United Airlines has issued a blanket waiver on change fees for all new bookings through the end of the month. The shrewd policy is meant to stimulate demand for new bookings and allay the coronavirus fears of nervous passengers.
United Waives Change Fees On All Fares
The policy is simple:
- Any ticket purchased between March 3 at 3:00 p.m. CST and March 31, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. CST will not incur change fees
- This is available for any of United’s published nonrefundable fares
- If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without fee for travel up to 12 months from the original issue date
That means normally non-changeable Basic Economy fares also fall under this policy, as do award tickets.
You’ll still pay any fare difference when you end up rebooking, but the change fee ($200-500 depending upon the itinerary) will be waived and there is no limit to the number of times you can change your ticket.
Shrewd + Generous Are Not Mutually Exclusive
One Mile at a Time called the waiver “very generous” and lauded United for its move. I agree with him, comparatively speaking. While American and Delta have offered far more limited waivers, United’s is very generous and puts customers in a better position than those who purchased tickets as recently as a day earlier.
But don’t think the latest round of change fee waivers are about anything other than drumming up business. With demand in freefall in several markets, the change fee waivers are not an act of benevolence, but an act of desperation to jumpstart sales.
Will this spur business? Probably, but also probably not to the degree incoming CEO Scott Kirby is hoping for. But this move will be an interesting experiment. Southwest Airlines claims it makes more money by not charging change fees because customers make more changes to tickets and end up paying higher fares. Now United has a chance to see whether a similar business model actually leads to higher passenger revenue.
Are you more comfortable buying a United ticket knowing you can change your travel plans for no fee?