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United joins Delta in extending travel waiver, offering a big advantage over AA and JetBlue

April 01, 2021
4 min read
United joins Delta in extending travel waiver, offering a big advantage over AA and JetBlue
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If you're planning to book a basic economy ticket, you ought to choose your airline wisely.

On Wednesday, United Airlines confirmed to TPG that its limited-time flexible travel waiver for basic economy tickets will be extended to April 30. That means that all newly purchased United flights can be changed or canceled without a fee, subject to a possible fare difference.

Additionally, the Chicago-based carrier is extending its waiver for tickets purchased for travel from international destinations, which will now expire on May 31. United says this will "help customers manage international requirements and restrictions." Note that this international waiver excludes basic economy tickets, which, as of now, will return to being non-changeable and non-refundable come May 1.

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Both Delta and Alaska Airlines just extended their global waivers for another month as well, giving flyers the ability to make no-fee changes to all tickets, including those booked in basic economy. For now, that added flexibility is slated to expire on April 30. (Note that you'll still be on the hook for a possible fare difference when making itinerary changes.)

But what about American Airlines and JetBlue? Unfortunately, those carriers aren't feeling as generous.

American Airlines recently confirmed to TPG that its global waiver would expire on Wednesday. Going forward, all American domestic basic economy tickets purchased on or after April 1, will return to being non-changeable and non-refundable.

American's restrictions only apply to domestic basic economy fares, as well as for international itineraries departing North or South America. AA will allow changes on all tickets originating outside the Americas and Asia for purchases made between April 1 and April 30.

On the other hand, JetBlue recently unveiled an overhauled fare structure that launches on April 1, replacing the no-change-fee waiver that ends on March 31. Blue Basic tickets can be changed or canceled for a fee, as well as possible fare difference, as follows:

  • $100 for domestic, Caribbean, Mexico and Central America routes
  • $200 for all other routes
JetBlue's new fare structure kicks in on April 1 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Pre-pandemic, one of the biggest restrictions with these deep-discount tickets was the fact that there were effectively “use it or lose it." If you needed to change a basic economy ticket, you’d be forced to purchase a brand-new one, instead of applying the existing value to a new itinerary less a change fee.

Then the coronavirus came stateside and major airlines made all tickets fully flexible, including those in basic economy. You couldn’t get a refund for voluntarily canceled flights, but you could still make changes as needed.

Now, with an accelerated vaccine rollout and over a million daily travelers again passing through TSA checkpoints on average, American and JetBlue seem ready to rein in on the flexibility.

Alaska, Delta and United have come to a different conclusion. As such, if you're booking a basic economy ticket, it pays to stick with one of those three airlines for the added flexibility.

If you're concerned about getting sick or needing to postpone your plans due to another wave of COVID-19 infections, then you might want to think twice about booking basic economy tickets with American and JetBlue. An itinerary modification will require a brand-new ticket with American or a $100 (or more) change fee, plus a possible fare difference, with JetBlue.

Although basic economy restrictions are coming back on certain airlines, change fees have largely been eliminated for all other fares.

Related: How airline no-change-fee policies stack up against Southwest

In late 2020, all three major U.S. airlines, as well as Alaska, JetBlue and Hawaiian, permanently eliminated change fees for standard coach, premium economy and biz tickets. This policy applies to all domestic tickets, and select international ones, too.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases