American Airlines, United and Delta have all eliminated change fees, as COVID-19 uncertainty has seen a rise in the number of passengers needing to make last-minute changes. All three airlines have made their separate announcements over a 24-hour period.

United

United Airlines was the first to announce the change, having done so on Sunday afternoon. Prior to this announcement, the airline charged around $200 for changes on domestic and short-haul international routes.

The new change fee policy applies to all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the US 50 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, if travelling in:

  • Economy
  • Economy Plus
  • United First
  • United Business
  • United Premium Plus
  • Note: Change fees will also be waived for Basic Economy tickets, provided they are booked before 31st December.

In a video statement United’s CEO, Scott Kirby, said his airline will be reinventing the customer experience during COVID-19, not diminishing it.

“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.”

Scott Kirby, CEO, United

Under this new system, passengers will not be limited in the number of times they can adjust their flights. United has pledged to permanently get rid of the change fee.

Additionally passengers can also list for same-day standby for free, allowing for yet further increased travel flexibility.

United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Delta

Delta announced the waiving of change fees on Monday afternoon. The changes are almost identical to United’s.

The elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in the following cabins:

  • First Class
  • Premium Select
  • Comfort+
  • Main Cabin,
  • (Excludes Basic Economy tickets)

When announcing the changes, Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, highlighted Delta’s need for industry-leading flexibility.

“We’ve said before that we need to approach flexibility differently than this industry has in the past… We want our customers to [know] that we’ll continue evaluating our policies to maintain the high standard of flexibility they expect”

Ed Bastian, CEO, Delta

Additionally, Delta will extend their waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year.

Delta will also extend their expiration on travel credits through December 2022, for tickets booked before 17th April 2020. Thus far in 2020, Delta has provided in excess of $2.6 billion in cash refunds.

Delta Boeing 777-200

American Airlines

American Airlines has waived their $200 change fee, according to an announcement on Monday afternoon.

The change fee will be waived on US domestic flights, as well as services to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. You will also have to be travelling in:

  • Main Cabin (except Basic Economy)
  • Premium Economy
  • Business Class
  • First Class

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.

Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja says the changes highlight his airline’s commitment to flexibility and choice.

“In a world that’s constantly changing, American is resolute to our purpose of caring for customers at all points of their travel journey. American is offering more flexibility and ease than ever before, should travel plans change.”

Vasu Raja, Chief Revenue Officer, American Airlines
American Airlines Boeing 777-200