There is no question that the airline industry has hit some huge bumps this year, actually, bumps is putting it mildly. As a result, airlines are being forced to make changes that will help customers – even if it means a loss of revenue for the airline. For the customer, this is certainly a welcome change and United has taken the lead in this with change fees.
United Airlines Eliminates Change Fees on US Flights
Up front, let’s recognize that Southwest has been the US airline that has consistently not charged any kind of change fees so any airline removing those fees is simply getting closer to where Southwest has been for years.
Changing a Ticket Often Meant a Huge Loss of the Value
But, that does not mean that such a change is unwelcome! Before today, if a customer had a US reservation and was unable to make the trip at the last minute, it would normally mean just eating the loss of the ticket. Since most tickets purchased are non-refundable, needing to cancel a trip meant getting a credit for the trip. But, when you went to use that credit, it would cost you $200 of that credit to make the change. That would normally wipe out the value of the ticket.
United Eliminates US Change Fees for Good
United Airlines has said “no more” to those change fees! In fact, they say that they have “decided to get rid of change fees for good.” Quite a bold statement! Let’s unpack it and see exactly what is gone and what it means for you.
What Flights Are Included?
For any United Airlines flight within the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, you will not have to pay a change fee if the trip does not work out. That means that you can change to a different date or cancel it altogether and use the full credit on another flight at another time. The one big asterisk with this? This only applies to regular economy and premium class tickets – basic economy cannot be changed.
How Does the Credit Work?
The credit from that canceled ticket can be used up to one year from when the original ticket was issued (not when the flight was to have been flown). Also, important to remember, you do not get a difference back if you do not use the whole amount. So, canceling a $500 ticket and rebooking for a $300 ticket means you lose $200 of the value anyway.
Does This Count for Award Flights Also?
Also with this change, you will no longer pay a change fee for any awards in the US or its territories. If you need to redeposit the miles from an award trip, you can do that for free as long as it is not within 30 days of travel – for both domestic and international flights.
New – Free Same-Day Standby
In yet another change that used to be reserved for certain elites, starting January 1, 2021, any passenger can go standby on another flight the same day – for free.
This used to cost $75 to do but now you can elect to go standby on an available earlier flight that same day and it will not cost you anything! I used to do this all the time when I was a Delta elite member and had really missed it when I no longer qualified for status. This is a huge change that will help many people, especially those that may want to travel on less full flights.
However, the same fare class will need to be available. This means if you have bought one of the cheaper fares, you will need that same fare class available on the new flight. But, if the flight is not close to full, chances are pretty good you can do that.
United Airlines elite members can even change to confirmed same day flights – for free. This is definitely a great move for all elites.
United Airlines eliminating change fees is definitely a hugely positive move for customers. It will cost United a lot of money in lost revenue but there are also some new possibilities for them – like customers possibly willing to pay a bit more to get this free flexibility by buying a regular economy ticket instead of Basic Economy. Also, it can help them on flights that may have been too full where they may be in an overbooked situation and need to pay out anyway.
I definitely expect Delta to shortly announce a certain policy and American Airlines to follow in the week or weeks following that. 🙂 Of course, Southwest has nothing to fear from this because they are still giving their passengers two free bags for free which is still a huge savings over the competition. But, it will make people feel more comfortable booking with United Airlines in the future.
Featured image courtesy of Jorg Hackemann via Shutterstock.com