United Airlines tailfin. (photo via Flickr/InSapphoWeTrust)
United Airlines has just changed its policy surrounding Basic Economy fares—the cheapest and least flexible fare type—for the first time allowing customers to cancel their tickets, the airline told Travel + Leisure (T+L).
The policy alteration has already gone into effect as of Wednesday, enabling passengers with Basic Economy bookings to change their reservations, either by upgrading to Standard Economy or canceling (with a fee).
“As part of an ongoing effort to offer more flexibility, United is making it easier for customers to change their Basic Economy tickets,” a United spokeswoman told T+L, explaining that customers can “either pay to upgrade to a Standard Economy ticket, which will allow them to reschedule their flight and give all the benefits of a Standard Economy ticket, including premier benefits, free seat assignments, a free carry-on bag and more; or, if a customer doesn’t want to rebook, they can cancel their trip and receive a residual credit for their basic economy ticket.”
Ticket-holders who opt to cancel their Basic Economy bookings altogether are entitled to a flight credit for the original purchase price, minus a fee amount. On U.S. domestic flights, the cancellation fee on one-way tickets is $49.50, while canceling a roundtrip flight carries a $99 charge. On international flights, one-way ticket cancellations are $99.50, while it costs $199 to cancel a roundtrip ticket.
Delta Air Lines’ policy also allows passengers to cancel Basic Economy bookings for a fee amount between $99 and $199, depending upon the itinerary. They then receive the remaining value of their canceled ticket as an eCredit to use on future flights.
JetBlue likewise lets customers cancel their Basic Blue fare bookings if they were made after June 8, 2021. Its cancellation fee is $100 for flights within the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America, while all other routes run a $200 cancellation charge. Other major U.S. airlines, including American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, still don’t permit changes to be made for Basic Economy fares.
Like other major U.S. airlines, United altered its cancellation policy in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic completely disrupted global travel, eliminating change fees on all fares types except for Basic Economy. In 2021, it went a step further by making same-day standby available to all customers for free. Then, last September, United also extended the expiration date on flight credits issued on tickets purchased between May 1, 2019, and December 31, 2022, through the end of this year.