New Policy: United Airlines Will Refund You In A Year For Your Canceled Flight

Filed Under: United

United Airlines has modified their refund policy for the fourth time in just over a week. The airline is clearly trying to see what they can get away with…

United’s refund policy when your flight is canceled

Just over a week ago United Airlines made headlines for their new policy impacting schedule changes. In other words, in the event that United Airlines changes the schedule of your flight, what are your rights?

  • The former policy was that in the event that your flight schedule was changed by at least two hours, you could get a cash refund
  • Then United’s policy was that you could only get a refund if your flight schedule was changed by at least 25 hours; this even applied retroactively to previously booked tickets
  • Then United updated their policy to offer refunds on a “case-by-case” basis
  • Then United updated their policy so that you could get a refund if you had a schedule change of at least six hours, which was better, but still worse than competitors

It’s important to emphasize that all of these changes applied retroactively — the airline could get away with it because this technically wasn’t addressed in their contract of carriage, but they did have a consistent policy.

United Airlines has now changed their refund policy several times

United will now hold onto your money for a year

United Airlines has now updated their flight change policy again, for literally the fourth time since March 6.

With United’s new schedule change policy, for international flights where travel is disrupted by more than six hours because of schedule changes resulting from government restrictions:

  • Customers will get a credit valid for a year
  • At the end of those 12 months, if the customer doesn’t use the credit they can get a refund to their credit card

As noted by @crankyflier, here’s how United Airlines describes the policy:

Our goal remains to automatically re-book as many customers as possible within 6 hours of their originally scheduled flight. For any customer whose international travel is disrupted by more than 6 hours because of schedule changes resulting from government restrictions, they will retain a credit equal to the value of their ticket. That credit can be used towards any flight to any destination for 12 months from the time of purchase. If the customer chooses not to use the credit, they will receive a refund to their original form of payment at the end of that 12 month period. Importantly, this new way of helping customers manage through changing flight schedules also applies to residents from other countries that effectively can no longer travel to the U.S. because they would face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival as well as customers impacted more broadly by government-mandated travel restrictions or quarantines. In addition this change also maintains our ability to manage our business through this evolving and difficult set of circumstances.

Yep, United thinks that this policy is a “new way of helping customers.”

When United had adjusted their schedule change policy from two hours to 25 hours, the airline claimed that this new policy allowed them to “accommodate customers by offering more options to rebook their flights.”

I find United’s dishonesty with how they describe their policies to be really off putting. It’s one thing to say “hey, we really need the cash,” or to say nothing at all, but to suggest that holding onto peoples’ money for 12 months is somehow a way of helping them is simply deplorable.

United will now refund you in 12 months if there’s a major schedule change

Yes, United Airlines is in a bad situation, but…

It goes without saying that airlines are in a terrible situation right now. I obviously feel badly for the predicament they’re in.

I imagine some people might say “well United Airlines is in a bad situation, they really need the cash.”

You know who else probably really needs cash right now? Many of the people who booked United Airlines tickets that they can’t get refunded:

Yeah, United Airlines is in a rough spot, but they are unilaterally changing policies after the fact for ticket purchases, and seem to be expecting their customers to provide them a 12 month interest free loan.

Yes, United is in a tough position, but so are their customers

Bottom line

United Airlines has now adjusted their schedule change policy for the fourth time in just over a week, including retroactively for tickets that had been previously purchased. Meanwhile (to my knowledge), American and Delta haven’t adjusted their policies negatively at all.

Yes, airlines are in a tough position and need to conserve cash. But that shouldn’t come in the form of airlines hoping that their passengers essentially provide them interest free loans for a year. Most people can’t afford to give airlines a loan, especially in these times.

If the airline cancels your flight and it results in a significant schedule change, you should be entitled to a refund. Period. You’re no longer getting what you purchased, and it doesn’t matter what the cause of it is.

Comments
  1. Lucky, all of this information is great, but many of us are holding United Mileage Plus award tickets for April or May, and it is unclear what the policies are relating to rebooking or cancelling those tickets. Can you either include that in future posts of this nature or do a separate post? Thanks.

  2. @ Ben — It isn’t that you SHOULD be due a refund, but ARE due a refund. I highly recommend anyone that is given this bs treatment by United file a credit card dispute. Then, find a new airline with which to do business. I have been extremely impressed by Delta’s professional and customer-friendly response. This approach will yield huge dividends for Delta down the road. It’s not like any of the big US airlines are going to liquidate. If they have to go through bankruptcy again, they will survive.

  3. I don’t know why anyone is surprised that an airline which “reaccommodates” their passengers using brute force is similarly inventive in hanging on to their passengers’ money.

    Do the decent thing? I don’t think that would ever occur to United.

  4. Agreed – what are the rules for Mileage Plus award bookings? We have a booking. Flights have been cancelled. We obviously will get the miles back. But paying a cancellation fee is not right. Thanks.

  5. Qantas Singapore are also offering credits not refunds…. this is the email I received an hour ago from Qantas. SQ is a little more generous in that you have to complete your rescheduled flight by March 2021.

    **************

    We understand that many of our customers’ travel plans have been impacted by the spread of Coronavirus and various government travel restrictions.

    We also understand the importance of providing our customers with as much flexibility and assurance as possible.

    And we understand that some people would prefer not to travel at the moment. So we are offering our customers the opportunity to cancel any new or existing international or domestic bookings for travel between now and 31 May 2020, and keep the value of their ticket as a flight credit.

    Flight flexibility with a full flight credit

    Customers with existing bookings on any domestic or international flight until 31 May 2020, who no longer wish to travel, can cancel their flight and retain the value of the booking as a flight credit for travel within 12 months of the date that the original ticket was issued. This needs to be processed by 31 March 2020.

    Flight credits can be used for travel on any domestic or international flights. Qantas will waive the change fee when customers are ready to rebook, however the customer will need to cover any fare increase in their new booking.

    Qantas Frequent Flyers who have used Qantas Points to book a flight on Qantas, Jetstar and all partner airlines, and no longer wish to travel, will also have the change fees waived.

  6. I am in the same situation. I have a MileagePlus ticket to Rome in April. Apparently United still wants to charge the $125 mileage redeposit fee. This is insane. Aeroplan waived its redeposit fee.

  7. It’s “feel bad”, not “feel badly”. Feeling badly means having a diminished sense of touch.

  8. Why should my tax dollars go to bailout for an airline which has the worst customer service in the industry? They are literally hoarding your money as a consumer and asking for your tax dollars.

    Let them go bankrupt. Bailout the employees. Some other airline will take their slots and surely can do a better job than United.

    If they want a bailout it cannot be a blank check. The airlines need to act like businesses that are consumer and employee friendly. After all we are paying for the bill and we should have the same input that any hedge fund investor would have on their board.

  9. Had an award trip in April ORD to Bilbao. Cancelled it. Via app UAL wanted to charge for redeposit within 60 days. I called them 1.5 hrs hold time. The nice agent redeposited miles both ways no charge. I didn’t even have to ask to waive fee.

    I’m UAL Platinum. Your mileage may vary

  10. So I paid United for a service they didn’t provide (a flight). They refund me, but I only get the refund in 1 year? Very sketchy.

    Also, there’s a decent chance some of these airlines will file for bankruptcy protection. What happens to my credit then? I assume it will be lost.

    I travel a fair amount, and I’m up to $4k in credits across 2 airlines, for my March travel. I expect to be up to $6k in the next few weeks as some of my April stuff is probably going to cancel also.

  11. Ben, there’s an editorial in the New York Times by Tim Wu today on why the airlines deserve little of our sympathy. Have you read it? What do you think about it?

  12. I just canceled my United Airlines tickets I booked before with mileage awards, because we had a wedding that was canceled due to coronavirus. United charged me $75 for each person, and I was charged total $1725 to my credit card I used to book flights.
    On United website it said, I quote, “… We are committed to helping all of our customers with their travel plans. If you are scheduled to travel between now and April 30 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so. …”
    The wedding was planned long time ago, and was on April 25 originally, now postponed. We don’t know when the virus situation will improve, so we have to cancel the flights and rebook later when we know when. United airline is NOT helping at all!!!!

  13. Hey, that claim that 40% percent of American’s can’t afford a $400 expense is wrong. It was widely reported, but it’s a misreading of what the survey was actually asking. The question was asking how would you choose to pay off a $400 expense, and 59% percent of people said they would choose to pay it off with cash or equivalent. So that excludes people who would put it on their credit card and pay it off at the end of the month. (The survey is hard to interpret, you could select multiple responses so its not clear which things to sum up). The right figure is probably about 15% – that’s the percent of people who said a $400 expense would mean “I could not pay some other bills or would only make a partial payment on some of them”. Or 8.5% of people say they’re “finding it difficult to get by”

    (Obviously I don’t mean to minimize the experiences of people who are finding it difficult to get by, but its important to accurately represent the size of the problem.)

    Not sure how your website responds to links, but if you want to verify Paul Millerd has a tweetstorm about it, and there are a fair number of articles talking about how the figure was misinterpreted (Bloomberg, Cato, AEI) Politifact rated a similar claim by Kamala Harris half true, saying it “leaves out important details or takes things out of context.”

  14. I booked tickets from Germany to the US with United (inbound with LH, back with United) end of April til mid may.

    The Tickets are from United Netherlands..do I have other rights as a EU-Citizen if the situation doesnt get better? Or do I get my money back in 12 Month as well if flights get canceled?

    Thanks in advance, stay Safe

  15. Yeah..this is class action suit waiting to happen. I am sure UA knows this but they need your $ now, I suppose.

  16. United: You get a credit, but if you can’t use it in a year, we’ll refund your money.
    Air Canada and WestJet: Hold my beer.

  17. I don’t know whether I am reading the new cancelation policy correctly. Regarding the following:

    “[…] this new way of helping customers manage through changing flight schedules also applies to residents from other countries that effectively can no longer travel to the U.S. because they would face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival as well as customers impacted more broadly by government-mandated travel restrictions or quarantines”

    So people traveling from Europe to the US also must have their flight changed by more than 6 hours in order to qualify for a refund, right? It’s not that the same applies to Europeans traveling to the US even when there is no schedule change (of more than 6 hours)?

    My parents have flights from FRA to MCO via ORD booked (UA ticket stock, LH codeshare for the longhaul flights) and it looks like all flight will be operational but obviously they cannot travel. I appreciate your help!

  18. We have UA flights to the UK early April returning in May. We have canceled our land and cruise for obvious reasons. I have yet to cancel the UA space as the rules change frequently. I would like a full refund as UA is not my preferred carrier. I was advised that I won’t be charged a change fee when i rebook a flight but I am not comfortable with the mechanics of executing this online. It will take multiple trips to use our credit leaving a rollover on each transaction. I must do something by Dec. and then the rollover will be good for a year. As a former travel agent I have a good idea how this works. How to proceed??? Tappy

  19. Still better than Delta which only extended me a credit for until Dec. 2020.

    Delta keeps my money, earns interest on it and pats themselves on the back in press releases how wonderful they are.

  20. @tda

    How am I supposed to file with my credit card company for a charge I made 8 months ago on a flight?

    Some of us who travel internationally for vacations have to make reservations way in advance to get into highly booked resorts.

  21. I am usually an American Airlines flyer and I so wish I was now. We are holding tickets to Germany for a May date. If I were flying most any other airlines they would give a full refund when cancelling flights at the time of cancellation. For United Airlines to hold our money for a year is unheard of. They know there are going to be a lot of people out of work needing that money right now. I will second guess if I ever fly United again as they are surely showing their true character at such a time as this.

  22. United Airlines net income(profit after expenses) last year was over 3BILLION dollars. Yes, airlines are hurting now, but that’s part of being in business. When they make profits they keep it, when they have loses, WE the customers have to help them. Are you kidding?

    United cancelled my flight, rebooked me on a flight 20 hours later, and won’t give me a refund. I’ve have a OnePass account and been a loyal Continental/United customer since the 1980s, but this policy will change my loyalty. United now has an image of a dirty pig. They could have looked like a decent company if you did the right thing. They spend so much money on advertisements but they could have had the best advertisement results if they didn’t try pulling these stunts. Shame on them.

    United is crying poverty. Trump will “bail” them out. Makes me vomit.

  23. So airlines are expecting bankruptcy in 2 months, so instead of issuing refunds now you can either book a future flight or they keep your money and you get no refund after bankruptcy.

  24. This may be their policy but credit card purchasers may wish to dispute the charge to their credit card where the merchant failed to provide the service (e.g. getting you to City X on Date Y) through no fault of the purchaser.

  25. Geez. People are supposed to have 6 mos reserve held in cash for emergencies. So this company that made billions in profits last year doesn’t have the emergency reserves that has so far been for what, 3 months? Yeah, not feeling sorry for them at all.

  26. United Airlines is the WORST pile of junk in the known universe. Abhorrent company. They should file lawsuits against themselves after they bludgeon passengers and drag them off of flights.

  27. What do you people think? They are fighting for survival as are all the major carriers. This is an unprecedented situation! If they cod refund it they would.

    Let me put it this way. If you want to use your precious mile going forward you’d better hope they survive!

  28. Who knows if UA will even be around in a year? Maybe they’ll take advantage of the oh-so-convenient Chapter11 magic, and re-emerge with a corporate new paint job, with all those pesky liabilities (including your credit) having disappeared into that cosmic Made-in-USA black hole.
    Just sayin’ …..

  29. I’d echo Matt’s sentiments. While I agree that United’s new policy is BS, and I don’t feel like they deserve any sympathy or bailout, I think Ben needs to educate himself on the disingenous interpretations of “40% of Americans can’t afford a unexpected $400 expense” and “more than half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck”.

    As Matt pointed out, the $400 unexpected expense is a misinterpretation. The paycheck to paycheck argument fails to take into account that most Americans agree that they overspend and live above their means. Do a tiny bit of research, instead of just spouting liberal talking points to support your personal beliefs.

  30. I purchased tased a R/T ticket to Seattle on Feb 20th, my wife began to have a flareup of her medical conditions and the concerns that Seattle at the time was just beginning to see coronavirus patients I cancelled my flight on March 4th and requested a refund to my mileage plus card and received e mail saying that they would take 7 business days to approve, after that time they sent another e mail saying it was not approved because it was not accompanied with a note from wife doctor on his letterhead. insulting and humiliating. Lost my loyalty, applied for different credit card no longer mileage plus, guess I am stuck using up the credit with them but never again United.

  31. I, for one, will gladly forego my refund to see United go out of business permanently. They are an awful company and dont deserve to be in business.
    United is delaying refunds for a year because they are looking to file bankruptcy and include those refunds in that filing.

  32. I have a flight to Ireland booked for March 22 returning March 29. As of this moment my flight has not been officially cancelled. You can log onto UA right now and book a flight to Europe for the month of March. My travel agent cannot apply for a refund because the flight has not been cancelled. UA is playing games because they know the clock is ticking and I will have to accept their offer of a ticket to use in the future.
    What happens if I continue the game and show up at the airport and UA must admit the flight is canceled will I get a refund? I am honestly asking someone who may know the answer. I don’t need a credit for a later date. I want a refund.
    I did call my bank and they said since UA is offering a credit they are still fulfilling their commitment and I can’t file a dispute. If they go bankrupt the bank will issue a refund but I know I will be in a long line of creditors who get nothing from bankruptcy court.

  33. Yes. I agree. They ARE playing games, even with rebooking. I’ve read they are charging pax nearly double the fare when rebooking with a credit, as opposed to purchasing a new ticket.

  34. We purchased 2 one way tickets from Utah to Tampa using Credit Card points through our bank?not through United. When we cancelled due to recommendations not to travel (ages 72,73) we were given an e ticket good for one year, however to purchase this back the charges are over 5
    $500.00. Points can not be reinstated and we do plan to use the ticket in the future but not for that fee. Ideas??? BTW I waited 96 minutes on hold to speak to someone in a call center and emails/chats to United have not been answered.

  35. How will the refund / credit work? I have a reservation for GSP to Dublin and return starting on 4 April. Do I wait for United to cancel the flight or go ahead and cancel myself? If I cancel will it affect my refund? Their cite is useless, impossible to navigate.

  36. My one stop flight to/from TLV was just cancelled. They have me on a 3 segment journey on the next day. App is useless – only option is to “review and accept changes”. Can’t just review them (and we all know what happens once you accept). On hold now but not hopeful. Afraid to cancel on website as I have no idea what will happen once I click Cancel (knowing them, it will be a one-click cancellation with no opportunity to review terms and they will provide current terms of one year credit).

  37. I just rebooked an award ticket on United (for a different city) with no change fee (just difference in miles). Cancelling the ticket did require the redeposit fee of $125.

  38. Ben, can you guide me on what to do. My son and I have two business class tickets from SFO to Dublin via CDG in early April. The tickets were purchased from Delta but the flights are on Air France, their partner. If our flights aren’t cancelled and we cancel them ourselves, I understand I have to take a credit. But why if they cancel the flights am I required to also take a credit? And will the credit be in each person’s travel account or just in the person who booked the flights? I do not think my son will be able to use that large of a flight credit between now and the end of the year. (It would be nice if the airlines would give everyone a year to use the credit instead of the end of the year.) Finally, do you think the airlines will raise prices to compensate for the downturn? Seems like a crappy thing to do when they know everyone will have credits to spend.

  39. Anticipating the cancellations, my college student cancelled her flight from LA to Puerto Rico for some Spring Break fun. United gave one year of credit to use the credit by February 3rd (not spring break time anywhere!). I explained to customer service that “Spring Break” is not in February and what good is the credit? I wonder how may students are getting Screwed by United this way where they cannot book for next years spring break with their credit. It has to be used by date of purchase while they are all in school. Not Fair.

  40. The US doesn’t recognize the warsaw pact with air travel so airlines can treat people as they please. Deregulation hurts people.

  41. I would be fine with credits IF the airlines allowed us to rebook flight up to a year of original travel. If you think about it, now everyone will have to rebook by the end of the year. What will that cause? A higher demand in flights before December 31. What does a higher demand in flights cause? Higher prices. So…the airlines not only have our money but they will get more money from us for higher price tickets. It is shameful that they are making us fly by December 31 and should rethink this policy.

  42. I agree with Cheryl. Let us fly the same dates in 2021. We had planned a trip for four families. The only time we could all get together was spring break. Now we will probably be flying at a higher price in December…or possibly not be able to get together at all as a group! Why 12/31/20 when we were flying 3/24-3/29/20?
    United’s policy could be much more customer friendly. United is putting their clients last!
    American and Delta have similar policies. Business first, clients last1

  43. I run a small non-profit, Courts for Kids, that takes students from the US on service immersion experiences to build multi-use athletic courts in economically disadvantages countries. We have existed for 13 years and built 192 courts taking just under 4 thousand students. We had three groups leaving on March 27th- to the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Costa Rica (2 groups on United Airlines and one on Delta Airlines) all with their borders closed now and therefore their flights cancelled. When I ticketed these groups it is with the original policy you outlined here in this article (a cancellation by the airlines entitled us to a full refund). My group of minors is unable to go with us in the future and so having a travel voucher is not going to do us any good. We all know that these airlines will survive to see 2021, but unless these airlines give us a refund, which we are entitled to because we ticketed with the original policy, we may not exist to see 2021 as an organization. It doesn’t seem right/fair/legal to change the policy to suit them, while I ticketed with a different policy. Getting a refund is crucial for our survival to continue the work to help these communities have access for kids to have a safe place to play. I have filed a dispute with our credit card. If anyone makes any headway with this issue- please let us know! We NEED this!

  44. Wow, as an FA I intentionally avoid the comments sections of these articles though I appreciate and learn from the articles and bloggers themselves. For the most part the articles mostly reveal how different our perspectives are and they help me as a thoughtful FA understand our customer’s point of view. At times I find the articles, but mostly the comments, woefully lacking in the behind the scenes knowledge required to put the myriad of complaints or even praises in proper context but that’s as it should be when this is not a blog for or by airline employees. I’m commenting today because I’m grateful to Lucky for an evenhanded informative update on AA (I work for another major, we are all scrambling for accurate and timely information) and because my heart cannot take the cowardice I’d be displaying if I did not speak up in defense of my profession. The patience and mental fortitude it takes to withstand the challenges and disrespect we face from both our customers and our employers while delivering customer service and safety simultaneously with a very limited toolbox (don’t forget to smile!) is extremely challenging and contrary to these comments is a real job that is HARD. I know without a doubt many of you have experienced subpar customer service on an airline, and I wish that wasn’t the case. But I ask that the thousands of you that do receive excellent service, kindness, and quelled fears from FAs every single day, speak up for us! I know for a fact the majority of us do our jobs well and if you travel frequently and only get “terrible” service that is something you should reflect inwardly upon. Try to remember we are a rock, hard place and shield between the consumer and the big business, for both of you. We are beaten down by the penny-pinching and disconnect behind us and the often misdirected hatred and ignorance in front of us. We want nothing more than the airline to give you the policies, amenities and service you deserve. We also want informed expectations and understanding that so much in air travel is out of any one company’s or one persons control. We experience the discomforts WITH and ALONGSIDE you. We should be on the same team! We also want to protect our livelihoods, our industry and our employer which now requires previously incomprehensible decisions be made by our management and unions. I think anyone frequenting these pages understands the vital role air travel has in this world. I hope our industry survives, I hope my airline prioritizes frontline employees and consumers, and I hope we all find some mutual respect.

  45. Lucky, you couldn’t have said it better! I planned my vacation to Italy 9 months ago and specifically chose a more expensive United flight due to my loyalty to United, when I could have taken a cheaper flight on Delta or American. What a mistake! When the situation first broke out in Italy I called immediately, explaining I couldn’t afford to cancel and be charged $600 in cancellation fees because I’m a single mom. And I couldn’t realistically rebook by June 30 because I can’t get time off of work with no notice and I am a single mom and would need to find care for my kids…also not possible with no notice. UA said I should wait and that if my flight was cancelled I would then get a FULL REFUND. So I waited, I did everything they recommended. Then I saw the notice that they are offering a “new way of helping” me by keeping my money for a year! What a load of BS. They will get a bail out and they will get to keep my money. It’s absolutely deplorable! Now in the United app it says I have a credit, however when I called the number recommended in the app for more info I was directed to an incredibly rude UA employee who said because I booked through a third party they were not going to help me re-book or give me any info about the credit. The agent basically said I’ll be lucky if I get anything because I booked through a third party and I bought a very inexpensive fare, so you get what you pay for!

  46. Great article, thanks.
    We booked with United in September to fly from Manchester, England, to Orlando, via Newark at the end of this month.
    Last week, Tony from United in Tampa, advised me to wait until the company cancelled the flight, so that I could get a full refund.
    I waited until the flight was pulled and called again at the beginning of this week. This time, Hagar from Houston, said that she would sort it out, cancel our booking, and arrange for a refund. Today, Julie from Chicago told me that because of the ‘special circumstances’, the usual refund rules no longer apply, and she would only offer a credit. I asked to speak to the supervisor, and Miss Holmes from Michigan, just repeated the company’s new policy, and refused a refund. She then transferred my call to Carla, in the Philippines, who again promise to arrange a refund ‘within seven days’.
    I spent almost two hours on the phone with these people, and I still am unconvinced about what they have told me.
    My wife and I are elderly, disabled, and unlikely to travel to the US again. I cannot afford to leave almost $3000 with Unitedfor twelve months, but I don’t know how to deal with this deception and thievery.
    Probably a credit card action, but our angst and frustration is not a good experience.
    Never again with United. Never!

  47. Call your credit card company and talk to someone in the dispute department. I received an email yesterday that United was changing our non-stop (approx 10 hour flight) to a one stop flight in NYC that was going to be a 14 hour flight time. I called United and was basically told too bad. So then I called the credit card company and they are going to refund the money because I bought a non-stop flight and not a one stop and the flights are longer. The agent at the cc company said that even if United didn’t reimburse it the cc company would out of their pocket!

  48. I understand the EU has closed their borders to non-essential non-citizens for a month starting I believe a few days ago (March 17). If I have a United flight to Amsterdam on April 13 and I am a US citizen and not an EU citizen and also non essential (just a tourist) shouldn’t I be able to receive a full refund since I can no longer able to enter the country?

  49. I was scheduled on American Airlines on a family trip to Disney.The flight was delayed because of a maintenance issue and then had a mechanical issue and hours later cancelled the flight. We eventually flew to a different airport, rented a car and lost the day. They couldn’t care less in my opinion. After complaining that 10,000 miles compensation was unacceptable they wrote saying they didn’t have to do anything. I contacted the FAA who confirmed they leave everything up to the airlines. The FAA in my opinion, appears to have little regard for passenger rights over big corporations- including Boeing as well. Whats a few plane crashes. They still assured the public the planes were safe.
    In the past airlines were required to compensate passengers. It appears, in my opinion, the airlines get very good returns from their lobbyists.I suggest everyone write their members of congress to make any bailouts conditional on returning passenger rights and compensation. I will !!

  50. Luckily, this new policy does not apply to flights originating from the EU/EEA/UK.
    Although the number of such flights will decrease, EC261/2004 article 8 protections are in place.
    If United cancelled a flight, United would have to give the passenger the right to choose a full refund in cash. That refund has to be paid in cash.
    United CoC cannot override EC261/2004.
    Moreover, article 8 passenger rights protection cannot be waived away by extraordinary circumstances.

  51. The best: United offers to change or cancel tickets and waive change fees, BUT: If you try to change your flight through an existing booking they just offer you alternative flights starting at 2.500$. If you check the same flight on their website without going through your booking first you find exactly the same flight for just 200$ – 800$. I gave them a call and asked them to change my flight without being so generous and not charging waving fees but a 2.000$ price difference of both tickets instead. The agent told me that this wasn’t possible and that the data I see in their system was not correct. “Prices changes minute by minute” he said and “The flight you are talking about is fully booked”. After the call I booked that flight separately and it was confirmed. This airline is full of sh*t and I highly doubt that they will pay back the money they are going to hold for the next 12 months…

  52. Called today to try to get refund on April flight to Paris that has been canceled. No dice, was told the 12 month rule as described in your article. I have too many Mileageplus points to do a chargeback so I’ll just have to hope the airline survives this (or the policy changes yet again).

  53. 2hour wait..just to be told only credit..No refund…employees at United have endured pay cuts …lost employee stock ownership $$ in the 100 of thousands..a United bankruptcy in w006..wiping out 128,000 pensions..United then offered a bribe to government PBGC to accept 5billion in new United stock..when the airline emerges from bankruptcy…bailouts??? Why not let them go the way of PanAm..TWA.
    EASTERN and others…they treat their employees…

  54. It doesn’t seem legal. We purchased $2,900 non refundable tickets last Nov to London April 15th and return from Rome on May 6th.
    Last week I looked and they bumped us out of our business class seat to economy and I found a description on their refund page that I now qualify for a refund. I called and they agreed that I qualify for a refund but would need to wait 12 months for the refund. I told them there is nothing on their refund page noting that I had to wait 12 months for a refund. They said they changed their refund policy in March. I thought that was just for new tickets purchased or people using waivers. We did not cancel because of the Covid. Granted I know the flight would probably be cancelled and don’t want to fly anymore but my reason for cancelling was their change in my flight. Any feedback or kind replies would be appreciated.

  55. We had booked a direct flight to France from D.C. for April 9. The tickets were purchased in November 2019. UA initially changed this last week to a flight with a long layover (without my approval, of course). Then they just cancelled the flight outright. I just got off the phone with UA customer service, requesting a refund to my credit card. Refund denied- the representative said they are not offering refunds to ANYONE (only vouchers for future travel). This is bad enough, but it gets worse– I was also told that since UA had made a change to my original reservation in March, I was no longer eligible for a refund one year from my original purchase date in November!!! The soonest I would be eligible for a refund if my travel credit went unused would be March of 2021 “plus a 90 day grace period after that.” You have got to be kidding me! The government needs to step in a force the airlines — as part of any assistance or bailout– to refund customers for services that were paid for and are no longer being offered. This repeated change of policy on the part of UA is unacceptable, regardless of the financial position they are in. Many Americans are not faring well financially at this time either, and are not in a position to let the airlines hold on to their money for extended periods of time. And, of course, in the event the UA goes bankrupt, the customer can just forget about getting the money back, ever.

  56. As of this morning, United has the audacity to continue demanding a re-deposit fee for cancelling award travel. I am a life-time premier member and the redeposit penalty is still $50. This is totally ridiculous, especially in face of Illinois entering shelter-in-place today. I thought United was turning a corner in taking care of customers…Obviously not the case if they are willing to rip off their loyalty members.

  57. It took me about the same time to read all these posts as to write my congressman urging that any airline bailout should be predicted upon a uniform and fair coronavirus pandemic refund policy.

    Agreement should be negotiated between the IATA and passenger advocates.
    No agreement, no problem, no bailout.

    My letter will be a datapoint on chart prepared by some congressional aid. Thousands of letters will move the curve.

    Your representative has a website. That website has a mailing address.
    A mailed letter is almost alway more effective than an email.

    Stop whining and start writing.

  58. I’m writing as well. All these posts on the internet aren’t doing is any good except letting others know there are many of us in the same situation. That part is helpful. Feedback on his blog is also good to read or we would not have seen your post. O hope others do the same.

  59. I was due to fly out to the USA on the 18th March for a surprise birthday, and the travel restrictions were imposed.

    I have written to United and they have said that I cannot get a refund, as the tickets were “non-refundable” and I can rebook within a year.

    I have since written back to them to say that I will not be flying to the USA again as it was a surprise birthday.

    They are being adamant that a refund will not be made.

    They are just keeping the money building up their bank balance.

    I would give Customer service a score of -10/10.

  60. We have a flight scheduled to depart Chicago to Munich (then Air Dolomite to Florence) on Mar 31. But after all the State Dept, CDC , situation in Europe, travel ban/restrictions, all UAL can provide is that the situation is fluid and pointing to all the ‘customer friendly/flexible’ waiver policies? Idiotic. UAL has never been decisive during this challenging times and it seems like always waiting for AA and Delta policies first.

  61. This is disgraceful behavior by United Airlines–completely tone-deaf to the current situation and using the opportunity to ‘help’ customers to rebook as an opportunity to keep our money. Like many above I have a trip booked to Europe. UA changed and canceled the flights but holds to this one-year policy for refunds. I have over a million miles on UA and when I joined my new company insisted on using them instead of moving to the carrier favored by our company. This is how UA treats long-time loyal customers. This trip included TGV rail tickets–they refunded the tickets and waived the fees–and a hotel booked, non-refundable, with hotels.com who refunded the charges without any actions on my part. That, UA, is customer service. The agent I spoke with refused to allow me to speak with anyone else and, at the end, had the audacity to thank me for my loyalty. I explained I’ll be taking my loyalty elsewhere. I expect many of you will join me. And like many of you, I can’t believe they can legally get away with all the policy changes; I hope when this is done they are held accountable.

  62. My United flight for family was cancelled this week, it was sold by United, operated by Nippon.
    United has $3200 of my money for flights that don’t exist anymore. I called to get a refund, the rep was super nice and professional, he was just going on a horrible script:

    Explanation #1 from United: ‘We didn’t cancel the flight, Nippon cancelled it, so we can’t refund. Instead we can offer a voucher good for one year and then you can apply for your refund after a year.’
    I tell him that I’m aware of the DOT cancellation rule – and refund must be given if the flight is cancelled for any reason.

    Explanation #2: ‘You had a non-refundable ticket, we can’t refund you right away even though the flight was cancelled. You’ll need to take the travel voucher, that’s all we can offer.’
    I tell him about DOT cancellation rule applying to all tickets in cases of airline cancellation.

    Explanation #3: Talks to supervisor, comes back: ‘I’m so sorry, we can only offer you a refund one year from date of ticket’
    I’m not interested, I’d like the refund applied now. That’s a lot of money tied up for a year. Can I talk to someone else?

    Explanation #4: ‘I’m so sorry sir, we are bleeding money, the whole industry is bleeding money. We can’t afford to be offering immediate refunds to anyone. Our lawyers decided last week on our new policy of offering refunds in a year. They say it still meets the law of providing refunds for cancellations since the timeframe is not stipulated by law. That’s their new interpretation and we have to go by it.’

    Short term survival for United. Long term decline by screwing loyal customers. I will bail them out with my tax dollars but I will never fly United again.

  63. I’m in the same boat. $3000 worth of tickets that United cancelled the flights for, yet will not refund my money despite DOT requirement to do so. My question is, why shouldn’t I dispute the charge with my credit card?

  64. If I bought the travel guard insurance can I get a refund versus the credit that has to be used in 1 year?

  65. I have a credit for 2 tickets on United, as they cancelled the flights… About $4800 each….

    My thought is to buy 2 refundable tickets for about $5000 each, then cancel them.

    Will I get full credit back to my credit card?

  66. Redeemed UR for SAT-IAD on 4/1 in F on 2259, which was cancelled last week. I was “re-accommodated” onto 3582 (5hr 7 min earlier departure; 4 hr 59 min earlier arrival). Waited until 7 day window per Chase; called Chase travel desk yesterday afternoon (twice) – approximately 1 hour wait each time. Polite representative refused to deviate from UA policy (but offered to file a complaint with Chase on my behalf).

    Called UA this morning around 0755 CT. Less than 2 minute wait for representative. Thanked representative for short hold time and requested refund. Was offered to have refund processed in 15 months. Politely declined, cited DOT regulations, and asked again. Representative said she didn’t have authority; I thanked her for her courtesies and asked if I could talk with someone who might have authority. ~5 minutes later, she came back on the line and said that her supervisor approved refund.

  67. Amarillo – I had UA move me from bus class to economy on a flight april 15. $3,000 for 2 tickets. I told her it was a policy I saw that says I was able to receive a refund. Asked to speak to supervisor. She came back and said I was able to get a refund but it would not be till Nov 2020. My question is I didn’t get an email confirmation or anything. The flight a week later still shows as booked. Can you point me to a link to the the DOT regulations? Did you get a confirmation? When did they say you would receive it.

    Denny – I’d like to know what you find out.

  68. If anyone gets offered the refund for a flight that is canceled after being insistent,
    1- did you get a confirmation email or anything?
    2- Is your flight still showing (assuming it is in the future?

  69. @Dory B: UA rep said that I would receive the refund in 7-10 days. I did not receive a contemporaneous e-mail during the call.

    I did note, while on the call with UA, that my trip detail changed to “cannot be retrieved, since it does not contain any active flight segments”. And “Ticket status: This reservation has been canceled and refunded/voided as applicable.” The UA rep did give me a confirmation number for the cancellation that matches my “trip details” page.

    Lucky has a great post here regarding the DOT regs (here: https://onemileatatime.com/flight-cancelled-refund/); I didn’t have to cite chapter/verse to the rep, though.

    I think I’m normally polite with most representatives (but I confess that I’m human, so I probably fall short sometimes). Today, however, I led with (without trying to sound condescending), “Ma’am, that was a really short hold time; thank you very much – I appreciate you reaching me so quickly.”

    When the representative said, “processing the refund now is outside my authority”, I said something like, “[insert name here], I completely understand, and I appreciate you for listening to me. If you have a moment, would you be able to ask someone who might have the authority and let me know?”

    I was prepared to let the UA rep know that I would file a complaint with DOT for each day that has my money impounded, but we didn’t have to go *there*.

    YMMV.

    I hope that happy days are here again soon.

  70. I want to cancel flights for my husband and I in mid of May. Two flights were bought using UA miles and 2 flights back with CC.
    Today, UA customer service lady (who I could barely understand with her accent), told me that If I want to cancel all 4 tickets, I would have to pay canc. fee $ 150,-/each ticket. WHAT!!! Ridiculous!.
    I just hand up. Can’t take this BS. We will wait closer to our departure and see….

  71. United’s policy is extremely unfair and stinks of taking advantage of the taxpayers that might soon bail them out. It seems like United has never really changed their true colors from their passenger-dragging incident.

    United can kiss my lifetime GS butt goodbye. I never thought they could ever get as low as this, even in hard times. I’m using my lifetime AAdvantage Platinum and lifetime Delta Platinum Medallion from now on… even if it means having to add a stop to most of my trips.

  72. I filled in the refund form for UA 3 times and got the same bogus “cookie cutter” denial response that I used miles and they were redepositing them because I didn’t have enough miles. I didn’t use miles, I never asked to use miles, I paid full fare using a credit card.

    I tried calling and waited on hold for 3 hours one time, and 7 (!) hours a second time, and no answer, just ear-worm music. The refund denials also say “Please note there may be a service fee and a fare difference charged when you make the exchange”. So “service fee” in lieu of the supposedly waived “change fee”? What they don’t tell you is that if the cost of your re-booked ticket is less than the original, there is no refund or credit for the difference.

    Unbelievable that they are holding our money hostage during this pandemic.

  73. I am talking to United. My flight was cancelled and I was re-ticketed for 8 hours later. They have ditched the refund after one year policy and now are not offering refunds period. The agent repeated this again and again. I shouted at them and demanded to speak to a supervisor and after a few minutes on hold they offered me a voucher for the full amount valid for one year, for any date of departure but only on United, no code-share. Maybe I could have fought for a cash refund as they have money now but one round of shouting was enough for me.

  74. The people who can afford air tickets in the first place probably aren’t the “living paycheck to paycheck” group that you referred to. Who are you pandering to? The airlines are facing collapse in this crisis and I think they are handling it in a reasonable enough way. You think you have better ways to navigate the situation? Stop being so narrow minded.

  75. I was told by “Miss Karen” from the refund department team that I would receive a refund for the flight that I couldn’t go on because, oh you know, nobody is going anywhere. I’ll need to get an email saying the refund has been denied. I don’t know who this miss Karen is But I will make it my mission to file a lawsuit even if it costs more than the tickets. Luckily for me I record all my conversations.

  76. I was told by “Miss Karen” from the refund department team that I would receive a refund for the flight that I couldn’t go on because, oh you know, nobody is going anywhere. Only to get an email saying the refund has been denied. I don’t know who this miss Karen is But I will make it my mission to file a lawsuit even if it costs more than the tickets. Luckily for me I record all my conversations.

    I was a frequent flyer. I am from here on out a never flyer (with United).

  77. I paid $900+ cash in January for round trip first class from Sacramento to New Orleans for April 15th. United sent me an email just now suggesting if I need to cancel, or change, I can do so. They did not say they were canceling my upcoming flight, but rather inviting me to do so.

    But the two options they offer, if I cancel, seem to not offer the chance to completely change airports. I can foresee a need to fly this fall to Philadelphia – and would like to know that the $900+ I paid would be applied to the new trip.

    I re-read their clauses multiple times – and I can either get a travel voucher in the mail, or a credit held at United – but I need to know that I can book to Philly without service charges and that the full amount of my ticket to New Orleans is usable towards another flight. I cannot get through to United via telephone (shocker!).

    Desperate for clarity here- thanks!

  78. United is by FAR the worst US airline and people should stop wasting their money on supporting them! Enough is enough. They lack complete compassion, customer service and don’t care for anything but their bottom line. If enough people stop supporting this crappy airline, they will end up closing like they should. During these times, I’m totally impressed with American, Southwest and Delta! Their are showing that they at least care for their customers instead of expecting a interest free loan for 12 months. Really sad that United management is this greedy! The airline deserves to shut down and not get any support from the government. I will cancel my united credit card immediately..sad in times like these when Americans need help with monthly bills, untied is only looking out for their best interest…

  79. This airline refuse to give me a refund on a flight I booked then about two weeks later we were put on a travel ban and I called the airline and my sister called the airline. She was told that there was nothing that they could do. When I called I was told that the ticket was not refundable and when I asked to speak to a manager to see what they said and they disconnected me. I have offered to provide the memo that was provided to me stating the travel ban and they said that doesn’t matter.

  80. Dept of Transportation (DOT) states that the customer should be refunded if the airline cancels the flight but it does not say when. United legal team looked at this in detail and recommended a new policy to issue a travel credit that can be converted to a refund after one year. This conserves cash in near term and may be deemed legal. Exceptions are allowed only for customers with Premier Platinum and Premier 1K status, and only if they escalate refund requests to supervisor level. DOT fines could be levied eventually, but these would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in magnitude. That is acceptable risk compared to amount of cash that would be immediately due to customers under the legacy refund policy. The company expects a high chance to restructure in October after bailout constraints are lifted. Chapter 11 restructuring may solve the problem of outstanding travel vouchers. Collateral damage to goodwill is of minimum concern in this immediate crisis for industry survival.

  81. If what AirlineIndustryInsider says is true, that Premier Platinum and above have been able to get a refund, then not everyone is on the same page at United. As a Global Services member, I can say that I’ve been flatly turned down by a supervisor after escalating from the GS customer service number. I suppose, the call center people are doing the best that they can… but, at the same time, it’s very frustrating…

    Might now be a moot point, since I read that the DOT has just advised that airlines are required to offer refunds and not just vouchers for some of these Coronavirus cancellations. Or, maybe I read the CNBC article wrong…

    Either way, never voluntarily flying United again.

  82. United just called me yesterday about my flight to Italy in 1 days. They knew I would never make a connection and saved me the stress of waiting on hold. Good news for me: the first leg of my flight from my small airport didn’t align with their suggested airline changes and I would have missed a flight. The rep said they are going to refund my whole trip back to my credit card and it would happen right away but would take a while to show up on my CC. I verified that my return (booked through United) on Lufthansa on May 6 also would be refunded. He said yes. That’s $2,900 back to us and not waiting a year for the refund. I will need to call Lufthansa and get my seat upgrade refunded and hope that goes well.
    So my advice is WAIT and WATCH your flights. I used Flightaware to help me out. I stressed over this WAY to long. My backup plan was to ask for a refund because my upgraded Premier Plus seats not have been available. Keep an eye on that as well. When I called a month ago they told me I would get a refund if my seat class changed to economy but it would be a year. At that time I just said no thank you and hung up. I also NEVER accepted any changes that showed up on the United page. Good luck to all of you!

  83. I don’t know why so many people are hoping UA goes out of business. How many of our fellow citizens would lose their jobs? Think, people!

  84. I have been offered a credit for a flight I have booked through U.A from Houston to Guadalajara in June, I only have until April 30th to accept. Does anyone know what happens if I dont accept the offer?

  85. I booked very early for a flight in the end of May. I am 75 years old with heart and lung problems. Later on the virus was spreading so I cancelled my flight for May. I received a voucher which is to be used I believe from one year from the date I purchased my tickets. What happens if United goes out of business? What happens if it is STILL NOT SAFE FOR ME TO FLY DUE TO THE VIRUS. WILL I LOOSE MY MONEY? I do not know at this time if this flight will be cancelled or not. But I accepted the voucher without knowledge of the new rules or waiting to find out if this flight is going to be cancelled. This virus puts a whole new twist to traveling which I had no knowledge that it was coming to USA.

  86. I booked very early for a flight in the end of May. I am 75 years old with heart and lung problems. Later on the virus was spreading so I cancelled my flight for May. I received a voucher which is to be used I believe from one year from the date I purchased my tickets. What happens if United goes out of business? What happens if it is STILL NOT SAFE FOR ME TO FLY DUE TO THE VIRUS. WILL I LOOSE MY MONEY? I do not know at this time if this flight will be cancelled or not. But I accepted the voucher without knowledge of the new rules or waiting to find out if this flight is going to be cancelled. This virus puts a whole new twist to traveling which I had no knowledge that it was coming to USA.

  87. Booked a flight March 3rd for May 13 (also with cancellation insurance). Coronavirus hit and filed credit card dispute mid-April. Money was credited back to my card’s balance within a few days. Fast-forward May 7th. United re-billed me for the flight. Currently on hold with credit card company, again.

  88. Lucky

    I have a round trip non stop ticket with united from LHR to IAH i travelled from london in march when we arrived at heathrow we were told we were rebooked on a flight to houston via san francisco which we took

    Now we are told our return flight non stop from houston back to houston in October has been cancelled and we are rebooked to london via chicago as we are are both 75 and do not want the hassle of taking the rebooked flight with airport changes we requested a refund whih united say is not possible as we used the first part of the ticket. Any ideas on this ?

  89. I’ve been trying to get a refund for a cancelled flight to Milan (for my daughters and me) for four months. I’ve tried online, through Expedia, and by disputing the credit card charge (too late). I finally googled, “how to talk to a live person at United”. I got a hold of a customer service rep who submitted my refund request for me. She said I should be receiving it within a couple of weeks! Fingers crossed! I’m writing this in the hope that others will be able to have the same success..

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