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U.S. Airlines Begin Charging Change Fees For Basic Economy Again

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With the uncertainty presented by the global pandemic, it’s no wonder that airlines have eased their ticket policies during this unprecedented time. However, with domestic travel picking up in recent days, airlines are about to retract some of their current flexibility. 

Starting March 31, most U.S. carriers will withdraw waivers on change fees for the lowest tier cabin –known as basic economy. The silver lining is that most change fees on all other cabins have been permanently eliminated. This means that all tickets, with the exception of basic economy, will maintain flexibility moving forward. So if you are planning to opt for the lowest fare class, right now is the time to book; As long as the ticket is purchased before the end of the month, future changes can be made without a penalty.

Here’s more on revised airline policies. 

Delta, Alaska, American airplanes at LAX

American Airlines

American has eliminated change fees on all domestic flights, as well as short-haul flights to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, flying on Premium Cabin and Main Cabin fares. International change fees for trips to South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK have also been removed. Travelers have the choice of changing their origin and destination cities, while a difference in fare may apply.

Basic economy tickets booked after March 31 are not changeable or refundable. However, all tickets – including basic economy – booked before December 31, 2020, are exempt from change fees. The same goes for AAdvantage award tickets. Additionally, all AAdvantage members can change or redeposit award tickets without penalty at least 60 days prior to departure.

For more information, please visit their website

Delta plane take off

Delta Airlines

Delta is waiving change fees on basic economy fares booked before March 31. The carrier previously announced that change fees on all international flights departing from North America would be eliminated, in addition to domestic flights. The rule does not apply to basic economy fares from April 1st onward – or trips that originate outside of North America. 

If the ticket is eligible for a waiver, then the date, as well as the destination, may be changed, and the value of the ticket will be applied. If the new ticket is priced higher, the difference would be collected; Otherwise, an eCredit would be issued. 

Award tickets obtained using Delta Sky Miles on all flights originating from North America are also entitled to fee-free changes or cancellations up to the time of departure. However, basic economy award fares are not granted this flexibility and will still be subject to fees.

For more information, please visit their website

Alaska Airlines covid-19 pandemic

Alaska Airlines

Starting January 1, Alaska waived change fees on all Main and First Class fares to everywhere that the airline flies. Basic economy, known as “saver” fares are exempt, though customers can receive a voucher for the value of the ticket.

For more information, please visit their website

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian has waived change fees on all flights, domestic and international, as well as flights obtained with HaiwaiianMiles. The airline’s main cabin basic tickets are not included, with the exception of those purchased before the new year. 

For more information, please visit their website

JetBlue aircrafts in New York

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue was the most recent airline to scrap change and cancellation charges on all routes – including tickets booked under TrueBlue points. However, similar to the others, the last day to change or cancel basic economy fares – free of charge – is March 31. Going forward, Blue Basic fares can be revised under a $100 fee for routes within the US, Mexico, Caribbean, or Central America, and $200 for all other destinations.

For more information, please visit their website

Southwest plane sky

Southwest Airlines

Southwest remains one of the most flexible carriers as it did not impose change fees to begin with. Travelers have the choice of canceling their booking and receiving a credit valid for 12 months from the purchase date. If the flight is canceled, they will be eligible for a refund back to the original form of payment.

For more information, please visit their website

United Airlines plane landing in London

United Airlines

With the exception of basic economy, United has cleared change fees on domestic (including Mexico and Caribbean), and has recently invested the same leniency to international flights from the U.S. 

Basic economy and flights originating outside the U.S. are exempt from change fees if they were booked before March 31. The condition is that the ticket must be rebooked to a date within 12 months of the original issuance. 

United’s award tickets also come with the condition that they must be canceled at least 30 days prior to the date of departure in order for the “award redeposit fee” to be exempt – otherwise, it’s a charge of $125. 

A major drawback of United is that unlike Delta or American, it will not issue a credit on an exchange if the new fare is lower than the initial.

For more information, please visit their website.  

Frontier airlines plane

Ultra-Low Cost Carriers

Frontier Airlines will waive change fees so long as the change is made at least 60 days of flight departure. Flights changed between 59 to seven days in advance will be subject to a $39 fee, and anytime less than that would mean a $59 fee. 

Similar to Frontier, Sun Country demands a 60-day advance in order to waive change fees. Flights changed 59-14 days prior to departure will face a $50 fee and changes made within 14 days face $100. 

Not surprisingly, Spirit Airlines is waiving change fees for flights booked before March 31. Meanwhile, Allegiant Air is has put a cap on its change policy, allowing customers but one revision free of charge.

plane flying over New York

On a final note – many of us are holding onto travel credits from flights that were canceled due to the pandemic. According to major U.S. airlines, travelers are collectively holding more than $10 billion in unused credits. As the credits typically have a validity of one year, they are now starting to expire. If you received airline travel credits or a voucher for a canceled trip, it’s best to check the expiration date immediately. If the date is still valid, and you don’t have plans to travel yet, you can call the airline to extend the date. Given the current situation, airlines are undoubtedly more understanding right now, Delta for one has already extended. Nonetheless, the recent advisory from the CDC to avoid travel, even if you are vaccinated, should be a determining factor for airlines.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Saturday 20th of March 2021

US airlines had better be careful here. They accepted multiple taxpayer-funded Covid bailouts and need to watch themselves.