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Call me cynical, but when I read headlines about airlines permanently removing change fees I laughed out loud. We all know these changes aren’t permanent, but rather a strategy to get people to buy tickets once again, and as soon as airlines are booming, they’ll sneakily be reintroduced. I’m not complaining, but for those of us who are AV geeks we just know better. Personally, I’m glad United buzzed the proverbial tower and put the competition on defense – it’s a win for the consumer, but let’s not get too excited. Let’s take a look at the broad strokes of the new policies from United, Delta, American, and Alaska
United set the newsfeeds ablaze when they announced they would be eliminating change fees on all travel within the US 50, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin islands without limit, excluding Basic Economy. They
The new change fee policy applies to all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S. 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and customers will not be limited in the number of times they adjust their flights.
Improvements for Mileage Plus as well. If you want to redeposit your miles you can can do so free of charge as long as you do it 30 days in advance.
The carrier is also improving the travel experience for its MileagePlus members including waiving all redeposit fees on award travel for flights changed or cancelled more than 30 days before departure and allowing all MileagePlus Premier members to confirm a different flight on the day of their travel.
Premier members can also change their flights on the day of travel, and appears to be matching AA’s award change policy for Premier members regarding date changes. It looks like, starting in 2021, you will be able to change the day you fly, free of charge, as long as the origin and destination stay the same.
As a way to thank MileagePlus Premier members for their loyalty, beginning January 1, 2021, all Premier members will be able to confirm a seat for free on a different flight with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket.
Usually Delta sets the standard, but this time Delta was second to react. They immediately responded with their own elimination on domestic change fees for all but Basic Economy Tickets
- No change fees for Domestic + Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in all but Basic Economy
- Waiver extended for change fees Basic Econ and International tickets until 12/31/2020
The elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands in Delta’s First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, with the exception of Basic Economy tickets.
Additionally, Delta will extend its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year and will extend its expiration on travel credits through December 2022 for tickets booked before April 17, 2020.
Not to be outdone by United and Delta, AA was the third airline to permanently strike change fees. Pretty much, if you’re not flying in Basic Economy, you’ll be able to change your flight. Starting in October, you’ll also be able to fly standby on earlier flights free of charge ( a perk of formerly only for elite status )
No more change fees. Change fees for all domestic and short-haul international flying on Premium Cabin fares and most Main Cabin fares will be eliminated.
Fly standby for free. All customers will have the ability to fly standby on earlier flights for the same destination on the same day at no charge starting Oct. 1, 2020.
More to Basic Economy. Basic Economy fares now come with the ability to tailor your travel experience including upgrades, Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats, priority boarding and same-day flight changes.
Same AAdvantage® benefits during your journey, no matter the fare. AAdvantage® elite members will be able to apply their current travel benefits on all tickets, including when purchasing a Basic Economy fare.
They laid it out pretty clearly here:
Alaska Airlines brought up the tail and announced that they would also be striking change fees. Alaska becomes a member of One World this year so they needed to at least match what fellow One World member, American Airlines, introduced one day earlier. Personally, I think Alaska has the best loyalty program in the country and features an enviable award chart. They lack the route network of the big boys, but they’ve continued to show how much they value the customer. Personally, I found the change fee waiver to be a big perk of MVP Gold and MVPG75.
- All non-saver change fees ( formerly $125 ) will be permanently removed
Alaska will join One World and pretty had to match the policy of fellow One World member, American Airlines, and remove change fees for all but saver fares. These are the Alaska equivalent to Basic Economy; however, even those fees are struck through December 31, 2020 – it’s possible it may be extended as well.
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