They’re Back! The Return of Change and Other Airline Fees as Americans Plan Trips

By Paul Riegler on 7 May 2021
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Planning a trip? Be prepared for surprises as the travel landscape is shifting once again as airlines return to pre-pandemic policies on change and other fees.

Coronavirus pandemic-induced fee waivers on basic-economy fares at American Airlines and Frontier Airlines expired last month and those at United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airline expired at the very end of April.

This leaves JetBlue Airways, which recently extended its waiver through May 31, as the only major airline without such fees.

For travelers not looking at such basic-economy fares, there’s good news, however: the change fees on higher-priced tickets, as airline executives repeatedly have said, as permanently gone.

Nonetheless, caveat emptor is the watchword for today’s airfare market.

Many travelers don’t realize when they are purchasing a basic-economy ticket. Although policies vary by airline, basic economyis a restrictive airfareclass that offers passengers the lowest ticketprice available in exchange for giving up some of the standard amenities of a coach or economy fare.

Basic-economy restrictions vary between different airlines, but they generally include not allowing passengers to change or cancel tickets or select seats for free.

The fare class was first introduced by Delta in 2012, but the no-frills tickets really took in the second half of the decade.

United, American, Alaska, JetBlue, and Hawaiian all followed with a version of their own basic-economy class, although the restrictions of each airline vary.

In other countries, similar fares are offered by several airlines under various names and they all come with restrictions such as hand baggage onlyor hand luggage onlyfares.

It’s important to note that the return to pre-pandemic policies applies to travelers who buy tickets after an airline’s waiver expires and is independent of the date of travel. Travelers who purchased or purchase tickets before a waiver expires are, of course, covered by the pandemic policies regardless of travel date.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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