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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Corridor

Can you provide a link to show where you can cancel an award flight for free on United 30 days out? I can only find where it says 60 days.

TIA

Greg The Frequent Miler

Sure: https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/change-fee.html

Will you still charge a redeposit fee for award travel?

Yes, but only for travel within 30 days. This applies for both domestic and international travel.

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Rich T

Thanks for comparison. Delta domestic policy includes free rebanking of award ticket miles but the new Intnl. extension doesn’t? Really? Disappointed that Delta didn’t replicate American’s policy more precisely.

Greg The Frequent Miler

I expect we’ll hear from Delta soon that this policy does extend to award tickets. I’ll update this chart if/when that happens.

JoeSchmo

Hi Greg – thanks for the helpful chart. It would be great to also have a resource for hotels showing, for example, which ones give free parking on award stay, waive resort charts for top tier members, etc. Does such a chart exist that I overlooked?

bw213

Can I change the route of a ticket? Or even change the traveler?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Route: Yes. Traveler: No (this latter answer may vary by airline though — I’m not certain).

bw213

Thanks!

bw213

I wanted to take advantage of the amex offer on Delta purchase for some travel next year (but not sure of the destination right now). It’s good to know I can change the route.

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Josh

Could you please add Spirit airlines to this chart? Thanks 🙂

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Rosie

What if you get an award ticket now (before 12/31/20), for travel before 12/31/20), and you need to cancel — can you redeposit the miles without a fee? Your chart only references tickets issued after 12/31/20.
Thanks for this info!

Rosie

Any thoughts on this?

Greg The Frequent Miler

I’ve been trying to find time to investigate this. The airlines don’t make it obvious what happens. I am hoping to update this post with that info in the next week or two though

Paul

Very helpful to have this summary. Thanks.

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Anthony

I’d love it if Avianca Lifemiles would join the party. Also too bad the Amex Airline fee credits can’t help for an Avianca charge.

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