You saw this coming. First United raised its U.S. domestic change fee from $150 to $200, quickly followed by US Airways. Now others have joined in raising what airfare analyst Rick Seaney has called, “the worst fee ever.”
Hear Rick explain what the heck they’re doing:
American, Delta Raise Change Fees
As of yesterday (April 30), Delta also raised its change fee to $200 and now FareCompare has confirmed that American has done it as well. American notes it offers travel options that include benefits such as no change fee, which will cost its customers – a fee. Why did all these airlines raise this fee? Simple. Change fees make money. Big money.
Change Fees Bring in Billions
In 2011 – the most recent year there are complete figures for – airline change fees brought in $2.38 billion dollars. Leading the pack was Delta, with $766 million in change fees followed by American ($494 million), United ($324 million) and US Airways ($275 million).
Look for more in 2012. In the third quarter of last year alone, change fees for all airlines were pegged at almost a billion dollars ($924 million).
Most Travelers Pay Change Fees for Cancelations
Most travelers – especially the so-called leisure passengers who mostly fly for vacations or personal reasons – will pay the change fee if they voluntarily cancel a flight (and know your rights when the airlines cancel on you).
Options on avoiding this fee are few. You can fly the one airline that doesn’t charge a change fee (not yet anyway), which is Southwest – or buy a non-refundable ticket but that can cost as much as four times more than non-refundable airfare. Suggestion: when booking a flight, be as certain of your travel dates as humanly possible.