Delta, American drop domestic change fees, matching move by United

Delta Airlines planes sit at ATL airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines DAL.N and American Airlines AAL.O said on Monday they are permanently dropping domestic change fees, mirroring an announcement by rival United Airlines UAL.O on Sunday in a push to woo back travelers.

U.S. airlines are burning through millions of dollars daily as the coronavirus pandemic hits passenger air travel, which is hovering around 30% of what it was a year ago, forcing more customer-friendly policies to encourage people to start traveling again.

Atlanta-based Delta said the elimination of change fees is effective immediately and includes tickets purchased for travel within the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. American’s change also covers flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The new policies do not cover any of the three airlines’ basic economy tickets.

Low-cost rival Southwest Airlines LUV.N has never charged a change fee for its tickets.

Delta, United and American were already waiving change fees through the end of the year to give travelers more flexibility in an uncertain environment.

The fees represented around 2% to 3% of their total revenues in 2019, though analysts said the overall financial impact going forward will be limited as focus remains on generating bookings.

Delta collected $830 million in ticket cancellation and change fees last year, American $819 million and United $625 million, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman