United Airlines’ Very Generous Change Fee Waiver

Filed Under: United

Over the past several days we’ve seen JetBlueAlaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines start to waive change fees on new bookings as a way of drumming up business. United Airlines finally got the memo, and has now implemented a similar policy.

United Airlines introduces change fee waiver

United Airlines is waiving change fees for all tickets booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020:

  • This allows customers to change to another flight within 12 months from the original ticket issue date; any fare differences do apply, you just don’t pay the (typically $200) change fee
  • This applies to all tickets, all fare types, all destinations, and all travel dates available for sale, as long as the ticket number starts with “016” (yes, this means even basic economy and award tickets qualify)

United is even waiving change fees on award tickets

This is the most generous change policy

While United was late to the game here, this is by far the most generous waiver policy we’ve seen issued by a US airline following a reduction in demand:

  • This applies to both domestic and international itineraries, while Delta’s policy is restricted to international itineraries
  • You can cancel all the way up to departure, while American requires you to cancel at least 14 days in advance
  • This policy applies to tickets purchased over the course of four weeks, while some of the other policies only apply for a two week ticketing period

United deserves some credit for just how generous this is, so if you’re in a position where you want to book an award reservation, a basic economy ticket, or anything else, March is a great time to do so.

Of course I think it’s worth noting that while United is the most generous of the airlines that have added coronavirus response policies, this is basically what Southwest’s policy is all day every day, and they deserve credit for that. 😉

United is waiving basic economy change fees

Bottom line

For tickets booked through March 31, 2020, United is waiving all change fees, regardless of the destination, travel date, or type of ticket.

This is a generous policy, though obviously United isn’t doing this out of the kindness of their heart, but rather because demand is way down. I can only imagine how much Scott Kirby must be having an existential crisis from selling basic economy tickets without change fees.

Are these airline change fee waivers causing you to lock in any travel? 

Comments
  1. Why does it only apply to people buying tickets on or after March 3rd knowing that COVID-19 is spreading? The offer isn’t generous at all – it should apply to all who have bought tickets before March 3rd as well.

  2. You say “very generous”, I say “laughably inadequate”. It’s a slap in the face to everyone who bought a ticket, in good faith, prior to the emergence of this crisis. What does United do for them: absolutely nothing, other than to pocket the fare or to charge obscenely high change fees. How you can categorise this as any level of generosity is a complete mystery.
    Of course they try to spin it as consumer -friendly, and painting themselves as honest brokers/corporate good guys in difficult times. The reality: just ‘snouts at the trough’ rip-off merchants, who’d sell their grandmothers for sixpence. IE, as expected.

  3. I have to agree with others here. There is no generosity involved here. They fear that people will stop booking, so in order to keep the money flowing they are basically making it so that people aren’t afraid of booking flights. If they really cared, they would have let people that booked before the emergency to change flights.

    This is a scheme to continue making money, with a PR component.

  4. Agree with all above. No generosity at all. Also, totally agree with Sung, they want people keep booking since United allow changing without fee. So, they already get the money in their pocket.

  5. Lucky, please…. generous? Its as plain as others above spelled out. This has nothing to do with being generous, and everything to do with the fear people will stop booking. Come on man, you have to see that.

  6. Does an award on say, Austrian, ticket in 016 making it eligible? Or do awards only qualify if they’re strictly UA-only?

  7. If I were to book a flight from LAX to JFK and I cancel, would I receive a voucher to use for another destination within 12 months? Or do I need to book the exact flight LAX to JFK but on a different date?

  8. Not quite as generous as Southwests standard change/cancellation policy.

    But it is better than Delta or AA

  9. I’d argue that this policy was not very well thought out. Why just March 3 to March 31? What if I bought my ticket on March 1? Am i just out of luck?? To me, this policy is great in idea, but very poorly executed.

  10. No big deal!!!

    if allowed to cancel and get your full currency ( money or miles )back that would generous –to take MY money and not return it IS good only for UA

    I will not book -will wait

  11. Classic definition of a bulky is someone who slaps you, then forgives you.

    Change fees are onerous and fleecing to begin with. To waive them, as if doing the customer a favor is subpar for the course.

    Why the eff are change fees $200 per passenger? Because they can. That’s why. It does NOT cost the company $200 in admin costs or reselling the same commodity for more money, especially when they have a few days to sell it.

    Southwest charges zero.

    Others are greedy ****holes.

  12. I wonder how much money they will lose when people book up the peak holiday travel periods and then change close in with no fee.

  13. Worth noting:
    When you ‘change’ original UA tix that was purchased before March 3rd and roll it into new tix (yes, okay for “routing” to change as long as you pay difference in fare) – the new tix doesn’t come w/ “no change fees” policy protection.
    Goes by “date of original purchase”. Also means passenger must travel within 1 year of original tix and will inherit a change fee if new tix is cancelled or changed (even if purchased between March 3 & 31, 2020). / [Applies to AA & DL’s no change fee policies too].

  14. I feel like im not understanding what happens if I book an award ticket. No change fee to cancel, and then are the miles re-deposited? Or credited to use within a year? The latter doesn’t make sense.

    Looking to book a flight on miles to Miami for my husband to join me on a work trip end of May. There’s always a chance it’s cancelled which in case we wouldn’t go at all, and would love to get the points for his flight back.

  15. Yea….not generous at all. I booked a ticket in November for this month to a international destination. My employer has issued a no international travel declaration, so I have no choice but to cancel. How does the United announcement help me?

  16. Was this article written by a United Airlines employee? I agree with the others. This is not generous in any way. It’s a gut punch to all the customers who booked travel before 3/3, well before anyone even heard of the CoronaVirus. I was supposed to travel to Italy in April for my wedding anniversary. I purchased my tickets in October & now my employer, the federal government, has restricted my travel to all of Italy & I can’t go. What will United do for me? They want to steal another $600 from me to change/cancel my flight…on top of the over $7000 I already paid for business class. Yet, they will waive fees for those who knowingly book travel, fully aware of what is going on around the world. How is that at all fair? So to say they are generous is laughable. It’s unethical really & just a PR stunt to drum up more business since they know not many people will be booking in March. They are a TERRIBLE company & I will remember that the next time I fly. Oh & to date, they are the only major US airline that hasn’t added all of Italy to their waiver/refund list.

  17. This is anything but generous. They’re just encouraging people to continue buying tickets during this coronavirus crisis. If you buy tickets right now, you’re buying tickets with the full knowledge of the global health crisis going on. Instead people who bought tickets before the coronavirus crisis should be the ones who this policy should apply to, not the clowns who are buying tickets right now!

  18. For all people complaining.

    I don’t blame UA at all and think they are very generous.

    Why?

    1. It all started with JetBlue and Alaska who are, like most of you said, doing this out of greed.
    2. In an oligopoly market, they are better off to follow the pack. The legacy 3 are smart enough not to start this became, as you see it, no matter how airlines spin it, it still looks bad (unless they offer it to tickets booked prior).
    3. When JetBlue put this in motion, every player would eventually follow to maintain their cartel power or risk losing business to JetBlue. It puts the legacy 3 in a tight position.
    4. This is the same logic of raising bag fees, they collude because they can.
    5. Now since everyone else is offering this (not so) generous policy, it would hurt UA (profit and publicity) even more if they didn’t follow.

    So the bad guy here isn’t UA but JetBlue who started this chain reaction.

    Kudos to UA for being the most generous from this greedy JetBlue policy. Credits to them when it’s due.

  19. @Eskimo – nope. I had an AA ticket that I bought in November and I had to pay the $200 cancellation for me and my wife. It doesn’t matter if JetBlue started it. They’re all crap for not honoring prior bookings – each one deserves as much shame as the next.

    I’m just glad they are going to feel the squeeze on their bottom line. Dozens of conferences are cancelled, which means hundreds of thousands of seats will be empty. Totally deserved.

  20. @Andrew

    I am not defending the airline but trying to give them some fair defense. Yes airlines are greedy, (as should any for profit company). Yes this scheme will help the airlines stockpile cash.

    However, your response is exactly why the legacy 3 are smart enough not to start this.

    If airlines did nothing at all, you will still be mad at them. Now once they offer this, not only are you still mad but you also feel you got slapped in the face big time.

    To be fair, you can’t blame the airline for the virus either. Both of you engage in the contract without the knowledge of this event, you should have bought travel insurance. I consider airlines are already generous for allowing changes (especially in Feb for China/Asia travels)

    You also have to remember one thing, it’s going to be a bigger problem for everyone (tax payers included) if an airlines goes bankrupt (again, LOL). And JetBlue or Alaska doesn’t have the reserve that the legacy 3 have.

  21. At this point the US Air Force should take over domestic flying like they did with the air mail contracts in the 20’s.

  22. If United Airlines has the customer’s back in this corona virus issue why are customers, who booked before the corona virus issue was announced, being punished? I bought 2 tickets at $1500 per ticket and we are travelling to Japan. All of the tourist sites are shut down, schools are shut down, employees are told to work at home, people are not going out while Japan is trying to get a handle on the virus so why would the tourists be out while the government is taking such measures? Then when we return home we have to self quarantine for 14 days and may risk countries denying us entry because we were in an area where the virus was. Trump said earlier that they may possibly deny people who came from Japan from entering the country. When our connection back to Canada is through San Francisco does United Airlines really have our backs and are they doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus? Other people we know who were travelling to Spain were able to cancel their tickets at no cost and that area does not have the number of corona virus cases Japan has. What’s wrong with this picture. United step up to the plate and do the right thing.

  23. And consider this offer:
    Delta updated its policies on March 4 by waiving change fees for all flights booked between March 1 and 31, as well as international flights previously booked that are scheduled to fly in March.

  24. What rubbish.

    The airlines are only doing this as they’re desperate for revenue.

    Those that have existing bookings before all this started are the ones that they should be looking after, and even then, it wouldn’t be generous, it would simply be the right thing to do.

  25. United has been pretty generous all along. My dad had planned to go to Taiwan in february but cancelled due to fears of the virus. He gave united a call and they gave him a full credit back to his account to use over the next year. This was before any cancellation policy was announced and my dad does not have united status.

  26. Booked our round trip flights from newark to Cabo san Lucas months ago for a flight leaving on March 28th and returning on April 11th. Had no issues at all changing those tickets to Jan 2021. No change fee. Easy peasy.

  27. Not generous – or even very helpful.

    A couple of weeks ago I booked a ticket to Tel Aviv. Today, Israel announced that no foreigner from any of 5 European countries would be allowed to enter Israel unless they could prove they had a place to stay in quarantine for 14 days. https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/Three-new-cases-of-coronavirus-announced-in-Israel-619680 This is in addition to foriegners from other countries that had been previously not allowed to enter.

    As of now, the ban does not extend to the US, but it does cover countries that have had far fewer cases of the virus, and fewer – or no – deaths from the disease.

    How is this “very generous” policy going to handle situations like this?

  28. Also looking for the answer to questions posed by @jan and @Ed. Can I cancel a flight between PHL and BOS and rebook to a new destination? Or does the origin and destination have to be the same as the original ticket?

  29. For all of you who entered into a contract to fly with United and now do not want to fly with United or are prevented from flying with United through no fault of United to places that no government is stopping you from flying to, why would United help you out of a situation which they had no hand in creating. I am in the hospitality business in Florida. We have had two guests who have cancelled their plans because of this “crisis”. One will not go to Florida (where there have thus far been no cases) from Indiana (where, likewise, there have been no cases). They also complained that we would not waive the cancellation penalties that they agreed to. There is no logical reason why anyone would be more likely to get Covid 19 in Florida than anywhere else and no worse health care in Florida than anywhere else in the US.

    Irrational responses to this disease do not require United to gut their revenue to mollify those responses.

  30. I’m miffed at United as well. We booked tickets to Spain last October for travel this week to celebrate our anniversary. We cancelled the entire trip for obvious reasons, last time I checked Spain has almost 200 cases of the coronavirus 19. Everything has been refunded except United has the need to keep $300/ticket. Thanks for the slap in the face United. You “were” our airline of choice.

  31. I called United premier line and he said they don’t know if this will apply to award tickets.

    Moreover:
    – They waive the *change fee* and you owe fare difference if the new fare is more than what you originally paid.
    – If the new fare is *less* than what you originally paid, they waive the change fee but you *don’t* get a refund, i.e. it’s an even exchange.

    In the second case, the rep acknowledged that some people might’ve benefitted from paying the original change fee (e.g. $200) and getting back the fare difference between what they paid and what the new (cheaper) fare is, but that may or may not be an option.

    @Lucky do you know anything about this?

  32. @farnorthtrader
    For someone in the hospitality business in Florida you should at least get some facts right. As of your posting time there have been reports of 3 cases in Florida.

    As for waiving cancellation penalty, it is more of a professional courtesy. However in times like this having good publicity will do you no harm.
    If you would like to share what your business is, I can assure you I will go straight to your competitors (Unless you represent Disney). Not that this is your fault, but on the next sign of trouble at least they might still cover my back.

    Might I suggest you try working with your customer if you cannot refund them. If you are a small business I’m sure they will try working things out with you too. If you are a large greedy corporation, just refund them for sake of publicity.

  33. @Abe UA’s 767s (and generally all 767s I think?) opérate in a 2-3-2 configuration in economy. It’s honestly a super comfy ride.

  34. “UA’s 767s (and generally all 767s I think?) opérate in a 2-3-2 configuration in economy. It’s honestly a super comfy ride.”

    Which is why I dropped UA 988 from FRA in favor of 919 from LHR on my returns from Africa. The 10 across in Y on the 777 is crap!

    Was taking to a UA FA yesterday in the Global Entry line and she said another big announcement is coming from the airline. Guessing probably more cuts, domestic too.

  35. They say that the elderly are the most at risk & I agree with it not being fair not to consider bookings prior to March 3 for everyone. I bought 2 Senior tickets late Feb 26 that are over 72 & I did not get any discount for being a senior & looks like will not get a waiver because we are considered high risk for the virus.

  36. @AlliW what did you mean by your comment “
    Worth noting:
    When you ‘change’ original UA tix that was purchased before March 3rd and roll it into new tix (yes, okay for “routing” to change as long as you pay difference in fare)…”? I sent an inquiry to UA quoting your post & they only responded by directing me to their fee waiver page. Can you elaborate on changes for tickets purchased before March 3rd?

  37. This article is loaded with bs. They told me I cannot cancel because Mexico isn’t part of the zones at risk. 1 passenger has 2 autoimmune diseases and is severely immune-compromised due to a multiple sclerosis treatment that is a for of chemotherapy.

  38. This is total rubbish. I booked a RT fare on United as it was the designated airline for a meeting that I was scheduled to travel to in New Orleans this month. The meeting was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. United was only willing to cancel the booking with a no fee change waiver instead of offering a refund because I booked a non-refundable fare. Now I am hearing that they intend to cancel both of the nonstop flights I would have taken from SFO to MSY and back due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I’m stuck with United credit which if I don’t use in 1 year, I lose completely.

  39. Face it folks the airlines are losing big money right now and there is no way in hell they will make this policy applicable to any tickets regardless of when booked. I am currently in the Philippines via Tokyo (From ANC) on JAL. I was able to upgrade via mileage to F class for my wife and daughter. We were the only ones in F class other than 1 other man. J class was half full. None of our flights were even close to being full. JFK, NRT and MNL terminals were eerily quiet. Only SEA , ANC and CEB felt normal. Lounges were empty with reduced food services. Great time to fly on award tickets!

  40. I just cancelled an AA flight that was booked in January or February for March. They said they will refund the miles and fees. No questions asked. They were very good about it.

    I just hung up with United about my flight on March 21 and they will charge $200 per ticket to cancel and get credit (5 tickets is $1000). I asked about changing to a different route same day with the same beginning and ending airports and they would even charge $200 for that. I knew I shouldn’t have booked on United. They are the WORST! I’m so glad that Denver is a Southwest hub now. I usually avoid United and I will probably never fly them again. Just too hard to deal with.
    So, to make it clear, their change fee waiver is basically useless. Especially if it isn’t in the magic window of time.

  41. What about the MileagePlus award redeposit miles fee? Will that be refunded if I book a bunch of saver awards holding them for different scenarios and then want to cancel fee-free later?

  42. I have 4/27 ticket Newarto Manila w/stop 2.5 hours Narita. May 22 MNL to Narita, June 12 Narita Neward. I can’t find out if I can rebook without penalty. My hope is that United cancels all flights to Japan from Newark so I dont lose a dime. Really don’t want to go now. Will wait till Nov.Any answer will be appreciated Thanks

  43. Completely disgusted with United’s lack of assistance and good will when it comes to rescheduling tickets that were purchased and booked before March 3. We are 60+ and in the CDC group of people advised not to travel right now. We are life-time Gold Alliance members and have been flying united for more 40+ years. Is this anyway to treat loyal customers? We just want to postpone NOT cancel any flights with United. Why can’t United give us a credit toward future travel? Truly disgusted!

  44. IMHO, United is a total garbage heap of an airline. This policy is for profit, show, and little else. By March 3, the Coronavirus existence and dangers were already well documented. Anyone booking airfare on or after this date already knows and appreciates the potential travel dangers. Also, like many others, I’m sure, my company has just issued a restriction on business travel, which must seriously be hurting the airlines. United’s goal here has nothing to do with safety and security, but to encourage continued purchasing of airfare to counter the sudden drop off in new revenue. Case in point: I purchased 4 IAD-SEA round-trip tix in September 2019 for travel in June 2020. Base airfare was $1900, paid upgrades to first cost another $2200. Called 1K helpdesk today asking for options on repurposing airfare for another destination at a later date. Seattle is, after all, pretty hard hit on Coronavirus cases. United’s response: $800 in change fees, forfeit the $2200 in upgrade fees, and use remaining value of $1100 for airfare prior to September 2021. [email protected]&$ [email protected] United!!! Really? I didn’t ask for a refund, just a reasonable repurposing of the $4100 I gave to you in September 2019. Of course you can repurpose…for a $3000 penalty! My request would have only cost United 4 round-trip seats on IAD-SEA but would have gained 4 round-trip seats IAD-XXX on some later date PLUS whatever additional revenue I might have given to get to XXX vs. SEA. Instead, United would rather stick to their greedy policy to generate an additional $3000 in sleazy profit than take the necessary moral and ethical steps to help contain this virus. I guess United wants me to travel to Seattle, pick up the Coronavirus, pass it to everyone else during the 5 1/2 hour return flight on a B-777, and bring it back to the east coast for others to enjoy. Nice policy!

  45. I am waiting for a reply from United from a question about tickets I bought for Manila from Newark then from Manial to Japn return to Newark. I have primarily flown United for decades. Last year we went Japan 2x, Portugal and Dominica all leisure as we are retired. . I agreed with Roger but with stronger language and this . United is rewarding poor judgement of people who booked leisure type trips after March 9 while I booked mine in January pre-covid. My original post was edited down. I wonder why?

  46. United. So now we are getting punished for a virus that is out of our control. I feel like you are holding our feet to the fire. So either keep my reservation and take a chance on getting the virus or change my reservation and be punished for being concerned about my health. $200.00 change fee. I booked my trip to Oregon on Feb 17th 2020. You are waiving fees for people that booked Mar 3rd on REALLY? This is wrong. it’s not like we didn’t want to go on our trip. We understand things happen. So why can’t you? Do the right thing and waive our fees. What ever airline waives their fees are more than likely the airline that will get the most business when this passes. Very disapointed in United.

  47. It looks like United is now doing what Delta announced… offering free changes for ANY ticket, even those purchased prior to this month. More information at:

    https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/notices.html

    I have a basic fare ticket purchased in August 2019. As of two days ago, when I tried to make a change, it said it was not possible, but today, it DOES offer me the ability to make a change (but it requires paying the cost difference, which can be substantial, depending on the change being requested)

    Thank you, United.

  48. Ua did what they said what they would. So well done.

    I changed my us-Mexico ticket -bought/changed in the period – no fuss. They even ignored the award points difference.

  49. “United will waive change fees on all bookings for travel through April 30, so long as the new ticket is issued on or before Dec. 31.”
    Does this mean also travel booked before March 9. I bought Manila through Narita from Newark, then later in month from Manila to Narita back to Newark three weeks later.
    all answers appreciated. Sorry but I think I am missing something here

  50. United offered any previously ticket purchase they would waive the fee. After 1:20 mins on the phone united said the change fee was waived but the fare code increased by $250 for RT ORD-SYD ticket. What a load of crock. They moved the change fee into a fare code increase charge. United should be ashamed for treating its Million Mile Flyer Gold Member like this. Shows nothing is for sure except they will find anyway to make money!

  51. United is only allowing a 12 month window to rebook flights from original ticketing date. My dream trip to Thailand was canceled but tickets were originally issued on 7/26/19. There is no possible way I am visiting Thailand by July of this summer with covid19. Delta has pushed their policy to 12/31/20. When will united get on back with that!

  52. United wants to charge me $125 for a redeposit fee for an Award Ticket cancellation. I understand that they do this is normal time for non-elite passengers. But now? Even for COVID related cancellations? Where is the generosity? And this with a huge upcoming government bailout with my tax dollars?

  53. @Angry, have any of your award flights been cancelled? Their initial response to me (and when I tried to cancel online) was that they were going to charge me $125 to redeposit 12,500 miles for each of three one way domestic tickets. When I objected because Air Canada had actually cancelled the flights I was supposed to take, they quickly backed off and refunded the miles and taxes/fees without any further issues. In my case, Air Canada had actually put me on a different flight that left the day before, so the change was very substantial.
    If your flights have changed substantially, you should be able to get them to redeposit without charge, but if they haven’t changed or cancelled your flights, you are most likely stuck.

  54. @farnorthertrader — Thanks. No my flight has not yet been canceled. I am going to hold off until closer to the date of travel to see if it gets canceled and then get back to United.

  55. United lies. They state there is no change fee; however, when you go to change the ticket, they actually charge a fee if it’s a voluntary change. This is NOT stated in there information online. The cost of the ticket for the date I wanted to change my flight was actually cheaper than when I purchased my ticket so there could NOT be a change in the flight cost!! This is deceit.

  56. I booked an international United flight from Bangkok to San Francisco. I paid approximately $200 dollars more for extra leg room. After the first leg of the trip was canceled by the airline, it was necessary for me to change flights to a more expensive ticket. United claims that they waived the change flight fee but I noticed that when they subtracted the total amount from the original booking, the extra $200 dollars I paid for leg room was not included. This charge was separated from the total amount and I did not receive credit for this payment. So, essentially I was paying the same amount as the $200 change fee for a cancellation made by the airline not me. Seems pretty sneaky . . .

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