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US airlines drop change fees amid Covid-19 downturn

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Sep 02, 2020 - 08:11 AM

NEW YORK — Major US airlines on Monday joined in the move to eliminate change fees for domestic travel in the latest concession to customers amid a bruising industry downturn.

United Airlines led the way Sunday and was followed on Monday by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines who said they too will end steep change fees for most tickets within the United States.

American said the new policy also would apply to flights to Canada and Mexico.

“In a world that’s constantly changing, American is resolute to our purpose of caring for customers at all points of their travel journey,” American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja said.

“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.”

Dropping change fees removes a consumer irritant and adds to the incentives announced by carriers.

The airline industry has been battered by a sharp decline in travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. US travel volumes have often been less than one-third of the year-ago levels in recent weeks.

Airline executives have said they do not expect air travel to return to more than 50 percent of pre-coronavirus levels until there is a vaccine that is widely available.

United Airlines said it would permit unlimited changes with no fee for new tickets issued through December 31, 2020.

Delta said dropping change fees was an additional step to meet customer concerns after previously announcing it would block off middle seats through January 2021 because of consumer health worries.

“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,” Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian said.

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