Well, that was quick. Just shy of 24 hours after United permanently removed its change fees on domestic flights, Delta and American have followed suit.
“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,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. “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 Delta’s policy change mimics United’s exactly—all passengers booked in a fare class above Basic Economy on a domestic flight can now change their flights for free—American has one-upped its competitors, offering free changes on short-haul international flights to Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico, in addition to domestic destinations. That said, American, just like Delta and United, has excluded Basic Economy passengers from the no-change-fee policy. (It should also be noted that while most passengers on all three airlines will no longer have to pay change fees, they’ll still be responsible for any differences in fare.)
American has also replicated United’s removal of same-day standby fees for both domestic and international flights, whereas Delta will continue to reserve that privilege for Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members.
On top of all these changes, American has also revamped its Basic Economy fare class that really improves the game for passengers looking to fly on a budget. Now, absolutely anyone booked on the bargain fare will be able to pay for upgrades, premium seat selection, priority boarding, and same-day confirmed flight changes, while AAdvantage elites flying in Basic Economy will be able to tap into those benefits per their status tier free of charge.
There is, however, a little bit of a tradeoff. As of January 1, 2021, passengers flying Basic Economy on American will no longer earn qualifying dollars, spend, or segments—the building blocks of earning elite status on the airline. But for passengers who prioritize budget and flexibility over chasing elite status, that won’t likely be a dealbreaker.
“American is offering more flexibility and ease than ever before, should travel plans change,” American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja said in a statement. “By eliminating change fees, giving customers an opportunity to get where they want to go faster with free same-day standby on earlier flights, and providing access to upgrades and seats for all fare types, we’re giving customers the freedom to make their own choices when traveling with American.”