United Leads Airlines and Eliminates Domestic Change Fees

When we look back at 2020, one big positive change will have come out of a terrible year for air travel. United just announced they have permanently ended change fees on most domestic flights, setting off something of a domino effect among other air carriers.

airplane taking off

So far, American, Delta and Alaska have joined the “no change fees” club. The only other airline to have this policy already baked in is Southwest – which has long had a policy of no charges for change fees or baggage.

This announcement now makes it more advisable for travelers to book early, because there’s no disadvantage to doing so should you need to make changes later. You can lock in a low rate early and, if you are able to stick to your schedule, enjoy the savings. On the other hand, if you need to change as the trip approaches, you can still rebook with no penalty and just pay the increase that you would have had to pay if you waited until the last minute to buy.

A breakdown of all the airlines and their specific policies follow:

United
Change fees eliminated for all standard economy and premium tickets:

  • Applies to all domestic travel
  • If you need to change to a more expensive flight, you do pay the fare difference. Unfortunately, if you change to a less expensive flight, you can’t claim those extra bucks. (That part isn’t great!)
  • Change fees eliminated for all U.S. award tickets
  • Starting on Jan. 1, travelers can fly standby for free, regardless of fare class
  • Basic economy tickets and international travel are excluded from the new policy

American
Change fees eliminated for travelers flying in main economy, business class or first class:

  • Applies to all domestic flights, plus some international routes, including those between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Any ticket purchased on or before Dec. 31, 2020 – including basic economy and international flights – can be changed without fees. After that date, change fees will apply for basic economy and other international routes.
  • If you change your flight to a lower-cost ticket, you will receive a credit for the fare difference
    Applies to AAdvantage tickets (plus any award ticket purchased on or before Dec. 31, 2020 will not have a change or cancel fee)
  • Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, all passengers regardless of fare class will receive free standby privileges
  • AAdvantage elite members will now get benefits on basic economy flights, including upgrade privileges, free or discounted Preferred and/or Main Cabin Extra seating, and same-day confirmed flights
  • Basic economy fares and all other international flights are excluded from the new policy

To sweeten the deal, American has also lifted the traditional restrictions of basic economy fares. Starting on Oct. 1, 2020, basic economy travelers can purchase upgrades, priority boarding, Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seating, and same-day confirmed flight changes. However, you still will not be able to earn elite-qualifying miles, segments and dollars on basic economy fares.

Delta
Change fees eliminated, excluding basic economy fares:

  • Applies to all domestic flights, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Through the end of 2020, if you change to a cheaper flight, you will receive a credit for future travel in the form of a travel voucher. Delta has not yet announced the fare difference policy for 2021.
  • Flights booked with Delta SkyMiles are not eligible for the no-change-fee policy
  • Change fees to award tickets still cost $150. But those fees are waived for Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion members.

Alaska
Change fees eliminated:

  • Applies to all domestic Alaska Airlines routes, plus international flights to Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico
  • All ticket types, except basic economy Saver” fares are eligible
  • Award tickets can be changed with no fees
  • For now, if you change your flight to a less expensive ticket, you receive a future travel credit for the fare difference. If you opt for a flight with a higher fare, you’ll be required to pay the difference.

Southwest
No change to existing policies:

  • No change fees
  • No baggage fees

We think this is excellent timing since many Americans are now eyeing airfares for the holidays. Check out the Qtrip Holiday Flights page for details on how to save even more. We’ll keep you posted as other airlines join the club.

10 Comments

  1. I’m puzzled why Cheap Air is promoting this since the whole purpose of buying on line through a consolidator is to get the lowest fare, which is termed, by the air carriers, as “The Basic Fare” which is not included in the change fee policy relaxation.
    United is the loser. No international fares, and no basic economy, included in the policy relaxation. I imagine that also applies to trips using their mileage program since they always park those folks at the back of the bus in the discounted seat section.
    Southwest continues to be the winner.

    1. Thank you for your comment PB. On our website, we show both the Basic Economy and Main Cabin fares so that passengers can make the best decision for themselves. Whether to get the cheapest ticket or one that might be slightly higher but allows free changes. In addition, most airlines are still being lax on all change fees due to the pandemic including basic fares and international fares. However, we hear you and it would be nice if the airlines removed change fees permanently for all fares.

  2. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHY YOU CAN ONLY TAKE ONE CHECK IN AND ONE CARRY ON IT SHOULD BE TWO CHECK IN 50lb EACH AND ONE CARRY ON IT IS A SHAME THAT WE HAVE TO PAY SO MUCH FOR EXTRA SUITCASE AND NOW THEY SAY NO EXTRA

  3. Great! I’m traveling in November 18th, and I was concern with the restriction of COVID-19 could affect my inversion. It is a relive that I can change flight dates in case is necessary without any charges fees!
    Thank you, United!

  4. United Airlines, Great news! I’m traveling in November 18th, and I was concern with the restriction of COVID-19 could affect my inversion. It is a relive that I can change flight dates in case is necessary without any charges fees!
    Thank you, United!

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