United Airlines is making traveling more flexible by eliminating change fees and standby fees for many passengers. United Airlines is getting rid of all change fees for all tickets purchased in 2020. In addition, United change fees will be drastically different in 2021. For starters, there will be no change fees in 2021 on qualifying fares.
This change is very similar to what we are use to at Southwest Airlines. The major difference between Southwest and United Airlines policies is in regards to when the new flight is less. United will charge you more, or keep your money. That’s right, unlike Southwest which provides a credit when the new flight is cheaper, United will not. Instead, United Airlines will keep your money if your new flight is cheaper. If the new flight is more expensive, United will also charge you the fare difference. This means one must be strategic when making changes.
Elimination of ALL Changes Fees For 2020
For 2020, United airlines has expanded their 2020 coronavirus waiver for all tickets. The waiver includes domestic and international flights, along with all cabins. This waiver also applies to basic economy tickets. If you purchase a ticket before the end of the year, you can make free changes to the ticket. If you are unsure of travel plans, cancel your flight before departure. Canceling your trip will result in the voucher that’s is good for use in the next 12 months.
For tickets issued between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, customers will be permitted to change without paying a change fee to a flight of equal or lesser value for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date.
If the new flight is priced higher, the customer may change for no change fee but must pay the fare difference. If the new flight is priced lower, the customer may change without paying a change fee but no residual value will be given.
Changes/Cancellations: If the customer decides to change or cancel the flight they booked between March 3, 2020 and March 31, 2020, they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a change fee for travel up to 24 months from the original ticket issue date. If the customer decides to change or cancel the flight they booked between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020, they can retain the value of the ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a change fee for travel up to 12 months from the original ticket issue date. Any changes or cancellation must occur prior to ticketed travel date.
2021: Almost No North America Change Fees
Starting in 2021, United Airlines is breaking with industry norm and trying to win passengers back by reducing fees. In 2021, United Airlines will eliminate change fees for domestic flights. Domestic flights include all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. This has been extended to include Mexico and the Caribbean islands too. Enjoy no change fees on the following domestic United Airlines fare classes:
- Economy Plus®
- Premium PlusSM*
Basic Economy, fare class “N” is not included. Basic Economy tickets are non-refundable, non-changeable. Unless, the coronavirus wavier extends again beyond December 31, 2020.
Once again, United will not refund the difference in fares. If one moves from Business Class to Economy or switches flights which results in a lower cost, United will keep the fare difference. In addition, one can change their tickets an unlimited amount of times, but one must pay the fare difference each time. If a ticket costs $400, and then you switch to a $300 ticket, United Airlines will keep $100. If you change your ticket again to a ticket that costs $325, you will owe United $25. Your original value does not carry forward.
2021: Free Domestic, Caribbean & Mexico Cancellations
Cancellations and changes are similar, but will be handled slightly different. One can cancel a flight and retain a flight credit that you can use up to one year from your original ticket issue date. If there is a difference when making changes, it may be smarter to cancel your ticket and save the voucher for future travel. This will cost more money upfront, but will save you money long term. Consider this option when the new ticket is significantly cheaper, especially if you plan to travel more than once in the next 12 months.
2021 Free Award Fee Changes, Not Cancellations
United Airlines will no longer charge for changes to domestic award tickets. Similarly to cash tickets, only the difference in miles will be collected. However, cancelling an award ticket within 30 days of travel will result in a redeposit fee. The award redeposit fees range up to $125.
United Airlines Standby Changes
Starting in 2021, United Airlines will provide more flexibility to all travelers. All travelers will be able to standby for an earlier flight for free. Travelers will have to standby for each connection and will not be confirmed through all segments. This will result in a saving of $75 for Silver Premier members and non-premier flyers. Expect new rules to United’s current standby policy. For example, the announcement today specifically says earlier flights, not later. United’s 2020 Standby policy allowed travelers to standby for any flight within 24 hours of departure, before or after their originally scheduled flight. In 2021, United free policy will only be for same day flights, departing earlier.
Same Day Confirm Flights
United Airlines Same Day confirm flights will still be an option for MileagePlus Premier members.
Beginning January 1, 2021, if you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, you have even more flexibility and may be able to confirm a seat on an earlier flight for no cost at all. The new flight will need to have the same origin and destination and be within 24 hours of the originally scheduled flight. The same ticketed fare class will also need to be for sale for you to make the same-day change. If the same fare class is not available, you’ll have to pay the difference.
For all other customers that would like to make a same-day change and confirm a seat, a fare differential may apply.
Same day confirm changes are currently free to Premier Gold, Platinum, 1K and Global Services members. It appears this benefit will also extend to Premier Silver in 2021.
United Leads ‘Legacy’ Airlines
The legacy airlines tend to follow Delta Air Lines lead when it comes to make changes. A game of monkey see, monkey do. As Delta hacked away at loyalty benefits and moved to a revenue based program, United and American Airlines quickly followed. The same was true in 2020 when Delta extended Elite status and travel waivers. Now, United Airlines is breaking with the legacy carriers by permanently getting rid of some change fees. Although this is an overall win for consumers, I am suspicious of Scott’s use of the world permanent. As nothing is permeant. Yet for now, this is a win as United gets closer to Southwest’s change fee policy.