As the US carriers continue to tweak their new “no change fees” policies Delta Air Lines made a major move for its SkyMiles members. Effective immediately most domestic SkyMiles awards will be fee-free for changes or cancellation. SkyMiles rewards are now a spectacularly flexible method for booking travel on Delta Air Lines.
As part of the move Delta is also removing one of the more punitive rules of its SkyMiles awards: Domestic reward tickets can now be canceled or changed up to the time of departure rather than 72 hours prior. Under the old rules an award would be forfeited if the passenger wanted to change that close to the scheduled travel time.
The main limitation with the change is that it does not apply to Basic Economy reward tickets. Since Delta shifted its reward booking model to include a Basic Economy option those tickets have followed the more restrictive rules those fares carry. No real surprise that the change fee adjustments don’t apply there. Customers must still choose whether the additional cost for the ticket makes sense to add that flexibility.
The company describes the changes with two broad statements:
Effective immediately, Delta is making the following permanent changes for travel within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands):
Eliminating the $150 redeposit fee to cancel an award ticket and the $150 reissue fee to change an award ticket for all SkyMiles Members. This covers travel on all tickets, excluding Basic Economy fares.
Allowing changes and cancelations on award tickets before departure for all SkyMiles Members, excluding Basic Economy fares. No longer will changes and cancelations made within 72 hours of departure result in the loss of miles on domestic award tickets.
As with all the other changes being made in the industry the “permanent” moniker attached here should be treated with a smidgen of skepticism. It is only permanent until the company decides to change the rules again. But until then travelers can happily book a reward seat speculatively with minimal risk. After all, changing or canceling the trip won’t cost anything.
United Airlines only charges to cancel and redeposit an award within 30 days of travel under its latest iteration of change fee rules. Outside that window the refund of an award is fee-free. United’s version also extends to Mexico and the Caribbean. American Airlines allows free changes on rewards within the US, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean but limits the free redeposit to outside 60 days from travel, effective for bookings made on/after 1 January 2021. It is unclear how United and American will treat an award that is changed within the fee window to be outside that timeframe and then refunded, so the difference may prove moot. But Delta explicitly grants that timing window.
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