming for basic economy flyers as well. Those who prefer to fly on the lowest fare class will be able to purchase add-ons to their flight, including upgrades to the main cabin or higher, priority boarding, preferred or Main Cabin Extra seats and same-day confirmed flight changes. AAdvantage elite members will also be able to access their benefits when booked in basic economy. This includes upgrades, elite seat privileges (including access to preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats), and same-day confirmed flight changes.

However, elite flyers cannot use basic economy tickets to qualify for status in future years. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, basic economy tickets won’t count towards elite qualifying dollars, miles or segments.

Delta Policy Mirrors United, Offering Domestic Change Fee Waivers

While American is expanding, Delta’s response is much more in line with the changes United announced. In a press release, the Atlanta-based airline announced they would immediately eliminate change fees for flights within the 50 United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. The policies will apply to tickets booked in the main cabin, Delta Comfort+ and premium flights. Flyers with basic economy tickets will still be subject to change fees.

The airline also noted their continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including blocking middle seats and requiring face coverings through Jan. 6, 2021. The airline announced they would also extend the expiration of travel credits for flights booked before Apr. 17, 2020 through December 2022.

New Policies Fall Short of Refunds Demanded by Flyers

With the day’s changes, all three legacy carriers have modified their change fee policies to mirror that of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. However, the policies fall short of what flyers have been asking for: refunds on flights cancelled or modified by the airlines.

According to the August 2020 U.S. Department of Transportation Air Travel Consumer Report, complaints increased by over 12,000 percent in May 2020 compared year-over-year, with the majority of them being over refund policies. In addition, a group of American flyers have taken the airline to court over refunds they claim are due, while the airline says their complaints should be taken up with other parties.

View Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. OZFLYER86

    August 31, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    obviously this waiver of fees is only short term, otherwise everyone will pay much higher airfares

  2. AADFW

    September 1, 2020 at 6:11 am

    So they’ve basically rolled the clock back to 1990 from a policy perspective. If business stays soft in 2021, I predict that domestic first class cabin capacity will be expanded by whichever legacy carrier is the worst performing in an attempt to win over more loyalty flyers. I’ll admit having more than a bit of schadenfreude over all of this given the degree to which passengers have been shamelessly commoditized by major domestic carriers over the past 30 years, but further predict that all of these rollbacks will be temporary and will go away completely once demand returns in the post-vaccine era.

  3. MRM

    September 2, 2020 at 9:33 am

    Never feel guilty over the schadenfreude you’re experiencing over an industry that has fabricated fees for almost 3 decades now to fill their coffers – along with the bailouts they’ve received as well (also the same customers/taxpayers). I also agree that these will be temporary as well – or else they’ll expand luggage fees to every bigger than a clutch (which, you know, is pretty chauvinistic but I doubt that stops them!).

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