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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Dongbing

so now I can change my AA award ticket without paying any fee and have my miles redeposited into my account ?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Yep

Jeff

Really useful, but there should be another row for Paid fare, post-pandemic, _cancellation_, in addition to change. You have that for award flights but not paid. If no one is offering that it would still be useful to have it as a reference in the table. Thanks for the work.

John

Agreed. If I paid for a one way cash ticket from Mexico to the US but need to cancel, what will happen?

Greg The Frequent Miler

Great suggestion. I believe that in all paid ticket cases you get a credit good for a year. I’ll have to double check that and add a row for it.

alcwj

also carry on baggage fee

Peter

Greg, can you please confirm if the following recent statement is accurate
“Alaska airlines Partner award bookings made on or after May 1, 2021 may be canceled online for no fee”.

https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/policies/how-to-manage-my-reservation#:~:text=Partner%20award%20bookings%20made%20on,%2C%20chat%2C%20or%20call%20reservations.

I just want to make sure that if I make a partner reservation (e.g., Emirates), it can be easily canceled without a redeposit fee.

Also please clarify the United partner international award booking cancellation policy in your table (if the partner award flight is originating and landing outside the US (e.g., SAS booking from LHR to OSLO)).

Greg The Frequent Miler

Yes, my understanding is that all award bookings (including those where Alaska is not the operating carrier, like emirates) using Alaska miles may be canceled for no fee.

United: I think that United does still charge fees for awards that originate outside of the US, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands

Peter

Please update the table under Alaska airline award ticket cancellation fee policy to reflect the updated information so it will help other readers. It currently says “Details Not Yet Announced”.

Thx

Greg The Frequent Miler

Thanks. I didn’t realize that was still written that way. Updated.

Josh

what about spirit?

Billy Bob

United extended the expiry date of some Travel Bank funds too.

Points Adventure

Thanks for updating this resource, Greg. For Hawaiian, it says customer loses residual value if new flight is cheaper. Is this a new development? I have a cancelled ticket with them and made sure over multiple calls in Dec 2020 that the residual value is NOT lost. There’s also a Flyertalk post around the same time confirming this in the Hawaii-based airlines forum.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Thanks for this. I’m not sure where I got that info but I see now on the Hawaiian website that you should keep the residual value. I’ve updated the post.

HADLEY V. BAXENDALE.

GREG — Is the workaround for the Cancel Fee on United Award tix when less than 30 days to change to a date far ahead and then cancel should you wish to do so???

Many thanks!

Greg The Frequent Miler

I was thinking the same. I’d expect that to work, but I haven’t tested it.

HADLEY V. BAXENDALE.

Thank you!

[…] This is a good reference chart: Airlines eliminate change fees: Quick reference chart (New: JetBlue eliminates fees). […]

Matt

Hi Greg, under the “Award Ticket Fees” chart, you have written for Jetblue: “Change/Cancellation fees waived except for Blue Basic awards“. I don’t think you can use points to book Blue Basic tickets. If you book with points, the lowest ticket level is “Blue” (and the price in points is calculated off the cash price of the Blue ticket bracket). I always thought that was dumb, but at least award tix will still get a free carryon bag.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Good catch Matt. Fixed.

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Rich T

So for Delta Award tickets overseas, it sounds like I’ll have to book a round trip originating in North America to have free cancellation. I like booking separate one way flights, but my return flights would still have the $150 rebank miles fee. I guess this is still an advantage to Delta Platinum status.

Bill

Can someone link to a United policy that aligns with the post-pandemic policy stated above. The United twitter team told me several days ago that flights departing in 2021, the award cancellation fee is $75 (if done greater than 60 days out) and $125 (less than 60 days out).