United Airlines loses $2 billion after waiving change fees

United Airlines’ decision to eliminate flight change fees three years ago wasn’t exactly a cost-effective move — and now the airline says it’s paying the price.

On Tuesday, the company announced that it had lost about $2 billion since it decided to waive the $200 change fee for Economy and Premium ticketed passengers (though basic Economy Class passengers still have to pay).

“This simple policy change has had a dramatic impact on our customers and the overall experience of flying with United,” said Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer, in a company statement. “You can book with confidence knowing that even if your plans, or those of your team, change, United will protect you.”

Related: Leaked United Airlines memo to flight crew: No cell phones

The airline said that more than 10 million customers have taken advantage of the new policy since it began in 2020, of which 3.6 million have changed their flight times and 1.5 million have changed their departure or destination airport I arrive.

“Coach Taylor” stars in United’s Super Bowl commercial

The news comes on the heels of United’s Super Bowl commercial, which will premiere Sunday during the big game, starring “Friday Night Lights” actor Kyle Chandler.

In the ads, Chandler channels his famous Coach Taylor character and encourages fans “to believe in their team and book a United flight to next year’s game in New Orleans, without worrying about change fees” and “encouraging them to dream big about their team’s chances next season,” United said in the statement.

Market-specific TV spots will target Kansas City, Cleveland and Houston, while Chicago and Denver will air on social media. A general television spot will air in Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Orlando, Colorado Springs and Cincinnati.

United reported strong earnings for the fourth quarter of 2023, finishing with a nearly 10% increase in operating revenue compared to the same period last year.

Related: United Airlines is rolling out mobile vouchers for discontinued fliers

“Our plans have really come to fruition in 2023 and I want to thank the United team for all the hard work it took to get us there,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, in an earnings release. “Looking ahead, we expect these trends to continue and United is incredibly well positioned to take advantage of this and achieve our short and long-term financial objectives.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, United Airlines was down just over 18% for one year.

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