As expected, both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have matched United’s decision to indefinitely eliminate change fees. American Airlines has even gone a step further.
American Airlines Eliminates Change Fees, Adds Basic Economy Benefits
Effective immediately, American Airlines has eliminated change fees on all domestic fares. But unlike United, it will also eliminate change fees on tickets to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Furthermore, American Airlines will offer a travel voucher for the difference in value if your new flight costs less than your old one. At United, if your new flight is cheaper you forfeit the difference.
AA’s change fee waiver will also exclude Basic Economy fares, but it is simultaneously adding more benefits to Basic Economy fares, adding:
- Priority boarding
- Preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats
- Same-day confirmed flight changes
In exchange, elite status will not be earned on these awards next year. This is a smart move that recognizes that Basic Economy may make sense for even usually high-value customers once in a while. By not awarding elite status, elites are not incentivized to book it. Yet at the same time, it recognizes and rewards loyalty for those who have a track record of loyalty.
Finally, AA will allow free standby for all customers effective October 1, 2020, a full three months before United.
Overall, American has two-upped United with its new fee policy.
Delta Air Lines Eliminates Fees
Delta provided less information, but has also eliminated change fees on domestic U.S. tickets, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Basic Economy will be excluded, though like United, all fares including Basic Economy and international fares, can be changed or cancelled without fee through December 31, 2020.
Thus far, Delta has not announced the elimination of standby fees or whether SkyMiles tickets will also carry change fee waivers.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said:
“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. 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.”
Cancelled tickets booked prior to April 17, 2020 will be valid through December 2022, a tremendous window for using future flight credit.
I fully expected American Airlines and Delta to match United’s move on change fees. I did not expect American to go even further, particularly with its changes to Basic Economy. But that is likely the way carriers will get around its “no change fee” policy in the future: just add more fares and options within the Basic Economy framework. In any case, this week has started off splendidly for airline consumers.
Will the policy to eliminate change fees on American and Delta make you more loyal?
image: American Airlines