Well that didn’t take long…As expected, United Airlines will join American Airlines and Delta Air Lines in extending its global travel waiver and permanently eliminating change fees on most international flights originating in the United States.
United Airlines Confirms It Is Eliminating Change Fees On Most International Tickets Originating In The USA
United sent me the following statement this morning:
Recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever, United was the first legacy airline to announce it would permanently eliminate change fees – a policy that included Basic Economy and International tickets booked through the end of this year. Today, we’re pleased to announce two important changes to this policy. First, we’re extending this policy to include Basic Economy tickets purchased through March 31, 2021. Second, this policy will also apply to all international tickets purchased in the United States moving forward.
The last sentence is a bit ambiguous, but a spokesperson clarified that after March 31, 2021 the change fee waiver applies to all international itineraries which originate in the United States.
American + Delta Will Offer A More Generous Policy Than United
It’s not that United’s elimination of change fees is not generous. Quite the contrary, it is a huge improvement over the last two decades. But it is worth noting that American and Delta offer a more generous policy. Both American and Delta will not only waive the change fee, but offer residual credit in the form of a travel voucher if your new itinerary is cheaper than the old one. United, on the other hand, considers a cheaper ticket an even exchange and does not offer any credit for the difference.
A spokesperson confirmed that this policy is not changing:
We don’t have any changes to the residual policy to announce at the immediate moment.
American’s international change fee elimination also applies to all of North and South America, not just the United States.
No Change Fees On Any United Ticket Through March 31, 2021
United also extended its global change fee waiver to cover all tickets issued on or before March 21, 2021. Any ticket you buy, no matter the origin or fare class, can be changed without fee. That explicitly includes basic economy tickets.
Reminder: Tickets Must Be Issued By United
While other airlines are free to set their own change fee polices, this fee waiver policy applies only to tickets issued by United (on 016 stock). That means, for example, if you buy a United ticket on Air Canada, you won’t necessarily enjoy the same flexibility.
It took United Airlines just hours to match Delta Air Lines, which itself matched American Airlines in eliminating international change fees. Of the Big 3 U.S. legacy carriers, American offers the most generous policy while United offers the least generous. Keep in mind, at least for now, that if your new fare is cheaper on United, you will eat the difference. Nevertheless, it is great to see United match and U.S. carriers move toward the elimination of more change fees that were never commensurate with actual expense in the first place.