Delta offers free flight changes over July Fourth weekend ahead of possible ‘operational challenges’

An Airbus A330-323 aircraft, operated by Delta Air Lines.

Benoit Tessier | Reuters

Delta Air Lines is allowing travelers to change their tickets for free during the busy Fourth of July weekend, allowing fliers to avoid paying a fare difference and skip the airport during a “potentially challenging” few days.

The unusual offer, normally extended for bad weather and limited to certain airports, comes as Delta and other airlines gear up for what could be the busiest travel period since before the Covid pandemic and scramble to keep a lid on elevated rates of flight delays and cancellations.

Delta travelers booked July 1-4 can rebook their trip with no change fee or difference in fare — provided they keep the same origin and destination and take a new trip by July 8.

The offer applies to all ticket classes, including no-frills basic economy.

“Delta people are working around the clock to rebuild Delta’s operation while making it as resilient as possible to minimize the ripple effect of disruptions,” the carrier said late Tuesday. “Even so, some operational challenges are expected this holiday weekend. This unique waiver is being issued to give Delta customers greater flexibility to plan around busy travel times, weather forecasts and other variables without worrying about a potential cost to do so.”

Delta last month said it would cut about 100 flights a day from its schedule in July and part of August. United Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines have also trimmed their schedules in hopes of improving reliability.

Airlines have blamed the issues on bad weather, such as thunderstorms, and staffing shortfalls of air traffic controllers, though carriers have also been aggressively staffing up.

The Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation have blamed airlines’ planning for some of the delays and cancellations, criticizing the companies for encouraging employees to take early retirement during the pandemic despite $54 billion in taxpayer aid set aside for payrolls.

“A lot of people, including me, are expecting to get to loved ones over this holiday weekend and we need a system that’s resilient enough to get them there, plus good customer service when an issue does come up,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with NBC’s “Nightly News” that aired Tuesday.

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