Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced Monday that they are dropping the change fee for most domestic tickets and following United Airlines’ move a day earlier.
Southwest Airlines initially did not charge any change fees. So Monday’s announcements mean that the four largest U.S. airlines will have roughly similar policies.
This could be the final call for the $200 ticket exchange fee that has infuriated so many American air travelers over the past decade.
Airlines are hit by the coronavirus pandemic as travel restrictions and fears of contracting the virus keep travelers at home.
Typically, 2 million or more people pass security checkpoints at US airports every day during the summer.
However, since mid-March, when the pandemic began, that number was under limit of 900,000.
In order to attract passengers, airlines have required face masks and the cleaning of aircraft has intensified.
Some, including Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue, limit the number of seats, though American and United try to sell each seat.
Hunter Keay, an analyst for the Wolfe Research airline, said he believes Delta and United are considering cutting change fees even before the pandemic because they were viewed as too punitive.
Delta and American said they have permanently removed change fees on all domestic flights for premium and most economy fares, with the exception of the lowest fare, known as the basic economy.
American said that beginning October 1, all passengers will be able to fly on readiness for free earlier flights on the same day. United will make this change on January 1st.
Both airlines have also extended the temporary change fee exemption for domestic and international flights, so the permanent removal of fees for passengers doesn’t immediately make a huge difference. In doing so, United, Delta, and American forego a fee that customers, consumer advocates, and congressmen particularly despise.
Airline shares fell Monday after United’s decision and expectations that other major airlines would be forced to cancel their change fees. Delta and United were both down 3.6%, American down 4%, and Southwest back 3.2%.
Many other fees are retained even without change fees. The fees for checking a bag increased significantly more than a decade ago. Many airlines charge additional fees for seat assignments, extra legroom, priority boarding, and other perks, and offer airlines a growing source of income until the pandemic.