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