Due to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the positive developments we have seen in the aviation industry is the cancellation of most ticket change fees. Not only is the airline temporarily exempting the change fee, but the major airlines have “permanently” cancelled the change fee (which means, because nothing in life is permanent).
United Airlines is the first major airline in the United States to announce that it will permanently abolish the change of fees during the pandemic, but the airline’s policy has grown from awesome to less competitive within a few hours. Finally changed.
United Airlines will now issue surplus coupons for change
The way the constant fee policy works is that if you book a qualifying ticket and no longer want to travel, you can cancel your itinerary and then apply the value of the ticket to future trips. It needs to be clear that the ticket cannot be fully refunded to the original payment method, but coupons for future tickets can be obtained.
But until recently, there was a major issue with United’s policy-if you rebooked the itinerary and your new flight costs less than the original flight, you will lose the fare difference. This is contrary to the policies of American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which will issue the remaining coupons when you change your ticket.
For example, suppose you book a $500 ticket, cancel the ticket, and then want to use your credit for a $200 flight:
- At United, you can use your credit for flying, but you will “loss”
- On American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, you can use the credit line to pay for flying expenses, and then you will be issued a $300 voucher for future travel
Well, United Airlines finally updated its policy in this regard- If your rebooked itinerary costs less than the original itinerary, then United will issue a voucher. There are some caveats:
- This feature is only available when booking directly through United, and initially only available through the United app and phone
- This voucher is valid for one year from the date of original issuance and is non-transferable
This is really good news. Manchester United has been in the lead when it first announced the cancellation of the change fee. Compared with the old policy, even if the residual value is lost, the final consumer is still ahead. However, as other airlines introduced more lenient policies, United Airlines soon lost its competitiveness.
Now you can keep the remaining value of the United Gift Voucher when changing flights
An interesting travel agency turning point
Brett Snyder made an interesting observation about United’s new change fee policy. You will only get the remaining vouchers when you book directly through United Airlines, and you will not get the remaining vouchers if you book through a travel agency (the travel agency can change the ticket for free, but cannot issue the remaining vouchers).
What if you book through a travel agency? Well, all non-basic United airline tickets booked through travel agencies can be refunded, but there is a charge. The cost ranges from US$100 to US$400, depending on the type of fare:
This may be important, and for some people, it may be an incentive to book through a travel agency. To be clear, we are talking about the ticket can be refunded legally. In a sense, this will be the money refunded to your credit card, not a voucher for future tickets.
Why is this useful? For example, suppose you are a business traveler and you have booked a US$5,000 business class ticket. The ticket cannot be refunded in cash. I’m sure that many people would rather pay $400 to return the cash to their pockets rather than get a coupon for United’s future flights.
This is a very interesting angle, because it actually makes all United fares refundable to the original payment form, rather than changing them for free.
Now, what I want to mention is that I have no first-hand experience to achieve this goal. In other words, I’m not sure if 100% applies to online travel agencies in the same way, and if so, what the refund process will be like.
Most United airline tickets booked through a travel agency are refundable for a fee
United Airlines has improved its constant fee policy. If you cancel your ticket and rebook with a cheaper flight, you will now get a voucher for the difference in the ticket price, which was the case before. This is a huge development, and given the generous policies that the United States and Delta have always adopted, it is ultimately necessary.
I also find it interesting that tickets booked through travel agencies are eligible for a cash refund of certain fees. For those who are willing to pay for cash back instead of vouchers for future travel, this may be the reason for booking through a travel agency.
How do you comment on United Airlines’ adjustments to the “constant cost” policy?