Free Airline Ticket Changes – An Update

October 12, 2021

[This article was updated October 12 to include new airline change fee guidelines]

Welp, we’re now 18 months into the pandemic. Covid-19 vaccines are available and free, and many of us are starting to travel more freely again. And *that, friends, is welcome news for a lot  of us.

Now, I know, some folks weren’t truly convinced about airline fees being permanently eliminated. (I know this from a few comments on social media in response to an earlier version of this article.) However, I’m here to tell you that most change fee waivers are still active, and most don’t have an end date in sight. 

As of today’s blog article update, here’s a run-down of what the airlines are offering by way of change fee waivers, all in one place.

Change is good!
Change is good!

How to get airline ticket changes for free

If you’re a Southwest traveler, this hasn’t ever been an issue for you as it has never charged change fees. But for the other major airlines, travelers don’t need to file forms, have (formerly required) waiver codes, or do anything special to be able to change airline tickets for free on domestic flights. Here’s a list of airlines and how each is handling it in its own way:

United Airlines: Instead of following the pack, United was the first to announce it is permanently getting rid of change fees. As of today, that is still true for most tickets booked for travel within the U.S. and from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada. They also say that “going forward, you won’t pay change fees for international travel originating in the U.S.”

There’s a simple chart on the United website, where it also notes that you can change Basic Economy and all other international travel without change fees if the tickets were or are issued by December 31, 2021.

United Airlines plane on the runway.
United Airlines plane on the runway.

Click the United Airlines link above for additional details.

Delta: Delta and the other airlines quickly followed United’s lead. Delta is waiving change fees for flights departing through December 31, 2021 under its Peace-of-Mind Purchasing Waiver. Changes can include travel dates and destination, and if the new fare is lower, travelers will be credited the difference. Also, if the new fare is higher, the difference needs to be paid.

Delta is cancelling change and Awards travel redeposit fees permanently, and with the 2021 Basic Economy Changeability Waiver, travelers with Basic Economy tickets can make changes for free until the end of the year. Travel to any international destination must originate from North America, while all tickets expiring or purchased in 2021 will be valid until December 31, 2021. Click the Delta link above for the details.

American Airlines: American is also changing its policies and cancelling change fees for any First, Business, Premium Economy and Main Cabin tickets. However, any Basic Economy tickets booked after April 1, 2021 are now non-refundable and non-changeable. The good news is that Basic Economy travelers are able to buy upgrades like better seats, same day flight changes, and priority boarding.

American Airlines plane in flight.
American Airlines plane in flight.

If you have existing tickets that are expiring between March 1, 2020-March 31, 2021, you can use the value of your unused ticket through March 31, 2022. For international travelers who buy tickets to Australia, Europe, Hong Kong, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom by December 31, 2021, the value of an unused ticket can be redeemed through December 31, 2022.

For all other domestic and short-haul international tickets, except Basic Economy, issued on or after November 19, 2020, change fees are eliminated. More details are available from American by clicking the link above.

Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airline’s Peace-of-Mind change fee waiver remains in place for all tickets purchased through March 31, 2021. After that, change fees are permanently eliminated for all First and Main cabin tickets everywhere Alaska flies.

Saver fares are the exception, here. Saver fares bought April 1, 2021 or later can’t be either cancelled or changed. See details in the link.

Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian is offering no change fees for any Hawaiian tickets that are Main Cabin status or higher. For tickets that are cancelled without rebooking the same itinerary, travelers will get a credit to use for up to a year from the original ticket purchase date. As with the other airlines, you’ll still need to pay the difference in ticket price, if there is one. Reservations and loyalty program redeposit fees will also be waived.

For travelers with Main Cabin Basic tickets purchased from August 17 through October 31, 2021 for travel on or after August 17, changes can be made without any extra costs. You just need to follow the Hawaiian Airlines Covid-19 travel waivers guidelines, and you’ll be all set.

Mahalo, Hawaiian Airlines.
Mahalo, Hawaiian Airlines.

How Automatic Ticket Exchange helps business travel

My earlier blog on the “new rules” for air travel explained Deem’s Automatic Ticket Exchange functionality. As Deem continues to help travel managers and business travelers efficiently and easily book and manage their travel, I’ll include the pertinent information from that article here.

The Automatic Ticket Exchange (ATE) feature is already available in Deem. This automated solution makes rebooking, rescheduling or refunds of cancelled tickets streamlined and efficient. ATE reduces processing time and removes human data entry errors, as it automatically recalculates complex fares, taxes and penalties for domestic and international flights. As the airlines increase their flexibility with ticketing rules, changing unused tickets can also be handled automatically through the platform.

“Your unused ticket funds get applied [to a new booking] without anyone having to think about it,” said Brenda Semrow, Deem’s senior travel domain expert. “Any unused ticket that applies will be automatically attached as a form of payment without any additional input needed from the user.”

Brenda continued, “All of the ticket information is stored in the PNR….The Sabre exchange service is able to detect if there is a penalty to be applied or if penalty fees have been waived whenever it is a part of the fare rule.”

Even if TMCs or direct customers haven’t been using ATE thus far, the feature is available any time. Whether an existing Deem user or new to the platform, a customer can upload a CSV file of all their unused tickets and start using ATE right away – even if the tickets were purchased before the company adopted the Deem solution. When a ticket exchange is successful, a new ticket number and notification are issued to the customer.

In addition to the Automatic Ticket Exchange feature, Deem is also providing health and safety information in the booking platform, right where travelers need it most. The award-winning Travel SafetyCheck is the latest way Deem is helping business travelers and travel managers feel more confident about getting back to business in the safest way possible.


Diana Rose Brandon
Director, Marketing Content

An accomplished business writer and creative professional, Diana heads up content for Deem’s many content areas including PR, social media and blogs. Her background includes creating visual and written stories for the travel, consumer electronics and technology industries. Diana is a story junkie who loves to travel. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her reading, playing word games or behind a camera.

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