United Says 'Buh-Bye' to Change Fees

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Like the old Saturday Night Live skit, United Airlines is saying "buh-bye" to its universally hated $200 ticket-change fee in a bid to be more flexible to both business and leisure travelers. 

The Chicago-based airline on Sunday announced that it will no longer charge the $200 change fee it charges to switch up domestic flights and that, beginning next year, customers can fly standby for free if there’s an available seat on the same day as their previously planned flight.

The decision brings United more in line with rival Southwest Airlines (LUV) - Get Report, which has never charged customers to change tickets, and is likely to pressure Delta Air Lines (DAL) - Get Report and American Airlines (AAL) - Get Report to change up their own fee structures.

It also comes as airlines in the U.S. and globally delve deep into their playbooks to see what they can do to both keep themselves aloft and get people traveling again, including re-examining added costs such as change fees, luggage fees, carry on bag fees and other charges that until the pandemic had become the norm in air travel.

The reason is quite simple: Airlines are scrambling to accommodate an unprecedented drop in passenger travel due to the pandemic, which has left them with skyrocketing expenses and much-diminished revenue to offset them.

While federal aid has allowed airlines to continue operating without permanently cutting staff, American last week said it will lay off 19,000 workers once the aid expires Oct. 1, capping a 30% workforce reduction since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

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