United Airlines PERMANENTLY eliminates domestic flight change fees!!

Wow, just wow.  And you heard it right: United Airlines is permanently removing change fees on domestic flights, effective immediately!  Prior to all the COVID-19 pandemic travel waivers, United had charged $200 to change flights on top of any fare difference.  So eliminating change fees would save you $200, although a fare difference would still apply.  Although the permanent policy applies to only domestic flights, international flights will still have no change fees at least through December 31, 2020 as a part of the COVID-19 pandemic travel waiver.  There are a few restrictions to note with their new policy:

  • This is valid for standard economy, premium economy, business class, and first class tickets (Basic Economy tickets are excluded)
  • This is only valid for tickets for travel within the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, but excluding Guam.  International flights will still be bound by pre-pandemic rules of $200 change fees.
  • There will be no limit to how often customers can change tickets
  • Note that just because change fees are waived doesn’t mean you can get a refund; unless you book a refundable ticket, this simply means that you can apply the value of your ticket towards another reservation
  • As before, tickets have to be used for travel within a year of the original date the ticket was issued, and that can’t be extended
  • For previously booked tickets, these waived fees only apply for tickets that had travel on March 3 or later; in other words, tickets canceled prior to that can’t be rebooked without a fee

The Catch

So here's the ultimate catch: there hardly is one!  If the flight that you changed to is cheaper than the one you originally booked, you will not be refunded the cheaper difference in fare.  This is unlike the case with Southwest, where you receive the cheaper fare difference back as a credit for a future flight.  In other words, you'll need to pay up for a higher fare, but you won't get refunded for a lower fare.

Award tickets

United's new policy actually gets even better for domestic award tickets.  Although international award tickets (and revenue fares for that matter) will still be bound by the same change fees, domestic award tickets can now also be changed without a fee.  Not only that, you can cancel your domestic award ticket without a fee and redeposit all the miles provided that it's at least 30 days before departure!  These positive changes put United MileagePlus domestic awards above all their competition.

Free same-day standby

Starting January 1, 2021, customers will be able to fly with free standby on the day of departure!  United previously charged $75 for non-elites for same-day standby, and this new free same-day standby policy applies to all flights regardless of class (including Basic Economy), fare type, or destination.  This makes United Airlines the only U.S. carrier to offer free same-day standby period.  And Premier elite members will now also be able to make confirmed free same-day flight changes without a fee (based on availability).

Bottom line

Wow, just wow (once again).  In the era of CEO Scott Kirby, one would have thought that United Airlines would be the last to make such positive changes (next to Spirit Airlines, of course).  These are perhaps some of the best changes any U.S. carrier has made in years, and this is definitely United's way of getting travelers back in the air for the long run.  I would predict a high probability that the other major U.S. carriers will follow suit, but it's good to see United take the forefront lead on this.

From all of us at Flying for Fitness, please stay healthy during this trying time.  We hope you enjoyed this post.  Please consider visiting one of our sponsors by clicking on the advertisements.  Our sponsors pay us for customer visits and help us to keep the lights on.  Thanks!


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