Delta eliminates domestic change fees, following United move

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

Delta Air Lines said it will eliminate change fees for most domestic tickets, following a similar move by United Airlines.

Atlanta-based Delta already had a temporary change fee waiver in place due to the COVID-19. The company said it will make that policy permanent for the main cabin, Comfort+ and first class, though any fare difference still applies.

The airline normally charges a $200 fee on domestic non-refundable tickets, plus any difference in price.

The elimination of domestic change fees, effective immediately, will make it easier for customers to book, change or cancel their travel plans, according to the company.

“We want our customers to book and travel with peace of mind, knowing that we’ll continue evaluating our policies to maintain the high standard of flexibility they expect,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a written statement.

Delta still will not change its permanent policy of not allowing ticket changes or upgrades to Basic Economy tickets, even with a change fee.

But the airline will extend a broader temporary change fee waiver on all new bookings including domestic and international flights. And, for tickets booked before April 17, Delta said it will extend travel credit expiration dates through December 2022.

Chicago-based United announced its new policy eliminating change fees Sunday, which put pressure on its rivals Delta and American to consider whether to follow the move. Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, already does not charge change fees.

Airlines have depended on change fees to generate millions of dollars in revenue over the years.

In 2019, Delta brought in $830 million in revenue from cancellation/change fees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Such fees also make it easier for airlines to predict ticket demand and how full planes will be.

But sometimes flexibility is good for business.

The peace-of-mind policies adopted by carriers is intended to encourage customers to book flights, even amid the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Business travel is still minimal and total airline passenger volumes remain about 70% lower than last year’s levels.

American also followed United’s move and announced Monday the elimination of change fees.

United and American went a step further than Delta, by allowing free same-day standby. Delta did not announce changes to its same-day standby policy, which comes with a fee starting at $75 for most travelers, but said it is “evaluating further policy changes.”

American is also eliminating change fees for short international flights in addition to domestic flights, and adding more flexibility to its Basic Economy fares, including allowing same-day flight changes.