Could Delta Scrap The Flight Change Fee Like Southwest?

Change fees are an awful part of commercial air travel. For many airlines, changing your flight due to shifting circumstances can often run into more than a hundred dollars. Depending on the original cost of airfare, this can sometimes be almost as much as the ticket itself! However, at a recent convention in Las Vegas, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian made some remarks alluding to the airline’s desire to provide better flexibility for its customers. Could we see an end to change fees at Delta?

Delta Air Lines 777
Delta’s change fee for a non-refundable ticket begins at $200. Photo: Delta Air Lines

“With a non-refundable ticket, you can change your flight when you pay a change fee starting at $200-500, depending on the location where you’re traveling, plus the price difference.” -Delta’s flight change policy

The remarks

At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show at the end of January, Delta CEO Ed Bastian was interviewed by USA Today, during the course of which he made some interesting remarks. Bastian talked about wanting to be seen as a trusted consumer brand and talked through some factors that affected this notion.

Delta boarding
The Points Guy named Delta the best airline in 2019. Photo: Delta Air Lines

One factor, said Bastian, was clearly fees. “Are their better ways to manage that?” he rhetorically asked the audience. He went on to say “When you think about our fee structure, I think there’s fees in there, and change fees are part of that, that people feel are punitive.”

According to USA Today, Eric Phillips, Delta’s senior vice president of pricing and revenue management, said the airline’s employees are working together with customers on a project to see how the airline can “change change.”

“We can be better about providing flexibility…Look, we recognize, life happens. Meetings get rescheduled. Dance recitals are important. And yes, sometimes T-ball practice is like a Game 7. So our goal is to make sure that we provide our employees with the tools and the policies that they need so they can respond to the customers with the fairness and empathy that customers want.”

The Southwest model

Southwest Airlines shines brightly as the model airline for a stellar change policy. It’s website states clearly and simply:

“We never charge a change fee…At Southwest, you may pay a difference in air fare, but never a change fee.”

This is one of the reasons that the airline often ranks high in customer satisfaction surveys. Although it did lose its top spot this year to Alaska and JetBlue.

Southwest 737 MAX
Southwest does not charge any fees for flight changes. Photo: Southwest Airlines

This could be a game-changer

Details of these changes are expected to come out later this year. Until then we are left guessing on what these remarks actually mean. Could the airline simply enhance the way it explains change fees? That would certainly be disappointing.

What do you think Delta will actually do with change fees? Let us know what you think in the comments!

We reached out to Delta with a request for comment. However, they have yet to respond to our inquiry.