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United Airways waived home ticket change charges to draw clients

A United Airlines passenger jet takes off at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey with New York City as the backdrop.

Chris Helgren | Reuters

It's time to say goodbye to the $ 200 ticket change fee.

United Airlines announced on Sunday that domestic flight switching fees will be permanently abolished. It's a big bet that more flexible policies will attract much-needed customers as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on air travel continues to grow.

It's a page from rival Southwest Airlines' playbook that doesn't charge customer fees for changing their flights.

"After previous difficult times, airlines have made tough choices to survive, sometimes at the expense of customer service," said Scott Kirby, United CEO, in a press release. "United Airlines won't be following the same game book when we get out of this crisis. Instead, we're taking a completely different approach – and looking for new ways to better serve our customers."

United's announcement that it will no longer be charging travelers $ 200 comes as airlines are looking for ways to revive their pandemic-hit businesses. This summer, the Transportation Security Administration's checks at US airports are up 30% year-on-year as airlines forego much-needed revenue during the midsummer travel season.

With the Chicago-based airline, customers who want to depart earlier or later on the same day can fly on standby without paying a $ 75 change fee on the same day.

The measures could put pressure on rivals to make similar policy changes.

The end of ticket switching costs is a departure from the myriad of add-ons and other fees that airlines have put in place for years. In the past year, US airlines levied ticket exchange and cancellation fees totaling $ 2.8 billion, according to the Department of Transportation.

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