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Delta offers free flight changes over July Fourth weekend

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

Benoit Tessier | Reuters

Delta Air Lines is allowing travelers to vary their tickets without cost through the busy Fourth of July weekend, allowing fliers to avoid paying a fare difference and skip the airport during a “potentially difficult” few days.

The bizarre offer, normally prolonged for bad weather and limited to certain airports, comes as Delta and other airlines gear up for what could possibly be the busiest travel period since before the Covid pandemic and scramble to maintain 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 identical origin and destination and take a recent trip by July 8.

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

“Delta persons are working across the clock to rebuild Delta’s operation while making it as resilient as possible to attenuate 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 present Delta customers greater flexibility to plan around busy travel times, weather forecasts and other variables without worrying a couple of potential cost to achieve this.”

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

Airlines have blamed the problems on bad weather, resembling 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 a number of the delays and cancellations, criticizing the businesses for encouraging employees to take early retirement through the pandemic despite $54 billion in taxpayer aid put aside for payrolls.

“Plenty of people, including me, expect to get to family members over this holiday weekend and we want a system that is resilient enough to get them there, plus good customer support when a difficulty does come up,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with NBC’s “Nightly News” that aired Tuesday.

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