A new fare type on flights to Japan may look like United Airlines is experimenting with the return of change fees, but that is not the case United has assured Live And Let’s Fly.
United Airlines Says Change Fees Are Not Returning On Non-Basic Economy Class Fares
Jason Rabinowitz noticed that United is offering an “Economy (non-changeable)” and reasonably speculated whether it is a step beyond “Basic Economy.”
Looks like @united is screwing with Basic Economy, calling it “Economy (non-changable)” in some markets. It returns even if the “Shows Basic Economy fares” toggle is off
It comes with seat & carry-on bag (Basic doesn’t) and it’s very easy to accidentally choose it if not careful pic.twitter.com/xcxFmD1us7
— Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) October 27, 2022
This fare option was not shown concurrently with basic economy and it includes a seat assignment, two checked bags, and a carry-on bag. Furthermore, it was not booked in basic economy (N class on United) but in the same fare class as cheap non-basic economy class tickets.
I asked United Airlines about whether this represents a novel way to re-introduce change fees (i.e. a new fare type that goes beyond basic economy) and United flatly denied that was the case:
“United was the first major U.S. airline to permanently eliminate change fees – and we remain firm on that commitment to our customers.”
What I later learned is that the United is only offering this “Economy (non-changeable)” option on flights to/from Japan. United believes this is due to regulatory requirements governing the sale of so-called “basic economy” fares. Interestingly, both Delta Air Lines and American Airlines offer basic economy fares on flights between the USA and Japan. However, both Delta and American also offer seat assignments during check-in and complimentary checked baggage on their “basic economy” fares in Japanese markets.
United says that it has no plans to bring change fees on economy class tickets and its “Economy (non-changeable)” fare type is limited to Japanese markets only. Hopefully that is the end of the matter rather than a blueprint for how change fees could be reintroduced without calling them that.
image: Denver International Airport
Considering how confident Kirby is about future demand for air travel, it would not surprise me if he was also (over?)confident that the reintroduction of change fees wouldn’t have any effect on that demand.
We shall see. The flexibility the fee elimination has allowed has gotten me to book a lot more trips on United vs. Southwest.
I agree the elimination of change fees has stimulated demand in ways they didn’t anticipate (and in their favor) – and probably been a significant net boost.
Something Southwest learned simply by growing as rapidly as it did over the years addressing that pain point.
Would anyone really be suprised if/when any of the Big 3 brought the change/cancel fees back? I’m of the mindset that it’s a “when” thing, not an “if” thing.
Which is bad, but then I read on flyertalk, during the summer meltdown, some people will literally buy 2-4 fares to the same destination in the same time frame and cancel all but one come departure time.
Of course “change fees” will be back.
Anyone who thinks the airlines would miss any opportunity to squeeze more money from customers is a fool.
Change fees will come back sooner or later, perhaps as an “enhancement” to product variety or differentiation. I’m afraid airlines have a very different definition of the word “permanent” than most of us.
“United was the first major U.S. airline to permanently eliminate change fees – and we remain firm on that commitment to our customers.” I made sure to write that down.
Everybody assumes change fees are a big revenue boon, but what we don’t know is how much spending is stimulated by “no risk” purchasing. When you don’t have a $200 per person fee hanging over your head, you’re much more willing to buy impulsively. How many sales are lost because people aren’t 100% sure about the trip, are reluctant to book and face huge fees, and end up not buying at all. With no change fees, they capture the revenue and lock you in to flying with them. Even if losing change fees is a marginal money loser, I wouldn’t be so sure that it’s in their interest to re-impose these anytime soon.
I hope you’re right.
While I’m not a fan, if United wants to bring back change fees, that’s their business. Just don’t be weasels about it.
It seems to me that a lot of people are missing what this actually is…its an enhanced version of Basic Economy for Japan markets. They could simply call it Basic Economy like DL and AA, and allow for a free checked bag and seat assignments, or do what they did, which is differentiate the product from the standard nomenclature of Basic Economy. I actually prefer this approach rather than having a “*but not for Japan flights” carve out in the BE rules. This all sounds like a blogger/influencer grasped at what they thought was a ‘gotcha’ moment, without actually educating themselves on what its purpose was.
United is not going to reimpose change fees, I don’t know why everything thinks that. None of the legacy US airlines will. They’re all doing record revenue. Why would they want to change anything with how it’s going right now?
A few small notes:
– United Basic Economy is not always booked into N. It generally is for domestic, but for international (esp. trans-Atlantic), they can also show up as S/T/L/K fares.
– Change fees are back for basic economy already. I don’t think there is a huge incentive here for airlines to add change fees back, esp. since you are getting a voucher back to use with them in the future anyways. In fact, now they potentially get to sell your seat again, closer to departure, probably for more. 😉
UA lied – I called today to change my ticket and they said that they will charge me $50. I told them that I thought they removed the change fees forever – guess they quietly bring the change fees back. Oh well, don’t we get used to their lies.
Wasn’t $50 just the fare difference? There is no fee, but any difference in fare does apply. If your new itinerary is cheaper, you get the difference in a travel credit.
Yes, it was fare in difference, cheaper. I couldn’t find anything on UA website stated that they will charge for to reissue the ticket with travel credit. It doesn’t make any sense, I can just cancel this ticket and purchase it again with my travel credit. I’m not sure what UA is thinking about this loophole.
That might be a phone booking fee perhaps?
I think it will be eventually be reintroduced because it prevents duplicate/fictitious bookings and it reduces strain on customer service with people frequently calling in to make changes.
I actually booked a United flight to Japan a couple weeks ago. I used a search portal that took me directly to United’s checkout page. During checkout, it said nothing unusual about the fare, but in my confirmation email, there were multiple legs highlighted as “Basic Economy”. Since I was not 100% committed to taking the flight, I canceled within the 24-hour window, but it took several days for my credit card and flight credits to be refunded. This was very annoying, because I wanted to use the same flight credits to purchase an actual refundable ticket before prices increased.
In my opinion, this bogus fare class is a violation of the “no change fees” policy. At minimum, United’s website hasn’t kept up with the change, inconveniencing customers who are not notified of the basic economy fare at checkout.
I should add that I was able to choose my seats at checkout, which is further deception about the basic economy fare. While I am a United 1k, I don’t think this is what enabled me to choose my seats. Upon calling customer service to clarify the situation, the agent was also confused and had to consult a supervisor to clarify/verify the unusual fare category.