United Airlines eliminates ticket change fees for domestic flights

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A United Airlines passenger plane takes off with New York in the background, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey.Chris Helgren | Reuters

It’s time to say goodbye to the $ 200 ticket change fee.United Airlines announced on Sunday that it would remove the change fee for domestic flights permanently, a big bet that more flexible policies would gain much needed customers as pain from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on air travel continued to mount. intensify.

It’s a playbook page from rival Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t charge customers a fee for changing their flights.

“As a result of previous tough times, airlines have made tough decisions to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a press release. “United Airlines will not follow the same playbook out of this crisis. Instead, we’re taking a whole different approach – and looking for new ways to better serve our customers. ”

United’s announcement that it will no longer charge travelers the $ 200 fee comes as airlines scramble to find ways to revitalize their businesses, which have been battered by the pandemic. This summer, Transportation Security Administration checks at U.S. airports are hovering around 30% of last year’s levels, as airlines foregone much-needed revenue during peak summer travel season.

The Chicago-based airline in January will also allow customers who want to depart earlier or later on the same day to fly on standby without paying a $ 75 same-day change fee.

The measures could increase pressure on rivals to make similar policy changes.

The end of ticket change costs is a departure from the myriad of add-ons and other fees that airlines have taken years to roll out. Last year, U.S. carriers reported $ 2.8 billion in ticket change and cancellation fees, according to the Department of Transportation.

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