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Airlines Drop $200 Change Fees, But…

Last week, United Airlines made a bold move: it dropped its $200 domestic change and cancellation fee. In short order, American, Delta and Alaska all chimed in making similar announcements. So even on a nonrefundable ticket, if you want to change your flight or postpone it, you can do so without that financial penalty.

Change fees

The fine print of the new rules is not quite as rosy as the headlines, however, particularly for bargain hunters.


“Basic economy” fares — the least expensive seats you can buy on the major airlines — are NOT included in the new plan. So you’ll still have to fork over $200 for changes. In a moment of unexpected generosity, American, United, and Delta all said that basic economy tickets purchased by December 31, 2020 will also be granted free changes.

There are some slight nuances in how the various airlines are implementing the new rules. On United, for example, if you exchange a $300 ticket for a $200 ticket, they will not give you back the difference even as a credit toward future travel. American, however, will. And Delta will only commit to providing a voucher for the difference for flights booked this year.

A bit of additional good news was contained in the airlines’ announcements. You can now standby for an earlier flight the same day without having to pay a change fee. It is unclear whether this also applies to basic economy fare passengers starting in 2021, however.

For complete rules, check with your airline since the rules keep changing. Here is a good summary of the American and Delta changes, and the ones for United.

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2 thoughts on “Airlines Drop $200 Change Fees, But…”

  1. “You can now stand by for an earlier flight the same day without a change fee.” That’s not generosity, that’s self-serving. The airline gets to fill another otherwise empty seat closer to departure time, and has the opportunity to sell the now vacated seat on the (later) original flight. If they don’t: No harm, no foul.

  2. I’m giving away my age with this observation — I remember when flying was considered to be a luxury item and people even got dressed up when they flew.

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