United to end widely hated $200 ticket-change fees as desperate plea for you to fly

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/08/30/united-to-end-widely-hated-20.html


I guess the bar for 2020 is set pretty low when the best news of the year is “you could theoretically save a couple hundred bucks on airfare if you were desperate or foolhardy enough to board an airplane during the worst disease pandemic in a century.”


Wonder if you still need protection when flying United?

fly united


Sometimes you need to fly; I guess that falls into the “desperate” category. Fortunately, you never need to fly on Untied.

Are there updated stats on transmission on planes? When I flew at the end of June there were only one or two known cases, not very well confirmed. Do we know of more today? Or does modern airline filtration, coupled with relatively empty flights and the mask mandate, actually work?


Coincidentally, all ticket prices are going up by $200.


Are they also ending their unpopular we-break-your-guitar policy?


Don’t matter to me, even after the pandemic, because that’s just about the last airline I’d fly on. I’ve heard so many horror stories.


No, I think $30 from LAX to MCO was the desperate attempt to get us to fly. Though, I am just a bit sorry to say, it worked.



I’ve changed many times and never paid. Why? Corporate account. Much like how hospitals charge fees that disappear when insurance is involved, a lot of these carriers cut deals with companies for flights.

I didn’t even bother to read the email when it landed because I thought it was something smaller like $35 or $50…$200 is insane. But I wouldn’t fly right now for pretty much any reason. I’ve purposely settled all the important family within driving distance earlier this year.


I think the bar is gone. It probably said “F-it. I’m done just sitting here on the floor. Maybe we can try again in 2021 or maybe not. Depends on what you jack-holes do in November”.


People didn’t hate JUST the fees at united. They just hated United.


There are some excellent articles by Andrew Odlyzko about the history of differential pricing. Essentially, the right model is that one can pay for one’s ticket in three currencies: dollars, discomfort (seat size), and inconvenience.

Really, the airlines would like to ask you “How much would you be willing to pay?” and charge you that. But people will lie. So instead they offer these tradeoffs. Will you book long in advance? Will you stay over Saturday night?

In the 19th century (railway not planes) there were more currencies to pay in, in particular, will you ride in the uncovered cars and suffer cinders and ashes in your face? It would have been cheap to cover them, but then the rich people wouldn’t pay a premium not to sit there.

The tricky bit is that all airlines are competing (hard – the total profit of air since its inception is around zero) on price. So no airline can afford to charge a constant price for tickets – if it were high enough to pay for the flight, people would go to other airlines.

The downside of all this is that our monkey brains hate it. Why is the economics here predicated on my suffering (inconvenience, crampedness, cinders and ashes)? That’s not actually putting money in anyone’s pocket, so why am I suffering it?

The upside is that, with the fierce competition, the cheaper seats on planes cost less than the actual cost of flying. It is through this, that the flying experience has been democratized. People who don’t have the dollars still have ways to get on airplanes – they just have to pay in these other currencies (so that rich people won’t, and will give the airlines dollars).

BTW, I’ve had bad experiences on all airlines, so I tend to pick United because (as far as I remember, correct me if this has changed) it’s got greater ownership by its employees.


193 passengers and crew ordered to self isolate after seven people on holiday flight contract coronavirus

From CNN’s Nina Avramova in London

At least seven passengers on a plane from Zante, Greece, to Cardiff, Wales, have tested positive for coronavirus after catching it from three infectious people on the flight.

All 193 passengers and crew on the TUI flight on August 25 have now been ordered self-isolate, according to a statement from Public Health Wales.

A few hundred humans inside a metal tube packed in like cattle on rail cars, add some COVIDIOTS and some standard human stupidity and you’ve got plenty of really good reasons NOT to step foot inside an air frame right now.


We’re getting rid of change fees for good on all standard Economy and Premium tickets for travel within the U.S.

Translation: we’re sending these fees to the boomerang-land currently inhabited by McRib and McRib, Jr.

Yikes! Though it sounds like the known Covid cases were already infected when they got on the plane, I can’t find any indication that they know yet of anyone infected during the flight.

Also, it sounds (from the CNN story) that the passengers were not well-behaved. Of course, we might expect similar bad behavior on a US flight.


This is key. An airliner certainly seems like it should be a worst-case scenario for transmitting respritory viruses, but the air travel industry insists that airplanes have extremely good ventilation which should reduce the risk - and from everything I’ve read, virologists have indicated that holds up and isn’t just bullshit. An airplane might well be safer than, say, a grocery store.

I’m not saying people should rush to resume their pre-COVID travel habits, of course, and there are other factors to consider (like if the place you’re visiting has much higher or lower infection rates than your home), but I’m definitely interested to see more data on COVID transmission on airplanes.

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This. United sucks.

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