The New Airline Change Fee Update Isn’t Universal

The New Airline Change Fee Update Isn't Universal

There’s downright giddiness about the big news last week. The U.S. airlines United, American, and Delta announced new no-change-fee policies. Start your happy dance. While this is a big step in the right direction, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Each company has a slightly different spin when they say no change fee. You need to know if the ticket you buy is eligible under these new policies before booking. Let’s take a look.

Buyer Beware

Be the informed customer before you buy airfare.

United, American, and Delta all offer no-change-fees on tickets except for basic economy. Excluding basic economy is disappointing quite honestly. I understand the goal to push buyers to spend more. But there are plenty of other reasons for the up-sell. Customers are craving flexibility more than ever. Yes, even those of us looking for the cheapest flight.

Destinations matter. Southwest, American, United, and Delta all offer no-change-fees to all domestic destinations plus Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Southwest also includes any other flight destination. American added Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean as international no-change-fee options.

None of these airlines offer refunds for cancellations within the no-change-fee policies.

Award Tickets

Savvy enough to have points/miles to burn for an award ticket? Excellent!

United, Southwest, and American include these tickets in their policies. Delta, not so much.

Switching Flights

You want flexibility. What happens if you change to a cheaper flight?

Southwest has shined for years in allowing credits for changing flights. Franc tip: Southwest allows re-booking the same exact flight if you notice a price drop. That’s right. With no fee.

American offers a credit. United doesn’t offer a credit. And, Delta is unclear at present. Which is odd.

What about changing to a more expensive flight? This is where we do have universal agreement from these airlines. Pay up! You will owe the difference.

The Gold Standard

The winner and reigning champion is Southwest. And they didn’t change anything! They still offer the most no-cost flexibility of these airlines.

American isn’t too far off. But, basic economy should be included.

United and Delta have made progress yet it feels short of where they could go.

Final Thoughts

The Points Guy did a great job breaking these policies down. If you’d like an easy to consume graph-like depiction of the above, head over there.

There is no doubt this is great news for us travelers. That is once we can get back to flying again like the days of yore.

What is important to remember is policies are as they say in the corporate world, a living document. In that the only constant is change. These policies will change. So, stay vigilant. Watch out for policy updates. And don’t assume what you see today will be the way of the website when you go to book your next flight.


Read. Plan. Travel. Repeat!

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