United, American Airlines to scrap change fees for overseas flights

FILE PHOTO: American Airlines passenger planes crowd a runway where they are parked due to flight reductions made to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Tulsa International Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

(Reuters) - United Airlines UAL.O and American Airlines AAL.O said on Thursday they will scrap change fees for long-haul international flights, mirroring their move on domestic flights in a bid to revive bookings and air travel demand hit by the pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has weakened one of the core elements of the airline playbook: price many fares attractively low, then charge for ticket changes. American Airlines AAL.O said it will eliminate change fees for first class, business class, premium economy and main cabin tickets for all long-haul international flying, if the travel originates in North or South America.

United said it will announce an extension of its change fee waiver for basic economy and international tickets later this year “to continue to offer more flexibility to all customers who travel with us.”

Chicago-based United is among the major U.S. airlines that began implementing temporary waivers of change fees this year, given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus crisis. Earlier, both airlines said they had seen an uptick in decrease in bookings due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips