United Airlines has announced its permanently eliminating change fees effective immediately, as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally starting on January 1, 2021, United will be waiving standby fees for earlier flights for all passengers allowing those to move to other flights the day of departure.
Digging in a bit deeper, the change fee waiver applies only to domestic flights within the United States including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Basic Economy tickets are still non-changeable, so this does not apply to those tickets.
The carrier announced today that it is permanently getting rid of change fees on all standard Economy and Premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S., effective immediately.
And starting on January 1, 2021, any United customer can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service, a first among U.S. carriers, while MileagePlus Premier members can confirm a seat on a different flight on the same day with the same departure and arrival cities as their original ticket if a seat in the same ticket fare class is available.
One point to note, unlike Southwest Airlines is if your new flight costs less, you’ll be able to change for free but will not receive a refund of the fare difference.
In addition to change fees being waived, United will now allow for same-day flight changes free of charge starting next year. United presently charges a $75 fee for MileagePlus members and Premier Silver members, whereas Premier Gold, Platinum and 1K members already receive this benefit.
If there’s something positive that have come from the coronavirus pandemic, I’d have to say having change fees waived permanently by United Airlines is pretty high up there.
I can almost 100% guarantee we will see Delta Air Lines match this policy by the end of this week, and American Airlines in the coming weeks. I’m surprised Delta wasn’t the first airline of the big three to announce this, unless they already had this in the works and somehow United got wind of it, announcing this on a Sunday, as I wrote earlier this earlier this summer: Should Delta Waive Change Fees Indefinitely?
One thing to mention about the free same day flight changes for all members is how it dilutes the MileagePlus Premier program, essentially allowing those with no elite status to take advantage one of the most popular perks of being a Premier member.
United will need to add additional perks for its Premier members next year if they wish to differentiate these benefits for elite members, now that same day flight changes are free for all.
What are your thoughts about United Airlines permanently waived change fees domestically? Feel free to share in the comments below.