The decision makes United the airline with the highest change fees in the affected markets. Other major legacy U.S. carriers, such as American, Delta and US Airways, still charge $150, and smaller airlines like Frontier and Virgin America charge $100. Alaska Airlines’ change fees are $75 online and $100 by phone. Those fees, which Southwest Airlines proudly spares its customers, are in addition to any fare differences. Changing the most expensive — or full-fare — tickets doesn’t incur penalties on any airline.
The United fee increase, coming just a week after the carrier was named worst in customer service in a national ranking tracking airline performance, is certain to anger United fliers even further. Industry watchers will be monitoring very closely whether other airlines follow suit — that has been the trend historically, though customer backlash and social media outrage have forced carriers, including United, to reverse controversial decisions in recent years.
The last change-fee raise — from $100 to $150 — took place in April 2008 and was also initiated by United. The other legacy carriers soon matched it. Before that, Continental Airlines, which merged with United in 2010, initiated an increase from $75 to $100 in January 2001.
In its latest and still unannounced move, United also raised the change fees between North America and South America from $250 to $300. The fees in other international markets remain at $250.
As a rule, fees are waived in the case of schedule changes imposed by the airlines weeks or even months before the travel date. Many carriers have recently increased fees for same-day voluntary changes made on the day of travel, as well as standby fees, which didn’t exist on domestic tickets until a few years ago.
UPDATE: Within days of United’s move, US Airways matched the fee increase. Delta and American Airlines quickly followed suit.
American isn’t changing fare-publishing
Swiss Air overplays ‘mistake fare’ excuse
How airlines could make more money
How to recognize and fight airline tricks
Did United choose the best rez system?
DOT keeps false ‘each-way’ airfare ads
- Nicholas Kralev is an author and expert on diplomacy, world affairs and global travel. He hosts the weekly TV program "Conversations with Nicholas Kralev." A former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent, he has traveled around the world with four U.S. secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. He has flown over 2 million miles and visited 84 countries.
Subscribe to updates
Upcoming speaking engagements
FEB 24, 2014 — ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
FEB 27, 2014 — DAKAR, SENEGAL
MAR 3, 2014 — DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA
MAR 5, 2014 — GABORONE, BOTSWANA
MAR 7, 2014 — LUSAKA, ZAMBIA
APR 22, 2014 — BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA
APR 24, 2014 — RIGA, LATVIA
APR 28, 2014 — PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
MAY 5, 2014 — CHISINAU, MOLDOVA
- The best of my show’s first season
- How money in domestic politics affects U.S. diplomacy
- Once expelled, gay diplomat thrives in Foreign Service
- U.S. expects Syrian stockpile destroyed ahead of schedule
- Politics’ role in U.S.-Canada diplomacy
- From the peanut fields of Alabama to the Foreign Service
- Can diplomacy be taught?
- Asia still ‘distant third’ in U.S. priorities, ex-Obama official says
- U.S. calls on China to lift flight limits
- The royal family’s role in British diplomacy