United shocked the airline industry when they announced last July they would permanently eliminate change fees on domestic flights.
Things snowballed from there and most change fees and award redeposit fees for travel worldwide have been eliminated and will remain gone even after COVID-19 waivers end, as they already have for American and JetBlue.
However until now United has been a stickler about changing to a less expensive flight. Their policy is that you lose the residual value of your ticket if you do so. That’s also to protect United from having to issue vouchers every time the price of your flight drops.
United’s media team now tells me that they are eliminating that policy and will officially offer credits if you switch to a less expensive flight. Currently you can switch to a flight using the United app or you can call United to get a credit. In the future United.com will also be able to offer that credit.
The credit being offered isn’t as flexible as an ETC, but will be useable on partner airline flights. United tells me that “The credit is able to be combined with other credits, can be used on United and partner flights. It is non-transferable and travel by date is based on the same rules as the normal ticket validity policies of the ticket. IE- for any new ticket purchased after April 1 of this year the credit will be valid for one year from the issue date.”
This change leaves only Hawaiian Airlines making customers forfeit the residual value of tickets when switching to a less expensive flight.
United is also now allowing refunds on non-refundable flights through 12/31/21 for a penalty!
While United offers free changes and future flight credit, that doesn’t mean free refunds. With this policy you can get cash back by reducing the refund value with a penalty.
Of course, you should never cancel a flight before the day of departure as United will owe you a free cash refund if they change or cancel your flight. But otherwise, this is an excellent option to get cash back.
Note that basic economy flights are not refundable, but United is allowing people to buy up from basic economy to regular economy these days, so that can be a workaround.
- Flights within North and Central America, including the Caribbean, have a $100 penalty. In other words if you bought a ticket to Costa Rica for $400, you can cancel and get a $300 cash refund.
- All other flights have a $200 penalty in coach, $300 penalty in premium economy, and a $400 penalty in business class. In other words if you bought a coach ticket to Israel for $1,000, you can cancel and get a $800 cash refund.
Refunds under this new policy must be requested by 12/31/21. Will you take a refund with a penalty instead of a future flight credit?