United Airlines Reworks Cancellation Definition To Avoid Refunds

Following a passenger complaint regarding a refund, United Airlines has shared details on its cancellation policy. Despite the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) firm stance on the topic, the Chicago-based carrier interprets its ruling differently.

United Airlines Livery
There is another question mark over United’s refund policy. Photo: United Airlines

The official ruling

DOT states that a passenger is entitled to a refund if the airline cancels a flight and the passenger chooses not to travel, regardless of the reason for flight cancelation. The group also reminded airlines about their duties last month. It said that a carrier must offer a refund if it cancels the passenger’s flight or if it makes a significant change in the flight schedule.

Despite not offering a customer a refund for a canceled flight, United says that its schedule change refund policy is compliant with the DOT statement. The airline defines flight amendments by the following, according to View From The Wing:

  • Schedule change: A flight is removed from its schedule, but the customer can be accommodated within six hours.
  • Significant Schedule Change: A flight is removed, and a customer cannot be accommodated with an impact of over six hours.
  • Cancellation: A flight is removed, and it cannot accommodate the customer.
United airlines aircraft parked
Most of the airline’s aircraft remain on the ground amid the suspensions. Photo: Getty Images

The key point

The operator states that a cancellation is not based on flight number or tail number, but on the ability to provide transportation to our customer without significant delay. Therefore, if transport can be sorted within six hours of a passenger’s original departure or arrival time, this is not defined as a cancellation, according to the airline.

Ultimately, this is not the first time that United is facing questions about its cancellation policy during this period. There have been reviews made over the last few months as the business tries to cope with the unprecedented impact of the global health crisis. Additionally, it is under fire from Israeli authorities amid claims that its policy is against the law.

United customer service getty images
United’s customer service team members must be extra busy during this period. Photo: Getty Images

Tough times

The firm remains clear that it is preparing for the worst over the next year. Therefore, it could be trying to find the best balance when it comes to handling these requests. However, with so many eyes currently on airlines and their policies, greater leniency may go a long way.

United is working hard to help in the current climate with special initiatives such as repatriation flights, cargo services, and food distribution programs. Therefore, since flight cancellations can significantly impact an individual, it won’t be a surprise if the firm revises its policy once again.

Simple Flying reached out to United for comment on its refund policy. We will update the article with any further announcements.

What are your thoughts on United’s policy wording? How has your experience of claiming refunds from airlines been during this period? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.