UPDATED: Delta extends change fee waiver

FILE — Passengers board a Delta Air Lines flight at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, June 1, 2020. Delta has tried to stake a claim as one of the most cautious companies in the industry by promising to leave middle seats empty even as its biggest rivals are selling as many seats as they can. (Alyssa Schukar/The New York Times)..

Delta Air Lines is allowing customers to book flights with more flexibility through August.

Atlanta-based Delta announced July 30 it is extending its peace-of-mind change fee waiver for flights booked through Aug. 31. That means new Delta tickets purchased through August of this year can be changed without a change fee for up to a year from the date of purchase, the company says.

It is also allowing those who have flights booked before April 17 for travel through the end of this year to be able to cancel the trip and get two years to rebook.

Delta said it is automatically blocking seats adjacent to a seat selected by a customer through at least Sept. 30. The airline is blocking middle seats, but allowing parties of three or more to book seats together including a middle seat.

The company says it is capping seats booked at 60% in the main cabin and Comfort+, and 50% or 75% in first class and business class. One exception: The cap does not apply to Delta One business class suites on Delta’s international flights to China from Seattle and Detroit on Airbus A350 jets, routes in which the number of flights is restricted by government regulations.

Delta earlier this year said it will also extend elite Medallion status for this year through 2021, and extend Sky Club memberships and expiration dates for Delta AmEx card flight credits and companion certificates.

For the extension of flight credits from canceled bookings, Delta said for those who canceled trips through September 2020 or have eCredits from flights in those months, it is waiving change fees and extending flight credits through Sept. 30, 2022.

The eCredits will be automatically extended, according to Delta.

Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, also said it will extend the expiration date of credits.

If Southwest customers cancel their flights at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time, the funds normally become a credit valid for one year from the date of purchase. Southwest said it will extend credits until Sept. 7, 2022 if they were set to expire March-Sept. 7, 2020 and for flight cancellations March-Sept. 7 2020.

Dallas-based Southwest is also allowing frequent flier members to convert credits that were set to expire or were created between March 1-Sept. 7, 2020 into Rapid Rewards points, which never expire.

Some travelers had complained that they don't know whether they will be traveling before the end of the year, given the restrictions on movement and concerns about COVID-19. One in five Americans don't plan to travel again until 2021, according to a survey by the travel company Upgraded Points LLC.

Those whose flights are canceled by the airline are entitled to a refund, though some customers have had difficulty getting a refund.

Delta and other airlines have faced a cash crunch as bookings evaporate, and had been trying to steer customers toward flight credits instead of refunds.

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