United Airlines Is Eliminating Change Fees For Good

United Airlines has announced today that it is getting rid of change fees for all standard economy and premium cabin tickets for travel in the US effective immediately. The carrier is also rolling out an extensive and generous policy to allow more flexible travel.

United Airlines
United Airlines is the first legacy carrier to announce the permanent end of change fees. Photo: Getty Images

Eliminating change fees

United Airlines is removing change fees on all standard economy and premium cabin tickets for travel within the United States. This new plan does not apply to flights outside the 50 US states, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In addition, basic economy members will not be able to take advantage of free changes as changes are not allowed in the ticket class.

Scott Kirby, CEO of United, stated the following in a video message:

“Change is inevitable these days – but it’s how we respond to it that matters most. When we hear from customers about where we can improve, getting rid of this fee is often the top request. Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service. United Airlines won’t be following that same playbook as we come out of this crisis. Instead, we’re taking a completely different approach – and looking at new ways to serve our customers better.”

Even better, customers will not be limited in the number of times they adjust their flights.

Free standby options

Starting January 1st, United Airlines is allowing any of its customers to fly standby for free on a flight departing the same day as their travel – regardless of class of service or type of ticket.

Customers cannot change their origin and destination airports when flying standby. However, say a meeting ends early, or you are trying to get the most of your vacation, you can put yourself on the list for same-day standby for free if space is available at departure. This initiative is available for customers traveling within the US and to and from international destinations.

United planes getty
The new standby policy is excellent for customers who are flying out of United’s hubs. Photo: Getty Images

You will be able to make the changes and add yourself to the standby list through the mobile app, the airline’s website, or at the airport so long as it is made at least 30 minutes prior to departure on domestic flights or one hour before departure on international flights.

New perks for MileagePlus members

MileagePlus members will not have to pay any redeposit fees on award travel for flights changed or canceled more than 30 days before departure. All MileagePlus Premier members will be able to confirm a different flight on the day of their travel.

United 737
United is leading the way in making travel more flexible in the long-run among US legacy carriers. Photo: Getty Images

Beginning January 1st, 2021, Premier members can confirm a seat for free on a different flight so long as their origin and destination cities remain the same as their original ticket. Silver members and above will be able to confirm a new seat in their same ticket fare class if space is available.

Where other US airlines stand

Aside from Southwest, no other US airline is permanently removing change fees. Sometimes, these can be hefty at $200 a pop on some airlines. United is the first legacy carrier to announce the end of change fees.

Also, airlines have different standby policies. United touts that its standby plan is a first among US carriers. Other airlines reserve such standby policies either for their elite members or people in certain fare classes. In some cases, you may have to pay a fee.

United LAX
On other US airlines, change fees can cost hundreds of dollars. Photo: Getty Images

Ultimately, United is charting a course forward as being one of the most flexible US legacy airlines. Change fees have long been the bane of many people’s travel experiences and, while some credit cards do cover additional surcharges like change fees, it can add up quickly for non-elites and infrequent fliers.

All the legacy carriers have all gone ahead and waived change fees for customers during the crisis. United is the first to announce it will permanently end change fees. Whether any other company follows, however, remains to be seen. The current crisis has highlighted that customers are anxious to be able to have some flexibility. Even though you still may have to pay a fare difference, the lack of an additional fee is pretty nice.

What do you make of United’s move to end change fees permanently? Do you think other airlines should follow? Let us know in the comments!

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