The good times couldn’t last forever (she said, tongue firmly in cheek).
Several major airlines have announced they plan to re-introduce restrictions or change fees on basic economy itinerary changes. Most will go into effect on April 1, 2021 (and nope, it has nothing to do with April Fool’s Day). Delta’s will begin on March 31, 2021.
Virtually all U.S.-based airlines had made some changes to accommodate itinerary changes since the COVID-19 pandemic – some eliminated change fees, some allowed cancellations with credit towards future travel. However, many of those options are going away for basic economy (or its equivalent) tickets for the following airlines:
“Saver fares purchased through March 31, 2021 cannot be changed, but they can be canceled for future travel credit. Saver fares purchased on or after April 1, 2021, cannot be changed or canceled.”
“Basic Economy fares bought on or after April 1, 2021 are non-refundable and non-changeable.”
“While most tickets offer the flexibility of no change fees, our Basic Economy tickets* are non-refundable and non-changeable** if purchased after the expiration of our current COVID-19 travel waiver on March 30, 2021.
*For additional flexibility, tickets booked prior to April 17, 2020 for scheduled travel between March 2020 and March 2021 have been extended, so you can travel using your eCredit through December 31, 2022. You can find more details at delta.com/waivers.
**Some Basic Economy tickets originating from Europe, Africa, and other international markets may be changeable for a fee. Check the ticket restrictions for details.
“To provide you with additional flexibility, we are waiving change and cancel fees for bookings made through March 31, 2021.” Change fees 59 to 7 days prior to departure will cost $39, and 6 days or less (including same day) will cost $59 per departure.
There will be a $100 fee for changes or cancellations of Blue Basic bookings 4/1/21 or later in U.S., Caribbean, Mexico & Central America and $200 on other routes.
“We are currently waiving all change and cancellation fees for Guests who book travel by March 31, 2021.” (their website doesn’t mention what will happen effective April 1 2021. Prior to COVID, their change fee was $90)
“If the customer decides to change or cancel the flight they booked between March 3, 2020 and March 31, 2021, they will be permitted to change without paying a change fee to a flight of equal or lesser value, or they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a change fee, as long as their travel commences on or before March 31, 2022.” After March 31, change fees will apply to Basic Economy purchases, as well as to international travel that doesn’t originate in the U.S.
Our take on this
Just like Southwest’s recent change to their boarding system to reflect how it was before the coronavirus pandemic, the other major airlines are now making changes as if COVID is over and done with.
True, we’re in a better place in the U.S. than we were even a few months ago. Although lots of people are still dying of COVID-19, it’s at least LESS of them. But as of this writing, we still lead the world, with over 7 million active cases (the country with the next-highest number of cases is Brazil, with 1.3 million cases. Oh, and New Zealand? 75 active cases). And although vaccines are getting into arms, only 15% of people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, and less than 30% have even their first shot yet. That’s really not a whole lot.
Knowing that you could cancel or change your ticket, even with a Basic Economy fare, made for an excellent reason not to fly if you felt sick, or if you had recently tested positive for the virus. Effective April 1st (or thereabouts), passengers with Basic Economy tickets will lose out if they don’t fly. So what’s to stop someone from saying they feel fine, or not mentioning the positive result they just got, so they can still fly?
Although I’m aware that variants are out there and could mess things up big time, right now we appear to be going in the right direction, as upwards of 3 million people per day are getting COVID vaccines. Just as Southwest could have held off going back to boarding procedures that put us all in each other’s faces, the other airlines could and should have waited a while longer to make Basic Economy tickets a “use it or lose it” situation.
Feature Photo: Alpha Stock Images
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary