American, Delta join United in axing change fees

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The Big Three airlines have all decided to do away with change fees on domestic bookings. Photo Credit: Tete_escape/Shutterstock.com

American and Delta have followed United, announcing that they won't bring back change fees on domestic airfares, with the exception of basic economy fares.

The announcements, made within minutes of each other Monday afternoon, followed a similar one United made a day earlier.

American, though, is going further than its Big Three rivals, also announcing the long-term end of change fees on flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, all three carriers charged fees of $200 for any itinerary changes unless flyers paid a premium for a changeable ticket. Airlines suspended those fees at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, but until now the suspensions had been planned as temporary ones.

Getting rid of the fees could be costly for airlines. In 2019, mainline U.S. carriers earned $2.84 billion in change and cancellation fees, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Delta hauled in $830 million, American brought in $819 million and United brought in $625 million.

Before the pandemic, Southwest was the only mainline U.S. carrier that didn't charge change fees.

Under the policy announced by United on Sunday, flyers who make changes will be issued a voucher that lasts a year. If the voucher is used on a fare that is cheaper than the original fare, a customer will lose the difference in value.

American said Monday that its policy will be more customer friendly. Flyers who buy a less expensive flight after a change will keep whatever is left over as a credit for future travel.

Delta did not specify what its voucher policy would be.

American also said that beginning Oct. 1 it will do away with its $75 same-day standby fee.

In addition, later in the fall the carrier will for the first time offer upgrade privileges and access to main cabin preferred and main cabin extra seats to Elite status AAdvantage members traveling with basic economy tickets.

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