AA one-ups United's permanent elimination of change fees, Delta copies

As expected, the two other legacy U.S. carriers (American Airlines and Delta Airlines) were quick to copy United's unprecedented announcement yesterday of the permanent elimination of change fees for domestic flights, which could save you upwards of $200.  But AA has surprisingly one-upped United in their policy, while Delta's new no change fee policy is a mere mirror of United's.  Let's take a look at the two new no change fee policies.

American Airlines

Short-haul international flights

AA has lagged against their competitors when it comes to favorable rules, so it's very surprising to see them excel on their new no change fee policy.  Not only does their new policy apply to all domestic flights (with the exception of Basic Economy), but also to short-haul international flights, which they've listed as  Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  As with United, all fare types with the exception of Basic Economy are covered.

Change your flight to Cancun without any change fees

Fare difference refund

But here is where AA really shines: if your changed flight is cheaper than your originally booked fare, you receive a fare difference refund in the form of a voucher for a future flight.  So if your flight to let's say Cancun cost you $600, but you ended up rebooking for $400, you'd get a $200 voucher for a future flight!  This policy essentially blows United's out of the water and matches Southwest's legendary policy.  Though of course, you'll still be responsible for the fare difference if your changed flight is more expensive than your original booking.

Free same-day standby

Like with United, AA will be eliminating the pesky $75 same-day standby fee for non-elites.  This applies to all flights regardless of ticket type, but the flight that you standby on does have to be the same destination as your originally booked flight.

Positive changes to (get this) Basic Economy

Basic Economy has been the bane of AA's fare types particularly for elites as you don't get elite benefits, including the inability to select seats.  However, AA is now changing that up by awarding all elite benefits to Basic Economy bookings, including assigned seats, Main Cabin Extra, same-day confirmed flight changes, and even upgrade privileges.  However, one negative change is that starting January 1, 2021, Basic Economy fares will no longer earn elite qualifying miles or segments, whereas in the past they would earn 50% EQMs and EQS.

AA's Basic Economy is now no longer that basic

As of October 1, 2020, non-elite members who book Basic Economy will now also be able to purchase upgrades and priority boarding, and can even pay for same-day confirmed flight changes.  Also, through December 31, 2020, Basic Economy and all international fares will still have no change fees as part of the COVID-19 pandemic travel waiver.

Delta Airlines

Surprisingly, Delta, which has traditionally been the industry leader in the customer experience, hasn't spoken much about this topic.  They just announced that they're permanently eliminating change fees for all non-Basic Economy domestic flights including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Delta has yet to address same-day standby, and potential refunds in the form of credit for cheaper changed flights, but I suspect they will soon.  Delta did announce, however, that they'll continue waiving change fees, including Basic Economy and international tickets, through December 31 as a part of the COVID-19 pandemic travel waiver. They’re also extending the expiration of unused travel credits for tickets booked before April 17, 2020 out to December 31, 2022.

Bottom line

The past 24 hours have been perhaps one of the best ever in the history of commercial U.S. travel policy changes.  It's truly unbelievable that AA has become the new maverick of the industry along with Southwest with their legendary no change fee policy that even offers refunds in the form of future travel credit if you change to a cheaper flight.  Although Delta hasn't released their full policy yet, they likely will soon, so stay tuned.

From all of us at Flying for Fitness, please stay healthy during this trying time.  We hope you enjoyed this post.  Please consider visiting one of our sponsors by clicking on the advertisements.  Our sponsors pay us for customer visits and help us to keep the lights on.  Thanks!


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