Airline Change Fee Quick Reference Chart [New positive United changes]

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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 8/14/21: United has followed Delta’s lead with similar changes:

  • Added a new COVID related waiver: Customers booked in Basic Economy can make changes to their flights purchased through 12/31/21 for travel completed by 12/31/21. Travel for the changed ticket must begin by the expiration date of the original ticket (12 months from the date of the original ticket purchase).
  • Basic economy tickets can continue to fly standby for free on the same day of travel to the same destinations.

COVID Waiver

Airlines waived all change fees (including on basic economy tickets) for tickets issued during the pandemic, but most of those basic economy waivers have since ended.  Now Delta & United have added a new window of travel where these fees are waived (flights scheduled to fly by 12/31/21).

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian JetBlue
Free Changes Allowed for All Flights Including Basic Economy Tickets issued by 3/31/21 Tickets issued by 4/30/21 or flown by 12/31/21 Tickets issued by 4/30/21 or flown by 12/31/21 Tickets issued by 4/30/21 Tickets issued by 4/30/21 Tickets issued by 4/30/21
Includes Award Change Fees? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Includes Award Cancellation Fees? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Paid Fare Change Fees

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

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian JetBlue
Basic Economy Fees NOT waived 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 or between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean Fees waived for all routes 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
Fare difference preserved for future flight Fare difference preserved for future flight Fare difference preserved for future flight Greg’s guess: Fare difference preserved for future flight

Award Ticket Fees

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

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian JetBlue
Basic Economy Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived Fees NOT waived
Change Fees Waived for These Routes: Change fees waived for all routes
Fees waived on all flights originating in North America. Fees waived for all routes when changed more than 30 days before. Fees also waived within 30 days for flights originating in U.S. Change fees waived for all routes 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. Cancellation fees waived for all routes N/A. Hawaiian charges $30.00 for tickets wholly within Hawaii; $150.00 all other tickets
Cancelation fees waived for all routes

Same Day Changes

Only AA, Delta, and United have announced the elimination of same day change fees.  This chart shows the current rules as to who gets free changes (to the best of my knowledge):

AA Delta United Alaska Hawaiian JetBlue
Same Day Standby
Free for all members as of Oct 1 2020. Free for all members as of Aug 2021. Free for all members as of Jan 1 2021. See note for rules** See note for rules***
Same Day Confirmed
Free for select flights and members* Free for Gold elite & higher Free for all elite (Premier) members. Free for MVP Gold or when booked on fully refundable tickets   Free for Mosaic members or Blue Extra fares

* AA offers free same day confirmed changes for AAdvantage® Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro status (and companions in same reservation), oneworld® Emerald members with elite status on Alaska Airlines, and those flying award tickets or Unrestricted Economy (Y fare), Business, First, AirPass.

** Alaska offers standby at no cost only if your travel meets one of these conditions: 1) You are traveling on a nonstop flight between: Anchorage and Fairbanks; Seattle and Portland; or Seattle and Spokane; or 2) You have a refundable First Class or Main Cabin ticket; or 3) You are an MVP® Gold Mileage Plan member.

*** Hawaiian Airlines offers same day standby for flights to neighboring islands only for Gold and Platinum elites, and Corporate customers who booked through their corporate portal.

Other Changes and Enhancements

United allows customers to pay to change basic economy to economy

Basic economy tickets are usually nonrefundable and non-changeable, except when covid or other waivers are in place.  Now, though, United has added the option to pay $45 each way to upgrade from basic economy to regular economy so that you can change your flight as needed.  Details can be found here.

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.

Previous Updates to this Post

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Nun

The chart says fees aren’t waived for AA basic economy awards. I think that doesn’t exist. I’ve never seen an AA basic economy award.

[…] many airlines have had flexible change and cancellation policies due to the pandemic, the difficult thing has been navigating what happens to the various credits. Under the current […]

HoKo

Hey Greg / Nick, this is a great resource, I have a couple suggestions for you that I think would improve it even further:

  1. Add this change/cancel fees page to the resources tab (another good one to add to the resources tab would be your recently created credit-card-free-baggage page). Maybe create a new sub-section in the resources page for these types of articles. 
  2. Update the UA section to reflect this policy (which I believe would set UA apart from the competition): https://thepointsguy.com/news/united-change-basic-economy-tickets/
  3. Include some of the more popular foreign airlines (off the top of my head I would love to see BA/IB, Lifemiles, Aeroplan, and Turkish added). If it’s too crowded/complicated to fit all of this information into one table then maybe you could create a separate table for the popular International carriers.
  4. Specifically for award tickets, if you cancel, I think all of the domestic carriers will refund the taxes/fees paid back to the original payment method. Is there ever a scenario where you’d receive the taxes/fees back in the form of an airline credit/voucher (hence you’d need to use it within 12 months). This would be a useful piece of info to include.
  5. For the section discussing the travel credit issued if the new flight is cheaper AND/OR the credit issued if you cancel a cash ticket, it would be helpful if you called out (1) How many months the credit is good for – I assume 12 months? (2) What is the start date for counting that 12 month window – I assume it is the date you purchased the ticket?
  6. For the same-day-changes table, it would be helpful if you called out whether or not these policies apply to both cash AND award tickets. If there is different treatment for one versus the other, then I think it would make sense to expand the table to specifically address the policies for each type of ticket.
  7. A further wrinkle related to the same day changes is if you used a partner airline’s miles. For example, lets say you booked AA metal DCA-JFK using Avios, do AA’s same-day-change policies apply just the same as if you had booked using AA miles?
  8. Clarify the language in the UA “Award Ticket Fees” section. Currently it just says “US 50 States, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands” <—This is open to interpretation, does it mean flights originating in one of these places? Flights to one of these places? Any flights that touch one of these places (regardless of whether it’s the inbound or outbound flight)? You get the idea.
Greg The Frequent Miler

Lots of great suggestions, thanks!
1. Will do soon
2. Done (added section near bottom)
8. Done
The rest will have to wait until I have more time to research.

HoKo

Happy to help, and glad it was well received 🙂

joe

Want to add a DP for Delta. Their twitter support is incredibly helpful, was able to change a basic economy flight 4 hours from departure with no fees, they even credited me the difference

Greg The Frequent Miler

Awesome!

Jon

Can confirm Alaska will issue an ecredit if the new fare is lower after changing a flight

Greg The Frequent Miler

Thanks! I updated that section of the post.