United has come out with some surprising news as they’ve announced that they’re permanently eliminating change fees for all fares except Basic Economy on flights in the US and US territories.
You can find their full announcement here. As a quick summary, you’ll no longer have to pay a change fee if you’re booked in any ticket class except for Basic Economy for flights in the US including:
- Continental US
- Puerto Rico
- US Virgin Islands
Note that Guam isn’t included in the above list. You can also still change tickets for Basic Economy fares and tickets for international travel through the end of 2020 at no cost.
The elimination of change fees applies to both paid and award tickets, so that’s good news too. There are no redeposit fees for award tickets provided you don’t make the change within 30 days of travel.
In addition to removing change fees, they’re making a couple of other changes from January 1, 2021:
- Free same-day standby – You can join the standby list for free for an earlier United flight on the same day.
- Free same-day changes for MileagePlus Premier members – If you have any kind of status with United (including Silver which you can get from Marriott Titanium status), they won’t charge you when confirming a seat on an earlier flight provided it’s within 24 hours of the originally scheduled flight and is in the same fare class for the same origin and destination. You can still change if it’s a different fare class, but you have to pay the difference in ticket price.
All these changes are great and are a welcome improvement to United’s previous policies. It’s interesting to see them leading the way in terms of the big three airlines as this is a move I’d have expected Delta to have made first. Now that United has gone there, I’d expect to see Delta and American Airlines follow suit.
It doesn’t look like there’s going to be any obvious way to game the system. For example, if you book a flight and then find a cheaper flight later on, you can’t change to that cheaper flight and get a refund of the difference.
While this is good news, I can’t help but feel like there’ll be a sting in the tail seeing as it’s United. They behaved dishonorably early on in the pandemic when it came to their policy on schedule changes and they kept changing policies seemingly every other day in ways that seemed designed to be unhelpful for customers. Will existing fees for other services like checked luggage be increased as a result? Or other new sneaky fees be added? “No sir, we no longer charge a change fee. But there is a $100 adjustment fee if you need to make any
changes adjustments to your flight.”
That might just be my cynical British self though. I’d love to be pleasantly surprised and have it be that United has seen the light and decided that implementing customer-friendly policies might actually make good business sense.
What are your thoughts?