United makes basic economy flexible through the end of 2021

Aug 13, 2021

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Great news from United Airlines! This spring, the carrier ended its long-standing pandemic policy of allowing changes for basic economy tickets, which are otherwise completely inflexible. Aside from an option to standby for an earlier flight for free, you’re locked into your flight 24 hours after purchase.

Now, following a similar move last month from Delta, United has restored its original flexibility, allowing basic economy customers to make free changes for tickets purchased by the end of 2021.

Best yet, the change is retroactive — customers who purchased basic economy tickets after the last waiver expired on April 30 can now make fee changes, too. As the airline explains:

“As part of an ongoing effort to offer more flexibility, United will allow customers to make changes to all basic economy tickets between now and the end of the year. Customers with basic economy tickets can already fly standby for free on the same day of travel to the same destination.”

United’s now allowing basic economy flyers to change their tickets through the end of 2021. (Photo by Zach Honig/TPG)

Currently, United’s waiver covers basic economy tickets purchased for travel by Dec. 31, 2021, so you can’t book a ticket for next year and expect free changes. You could change a ticket booked for this year and choose to travel in 2022, though, as long as the new travel date is within 12 months of the date your ticket was originally issued. It’s always possible the airline will extend the waiver again, but as of now that doesn’t seem to be the intention.

As for other major U.S. carriers, American Airlines was the first to end its fee waiver, at the end of March, with Alaska, Delta and United following a few weeks later. Delta was then first to reinstate its waiver, and now United has followed suit.

As of now, basic economy tickets cannot be changed if issued by AA or Alaska, though JetBlue allows its Blue Basic flyers to make a change for a fee — either $100 or $200, depending on the route.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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