Travelers can either upgrade to a standard economy ticket or cancel it for a fee.
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United Airlines just made a major change to its basic economy fares, allowing customers to cancel them for the first time, the airline shared with Travel + Leisure.

The new policy, which went into effect on Wednesday, allows travelers who book a basic economy ticket to either upgrade to a standard economy ticket or cancel it for a fee. Basic economy tickets are typically the cheapest and most restrictive fare option offered by airlines.

United
Credit: Courtesy of United Airlines

"As part of an ongoing effort to offer more flexibility, United is making it easier for customers to change their Basic Economy tickets," a United Airlines spokeswoman told T+L, adding 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."

Customers who choose to cancel a basic economy ticket will receive a flight credit for the price of their ticket, minus a fee. For domestic flights, the fee is $49.50 for one-way tickets and $99 for roundtrip tickets, while for international flights, the fee is $99.50 for one-way tickets and $199 for roundtrip tickets.

United Airlines
Credit: Courtesy of United Airlines

Similarly, Delta Air Lines allows customers to cancel a basic economy ticket for a fee of $99 to $199, according to the airline. And JetBlue allows customers to cancel their Basic Blue tickets that were purchased after June 8, 2021, for a $100 fee if they are traveling within the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, or for a $200 fee on all other routes.

On the other end, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, for example, do not allow changes for basic economy tickets.

This isn't the first change United Airlines has made to its cancellation policy. In 2020, the carrier eliminated change fees for all tickets except basic economy fares, and last year, the company made same-day standby free for all customers. The policy set off a domino effect with many U.S. airlines following suit.

In September 2021, United extended the window to redeem flight credits through Dec. 31, 2022. The extension applies to all airline tickets purchased between May 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2023.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.