United Quietly Hikes Flight Change Fee By $50, Hopes No One Notices

UPDATE: Not one to be late to the party, U.S. Airways has proved it’s a joiner by also increasing its flight change fee to $200. The change appeared on the site just today. Oof. This doesn’t look good, folks.

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Just last week, United Airlines, along with its fellow domestic carriers, was accommodating enough to waive flight change fees for travelers affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon. But that show of goodwill perhaps helped distract customers from another bit of fee news — United quietly raised its flight-change fee from $150 to $200 on April 18. Who knew?

From the looks of scattered reports across the media, no one really caught on to the policy tweak until yesterday. The $50 hike is for domestic itineraries (including Canada), notes USA Today. The country’s biggest airline also increased the fee to $300 for changes on certain destinations in South America, up from $250, while it remains at $250 for other international destinations.

“We carefully manage our seat inventory and incur costs when a traveler elects not to fly in a reserved seat,” United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. “We adjusted this fee to better compensate us for those costs.”

The move could prove unpopular with travelers, as this is the highest change fee any of the five biggest airlines in the country charge. American, Delta and US Airways all charge $150 for changes to nonrefundable tickets, while Southwest doesn’t have a fee in place.

It’s highly unlikely that Southwest will suddenly start charging to change flights, but the others? Well, we’ll be keeping a watchful eye out on that front. If they don’t raise their fee to match, United could back down, as often happens with fare hikes as well.

United Airlines ups domestic change fee to $200 [USA Today]