Delta Expands Change Fee Waiver To All Flights

Filed Under: Delta

In the past days we’ve seen several of the major airlines, including JetBlue, Alaska, American, United, and Delta, waive change fees on new bookings as a way of drumming up business.

Clearly future bookings are way down as a result of the uncertainty created by coronavirus, so airlines need to get creative.

Delta has just updated their change fee waiver for the third time in the past few days. At first they took a rather strict approach, and now they’ve matched United’s policy. It’s interesting to see Delta matching United for once.

Delta first waived change fees on international itineraries (March 2)

Since Monday, Delta Air Lines has been waiving change fees for international itineraries purchased between March 1 and March 31, 2020. This applies to all travel outside the United States, as well as to travel to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Delta then expanded the waiver to previously booked tickets (March 3)

On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines started waiving change fees for international itineraries involving travel between March 1 and March 31, 2020, even if tickets were purchased prior to March 1. With this policy, passengers could rebooked for travel through May 31, 2020.

Delta expands change fee waivers to all itineraries (March 4)

With the latest update, Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees for all itineraries purchased between March 1 and March 31, 2020, including domestic itineraries, regardless of when travel is scheduled to occur.

With this waiver you’ll have the opportunity to avoid the typical change fee (often $200) and reschedule your travel for anytime within a year of the original date of issue.

Note that you’ll still be on the hook for whatever the fare difference is between your old ticket and your new ticket. You just won’t have to pay the change fees.

What we can conclude based on Delta’s waiver

Airlines are suffering because of the uncertainty created by coronavirus, and in general it’s pretty clear that airlines are waiving change fees as a way of encouraging people to book travel.

At first Delta was unique in restricting their fee waiver to international itineraries — I guess initially Delta thought they’d be the hardest hit on international itineraries, but didn’t feel like the domestic situation was that bad.

This policy update suggests to me that Delta is really suffering on the domestic front as well. Delta doesn’t generally match United “just because,” so I imagine their future bookings are looking pretty bad at this point.

Bottom line

As I’ve said with all airlines, they’re not waiving change fees because they’re kind or even really because they care, but rather because bookings are down and they’re trying to encourage future bookings.

This does open up some potentially useful opportunities to plan travel for the future and avoid change fees.

Is anyone booking Delta travel this month to avoid change fees?

  1. To be clear— you’ll still pay a penalty if you cancel an international trip instead of rescheduling?

  2. A commenter on the AA waiver post last night dismissed AA as “in last place [once] again,” but unless you really need flexibility within 14 days of travel, or can only purchase tickets in the second half of March, AA’s policy is clearly more generous than DL’s right now. (Presumably because they’re in bigger trouble, or feel like they are.)

  3. Free cancellation would be stupid on their end. Someone could book up around holiday periods and then cancel last minute and they would lose a high yield travel date. Common sense.

  4. Desperate attempt at baiting.

    Book now (Wink Wink)! Free Cancellation (Not Really)! Reschedule when you want (Just pay the fare difference which will be $4,599.89)!

    Airlines today are becoming nothing more than 1970’s shell game artists

  5. I cancelled my flight to Bangkok that was supposed to leave on March 8. Non-refundable ticket was refunded in full with no penalties.

  6. Am I the only one to think this is the airlines’ scheme of hoarding cash before the great big collapse.

    I would assume by now a very significant drop in future bookings. All those flying today are from before the pandemic. Maybe after the summer we might see loads below 60%.

  7. Good article over on Head for Points about BAs similar policy. It won’t work in the long run for the reasons Rob at Head for Points set out.

  8. Just an anecdote, but my domestic upgrades as a DL Platinum have significantly improved since January. Much of it is probably corporate travel policies tightening and conferences getting nixed. I’ve seen several F and C+ seatmaps magically open up closer to departure.

  9. Really bad policy since I have booked two flights on Feb 28 to fly in the next two weeks. One of the conferences I am attending will probably be cancelled so then. will be on the hook for $200.

  10. It appears the outlier here is now domestic flights booked before March 1, but occur between March 1-31. I just tried changing, and it incurred a fee.

  11. Exactly. If they are trying to help people with previously booked flights who are now hoping to reduce travel, they would have issued waivers for a certain travel period regardless of time of booking. So this is clearly trying to get more people to spend their money than anything else.

  12. @ Santastico – I’ve had 2/2 conferences in the next month cancelled. AA was there to tell me that because I bought my nonrefundable FC tickets back in November, they didn’t give an F.

    Not falling for this crap.

  13. Ben – this morning the airline execs met with the president. During the question session, the media asked about the change fees and Pres. Trump deferred to Delta’s CEO to answer first, and his answer was a little awkward. I’m wondering if the timing of Delta’s change is a response to today’s meeting with the President.

  14. I have an international award ticket booked in january for travel starting 3/31. I went online to cancel it but it wants $150 fee for miles deposit. Is award travel exempt from the new policy?

  15. @heyduh – You should ask the rep nicely. In the past I have been in a tough situation requiring a flight change and they waived the fee, something they are not obligated to do. So in this scenario I am sure they can wave it.

  16. My trip to China on Delta in May still cannot be cancelled or changed without a significant fee. My hope is US extends travel ban to China as Delta is being unreasonable.

  17. As may posters have indicated, Delta is acting stingy with award tickets booked before March, but scheduled for March or April. Delta should allow these tickets to be rescheduled without change fees or change in fare/points needed.

  18. alitalia sucks. Was supposed to be in Italy this week. I didn’t get on the plane and they told me to pound sand with respect to a refund or reschedule.

  19. So far, for myself and those I know (admittedly all Platinum or Diamond members) Delta has waived any change fee and has NOT required me to reschedule immediately, but given the full value of the ticket as a future credit (not just the remaining value after the penalty.) Have others found this to be the case? (All of the tickets were booked at least a month before March 1; one was nearly 6 months ago)

  20. What does “rebook” mean? Same 2 cities at a later date? Or just a credit to use within a year?

  21. Of course this scheme is to generate cash flow as future bookings dry up. UA is encouraging employees to take unpaid leave. These waivers are by no means an effort to be customer centric.

  22. I’m not sure if I’m reading this right. The way they phrase the terms almost makes it sound like a fare difference is only charged if you change the cities or extend your travel dates past Feb 2021.

    “Change to a different flight.

    If you select this option, you may make a one-time change and we will waive any applicable change fee.*

    Note, if changes are made to the originally ticketed cities or rescheduled travel occurs beyond the guidelines, the change fee will be waived, however, a difference in fare may apply.*

    *When rescheduled travel occurs beyond February 28, 2021, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply….”

  23. DITTO: Airlines today are becoming nothing more than 1970’s shell game artists

    Lucky – tell your contacts at your Little Airline that thinks it invented First Class this is till a joke and they are forcing potential sick people to fly.

    I am not allowed to change a domestic flight booked two weeks ago, traveling next week.

  24. So If I booked a DL domestic flight in Dec 2019 for travel May 2020 , there is no change fee waiver, correct?

  25. I booked a domestic flight February 21, for late April, on Delta. Don’t want to cancel yet/hoping the trip can still happen, but if not…glad Delta is also waiving change fees for domestic travel but frustrated that their policy begins Mar 1. Think they would possibly expand to cover flights booked earlier than Mar 1? Or that I might have luck talking to an agent nicely via phone? Again, not trying to change plans now (a close friend’s wedding is the reason for travel!) but trying to think ahead…I foolishly don’t have status or any rewards standing yet.

  26. I spoke to a Delta rep two days ago on the phone that told me that the waiver ALSO APPLIES TO AWARD TICKETS. According to the rep, they WILL waive the $150 cancel/redeposit fee.

  27. Same question as @qofmiwok here. The terms on Delta’s website aren’t clear – it says ticket “can be changed one time to an alternate itinerary,” which seems to imply you can change not just date but also origin and destination with no penalty. But then later it says you can choose to cancel a ticket and receive a voucher for future use, but in that case the amount of the voucher will be reduced by the change fee. Cancelling for a voucher is essentially the same as changing the itinerary (so why would you ever cancel)?

  28. It literally doesn’t make any sense that this would apply to flights booked during the March 1 – 31st window but not FOR the March 1-31st window. Airlines are vampires that are constantly trying to suck their customers dry and take advantage of situations such as this at the cost of the consumer. Yet they wonder why people are constantly seeking other modes of travel when it’s beyond obvious that they only care about their bottom line.

  29. Back in December I purchased three DFW/MSP/HND (Tokyo) roundtrip tickets leaving May 21 and returning the 28th. There was no knowledge of coronavirus at that time. However, had I waited until today, I could purchase those same tickets for the same dates at a slightly lower price AND be allowed to alter my travel plans should I choose to do so at no extra cost.

    I’m not irritated by the fact that the same tickets I bought in December are priced lower today. That happens with air travel. However, why allow those who are buying tickets after March 1st with full knowledge of the coronavirus to change their plans without penalty but leave those of us who bought prior to March 1st left to fret over whether we will actually fly to our destinations or have our flights canceled at the last moment? More and more it appears those who take the time to plan ahead and act responsibility end up getting the short end of the stick.

    Plan a flight knowing there’s coronavirus risks and the airline will protect you. Plan a flight prior to any hint of coronavirus and you’re out of luck. Pathetic, indeed.

  30. Unbelievable all the complaining above. Just because you make the decision that you don’t want to travel, even in cases when risk is very low, you want the airlines to pay for that decision. Nobody wants to take personal responsibility anymore. Just like people who book a vacation rental and don’t buy travel insurance, then get sick and they are bitter they can’t get a refund.

    If you want to be guaranteed the ability to get a refund, then book tickets that are refundable or buy travel insurance with a “cancel for any reason” clause. (Guess what, they are more expensive and you’ve saved a lot of money over the years not doing it.)

    The airlines didn’t come up with these cancellation policies out of altruism. They did it because nobody is booking tickets and they want some revenue; might need revenue to stay afloat. It has nothing to do with being nice or not spreading illness. So why would it apply to previously purchased tickets?

    And yes, I am speaking as a person who will be out $15,000 if I cancel my trip to Europe at the end of May. Would it suck? Absolutely! But I don’t expect someone else to bail me out out of the goodness of their heart.

  31. The new policy may be good for those that need to travel for a legal matter where scheduling is uncertain. For example, something that might happen in May but the definite date won’t be known until a month ahead of time. With this, one could book now then change it later. If no change is needed, a lower fare is purchased. If a change is needed, then a slightly higher fare is purchased. If there wasn’t this policy, then the flyer would wait and definitely buy the slight higher fare.

    Of course, if you aren’t paying but someone else isn’t paying, it might not matter.

  32. To QOFMIWOK, I’ll respond to the question you pose, “So why would it (policy of refunding airline tickets purchased post-March 1, 2020) apply to previously purchased tickets?”

    The potentially perilous travel conditions remain the same in the upcoming months regardless of when the airfare was purchased. Those of us who purchased tickets to Asia back in December are faced with the same concerns as those who purchased tickets March 1st. The only difference? Those who purchased March 1st with fully knowledge of coronavirus are completely protected by the airlines. The rest of us are at the mercy of the airlines and are unsure whether we need to let our employer know to reschedule our vacation or not or whether we should make arrangements to visit another part of the world. Why is it that the virus threat extends into 2021 only if you purchased a ticket March 1st or after and the threat is valid only in the month of March for everyone else? I’m not much of a gambler as I once was. I prefer sure bets. If my personal aircraft were capable of intercontinental flights I would forego the airlines entirely. I, as a business owner, knows very well that the purpose of any business is to turn as large a profit as possible. That is stating the obvious. However, say what you will QOFMIWOK, but this is poor customer service. Period.

  33. This sounds ok on the surface but I compared a flight I was contemplating by looking at booking direct with Delta & then booking with Expedia, same flight, same class. Expedia was $100+ cheaper, with the caveat that no changes were allowed, unlike booking direct with Delta. So it appears the loss of change fees is being somewhat subsidized by merely charging more for a flight. Pretty shitty.

  34. This has probably already been asked …. BUT, If I book a rewards travel trip before 4/1/2020 for sometime in 2021, will the “change fee” be waived should we need to adjust the date(s) for the trip next year?

    I understand that I’ll have to pay the cost-difference of the flight should it become more expensive then.

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