Great news: United backtracks on strict no-change-fee policy restriction

Apr 1, 2021

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United Airlines has rescinded one of the major “gotchas” with its no-change-fee policy.

Effective immediately, flyers making ticket modifications can receive a travel credit when switching to less expensive flights. This is great news for travelers — until now, the residual value was forfeited when changing to a cheaper itinerary.

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United confirmed the change with TPG with the following statement,

To give our customers more flexibility and more time to use the value of their original ticket, United will provide customers with a credit when they rebook their flight and the new flight is less than the previous flight. 

For now, this customer-friendly policy adjustment is available through the United call center (1-800-UNITED1) and the carrier’s mobile app. It’ll be available on the website “soon.”

United became the first of the Big 3 U.S. airlines to permanently eliminate change fees back in August. It didn’t take long for American and Delta (and other competitors) to match. Though United was the first mover, its no-change-fee policy was the only one with a major asterisk — you wouldn’t get future credit for switching to cheaper flights.

Though it’s unclear how many flyers lost money when making these changes, United told TPG that customers previously affected by this policy should reach out to the contact center to discuss if they are eligible to receive retroactive credit.

The credit received for switching to a cheaper flight can be combined with other credits, and is valid for travel on United and partners. It is non-transferable and the travel-by date is based on the rules of the original ticket. For any new ticket purchased after April 1, 2021, the credit will be valid for one year from the date the itinerary was purchased.

Related: Everything you need to know about United Airlines flight credits

Going forward, I’ll have much more confidence in booking future United travel, knowing that I could always switch to a cheaper flight and receive the fare difference as a credit. I’ve been hesitant to book expensive UA tickets, fearful that I could lose a ton of value if I needed to cancel the trip.

United’s news pairs well with its recently extended global travel waiver. United’s permanent no-change-fee policy excludes basic economy tickets and select international fares too. With the global waiver, all basic economy tickets purchased by April 30, as well as international itineraries purchased by May 31, can be changed or canceled at any time.

This story has been updated to reflect that the credits received are non-transferable and expire one year from the date of original ticket issuance.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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