Delta Air Lines is dropping fees to change tickets for most international flights from North America, joining American Airlines in ending the unpopular levies as a way to woo passengers back to overseas travel.
The fees, which run from $200 to $500, will end immediately for all but the cheapest Basic Economy fares or trips that begin outside North America, the Atlanta-based carrier said Wednesday. Delta and other major U.S. carriers earlier this year did away with change fees on domestic flights, including for after the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Dropping the lucrative charges is part of a broader effort by airlines to revive international travel that’s been constrained by pandemic travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. Domestic passenger traffic has lingered at about 35% of last year’s figures. Overseas travel is well below that level.
“International is the biggest challenge we have,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said on CNBC. The airline also is working to boost demand by establishing travel corridors to certain areas with passenger testing designed to limit or eliminate quarantine requirements at destination countries.
With health authorities warning consumers to limit travel as the coronavirus surges, holiday volume likely will be similar to that of the last few weeks, Bastian said.
“We’re currently at about one-third of normal traffic trends, and I don’t see that changing here for the next couple of months, so that’s the challenge,” he said.
When the coronavirus swept through the U.S. in March and travel restrictions were imposed, major airlines were all but forced to let people alter travel plans without penalty through year-end as states and countries imposed travel restrictions. Delta on Wednesday extended all change-fee waivers, including for Basic Economy and flights originating overseas, through March.
United Airlines Holdings Inc. has eliminated change fees for this year and has said it plans to extend the policy.