Delta Air Lines is permanently eliminating nearly all change fees on international flights, expanding on a similar move made earlier this year that dropped such charges on domestic flights.
It's the latest in a series of structural changes Delta and its competitors have made during the pandemic to make flying more flexible and appealing.
The notable exception is basic economy, the airline's bargain ticket class, and trips that originate outside North America.
International change fees had been $200.
"No year has better demonstrated the value of flexibility than this one," Ed Bastian, Delta's chief executive, said in the announcement. "Our approach has always been to put people first, which is why we're extending our current change fee waiver and making lasting changes to our practices, so customers have the trust and confidence they need long after the pandemic ends."
Wednesday's announcement doesn't change the Atlanta-based airline's current temporary change-fee waiver on all bookings — including those in basic economy and from any origin point on the globe — made between now and March 30.
Delta's prime competitors, American and United, have also eliminated most change fees on domestic travel in recent months.
For the past decade, fees have become a massive revenue generator for airlines, which held more power in their relationship with customers. But the pandemic brought the industry to near collapse as demand evaporated overnight. The net effect of these structural changes amounts to a collective mea culpa.
"Airlines are humbled, if not actually begging, for the time being, while the industry navigates the demand desert," said Bob Mann, an airline analyst and former industry executive.
In the spring, the airline industry started by making temporary concessions when the novel coronavirus first decimated demand for air travel by offering fee waivers and added flexibility aimed at luring travelers back to the skies.
But as the effects of the virus became more entrenched, and COVID-19 cases surged in waves, the airlines began ceding power back to the consumers in permanent ways.
"Every airline is trying to eliminate psychological barriers to customers booking," Mann said, adding that bookings give them much needed working capital.
But he added, "Like anything 'permanent,' [it's] safe to say its elimination is in effect until we are informed otherwise."
Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767