United same day change and standby policy refresher

I haven’t done a same day change on United Airlines since the system conversion and while I’ve read varying and dizzying accounts of how they’re handled by airport agents on Flyertalk, I decided to give myself a refresher on the policy as it appears on United.com. I realize this is pretty basic stuff to many of you, but I decided to make a post for those who aren’t clear.

The way they worded the policy online is a bit roundabout, so here’s my rewrite in a simpler form (hopefully). First, here’s the fee structure based on your MileagePlus level.

Starting at 24 hours before your original flight, you can request a same day change. Also, the flight you want to change onto has to be within 24 hours of your request. So effectively, you have a rolling 24-hour window, something pretty darn cool to allow you to change to a flight departing before or after your scheduled flight. And here are the two basic situations for a same day change assuming you’re on a non-refundable fare:

If the same ticketed fare class (H, Q, V, S, etc.) is available on a flight departing during the 24 hour window, the fee above applies and you’ll get a confirmed seat.

If the same ticketed fare class (H, Q, V, S, etc.) is not available on a flight departing during the 24 hour window, the fee above applies plus any fare difference to get a confirmed seat; OR you can go standby for that flight for just the fee above (but standby can only be done on the same calendar day of your TICKETED departure and doesn’t qualify for the 24-hour rolling window).

Example: You’re booked on a 6:00am Saturday morning departure from Chicago to Denver in V class. Beginning at 6:00am Friday morning, you can request a change to a different flight in the next 24 hours. The 8:00am Friday flight has V available, so in this case you’d only be charged the fee in the above table for a confirmed seat. On the 1:00pm Friday flight, V is not available, so you’d be charged the fee in the above table plus the fare difference up to the next available fare class.

Say you wanted to fly out on the Saturday 5:00pm departure instead. Here, you’d simply wait until 5:00pm Friday to request the change to be within that 24 hour rolling window.

There are some other little caveats, of course, which are:

  • Valid on United and United Express flights only.
  • Changes must be made prior to your originally ticketed flight.
  • Exact origin and destination have to be the same.
  • Changes in connecting points are fine when confirming a change so long as the routing rules on the purchased fare permit it.
  • Changes in routing are not allowed when going standby.
  • You can only be added to the standby list at the airport.

It’s a very generous policy and I hope they don’t tinker with it. I’ve also printed a copy of it off United’s website in case I run into an agent who isn’t quite up with the stated policy and, say, wants to charge me $75 as a 1K as I’ve been reading.

Have you had success with this policy?

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Comments

  1. If the fare bucket isn’t available and you confirm the change anyways you pay the normal change fee from the ticket on top of the fare difference, not the SDC fee + fare difference.

    As for successful use of it, many, many times. It is a phenomenal policy and one of the most generous out there. I love it.

    • @Seth: Re: if the fare bucket isn’t available, the current wording on the website has been updated to read it’s the SDC fee + add collect, no longer the change fee of the fare.

  2. The other thing to note is that, more often than not, the inventory will open up on all fare buckets, all the way down to G, around three hours prior to departure of the new flight. In the example you described above that means around 10am on Friday you might suddenly see the inventory you need open up and allow you to confirm the change.

    Finally, make sure you check in again after completing the SDC process. That puts you back in the queue for CPUs.

  3. I have. Flying DCA-EWR-FLL, I was able to change to a later FLL flight to spend time with a friend in NYC, absolutely no hassle. And when he called me to say that he had to cancel as I was leaving the counter, TA was able to put me back on my original flight and even get my upgraded seat back!

  4. tons of success … Allowed me to depart earlier or later without having to go to airport and waste time standing by

  5. Very frequent user of the policy to get an earlier flight somewhere. I almost always have done it by going standby with a 100% success rate and have even been upgraded several times (including on occasions where I wouldn’t have gotten an upgrade on my original flight!).

    One of the best perks of being a MP Elite.

    • @MGD @CCORD: Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe AA only has a standby policy, no SDC type of reduced fee flight change option.
      @erndog: Thanks… I know that used to be PMUA’s policy, wasn’t sure if it lasted. I decided just to spell out what was online.
      @Chris: Agent consistency is just terrible… hopefully it’ll get better.
      @bobtray: Great question. I know kiosks at the airport can handle it, not sure about united.com (haven’t tried it myself yet).

  6. I take advantage of this almost weekly. Great benefit. My loyalty would be tested if they changed this particular policy.

  7. “Changes in routing are not allowed when going standby” – Actually, you can go standby through another connecting airport, but you’re on your own . . . just be sure there is plenty of availability on your connecting flight . . .

  8. I’ve had mixed success with it. Last week, I wanted to change from the GUM-HNL island hopper to the GUM-HNL nonstop (as my upgrade hadn’t cleared). Doing so required three calls (I was calling from Manila and the first two agents were telling me it was 48 hours rather than 24 hours out from departure.)

  9. If you need to change to a later flight, but inventory hasn’t opened up prior to original flight, but you are willing to risk the standby lottery – how do you do it?

    On the old UA you could just miss the flight and then check in with an agent and they put you on standby, but the new policy says it has to be done prior to departure of the original flight. Don’t see anything on the web about how you cancel and request standby – do you have to call in?

  10. Also, what if you want to go standby (because there isn’t confirmable space) on a flight that is within the 24 hour window, but isn’t on the same day. Do you talk to someone at the desk in your airport of origin? Call? I normally standby on same day and do it at the gate, but I don’t see how I’d get through security with a ticket for the next day.

  11. Wanderluster – I’m told standby is only at the airport -so you’d have to go to the ticket counter and they would give you some document for security.

    • @WanderLuster: Carl is correct, standby can only be processed at the airport, so you’d have to show up to do it.
      @Carl: Great question. I’m certain it would have to be done at the airport, not via the phone, so you’d likely have to be there around when your original flight is scheduled to depart. Haven’t read about any cases like this yet, though.

    • @James: That’s a great question. Personally, I have yet to attempt a co-terminal change since 3/3/12. While the policy says “exact origin and destination have to be the same,” the fare rules read, “LAX-BUR are considered the same point.” I never had a problem pre-3/3/12 with this, FWIW. According to this Flyertalk thread, success is hit or miss.

  12. Does anyone have any experience when it comes to the next available flight the next business say. As a 1k I have same day but just curious about this scenario.

    Say I am on an 9pm flight on 11/1. There is a 10am flight on 11/2. Will the SDC let me change to the 10am on 11/2 at 10am on 11/1. Just curious if anyone has any experience with this.

  13. Hi Darren,
    I’m flying ORD-IAD-JFK at 6PM Monday on a K fare. I want to change to ORD-LGA at 6AM Monday with K9 available. Co-terminal issue aside, when do I call to attempt this change – Sunday at 6AM or Sunday at 6PM? Thanks

  14. If the exact origin and destination have to be the same, what if I were to travel from LAS > PHX > ORD on US Airways, but US Airways was also selling tickets directly from LAS > ORD operated by united but branded as a US Airways ticket… would I be able to attempt standby at LAS to get on the US Air nonstop from LAS > ORD operated by United?

  15. The last few times I have flown into/out of COS, the kiosk at the outbound (to COS) gives me the option to switch to arriving in DEN or retouting on an illegal routing. I haven’t done it on either because my car was at COS and time didn’t permit an extra flight, so it’ll be interesting what options it gives in a few weeks when I am trying to leave a couple hours after scheduled flight.

  16. What if you want to do a SDC for a flight that is just shy of 24 hours later than your originally scheduled flight? ie. you want to be on the 6am Sunday flight instead of your originally booked 6:15am Saturday flight.

    How would this work with checking in? Do you wait until 6am on Saturday to check-in and try to change your flight then?

    • @Lina: Technically, yes, you’d have to wait until 6am Saturday to attempt the SDC. That’s a little close for comfort for me. The way around this would be to first attempt a SDC to a later flight on Saturday. Say there’s a 5pm on Saturday open – on Friday at 5pm, make that first SDC. Then once 6am rolls around on Saturday, attempt the change to the Sunday morning flight. You are, of course, at risk of seats not being available so use this method with caution. You can SDC as often as you want to, though be aware of the fee for each change if you’re not exempt from it.

  17. @Darren: Thanks! I was a bit worried about my reservation being voided if I didn’t check-in in by the required time. The latest flight possible is at 10am on Saturday which will a least give me some wiggle room so I’ll SDC to that now and then try to SDC again for my desired flight.

    • @Lina: You’re welcome. 🙂 Just be prepared to fly on the 10am on Saturday if you can’t SDC to anything later! Fingers crossed for plenty of availability on that 6am on Sunday for you!

  18. I was just told I would have to pay the $75 fee just to go on standby and that my seat would not be confirmed and since my flight has a layover, that my second destination would also be on standby, unconfirmed at another $75 charge. So does this mean I might be out the $75 to go on standby but not get on that flight? This doesn’t seem like such a fabulous policy to me!

  19. That’s not what the ticket agent told us. She specifically stated you lose $75 if you do not get on. I questioned her 3 times because it sounded ridiculous. I was not surprised because being stuck on a Tarmac for 4 hrs was not ridiculous or having your flight delayed because a maintenance mechanic did not submit his paperwork regarding a leaky refrigerator is not ridiculous. United needs to do some retraining.

  20. This doesn’t appear to work for award tickets for Premier Gold, or am I incorrect? I am looking to change flights and there is saver award space available on an earlier flight, but united.com is saying I need to pay $25, yet my ticket is in the same fare class.

    • @Paul: You should be able to make the change for free as a Gold – I don’t see any language on the SDC policy restricting award tickets (only opaque tickets bought through the Pricelines of the world). I’d be on the phone with reservations, as you did. Glad they made the change for free (as it should be), but strange they didn’t clarify the policy.

  21. So the website wanted to charge $25 for an award ticket change for Premier Gold, so I called UA. Over the phone the agent made the change for free without a phone service charge either. Still not sure what the official policy is.

  22. I’m suppose to take the 11:30pm flight from SFO to SAV on Friday but I want to see if I can push my flight back to Saturday or Sunday. What do I need to do and how much will it cost? I need to be back in Savannah no later than Sunday night so I’m a little concerned that I won’t make it if I push my flight back. Plus I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to stay in San Francisco an extra day or two. I’m not a regular flyer so I don’t know the loopholes within the airline community. The flight is with United.

    • @Ashley: First, I’m so sorry for my tardy reply! I hope you were able to make the change without too much issue. I usually call reservations to check on flight availability. In your case, I would have called on Friday late afternoon to check Saturday’s availability for the same-day-change options as discussed in this post. I’d also ask what Sunday looked like, but know I’d still have to be within the 24-hours to follow this policy – otherwise changing to a Sunday flight on Friday would incur the change fee plus any fare difference. I hope you got yourself squared away and again, my apologies for the late reply.

  23. Hi! Im suppose to fly out on May 8th at 6PM flight. I want to take advantage of the standby policy and fly out on May 7th on the 6PM flight. Since technically I need to request ’24-hrs’ before, this would mean i would be requesting while on the flight on Tuesday. Do you know if they will let me take the 6PM flight on tuesday? Or will I have to do a later flight? I dont want to show up at the airport at 4:30PM and sit there if they say i cant be on the 6PM flight. Its united.

    Thanks!

    • @Adam: Well, it is exactly 24-hours before your scheduled flight, so while it’s within the policy, you’d have to be there at the gate on the 7th and risk not going. You can certainly try calling on the 7th mid-afternoon to request a confirmed SDC and hope for an agent willing to bend the actual policy. But… I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

  24. Fly weekly on United and take advantage of the 24-h policy all the time. One correction to the above, Standby is ONLY available on the same CALENDAR day, regardless of the 24-h window. Confirmed SDC is 24-h but Standby is same calendar day. Have had to find airport hotels several times due to above,

  25. @Iceman: Thanks for your feedback… I’ve updated the post accordingly. I’ve only ever done the confirmed SDC and never tried standby on a different calendar day within the 24-hour window. It’s a shame United hasn’t updated their website to reflect the calendar day requirement for standby vs. a 24-hour window.

  26. You’re welcome Darren. Here’s what United policy says, not the best description but they do indicate that standby is (only) available “on the day of departure” i.e. calendar day; read the last quoted sentence.

    “You may stand by if seats are not available in the purchased fare class. In these cases, the same-day change fee will apply, but will not be charged unless you are assigned a seat on your alternate flight. Changes in routing are not allowed when standing by. Standby may be requested on the day of departure at an airport kiosk or with a United representative.”

  27. I had a really bad experience with United standby. I was flying SYR-EWR-LHR and my first leg was delayed which would cause me to just barely miss my connection. I rebooked to a later EWR-LHR flight, but the SYR gate agent offered to put me on standby for my original flight in case the delay wasn’t so bad. The delay was bad and I missed the original flight. I then found out my reservations for the later flight had been cancelled and that flight was now completely full. Luckily there was exactly 1 no-show so I wasn’t stranded in Newark overnight.

    What happened? The SYR gate agent put me on standby for the early flight. While still in the air, I cleared standby, so the EWR gate agent gave me a boarding pass for the early flight and removed me from the late flight entirely, leaving me with no confirmed flight at all.

    The way United runs it, standby is just too risky for me.

    • @Larry: I’m glad you got the last EWR-LHR seat! I’ve also heard of people asking to be removed from the standby list deciding just to take their later flight, only to find out that they weren’t removed and an agent cleared them on the earlier flight they no longer wanted, thereby canceling their confirmed seat on the later flight. Standby is wonderful when it works, but a horror when it doesn’t, as you very well know.

  28. In such situations I ask the agent or Premier desk to keep my confirmed seat on the original flight in case I make it and ask for a confirmed backup on the later flight. They can do two confirmed flights on the reservation but can check-in only for one. Check-in for the original flight and if you miss it, then check-in for the later flight. Best do both worlds. The key phrase to use is “confirmed backup”.

  29. I booked an incorrect return date which is several weeks later than I had intended. Can I go standby on the day I actually want to return (not same day, several week earlier than ticketed)?

  30. Just want to be clear. I have a flight from MCO to EWR on Mon 9/16 @ 10:29 am (looks like fare class G). I would like to stay an extra day. The longest I can extend my trip using SDC would be 24 hours from my 10:29am flight, correct? meaning Tuesday 9/17 @ 10:29 if there is a flight available with a class G fare? When can I call to do this; 24 hours before my original flight or 24 hours before the flight that I would like?
    Thank you!

    • @Janet: In your case, while the later flight is exactly 24-hours after your scheduled flight, you can only switch to it according to the rules at the time your original flight departs (by calling or requesting at the airport). That’s a bit risky as if there’s no space on the later flight and you’re not at the airport to take your original flight, United could cancel your reservation entirely. Many people end up SDC’ing to a later flight the same day as ticketed, then doing another SDC to their preferred flight the next day once the 24-hour window opens up with more time to spare in case there’s no space. Plus, while your mileage may vary, some people have been successful in getting phone agents to go beyond the 24-hour rule and make changes outside of the stated policy.

  31. You could pay United $75 or you could fly Alaska or Virgin America and pay only $25. We figured out this oddity when my partner and I were flying to meet each other. I booked Alaska. He booked United.

  32. Hello, I have a flight tomorrow night at (12/3) T 11:30pm LAS-ORD-ROC. I wish to fly in the morning or afternoon, how would i go about getting on one of those flights? …and can changes to my current reservation be made online?

    • @Jazzy: Tonight beginning at 11:30pm PT, you’ll be able to try to switch to a morning or afternoon flight tomorrow. You can try it while logged into your reservation online using the “change flights” button, or if that’s not useful (I’ve never done it that way), you can call and request a same-day-change. Fees, as in this post, depend on your status if space is available for the change.

  33. Ran into a new situation last Friday wrt United SDC and was wondering what happens in such a situation. I had a confirmed 9:00PM flight, but arrived at the airport at 3:00PM. There was an earlier 5:00PM flight. At the check-in kiosk, a confirmed seat on the 5:00PM was not available, so I added myself to the standby list at the kiosk. all well so far, went thru security and waiting in the lounge for standby to clear.

    Then I checked on iPhone and the 5:00PM flight was now showing seat availability and my name still on standby. So I started wondering, what if somebody in the same situation as mine, arrives the airport say at 3:30PM, a half-hour later than I arrived, and by that time United has decided to no longer hold on to the last few seats and have released them. That person would get a confirmed seat using SDC, but I who check-in earlier, before United had released the last seats, is still stuck on standby. That doesn’t seem fair.

    My standby did eventually clear but what if it hadn’t, I would have been disadvantaged just by checking-in a bit earlier than someone else.

    Darren?

    • @Iceman: I do believe you’re correct in that if you’ve been added to the standby list (which is typically always worked at the gate T-30-50 minutes from departure) and availability opens up afterwards, the system will not clear you from the standby list. United would tell you that, “availability can change at any time,” which it does. It may not seem fair, but that’s the nature of dynamic inventory. It always pays to keep checking availability in case a situation like you describe presents itself. I’m glad your standby cleared!! 🙂

  34. if you change from a direct flight to a connection flight does the 2nd (connecting) flight have to be within the 24hrs of orig flight as well or just the 1st flight?

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