United Airlines Experimenting With Bringing Back Change Fees?

In summer 2020 United Airlines was the first to eliminate change fees on most tickets. Back then there were pandemic exceptions, making all tickets changeable. But United said this was ‘permanent,’ except for basic economy fares. CEO Scott Kirby said he’d wanted to eliminate change fees since 1998 but had to wait to really run an airline in order to do it.

United marketed the end of change fees as permanent, but in the airline industry permanent means for now, until we change our mind. It’s not clear what United will ultimately do here, but it appears they’re experimenting with bringing back change fees, as first noted by the Airline Tariff Publishing Company’s Jason Rabinowitz. The airline has created a new Economy (non-changeable) fare category.

Looks like @united is screwing with Basic Economy, calling it "Economy (non-changable)" in some markets. It returns even if the "Shows Basic Economy fares" toggle is off

It comes with seat & carry-on bag (Basic doesn't) and it's very easy to accidentally choose it if not careful pic.twitter.com/xcxFmD1us7

— Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) October 27, 2022

This isn’t basic economy. It doesn’t exclude carry ons or free seat selection. United’s website doesn’t appear to show both basic economy and non-changeable economy at the same time. And it may appear on corporate booking tools that exclude basic economy fares (because they want to exclude non-changeable tickets).

Customers who ‘know’ that all of United’s tickets departing the U.S. are changeable except for basic economy could easily be tripped up here. When you select basic economy you get a pop up warning about the restrictions. There’s no such warning here. This is a new fare type, with new restrictions, effectively between basic economy and the current regular coach. Could it become the new regular coach?

So this looks like an end run around their "free changes" policy on economy tickets rather than a change to basic economy (since it includes seat assignments).

— Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves) October 27, 2022

Update: United says this is for Japan flights only. Time will tell.

(HT: @dtlogic1)

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