After years of giving customers the stick, sometimes literally, United is trying the carrot. In a move to win back customers, the US airline announced sweeping changes to pesky fees, including the “permanent”removal of $200 change fees on domestic tickets, and the introduction of complimentary same day changes too. It only took hours, not days, for the other big US airlines to follow.

United, American And Delta End Domestic Change Fees

With the exception of “Basic Economy” tickets, United, Delta and American Airlines are “permanently” removing $200 flight change fees for domestic flights, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

American has gone one step further, adding Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean to the destinations where the fees will be dropped. The changes will apply to all standard economy class tickets and above, including Premium Economy and First or Business Class.

Passengers are still on the hook for any fare difference when making changes, but if none exists, which is easily possible, there won’t be any fee to change at all, and you can change an unlimited number of times without necessarily incurring a penalty.

Unlike airline waivers currently in place due to covid-19, which temporarily waive change fees and other ancillary fees for a limited time, the ‘no change fee’ move is said to be permanent from each airline. Of course, Southwest already offered this.

The airlines, in their own marketing, says “we’re getting rid of change fees for good”, but airlines have been notorious for rolling back customer friendly policies during times of record profits, like those of 2019. Permanent may mean the next few years, but permanent in the literal sense would be fantastic news for air travelers in the USA.

United And American: Complimentary Same Day Standby

In addition to removing unfriendly customer fees, United is making it easier to swap to a more optimal United flight, anywhere in the world, if space exists on the day of travel from January 1st, 2021.

American is also matching the policy, but going further. Same day standby on American will begin October 1st, 2020, months ahead of United, and will even offer e-travel credit if you swap to a cheaper itinerary.

American Airlines is also making basic economy less “basic”, if you have elite status with the airline, including being upgrade eligible, and being able to select premium seats. As a trade off, American Airlines will no longer credit elite qualifying miles on basic economy flights.

With the new United Airlines and American Airlines same day standby options, if you’re scheduled on an evening flight departure from London to New York, but perhaps want to switch to the earlier flight, all passengers may add themselves to the flight’s waitlist for free.

If a seat in your cabin is open, it’s yours. United and American previously offered a $75 standby option on select flights.

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Better Perks For United Premier Members

Premier members in United’s MileagePlus loyalty program will also be able to go a step further, confirming a seat on an alternative flight for free, if availability in the same fare class exists. This move will apply from United Premier Silver all the way up to Global Services.

As for cashing in United Airlines MileagePlus Miles, the airline will also now waive all redeposit fees if you cancel a ticket booked with miles, so long as you cancel 30 days in advance. And yes, the generous new same day standby and other features apply to tickets booked with miles

Genuinely Wonderful, If Genuinely Permanent

If these changes are genuinely here to stay, they’re genuinely wonderful news for passengers. Being able to swap to an earlier, or later flight can make all the difference in life’s best moments, and the ability to make unlimited changes to domestic flights without getting hit with a $200 fee each time is a real win. Bravo, United, American and Delta.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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