© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passenger photographs United Airlines plane at IAH airport in Houston
By Tracy Rucinski
CHICAGO (Reuters) – United Airlines (O 🙂 announced on Sunday that the change fees for tickets for US travel will be permanently abolished with immediate effect. This is the latest effort by a U.S. airline to stimulate bookings hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Chicago-based United is one of the largest US airlines, which this year started rolling out temporary change fee waivers to give passengers more flexibility in their travel plans amid the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.
The guideline now applies permanently to all standard economy and premium cabin tickets and also applies to all tickets that have already been booked by the end of the year. The standard change fee for passengers changing their tickets for domestic flights was $ 200.
In a video message to customers, Chief Executive Scott Kirby (NYSE 🙂 said that the elimination of fees is often a top request from passengers.
The move is in line with Southwest Airlines (N 🙂 'longstanding policy of not charging ticket changes.
Competitors American Airlines (O 🙂 and Delta Air Lines (N 🙂 traditionally calculate changes. Together with United, they posted record revenues before the pandemic squeezed demand, largely thanks to fees for things like checked baggage or seat choices.
In a further change, starting January 1, United customers will be able to create a standby list free of charge on another flight on the same travel day with the same departure and arrival cities, provided a seat is available.
Calling the moves a departure from decisions airlines made in the past to weather tough times, sometimes at the expense of customer service, Kirby said United will "not follow the same game book as we come out of this crisis".
Airlines are consuming millions of dollars every day due to the pandemic, but they agree that restoring customer confidence and providing travel flexibility will be key to encouraging people to travel again and paving the way back to profitability.
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