You may have recently heard that many major US airlines recently announced that they are eliminating change fees.  So what does that mean for you? Well, that depends on the airline and the type of ticket. We’re here to help you figure out what it means for you. 

Before we break down each airline’s policy, let’s answer some basic questions first:

What’s a change fee?
A change fee is a fee that airlines and ticket service providers often charge if you need to change the date or time of your already booked flight.

Didn’t airlines already eliminate change fees because of the pandemic?
Short answer – kind of. When Covid-19 hit, many major airlines implemented ‘flexible booking policies’ where any new flights booked were able to be canceled for credit for future use, essentially a different type of free change.  Under these policies credit typically had to be reused by a different date and sometimes required the you use the credit to fly the same route. These policies are also applicable to all kinds of flights including basic economy.

What is basic economy?  Why do I need to know?
Basic economy is a highly restrictive, low-cost type of ticket. Because this type of ticket is so restrictive, it often means you cannot change it or cancel it.  It’s important to know the different types of tickets (also known as fare classes) because it impacts what rights you have when it comes to canceling or changing your flight….yes, sometimes even during a pandemic!

If an airline is not charging a fee, will StudentUniverse?
No, StudentUniverse policy is to honor the policies of our partner airlines. So, if your flight is eligible for a free change through your airline, we will also waive our StudentUniverse change fee. We do recommend that you always make yourself aware of both your airline and StudentUniverse terms of your ticket upon purchase.

Free changes forever sounds too good to be true/ What are the caveats I should be aware of?

  • Type of ticket matters – for most airlines, these new free change policies do not apply to Basic Economy tickets
  • Fare difference still applies –  if you want to change flights and the new one is more expensive, you still have to pay the difference in fare
  • Free changes do not mean free cancellations – being able to change your flight does not mean you can cancel and get your money back.
  • Route matters – each airline is different, but each one has limits on if the free change policy applies to all flights or just flights within the US.
flying first time

American Airlines

American Airlines announced on September 1st that they would no longer be charging change fees for tickets purchased in Premium Cabin and most Main Cabin fares for travel within the U.S. and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

American is also still waiving change fees for all tickets purchased by December 31, 2020, regardless of fare type or itinerary under their current flexible booking policy.

Alaska Airlines

Per Alaska Airline’s newly announced that beginning January 1, 2021, change fees will be eliminated on Main and First Class fares everywhere Alaska flies. Saver fares (Alaska’s version of Basic Economy) purchased through December 31, 2020 cannot be changed, but they can still be canceled for future travel credit. Saver fares purchased in 2021 cannot be changed or canceled.

Delta Air Lines

Delta announced it is making it easier for customers to book, change or cancel their travel plans by eliminating change fees permanently for tickets purchased for travel within the U.S. The elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within the domestic U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands in Delta’s First Class, domestic Delta One, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort+ and Main Cabin, with the exception of Basic Economy tickets.  

Additionally, Delta has extended its waiver on change fees for newly purchased flights, including international flights and Basic Economy fares, through the end of the year and will extend its expiration on travel credits through December 2022 for tickets booked before April 17, 2020.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian eliminated change fees for guests who purchase tickets or redeem HawaiianMiles for Main Cabin, Extra Comfort or First/Premium Cabin Class seats. Main Cabin Basic (Hawaiian’s version of Basic economy) guests can modify their flight date without a change fee for tickets purchased through the end of the year under the airline’s existing COVID-19 waivers.

United Airlines

United Airlines recently announced that they are permanently getting rid of change fees for most Economy and premium cabin tickets for flights within the U.S., or between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean. 

Similar to other airlines listed here, you can change tickets for Basic Economy or international travel outside the Caribbean and Mexico that are issued by December 31, 2020, without change fees.

first time traveling

More questions? We’ve got answers!

Does this mean I no longer need to purchase trip insurance? 
Not necessarily.  It all depends on how much risk you are willing to take.  With a free change policy, you can re-book onto another flight or sometimes cancel for a future credit, but that does not necessarily protect you if you need to cancel a trip and want to get a refund. 

Does this mean I don’t need to purchase a refundable flight? 
Again, this depends on you. If there is a chance that you may need to cancel your flight or trip and want a refund, then you should still consider purchasing a refundable type of fare.

What do I do if I need to make a change to my flight? 
If you purchased a flight with StudentUniverse, it’s best to work with our customer service team – just give us a call, email, or DM us on twitter or facebook.

What if my new flight is cheaper? Do I get my money back?
Once again, it depends on the airline. With American, you’ll get the fare difference back (in travel credit), but on United you won’t get any form of refund if the new flight costs less. 

What if I want to change my flight to an earlier flight on the same day? 
Some airlines also announced that you can now try and hop on an earlier flight if you are traveling the same day. The process for this depends on the airline, so make sure to check the process directly with them for how to use this new ‘perk’. An important note, most airlines only allow you to switch to an earlier flight so don’t think you can just skip your flight and take a later one!

Is there a limit to how many times I can change my flight?
It again depends on the airline’s policy, but most of them have said that there is no limit – but you will have to pay the fare difference every time you change.

Do these new policies apply to tickets purchased on StudentUniverse too?
Yes! You should always double-check the terms of tickets purchased on StudentUniverse at purchase, but airline terms and policies generally apply to tickets purchased on StudentUniverse as well.

This really looks like it can be an exciting change for student travelers – just always make sure to understand the terms of the type of ticket you are buying!

These new policies are really aimed at future travel beginning in 2021, for flights booked in 2020 most of the airlines Coronavirus flexible booking policies still apply.

Ready to plan a getaway for 2021? We’ve got cheap flights to get your where you want to go!


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