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Sometimes your plans change or the unexpected happens and you need to make a modification to your flight dates and booking. Unfortunately, in many cases this requires you to shell out some serious cash just to make a simple change. However, there are some ways to reduce your change fees or even avoid them altogether depending on your situation.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about United Airlines flight change fees and the special rules and restrictions that apply as well as some of the policy exceptions. I’ll also talk a little about same-day changes and how that process works.
Update: I also have the latest update from United Airlines regarding change fees and the coronavirus.
What is the United Airlines flight change fee?
United Airlines will allow you to change certain eligible flights but if your fare is not unrestricted you will be forced to pay a fee that will depend on your route. Most flights will not allow you to make a change for free.
For domestic flights, you will likely be paying about $200 for the flight change and for some United international flights you could be paying up to $400.
Reservations that are eligible to be changed can be changed online or through the United mobile app by selecting “Change flight” from the reservation. You will see any applicable fare difference and/or change fees when you search for new flights
By the way, if you’re looking to cut down on your travel fees, consider getting a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. It offers an early spend bonus worth $500 in travel after meeting the minimum spend and is great to cancel out all sorts of travel expenses.
Basic economy restriction
If you have purchased a basic economy ticket you will not be allowed to make changes to that itinerary. Basic economy tickets are the cheapest type of tickets but they also come with the fewest amount of benefits (no free carry-on, etc.) and other restrictions.
Therefore, you always want to be careful about purchasing a basic economy fare, taking a full look at what you might be missing out on.
United 24 hour exception
If you have booked a flight that is seven days away from departure, you will be able to cancel your United flight for free or make a change to it with no fee as long as you do so within 24 hours of booking.
Here is exactly what Unites states:
Under our 24-hour flexible booking policy, if your ticket was purchased through United in the last 24 hours and you completed your purchase one week or more before the original scheduled departure flight, it may qualify for waiver of change or cancellation fees.
Basic economy tickets are also allowed this type of 24 hour refund.
If your airline ticket is eligible for the 24 hour cancellation policy, then you should be able to cancel your flight free of charge online by simply going to the Manage Reservation section.
Requests for refunds will be credited back in the original form of payment, with the exception of purchases made with a United Gift Certificate, which will be credited back in the form of electronic travel certificates.
How to get the change fee waived
In certain instances, you can’t avoid the change fee that United Airlines will impose. Here are some of the exceptions that United allows for when getting the change fees waived:
In the event that your travel plans change as a result of illness or jury duty, you will be required to pay the applicable change fee at the time of that change. Once this change fee is applied, you may submit a request to have the fee refunded.
In order to get the change fees refunded you will need to submit the necessary documentation. And here is the type of documentation that you will need to submit:
- Change fee refunds require a letter (on letterhead) from a licensed physician confirming that travel was not recommended due to the customer’s illness.
- Ticket refunds require a letter (on letterhead) from a licensed physician confirming that travel was not recommended within the validity of the ticket (one year of ticket’s issued date) due to illness. If the request is due to the illness of an immediate family member, the request must contain the family member’s name and relationship to you.
Jury duty refund requests:
- Refunds require a copy of the jury summons.
- The letter from your doctor does not have to be very long at all. I recently got some change fees refunded with a doctor’s letter and this is what the doctor’s letter looked like:
- [Doctor’s contact information]
- [My contact information]
- Date of service:
- To whom it may concern:
- Daniel is a patient under my care for a recent illness. The illness prevented him from traveling on his scheduled itinerary from [blank to blank] per my instructions. Please let me know if you have any questions.
- [Doctor signature]
So just make sure that there is a connection between your illness and your instructions not to travel.
Coronavirus 2020 update
If you’re scheduled to travel now through April 30, 2020 – domestically or internationally, to any destination – and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket
How to request a change fee refund
If you would like to request a United Airlines refund then you can do that here. You will need to supply some basic contact information and then you will need to enter some of your flight details, such as your eTicket number or Reservation number. You can often find these in the emails that United sent you.
You will then need to explain the reason for your refund request. When I requested my refund I just provided a simple explanation of what happened. For example I simply put:
“I was scheduled to take flight X on X day. However, due to an illness I was not able to take that flight and was forced to make a change. I am now requesting a refund for the associated change fee.”
You will then need to upload your document. Only the following file types will be accepted: .doc, .docx, .jpeg, .png, .xlsx, .xls, .pdf, .txt, and .csv. File size should not exceed 2 MB. It can take up to seven business days for them to process your request. Also, the refund should hit your credit card statement within one billing cycle.
If you want to read more about getting refunds for different types of United purchases you can do that here.
Customer service phone number
If you have any questions about pursuing a refund or a change fee then you can reach out to United customer service — their phone number is: 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331).
United same-day changes & fees
If you are needing to make a change to your itinerary and you are very close to the departure date, then you might be able to make a change at a reduced rate or perhaps even for free depending on your elite status.
Here are the fees for United same-day changes:
|MileagePlus non–Premier members||$75|
|MileagePlus Premier Silver members||$75|
|MileagePlus Premier Gold members||$0|
MileagePlus Premier Platinum and MileagePlus Premier 1K members
In order to make same-day changes for United Airlines flight, you will need to abide by the following restrictions:
Only United flights
The itinerary must be operated by United or United express and also your ticket number must begin with 016.
Origin and destination
Changes are only available for that the exact origin and destination airport. The connection points may be changed however provided that the new routing is permitted by the type of fare that you purchased.
So this means that if your original flight had a connection in Houston but your desired flight will have a connection in Chicago this could be possible as long as the type of fare that you purchased permits it.
If your itinerary has three or more flights and you want to make a change that can only be confirmed by calling the United Customer Contact Center or by speaking with a United representative at the airport.
Note: You may not change routing when standing by.
If you want to change the departure or arrival airport then you will likely be subject to the standard change fees.
The option to make a same-day flight change will be available within 24 hours before your originally scheduled flight. Keep in mind that the requested flight must be departing within 24 hours from the time the request is made and can include any fare class though you will be required to pay the difference in fare. You also must make all changes prior to your original scheduled flight.
This means that it could be possible to change your flights to the day before or even after your original flight so long as you do so within the specified time period.
- When the original ticketed fare class is available on the requested flight within 24 hours of departure, the same-day flight change fee (instead of the change fee stated in the fare rules) will apply.
- When the original ticketed fare class is not available on the requested flight within 24 hours of departure, the same-day flight change fee (instead of the change fee stated in the fare rules) will apply, as well as any additional payments or refunds for the difference in fare.
If there are no seats available in the purchased fare class, you can still standby. In such a case the same day change fee will apply but you will not be charged unless you are actually assigned a seat on your alternate flight.
When choosing to do a standby you are not allowed any changes in routing. You can make a standby request on the day of departure at an airport kiosk or with a United representative at the airport. And once you are added to this standby flight list you can check your real-time status here or on a mobile device.
You cannot avoid the same day change discounted fee by doing a standby unless you have a ticket that has no penalties for making changes or you are standing by do to involuntarily due to a flight irregularity.
Upgraded tickets will automatically be added to the upgrade standby list at your applicable upgrade priority.
Check-in and checked baggage
If you have already checked in for your original flight it is still possible to make a same day flight change.
If you had already checked a bag on your original flight then you will need to complete any change requests at least 60 minutes before your new fights departure in order to allow United Airlines sufficient time to move your baggage over to the new flight.
Same-day changes to award tickets
The same day change fee does apply to award tickets as well. However, you can avoid these fees if you are a United MileagePlus Premier member at the Gold level or above.
United has some pretty standard change fees. I’ve had to deal with getting refunds for change fees on a couple of occasions and each time the process was pretty painless so hopefully it will not be difficult for you.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.