Where one goes, the others will follow is something that applies to the US Airline industry. Well, where United Airlines went yesterday – with it dropping change fees, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines follow… in their own ways
Let’s take a look.
Delta Air Lines
Delta would say they’ve been looking at “overhauling” their fee structure since December 2019. Funnily enough, it seems it took a competitor to step forward, reduced passenger loads and a pandemic for them to make the change, with the airline planning to make it easier for customers to book, change or cancel their travel plans by making the removal of change fees for tickets purchased for travel within the U.S.
The elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within
- Domestic U.S.
- Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
This will be valid across the Delta fare stack, bar Basic Economy – so Delta’s First Class, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin will be eligible.
Delta is also following United Airlines by extending its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year. It will also extend its expiration on travel credits through December 2022 for tickets booked before 17th April 2020.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian said
“We’ve said before that we need to approach flexibility differently than this industry has in the past, and today’s announcement builds on that promise to ensure we’re offering industry-leading flexibility, space and care to our customers,”
“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.”
It seems American Airlines is changing the script slightly with its no-change fee plan, compared to Delta and United. Like the others, it is removing all change fees for First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Main Cabin tickets for all US domestic, but also short-haul international flying. Routes that are covered include:
- Any of the 50 U.S. states
- Puerto Rico
- U.S. Virgin Islands
This will apply to First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Main Cabin Tickets. Again, Basic Economy tickets are excluded. Unlike United, American will also allow customers to keep the full value of their original tickets if they change their travel plans prior to the scheduled travel. Although customers will have to pay the fare difference for a new flight, customers will not lose their ticket value if the new flight is less expensive.
American Airlines is also allowing free standby for flights from the 1st October 2020, on the same day as their original departure for the same destination at no charge. This flexibility extends to domestic and international travel, regardless of the ticket purchased.
Whilst Basic Economy won’t get fee-free changes, the airline is planning to offer up-sales on the product. Customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets from 1st October 2020 onwards will be able to purchase:
- Priority boarding
- Preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats
- Same-day confirmed flight changes
However, this comes with a big gotcha – from 1st January 2021, Basic Economy tickets will no longer earn elite qualifying dollars, miles or segments toward future status.
American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja.
“In a world that’s constantly changing, American is resolute to our purpose of caring for customers at all points of their travel journey,”
“American is offering more flexibility and ease than ever before, should travel plans change. By eliminating change fees, giving customers an opportunity to get where they want to go faster with free same-day standby on earlier flights and providing access to upgrades and seats for all fare types, we’re giving customers the freedom to make their own choices when traveling with American.”
Low demand = Airline Having to make adjustments
Change fees are an easy money-maker for airlines. However, with minimal business travel in the doldrums, the big three are trying to drum up travel and offers to tempt passenger back in the air.
And being less money grabbing about fees seems to be the way the three legacies have gone down.
How long these changes will be around for will be the big question – whilst some are playing these changes are permanent, I’m sure as aircraft get busier and passengers demand more changes – airlines will look at this possible sweet revenue.
It’ll be interesting to see how airlines adapt as loads and revenues change if they walk back from their new positions.
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