United Airlines Is Changing Its Cancellation Policy for Basic Economy — What to Know
United Cancellation Policy
: United Airlines has announced that it’s changing its policy on Basic Economy fares,
which are their cheapest and least flexible fare type, to allow passengers to cancel their tickets and receive a residual credit for their basic economy ticket.
United Airlines is making it easier for customers to change their Basic Economy tickets. 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.
If you decide to cancel your Basic Economy ticket, you’ll receive a flight credit for the original purchase price, minus a fee. U.S. domestic one-way cancellations cost $49.50 while canceling a roundtrip flight will set you back $99. On international flights, one-way cancellations are $99.50, and it costs $199 to cancel a roundtrip ticket.
You will be refunded the ticket price you paid, minus a fee that will be prominently displayed on the cancellation page on United’s website or mobile app.
United Airlines recently announced a new partial credit cancellation option that only kicks in at 24 hours after booking. All United tickets, including those in basic economy, can be canceled for a full refund within a day of purchase.
United Airlines is making a few adjustments to its basic economy product. This move builds on the airline’s other change from last year, which made the product a bit more flexible.
United Airlines debuted a new offer in February that allows basic economy travelers to upgrade to a standard coach ticket any time after purchase. (This non-refundable ancillary fee ranges in price based on itinerary.)
Initially, the new upgrade offer for coach passengers included the standard amenities such as complimentary seat assignments and Premier elite benefits. However, this offer did not include the ability to make changes or cancellations.
Then, in June, the “Switch to Economy” buy-up added a new perk. The ability to make fee-free itinerary changes and cancellations was extended to those who upgrade to a standard coach ticket. This means that basic economy would no longer be considered “use it or lose it.”
But now, you have an alternative to buying the “Switch to Economy” package if you only want to cancel your ticket: the carrier’s partial credit option for basic economy tickets.
In a statement confirming the move, a United spokesperson shared that:
As part of an ongoing effort to offer more flexibility, United is making it easier for customers to change their Basic Economy tickets. As of April 13, customers either pay to upgrade to standard economy, which allows them to reschedule their flight and gives them all the benefits of standard economy tickets, including premier benefits and more, or they can cancel their trip, receiving a residual credit for their basic economy ticket.
This means that United Airlines is now the only US airline to offer both a buy-up and credit opportunity for basic economy tickets.
Provided that you crunch the numbers to see which option makes more sense, you’ll discover that the added flexibility will undoubtedly be good news for those who need to cancel their basic economy tickets.
There is a potential downside to this move – you may not have as much credit available to you if you get a great flight deal.
However, you could wait to voluntarily cancel your ticket just a few hours before departure to see if your flight ultimately gets delayed or canceled by United Airlines. If it is, you’d be entitled to a full refund — without any additional fees.
United Airlines is just one of many airlines that changed its cancellation policy in 2020. After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global travel, airlines eliminated change fees on all fares types except for Basic Economy. In 2021, United made same-day standby available to all customers for free. And last September, United extended the expiration date on flight credits issued on tickets purchased between May 1, 2019, and December 31, 2022.
Like many other airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue allow customers to cancel a basic economy ticket for a fee. The cost of this varies depending on the airline. For Delta, the fee is $99 to $199, while for JetBlue it is $100 for travel within the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, or $200 for all other routes.
Some airlines, like American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, do not allow changes for basic economy tickets.