Delta Air Lines Eliminates Domestic Change Fees

Filed Under: Delta

Yesterday United Airlines announced that it’s eliminating change fees on all domestic itineraries, and now Delta Air Lines is matching.

Delta waiving change fees on domestic tickets

Effective immediately, Delta is eliminating change fees for domestic itineraries:

  • This is valid for travel within the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
  • This applies to First Class, Premium Select, Comfort+, and Main Cabin tickets, but excludes Basic Economy tickets

As Delta CEO Ed Bastian describes this move:

“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.”

While United did indeed beat Delta to the punch with implementing this, it is worth noting that Delta revealed plans to overhaul its change fee structure back during its 2019 Investor Day. Delta shared the desire to make fares more flexible and simple, and that was all before the current pandemic.

There are several questions remaining regarding Delta’s new policy, though (I imagine we’ll get the answers soon, but that this announcement was rushed to follow United’s lead):

Delta will start waiving change fees on domestic itineraries

Delta extends temporary change fee waiver for all flights

While Delta is definitely waiving change fees on domestic non-Basic Economy tickets, the airline is also extending its current travel waiver.

Specifically, Delta is extending its waiver on newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through December 31, 2020.

Furthermore, for tickets booked before April 17, 2020, the expiration of travel credits is being extended through December 2022. Those issued in the past few months have already had longer expiration.

Delta’s change fee waiver is being extended for all flights

Is this change permanent & forever?

Delta refers to this new domestic change fee waiver as being “permanent.” However, unlike United, Delta isn’t using the term “forever,” which I found rather bizarre on United’s part. Nothing in the airline industry is forever (and historically nothing has been marketed as such either).

I’d assume all airlines are planning on maintaining this policy for the foreseeable future, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on it sticking around for a decade.

Only time will tell how long this new policy applies

Bottom line

There’s not much good to come out of the airline industry this year, though the elimination of change fees on domestic tickets is certainly a bright spot.

Two of the big three US legacy airlines have now eliminated domestic change fees, so I imagine American Airlines will be next, with a similar announcement soon. I’d guess that Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines will make similar moves.

While United definitely showed leadership here (and is also introducing free standby), on balance Delta has been by far the best US carrier during the pandemic, from impressive aircraft cleaning, to blocking seats on flights.

Are you surprised to see that Delta matched United’s policy?

Comments
  1. Hm, in the News Hub article it does state that this new policy is “permanent” – I’d bet on DL being more likely to honor this commitment into the future than UA.

  2. Hi Lucky;

    Thanks!

    The post you link to about Delta extending travel funds to 2022 was dated April. My read of the info on the Delta web site implies that policy ended in May. Do you have anything concrete to point to? The extension is just as important as the change fee waiver to me.

  3. “While United did indeed beat Delta to the punch with implementing this, it is worth noting that Delta revealed plans to overhaul its change fee structure back during its 2019 Investor Day. Delta shared the desire to make fares more flexible and simple, and that was all before the current pandemic.”

    how convenient of lucky to still find a way to credit Delta’s empty talk that they have never followed through until UA forced their hand, spending 1 sentence to mention UA then 2 and a half sentences to basically back-pedal sentence 1.

    Delta’s slogan at one time was “Keep Climbing”. I’m surprised you didn’t also credit Delta for our virus curve that was never flattened and just keeps climbing.

  4. RIP southwest airlines, i know so many people who pay more money living in Dallas to fly LUV rather than AA just for the ability to change their flights.

  5. This is shocking news and now im afraid the airlines know something we dont, will airlines have less incentive to lower prices and match competitors on certain routes knowing people can now freely change more. Price matching is great in theory but often it leads to both competitors keeping their prices higher since there is less incentive to lower price when competitor will just match it, so a JFK to LAX flight price being reduced by one airline might hurt both now so neither will want to lower price.

  6. Great news from Delta. Wonder what the heck Alaska Air is thinking? They seem to be locked in to Sept 8 as the last day new purchased tickets will have COVID-19 flexibility. Full on late fees for tickets purchased Sep 9 forward. Considering they used to be the most flexible about changes (+60 days out), it’s sad to now see them, apparently, becoming one of the least accommodating domestic airlines.

  7. Thanks for pointing out the question of residual value for changes to lower fares under this new policy. People don’t realize how big a deal that is, especially in corporate travel. At the beginning of covid, United was the only one to eliminate residual value (they did it right away, for everything issued after 01MAR). I hope the others don’t start following their lead now….

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