CHICAGO (CBS) — United, American, and Delta airlines are dropping $200 change fees for most tickets on domestic flights. While it’s good news for the few people who are flying these days, there’s also likely some bad news on the horizon: higher air fares.
The big announcement from the nation’s three largest airlines normally would have travelers flying high, but they’re not flying much at all these days.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes a closer look at the airline industry, and other big changes that could come as soon as the end of the month.
A flashy, musical announcement from United Airlines got sky-high attention on Sunday, announcing they were getting rid of their $200 fee for most travelers who change a ticket for travel within the United States. Delta and American followed suit on Monday.
In 2013, increasing those fees was the headline, which have become a huge moneymaker for airlines, according to CBS Travel Editor Peter Greenberg.
“In the last 10 years, United Airlines alone has earned over $6 billion in ticket change fees,” Greenberg said.
United CEO Scott Kirby said customer complaints prompted the decision to drop most change fees, and to let customers hop on earlier flights for free on standby.
“You can spin this any way you want. The bottom line is: the airline needs people on the plane,” Greenberg said.
It’s been a cloudy few months for the industry; with $10 billion lost from April to June among the four biggest airlines – United, American, Delta, and Southwest – which has prided itself on never charging change fees.
The future looks anything but sunny for anyone.
Asked if baggage fees could soon be a thing of the past as well, Greenberg said no, and then gave an even worse prediction for travelers: fares are going to go up.
“They’re definitely going to go up, because the airlines are going to realize that the people who are flying have to fly,” he said.
Then there’s the big storm on the horizon for airline employees.
“On September 30th, it’s going to be a very dark day in the airline business,” he said.
Furloughs – in the thousands- are imminent, Greenberg said. United Airlines alone has warned of up to 36,000 layoffs and furloughs coming this fall.
Federal aid for the airline industry is set to expire at the end of the month.
“You’re going to see dozens of U.S. cities on their route networks dropped forever,” Greenberg said.
Yet United said it’s adding flights, adding this: “Stayed tuned for some exciting new announcements in the weeks to come.”
The permanent drop in change fees for United, American, and Delta does not apply to basic economy fares or international tickets.