Which Airlines Allow Free Changes to Basic Economy Tickets?
Published by FareCompare on September 27, 2021
As the pandemic stretches on and continues to affect travel plans, entry requirements, and more, airlines continue to adapt and adjust their change fees and cancellation policies. What they surely expected to be a brief pause in "business as usual" has extended through the last 18 months, with passengers needing continued flexibility at the time of booking flights or making reservations.
Many, but not all, airlines have made updates to their change policies and are allowing free changes to be made to Basic Economy tickets. While some airlines limit these waivers to certain markets, others are applying their waiver policy across all tickets for travel and/or bookings through a certain date.
As always, be sure to check the fine print before making any purchase decisions, and if you still have doubts, contact the airline directly.
Which Airlines Allow Free Changes to Basic Economy Tickets?
Alaska Airlines is allowing passengers who booked tickets issued by the airline to change or cancel flights to/from the following Hawaiian airports, as a result of the the Hawaiian Governor's request that visitors and residents reduce travel to the islands:
The waiver applies to all tickets to and from Hawaii purchased directly with Alaska Airlines on or before August 31, 2021, with original travel dates through October 31, 2021. Passengers must change or cancel flights prior to the scheduled departure.
Saver fare restrictions are being waived; all tickets to Hawaii within the above parameters can be changed. However, Saver tickets for other destinations still cannot be changed or cancelled.
For travelers that cancel their Hawaii plans, they'll receive a future travel credit. This is valid for one year from the original date of purchase, and can be used to book travel up to 11 months from the certificate’s expiration. As always, a fare difference may still apply even though there are no change fees.
Delta announced a new 2021 Basic Economy Changeability Waiver at the end of July, which allows all Basic Economy tickets purchased directly from the airline to be changed without a fee, as long as it falls within the following criteria:
- Ticketed between May 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021
- Original travel dates through December 31, 2021
- Ticket reissued on or before December 31, 2021
- New travel dates through December 31, 2022
In summary, both all new and previously purchased Delta tickets can be changed without a fee as long as travel dates fall within 2021; passengers can change them to new travel dates through 2022. However, a Basic Economy ticket purchased now, for travel dates in 2022, means a restrictive “no changes allowed” policy applies.
Any changes are still subject to a fare difference and if the fare happens to be less, travelers will receive an eCredit which can be redeemed for future travel.
At the end of the summer, Frontier eliminated change and cancellation fees for new bookings through September 2021. To be eligible for this waiver, the following criteria must be met:
- Ticket purchased between August 12, 2021 – September 30, 2021, regardless of travel dates
- Change or cancellation must be made prior to required check-in time
- All changes or cancellations must be made by September 30, 2021, regardless of travel dates
Changes or cancellations made outside of these parameters would follow the airline's standard change policy unless another previous waiver applies.
Hawaiian Airlines has made its Main Cabin Basic tickets more flexible in light of the governor’s plea that travelers refrain from visiting the islands. The new policy allows Main Cabin Basic fares to be changed as long as the ticket was:
- Purchased between May 1, 2021 and August 16, 2021, for travel through October 31, 2021
- Purchased between August 17, 2021 and October 31, 2021, for any travel date on or after August 17, 2021
Tickets purchased prior to May 2021 fall under a previous policy that also allows Main Cabin Basic tickets to be changed before the ticket’s expiration date, regardless of travel dates.
In August, JetBlue announced a new waiver for changes or cancellations to new Blue Basic bookings. Fees will be waived for changes made to the following reservations:
- New Blue Basic bookings made between August 25, 2021 and October 31, 2021, regardless of travel dates
Take note: This doesn't include previous bookings made earlier this summer for fall travel. JetBlue’s standard policy still allows changes to be made to Blue Basic tickets, although a fee does apply. Blue Basic bookings made between June 8, 2021 and August 24, 2021, require a $100 fee for flights within the U.S., Mexico, or Caribbean, and $200 for all other routes.
Flights booked prior to June 8, 2021, would fall under JetBlue’s no change fee waiver policy.
Southwest doesn’t sell Basic Economy tickets, and as standard policy, all of its fares can be changed without fee or penalty.
United recently updated its change policy for Basic Economy tickets to generally mirror Delta's changes. Passengers that have purchased or plan to purchase a Basic Economy ticket with United will be able to make a free change as long as:
- The ticket is issued by December 31, 2021
- Original travel dates commence by December 31, 2021
However, refunds aren't allowed after the 24-hour flexible booking policy. This means travelers are able to change their United flight if travel dates fall within 2021, regardless of which type of ticket was booked. As usual, a fare difference may still apply and this waiver policy may only apply to tickets booked directly with the airline.
Airlines Without Basic Economy Waivers
American maintains a strict “no changes” policy for Basic Economy tickets purchased on or after April 1, 2021. Because of this, travelers should compare options carefully before booking any tickets.
Taking this into account, it might make more sense to upgrade to a Main Cabin ticket if flying American. It should be noted, though, that American has suspended the sale of Basic Economy fares in domestic markets and several short-haul international routes. Therefore, the lowest prices travelers see in these markets are most likely already flexible Main Cabin fares.
Basic Economy fares are still available for most long-haul international routes as well as certain short-haul markets in the Caribbean and Latin America. Travelers will need to pay close attention when booking to know if tickets can be changed or not. Pro tip: It may be possible to book a Basic Economy fare on the same American Airlines flights via a partner, such as British Airways, and still be able to make changes to your ticket.
Other U.S. airlines like Allegiant, Spirit, and Sun Country, maintain their usual policies regarding flight changes. Changes can be made to any ticket, though it usually requires a fee – unless changes are made well in advance, the ticket was purchased during a previous waiver period, or a special flexibility add-on was purchased at the time of booking.