Airlines eliminate change fees: Quick reference chart

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Recently, each of the domestic US airlines has announced that they are eliminating change fees.  That’s awesome.  But the details can be hard to remember.  Which fare classes apply?  Do we keep the fare difference if the new flight is cheaper?  Are standby fees eliminated too?  What’s happening with award change fees?  The answer to each of these questions differs by airline.  This post offers a few quick reference tables to answer those questions.

UPDATE 12/14/20: A Delta spokesperson has confirmed with me that the elimination of change fees for flights from North America to anywhere in the world applies also to award tickets.

Previous Updates:

COVID Waiver

Airlines are waiving all fees (including basic economy tickets) for tickets issued during the pandemic.  The end date for this policy varies by airline:

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian
Fees waived for tickets issued by: 12/31/20 3/30/21 3/31/21 12/31/20 12/31/20
Includes Basic Economy? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Includes Award Change Fees? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Includes Award Cancellation Fees? Yes Yes Yes, when cancelled more than 30 days before departure. Yes Yes

Permanent Paid Fare Change Fees

Here are the situations in which change fees are permanently waived post-pandemic:

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian
Basic Economy Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived
All other paid tickets Fees waived on all flights originating in North or South America. Fees waived on all flights originating in North America. Fees waived on all flights originating in the United States. Fees waived for all routes Fees waived for all routes
What if new flight is cheaper? Fare difference preserved for future flight Fare difference preserved for future flight
Customer loses fare difference Greg’s guess: Fare difference preserved for future flight Customer loses fare difference

Award Ticket Fees

Here are the situations in which award change fees are permanently waived post-pandemic:

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian
Change Fees Waived for These Routes: Change fees waived for all routes
Fees waived on all flights originating in North America. US 50 States, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands Change fees waived for all routes Change fees waived for all routes
Cancellation Fees Waived for These Routes: Cancellation fees waived for all routes Fees waived on all flights originating in North America. Cancellation fees waived for all routes when cancelled more than 30 days before departure. Details Not Yet Announced. N/A. Hawaiian charges $30.00 for tickets wholly within Hawaii; $150.00 all other tickets

Same Day Changes

So far, only AA and United have announced the elimination of same day change fees.  I’ve left cells blank where no announcement has been made:

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian
Same Day Standby
Free for all members as of Oct 1 2020. Free for all members as of Jan 1 2021.
Same Day Confirmed
Free for all elite (Premier) members.    

Other Changes and Enhancements

Delta eliminates 72 hour award change rule for domestic flights

Delta has issued the following statement:

Effective immediately, Delta is making the following permanent changes for travel within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands):

  • Eliminating the $150 redeposit fee to cancel an award ticket and the $150 reissue fee to change an award ticket for all SkyMiles Members. This covers travel on all tickets, excluding Basic Economy fares.
  • Allowing changes and cancellations on award tickets before departure for all SkyMiles Members, excluding Basic Economy fares. No longer will changes and cancellations made within 72 hours of departure result in the loss of miles on domestic award tickets.

AA Changes Basic Economy

American Airlines announced a number of changes to basic economy:

Later this fall, members who have achieved Elite status with the AAdvantage® program will receive the benefits they’re accustomed to no matter the ticket they purchase. In addition to enjoying Priority Access/Preferred Boarding, our elite members who purchase a Basic Economy fare will now be able to access their:

  • Upgrade privileges.
  • Elite seat privileges, including access to Main Cabin Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats.
  • Same-day confirmed flight change benefit.

Effective Jan. 1, 2021, Basic Economy tickets will no longer earn elite qualifying dollars, miles or segments toward future status.

As airlines continue eliminating change fees, we’ll continue to update this post.

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