The big three US air carriers, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL), Delta Airlines (DAL) and United Airlines, have consecutively announced the elimination of infamous ticket change fees. Meanwhile, their low cost competitor Southwest Airlines (LUV) never had such costs in the first place.
On August 30, 2020, United Airlines announced that due to COVID-19, all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets would no longer require a change fee if travelers wanted to switch to a different domestic destination within the US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.
“Change is inevitable these days – but it’s how we respond to it that matters most. When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, after the decision took place.
The aviation social feed blew up with thousands of comments and varying opinions on the matter – some happy and excited, others more skeptical.
But the hype did not end there. On August 31, 2020, not even 24 hours later, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) issued a statement one-upping United. The press release said that change fees were no longer applicable to domestic flights within the US, as well as to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. This new policy was effective immediately and applied to all American flights except for Basic Economy.
Then, 40 minutes after American Airlines (A1G) (AAL), Delta Airlines (DAL) published a press release stating a similar charge waiver, except its network did not include short-haul international flights to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.
The announcements came in a rapid succession, which caused a boom in the media. Within 24 hours, the biggest US airlines got rid of a ticket change fee that was historically criticized on many levels as arbitrary. Whether the move was made in hopes of inciting a quicker air traffic recovery or simply by the need to act under the current circumstances, one thing that the airlines did gain was exposure. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines (LUV) never had a ticket change fee. Among all four airlines, the Dallas-based carrier has been financially hit the least during the COVID-19 crisis.