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United Airlines eliminates change fees forever in an effort to win customers

We’ve heard almost nothing but bad news in 2020 when it comes to travel. Now we see something to celebrate. United Airlines announced Aug. 30 that it would eliminate change fees. Permanently.

This is a remarkable change for consumers, as change and cancellation fees cost $2.8 billion in 2019. As we continue to try to control the novel coronavirus, airlines are doing everything whatever is in their power to bring passengers back to the skies. Sanitary processes extended to block middle seatseliminating onerous fees could potentially encourage travelers to return to the airport.

Here’s what you need to know.

United Airlines eliminates change fees

When you book a flight directly with United Airlines, you won’t have to pay a change fee of up to $200 if your plans change. The fare difference will still apply. This is effective immediately for domestic flights if you have one of the following ticket fares:

  • Economy
  • Economy Plus®
  • United First®
  • United Business®*
  • United Premium PlusSM*

If you have a Basic Economy ticket or are traveling abroad, you will have the same waivers as permitted by United’s COVID policies, but not additional. At the time of writing, this means you can change tickets for Basic Economy tickets or international travel issued before December 31, 2020, with no change fee.

For consumers who book with united milesthe same policies apply as for cash fares.

Free Same Day Changes

Many travelers have found themselves in the position where they wanted to fly earlier in the day, but the change fees are too much to bear. Now you can try fly pending for free. If a place becomes free, you can jump on it. And if you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, you may be able to confirm an earlier flight without paying an additional fee.

If you have already booked a United ticket

If you booked a flight on or after March 3, 2020, there will be no change fees due to travel exemptions already in place.

If you booked a flight before March 3, 2020, it depends on your travel dates. If you are booked to travel between March 3, 2020 and December 31, 2020, there will also be no change fees due to travel waivers already in place.

How you can benefit from United’s new policy

This is a great new policy for travelers with constantly changing schedules or someone who appreciates a bit of flexibility.

In theory, you could book the last available flight for the day (or the cheapest), then attempt to show up at the airport early to jump on an earlier flight. However, this would require more time at the airport and the ability to be flexible if your scheduled change does not work out. Sitting at the gate for hours seems dreadful, but relaxing in a airport lounge for a few hours isn’t the worst way to kill time.

There is no limit to the number of times you change your flight before the day of departure. However, you will have to pay the fare difference each time.