October 3, 2023

United Airlines Same-day Flight Change or Standby Policy: All you need to know

How to manage same-day ticket changes & flying standby on United Airlines

United Same-day Flight Change Policy is unique among major U.S. legacy carriers, but learning them is worthwhile. United Airlines Elite Flyers don’t have to pay the fee, but there are many cases in which you should incur $75 and adjust your trip within 24 hours of departure. If you have flexibility in your travel plans, you can soon standby for an earlier flight free of charge.

United Standby List: How Does It Work?

As you wait on standby, you may notice that the list is constantly changing. Being on the standby list doesn’t guarantee you’ll be the first to be given a seat just because you asked.

On United Airlines’ waitlist, passengers are prioritized in the following order:

  • A traveler’s Premier status (The published Premier status with the highest priority is Premier 1K, followed by Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Premier Silver, other MileagePlus members, and then all other customers.)
  • Fare class
  • Those who own a Chase United MileagePlus Club card or a Chase Presidential Plus card
  • Participants in United Corporate Preferred
  • Spending $25,000 or more on the United Chase Card each year
  • Date and time of the request

A Basic Economy ticket holder will be added to United Airlines’ standby list after all other ticketed customers. According to the above priority list, they will be prioritized in the same manner. Whether you have MileagePlus Premier status or not, this rule still applies.

United Airlines Same-day Flight Change Rules

When it comes to same-day changes, United’s policy is especially stingy by airfare-rule standards. Here are the key points to keep in mind:

  • You and everyone on your reservation must travel on a United domestic or international ticket (with a number starting “016”) on a United or United Express aircraft (even though United’s app offered alternate UA-metal flights on my last international flight to make me reach my connection to a Brussels Airlines flight).).
  • The United Airlines Same-day Flight Change Policy applies to award tickets, but not to basic economy fares, bulk, group, or consolidator fares.
  • A same-day change can be requested 24 hours before departure. It is possible to change to a flight departing the day before or day after your original flight, as long as it departs within 24 hours of your request.
  • The origin and destination airports must remain the same, but a connection can be added or removed. It is not allowed to switch between flights departing from Newark and LaGuardia like Delta does.
  • The same-day change is possible if you checked bags as long as it is made at least 60 minutes prior to the departure of your new flight.

There are already more choices than American (which ties you to your original route) and Delta (which doesn’t let you drop a connection and limits same-day changes to flights within the U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada).

United Same-Day Flight Change Rules for Premier Members

Those who are United Premier members have extra flexibility when it comes to flight changes made within 24 hours of departure. If you want to change flights within 24 hours of the original departure time, you may be able to confirm a seat on another flight at no extra charge (i.e. no change fee).

There may be a fare difference if your original ticketed fare class isn’t available on the new flight. If not, you can always choose to stand by for free.

What If I Have a United Airlines Basic Economy Ticket?

Even if you have elite status, Basic Economy tickets are not eligible for same-day changes or same-day confirmed flights. As an alternative, you can fly on standby for other flights within 24 hours of your original departure time, but you will be at the bottom of the list.

United Airlines Same-day Flight Change Fees

Currently, travelers who are not elite must pay $75 for confirmed same-day flight changes, but beginning Jan. 1, 2021, elites will be able to make changes for free. This is a substantial advantage that even lower-tier United members will enjoy.

In the event that your original fare class isn’t available, you must also pay the fare difference. A FlyerTalk wiki explains, however, that you can normally avoid this, despite what United’s site doesn’t mention. United Airlines opens up many previously-closed fare classes by the time the same-day change countdown starts, and even the cheapest buckets often reappear if you wait until a few hours before departure.

United Change Flight Policy

United Change Flight same as United Cancellation Policy, customers can change their reservation up to 24 hours after the original booking without incurring a fee. A Basic Economy ticket does not qualify for this offer.

United Basic Economy Change

Even during the initial 24-hour window, United Airlines will not allow you to make changes to basic economy tickets. Your best option if you’re still within 24 hours is to cancel your ticket and book a new one.

United Non-Refundable Ticket Change

In the event of a flight change, United will not charge any fees; you will just be responsible for any difference in fare.

United charges $75 for same-day changes for Silver and general members. We will waive the fee for elite members at the Gold level or higher.

United Refundable Ticket Change

For flight changes, United does not charge a fee. You will need to pay the difference in price if you switch to a more expensive option. The difference in fare will be refunded to your original payment method if you change to a cheaper flight.

United Award Ticket Change

All change fees on award flights have been eliminated by United. Customers can now switch to any award flight without paying an additional fee.

United Airlines Same-day change vs. standby

Changing a flight last minute comes in two forms: same-day change and standby. One key difference between same-day changes and standbys is that same-day changes are confirmed changes, while standbys are not confirmed until just before departure. If a seat does not open up on your desired flight, you retain your original ticket.

From Jan. 1, 2021, all United customers will be eligible for free standby, eliminating the $75 fee currently required to confirm a standby seat. Using United’s app, website, or at the airport, passengers can add their names to the standby list up to 30 minutes before departure for domestic flights and one hour for international flights.

Who Is Usually on the Standby List?

The following types of passengers are commonly on United Airlines’ standby list:

Customers who are on standby involuntarily. United Airlines changed their itinerary or canceled their original flight, resulting in these customers not traveling on their original flight.

Standby customers voluntarily. On eligible fares, these are customers who have chosen to standby for a different flight.

Pass riders. Employees of United Airlines or their eligible dependents are standing by if there is space available. Priority is given to standby passengers last, and their seats are assigned only after all others have been accommodated.

How to Join United Airlines’ Standby List

You can add yourself to the standby list by going to united.com or downloading the United App. The process can also be completed at an airport kiosk or by speaking with a United representative at the airport. You can view flight options by selecting “View Flight Options” when reviewing your itinerary at the airport kiosk.

United will display your last name and first initial on screens near the gate once you are added to the waitlist. Alternatively, you can check the real-time standby status on the United app or at united.com/flightstatus.

United Airlines will automatically assign you a seat if one is available 30 minutes before departure for domestic flights and 60 minutes for international flights. United Airlines will notify you by text or email if you signed up for day-of-travel notifications that your seat has already been assigned. The United app can also be used to refresh your boarding pass, or you can check the screens near the boarding gate for your seat and status.

You may need to contact United Airport if your name doesn’t appear on the standby list despite your request to be added. Issues such as these can only be resolved at the airport by United.

Standby Rules for United Missed Flights

When flights are delayed longer than an hour or canceled, or if passengers miss connections, United Airlines strives to assist their passengers in any way that they can. Find an alternative flight that works for you through the United App, the United website (united.com/check-in), and the United kiosks in airport check-in areas.

You can do the following when you log on to any of them:

  • Check if you already have a new flight booked. United Airlines will continue to search for the best alternatives to get you where you need to be. It is possible that they have already found you a new flight. Then you can get your boarding pass right away.
  • Flights can be rebooked. You can also rebook yourself on the earliest flight with available seats. As an agent will also give you this option, you might want to skip the line without waiting.
  • You can join the standby list. You can try joining the standby list if there are flights departing earlier without seats available. If a space becomes available, United Airlines may be able to get you on those flights. When you join the standby list, United won’t give up your confirmed seat on your rebooked flight. The standby fees will also be waived, so it will be completely free. About 60 minutes before departure, stop by the gate of the earlier flight if it isn’t listed on the kiosk or app. You can be added to the standby list by the gate agent.
  • Search for alternate airports. It is possible for a flight to a certain airport to be canceled. In case your travel plans allow, you can switch to a nearby airport.

You may cancel your trip instead by contacting an airport agent or United Airlines’ customer service department. There may be a possibility of a refund.

Standby Rules for Upgrades

You may be eligible for an upgrade right away when you book a ticket for a flight or you can apply for an upgrade.

Instant Upgrades on United Airlines

The United Airlines elite program offers instant upgrades to the highest-priced economy-fare classes (Y and B). In other words, once you choose and purchase your flights, you can check to see if upgrades are available. Additionally, this instant upgrade is available to Premier 1K members and customers applying for miles or a certificate to move up to the next cabin (subject to terms and conditions).

Waitlist for Upgrades on United Airlines

It is common, however, for your upgrade not to clear during the time you are booking your flight. Your name will be added to the waitlist for an upgrade. Some upgrades are confirmed a few days before your flight, while others are only discovered at the gate just before you depart.

United Airlines clears upgrades on the upgrade waitlist in the following order of priority:

  • Passengers with Premium Plus status. Upgrades are given to passengers booked in the O, A, and R fare classes. United Global Services members with full-fare Y tickets have a higher priority than United Premium Plus members.
  • Type of upgrade. The priority is given to passengers who redeem PlusPoints or miles for upgrades over elites who rely on complimentary upgrades.
  • Traveler with premier elite status. First priority is given to members of United Global Services, followed by Premier 1K members, Premier Platinum members, Premier Gold members, and Premier Silver members.
  • The fare class. Regular economy tickets are prioritized in the following order: Y, B, M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G. If you apply for Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets, you will be prioritized after the lowest paid fare class.
  • Those who hold United Credit Cards. Members of the Chase United MileagePlus Club and the Chase Presidential Plus card.
  • Participants in United Corporate Preferred.
  • With an annual spending of $25,000, Chase United MileagePlus cardholders qualify.

Obviously, these factors don’t apply to every flight. In the event that more than one passenger with the same elite status tier requests an upgrade, United Airlines will use fare class as a tiebreaker. When that isn’t enough to determine who gets an upgrade first, the system will look at the credit card type the passenger holds (if any) and their spending thresholds.

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