United Airlines Improves Egregious Refund Policy (At Last)

Filed Under: United

At long last United Airlines is implementing a reasonable refund policy in the event of schedule changes.

United Airlines will now offer refunds for schedule changes

Since yesterday (June 6, 2020), United Airlines is offering passengers cash refunds in the event that there’s a schedule change of at least two hours (this includes cancelations that cause you to arrive at your destination more than two hours late). This policy should apply retroactively, in the event that you had a past flight canceled as well.

United Airlines once again has a reasonable refund policy

United’s awful refund policies up until now

United Airlines has been the worst among the “big three” US airlines when it comes to their refund policy since COVID-19 started:

Why did United finally adjust the refund policy?

The truth is that United didn’t have much of a choice here. The Department of Transportation has made it clear that airlines need to offer refunds in the event of significant schedule changes and cancellations, and United Airlines has been the worst offender when it comes to defying this policy.

Based on the number of DOT complaints, presumably it was getting to the point where the airline was about to be slapped with a fine.

As a United Airlines spokesperson explains this policy change, per Zach Honig:

We are continually looking at ways to better support our customers, and as part of that effort, we’ve updated our guidelines for handling refunds when our flight schedule changes. We have always provided refunds for refundable tickets, and these updated guidelines will offer additional flexibility to our customers requesting refunds for non-refundable tickets when flight changes occur. If our customers would like to check on their refund eligibility, they can go to united.com/refunds to submit a request.

United claims this change is being made because they’re “continually looking at ways to better support customers.” Ironic, given what the airline has been doing for the past few months. Was that also part of United “continually looking at ways to better support customers?”

United was pushing their luck when it came to DOT rules

Bottom line

United Airlines once again has a reasonable refund policy when it comes to schedule changes and flight cancellations, which is great. If the schedule for your flight is changed by at least two hours then you’re entitled to a cash refund, as it should be.

  1. Lucky, this just enrages me!

    I had a booking at end of March on UA / Lufthansa. Unable to contact United (five hour wait time / dropped calls) and I was forced into credit for future travel on UA website which I did not want! United / Lufthansa were unable to get me to my final destination and no options on the website to cancel / full refund, just credit / future travel. I want my money back! Everyone who was forced into these travel credits should be allowed to get a full refund.

  2. So now United has improved and Delta’s gotten worse. I think the DOT needs to just mandate what sort of a schedule change requires a refund.

  3. I don’t see any evidence DOT will start to issue fines. DOT publishes press releases and sends emails to the airlines asking them to play nice but that’s about it.

  4. Honestly, United took a worst case scenario approach from the get-go, as a mechanism for survival and to conserve cash. People need to realize that with the projections of travel being depressed by 90+% (in March and April), if United didn’t cut to the bare bones, it feared it could have to liquidate by the end of the year.

    Now that things appear (for now) to be coming back somewhat from the abyss, United can relax some of these draconian restrictions.

    American and Delta, on the other hand, have been broadcasting that everything is rosy. While this is a positive message from a PR standpoint, it is a bit disingenuous and will become apparent when they actually DO have to layoff a large number of employees and cut services.

    Bash United all you want, but I actually applaud the transparency of their management team here.

  5. Finally! I think it should go without saying that when a flight from point A to point B is eliminated from existence, a passenger with a purchased ticket on said route should be offered a full refund. Replacing a single flight with a series of connections is totally unacceptable, whether it results in a 6 hour delay or even a 2 hour delay.

    In the last two months, United has canceled five of my direct flights to or from IAD and attempted to replace with connecting options. Just a few days ago they removed my IAD-YVR flight and replaced with IAD-SFO-YVR: leaving an hour earlier, getting in 2.5 hours later. They pulled the same tricks earlier on my IAD-GVA, IAD-LIS, IAD-SEA, and IAD-CDG flights. Some of these weren’t even scheduled to occur until October 2020.

    Maybe all of my Chase chargebacks and DOT complaints have helped make a difference.

  6. @SFO Flyer
    So if I were in a bad financial situation, I should be given a free pass for cancelling non-refundable fares? Would United understand my situation and give me a refund?

    I think everyone understands why United did what they did, but it neither makes it right nor legal.

  7. They still are taking far longer than the Gov’t mandated 7 days to issue refunds. I’m being told 10 weeks.

  8. I just cancelled October business travel to Europe a few days ago, and took a significant eCertificate applicable in the next 24 months. My flight was cancelled and I was rescheduled to one six hours earlier. Anybody know if I can get this eCertificate converted to a refund???

  9. I took an eCertificate earlier this week for October travel to Europe because the flight was cancelled and I was rescheduled to one six hours earlier. Anybody know if I can get this eCert converted to a refund? It is a significant amount of money and I could be laid off this Summer.

  10. I have around $3K in ETCs + Cancelled PNRs for future flight credit. So does this mean I can get all $3k back to my cc now or is there some catch that I’m missing. Thanks!

  11. For what it’s worth, here is my experience. I had ticket purchased in December for late May flights JFK-TIA on UA codeshares with Austrian and LH. I waited to call until 2 weeks before the flights, mid May. I’m platinum status if that matters. Right off UA rep offered a refund. I asked about the details of e-cert. I considered the e-cert but in the end asked for a refund. Was told the refund could take up to 3 weeks, it showed up on my credit card in less than week.

  12. Thanks for this update. United had removed direct flights from LAX to LHR this Summer and switched us to fights requiring layovers in SFO and EWR. Since they didn’t offer a refund option I took a travel certificate. I’ve applied online for a full refund tonight so let’s see how long it takes (they claim up to 21 business days is allowed by DOT rules) or if they wriggle out of paying up again.

  13. I was able to get refunded on an electronic ticket voucher I received a few weeks ago. I had to talk to a supervisor. He was unable to change it but he contacted the refund department and they were able to issue it.

  14. With France having ‘closed’ its borders – with tightly defined exceptions- our UAL trip to CDG from DEN via EWR on 6/29 cannot happen because we do not qualify to be allowed to enter under the French border regulations.
    Since the trip is now, in effect, ‘impossible,’ are we not entitled to a refund? Or are we stuck with a voucher/EC?

  15. Hello all,

    Here is my recent experience with United Airlines and trying to get a refund on my cancelled round trip flight…

    I booked an international flight to Colombia last March, leaving Houston, for a departure four days from now on July 8th. I called customer service, reached a live representative within one minute (yes – one minute!), requested a full cash refund, and United Airlines obliged with no questions asked. The service agent told me that it would take around 11 business days to process.

    I was in shock. I was expecting to, firstly, have to wait for hours on end to reach a live agent, and then secondly, to have to fight tooth and nail to get a refund. My shoulders dropped two inches and I breathed a sigh of relief.

    It was one of the most painless processes I have ever experienced. I am giving United Airlines a lot of credit for adhering to the Department of Transportation’s most recent recommendation as to how airlines should follow protocol when it comes to addressing customer’s requests for issuing refunds.

    I am glad to know that United Airlines is back on the right track!

  16. Quick update on my refund request. I had originally taken a travel voucher for business class tickets from LA to London this Summer. The original direct flights were cancelled and rerouted via SFO and EWR. The online refund was approved within 21 days and money was credited the next day. Thanks Ben for this post and United for good response.

  17. Lucky,
    Please tell me someone can help my daughter get her $3100 United travel voucher exchanged to cash so she can pay rent and buy food!! She had a doctors order in writing to quarantine that extended through the planned trip times. I don’t think the flight even ran as United cancelled all trips to/from Mexico during that time. She cancelled her reservation about a week before the trip. Her flight was a non-refundable one, but under these circumstances, it should qualify for a refund… We submitted a claim for refund to United on their website and about 10 days later it came back as rejected. This is BS!! The airlines received BILLIONS in our tax money for relief and then they treat us like this!


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