Ready to travel again?
Be careful when shopping for plane tickets: change fees and other fine print are back on some tickets – or will be soon.
With vacation travel strongly rebounding as more Americans are vaccinated against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, several airlines are eliminating travel waivers put in place when travel evaporated during the coronavirus pandemic. The waivers allowed travelers to change or cancel tickets without the usual penalties to give skittish passengers confidence to buy tickets. Alaska Airlines labeled it a “peace of mind” waiver.
American, JetBlue and Frontier’s pandemic waivers expired Wednesday, Spirit’s expires Sunday and waivers at United, Delta, Alaska and Hawaiian are due to expire on April 30. Allegiant Air has an open-ended waiver, and fellow budget airline Sun Country Airlines reverted to pre-pandemic change fees last summer. Southwest Airlines does not have a basic-economy fare and has never charged change fees.
The good news for travelers is that those pricey change fees for many tickets are – in the words of airline executives – permanently gone, a positive byproduct of the pandemic.
The bad news: The change fees and other penalties attached to cheaper tickets – those no-frills basic-economy tickets that took off in 2017 as well as tickets on budget carriers like Frontier, Spirit and Sun Country – are coming back.
Buy a basic-economy ticket for a domestic flight on American Airlines, for example,…