Delta, American join United in dropping most US change fees

FILE - In this March 25, 2020, file photo, American Airlines jets sit idly at their gates as a jet arrives at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. American Airlines is telling 25,000 workers that they could lose their jobs in October because of the sharp drop in air travel during the virus pandemic. The airline said Wednesday, July 15, it was starting new offers of buyouts and partially paid leave, which it hopes will reduce the number of furloughs. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
FILE - In this March 25, 2020, file photo, American Airlines jets sit idly at their gates as a jet arrives at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. American Airlines is telling 25,000 workers that they could lose their jobs in October because of the sharp drop in air travel during the virus pandemic. The airline said Wednesday, July 15, it was starting new offers of buyouts and partially paid leave, which it hopes will reduce the number of furloughs. (AP Photo/Matt York, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

This could be the final boarding call for the $200 ticket-change fee that has enraged so many U.S. airline travelers over the past decade.

Delta Air Lines and American Airlines said Monday that they are dropping the fee on most tickets for domestic flights, copying United Airlines’ move one day earlier.

Southwest Airlines didn’t levy change fees to start with, so Monday's announcements mean that the four biggest U.S. carriers will have roughly similar policies.

Airlines are being battered by the coronavirus pandemic, as travel restrictions and fear of contracting the virus are keeping travelers at home. Normally in summer, 2 million or more people pass through security checkpoints at U.S. airports each day, but that number hasn’t been above 900,000 since mid-March, the early days of the pandemic.

To woo passengers, airlines have required face masks and stepped up cleaning of planes. A few, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, limit seating, although American and United try to sell every seat.

Wolfe Research airline analyst Hunter Keay said he believes Delta and United were considering dropping change fees even before the pandemic because they were seen as too punitive.

“This is another example of a crisis accelerating forward thinking ideas,” Keay said, adding that United could have gone further and dropped change fees on international itineraries too.

Delta and American said they have permanently eliminated change fees for all domestic flights for premium and most economy fares except the lowest fare, called basic economy. American is also dropping the fee on trips to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.