United Airlines Eliminates Change Fees and Standby Fees Permanently — Except…
…but the exception is that passengers who purchase a Basic Economy ticket will still be required to pay a change fee of $200.00 for each change which is implemented.
The waiver for new tickets issued through Thursday, December 31, 2020 is being extended by United Airlines to permit unlimited changes to tickets with no fee. This policy applies to all ticket types — including Basic Economy fares — issued after Tuesday, March 3, 2020; and it is valid for both domestic and international travel.
United Airlines claims to become the first carrier based in the United States which will allow any customer to fly on a standby basis for free for a different flight which departs on the day of their travel — regardless of the type of ticket or class of service — effective as of Friday, January 1, 2021 as long as the request to change flights occurs no later than 30 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights and one hour before departure on international flights. This will allow customers to fly to their destinations earlier in the day in case their obligations end earlier than expected — or perhaps stay a few hours later than originally scheduled if they so choose.
Additionally, all members of the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program who have earned Premier elite level status will be able 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; and this policy will also be effective as of Friday, January 1, 2021. Complimentary same day changes are currently available only to members of MileagePlus who have earned a minimum of Gold Premier elite level status.
All redeposit fees on award travel for flights changed or cancelled greater than 30 days in advance before departure will be waived for members of the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program.
“Following previous tough times, airlines made difficult decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service”, Scott Kirby — who is the current chief executive officer of United Airlines — said in this video. “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.”
What United Airlines has not publicly announced freely is that a new program to cancel fewer than one percent of its flights — mostly routes between hub airports or from hub airports to other major markets — when too few passengers are expected to be aboard an airplane is being implemented effective as of Friday, August 14, 2020. “In another sign United Airlines wants to conserve cash to withstand a protracted recovery, it has begun using a sophisticated algorithm to cancel flights within seven days of departure when load factors fall too low, provided it can accommodate passengers on other flights”, according to this article written by Brian Sumers for Skift. “Along with considering whether customers can be rebooked, the system takes into account variables like where flight crew is needed and whether the airplane is required at the destination for a flight later in the day. Managers can overrule it when warranted, United said.”
Despite the policy of canceling flights with light passenger loads without penalty, free standby status for all passengers of United Airlines — as well as free same-day confirmed status for all Premier elite level members — is great news which marks a rare time that United Airlines has set a standard by taking the lead on a policy which is friendlier and more convenient to customers. Do not be surprised if other airlines — such as Delta Air Lines and American Airlines — enact similar policies.
The elimination of change fees is not new in the commercial airline industry in the United States, however, as Southwest Airlines does not charge change fees to its customers as well.
I enjoyed both standby status and complimentary same-day status whenever I have earned elite status on an airline — and I applaud United Airlines for relaxing these policies for their customers…
…but remember that this is the same United Airlines which increased checked baggage fees for customers who travel as passengers within the United States and on short-haul flights to the Caribbean and Latin America regions effective as of Friday, March 6, 2020 — and because of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic which has decimated the travel industry in general and has airlines needing infusions of cash, do not be surprised if fees are increased in other areas of the operations of United Airlines.