Alaska Joins The Big 3 Scrapping Change Fees – Is This The New Normal?

Alaska Airlines has followed in the footsteps of the US big three in eliminating change fees for good. The airline says that the change will take effect immediately and will apply to tickets on all its routes, excluding its basic economy or ‘Saver’ fare.

Alasks Airlines
Alaska Airlines has permanently scrapped change fees. Photo: Alaska Airlines

No more change fees

Following in the footsteps of the US ‘big three,’ Alaska Airlines has today revealed that it will be scrapping change fees from its bookings. In an announcement on its website, the airline says that the change will take effect immediately and that it will be permanent.

Speaking in a statement today, Andrew Harrison, executive vice president and chief commercial officer for Alaska Airlines commented,

“COVID has taught us that flexibility in travel is key. As we evolve our approach to travel to include more than 100 safety actions, it’s important to give our guests flexibility when they book by eliminating change fees.”

Specifically, Alaska says that the changes will apply to its entire route network and that it applies to all fare classes excluding Saver fares. These cheapest fare tiers are the equivalent of basic economy, which has been excluded from the change free scrapping with other airlines too.

Alaska A320
The changes will take place across its entire network. Photo: Getty Images

For passengers, this will save them up to $125 per person for changes to tickets. However, it’s unlikely to benefit Alaska’s most loyal fliers, as it hasn’t charged change fees for MVP Gold and above members of its Mileage Plan program for some time.

As well as dropping change fees for good, Alaska is extending its flexible booking policy through to December 31st. This means that, for new ticket purchases, even those on Saver fares can change their itinerary without penalty.

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Is this the new normal?

We’ve come to accept the restrictions of the ‘new normal,’ such as mandatory mask-wearing and ever-changing travel restrictions. While many will see better hygiene as a positive step, this is the first widespread change to booking conditions that we could see spreading further and becoming a permanent change.

Just days ago, United Airlines promised to eliminate change fees for good, only to be followed yesterday by Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. All three carriers have said that the changes will be permanent, at least on domestic networks and not on their lowest tier fare.

At the end of the day, allowing passengers to change their tickets, regardless of the reason, is a good thing for the airline. Perhaps one of the party doesn’t feel well, or COVID cases have started to rise in the destination to which they were heading. Perhaps they just changed their mind about the trip.

In the past, high change fees would often see people traveling when, in practice, they would rather not, or simply not turning up for the flight at all. In these days where we would rather not have sick people flying, and when airlines desperately need to closely manage their capacity, letting people choose not to fly is of huge benefit to everyone involved.

Alaska Airlines
It makes sense not to force unwell passengers to travel. Photo: Alaska Airlines

It is interesting to see that, despite the financial difficulties many of our airlines are and will continue to face, somehow, they can still afford to drop these expensive fees from their revenue. Perhaps they were never necessary at all?

With all the big US full service airlines, plus Southwest, no longer charging change fees, all eyes are on the low-cost and hybrid carriers to continue the trend.