United Airlines Negatively Alters Refund Policy

In the spirit of saving money, United Airlines has announced that it has altered its Schedule Change policy for customers seeking a refund. As of yesterday- 7th March, United passengers will only be eligible for a refund if their trip has been changed by more than 25 hours. The airline says this change works in the best interest of its customers. However many believe this is the airline making up for coronavirus losses. 

United Airlines 777
United will not allow its passengers to claim a refund unless their flight has been changed by more than 25 hours. Photo: United Airlines

Schedule Change Policy

Yesterday, United Airlines brought a new policy into effect. Many airlines have recently adopted changes, such as waiving fees, which is a helpful gesture for their customer base amid the coronavirus. With that in mind, a policy change from United was bound to hail from the land of customer benefits aplenty. However, this was not the case.

The US-based airline actually decided to change its policy in a way that now seems to punish customers for changes that are out of their control. According to a statement obtained by Bryan Sumers and shared in a tweet below, United’s Schedule Change Policy now states that “an involuntary refund will now be offered if a schedule change results in a change to the departure that is 25 hours or more.” The airline had previously doled out refunds to those passengers whose flight was affected by just two hours.

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United Airlines’ schedule change page now states:

“When a schedule change happens, we try our best to provide you with options that minimize the disruption to your travel plans. In cases where the new flight options don’t work for you and one of the following scenarios applies, we may be able to offer you a refund:

  • The scheduled departure or arrival time changes by twenty-five hours or more.
  • The change causes issues with the overall length of the trip, such as making the connection time too short or significantly longer than it was originally.
  • If we are unable to accommodate you in the same cabin as purchased – refunded either the full price or the difference in fare.”
United taxiing
Your flight could leave on a completely different day and United will leave you out of pocket. Photo: Getty Images

Customers are unhappy with the change

The extent of United Airline’s policy change is huge. This is not just doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the delay needed before a refund can be claimed. United can reschedule flights for a completely different day and there seems to be nothing that passengers can do about it. If that time does not work for a passenger and they choose not to fly, their money is lost.

Understandably, many have responded in frustration to United changes. Various tweets on Twitter suggest that the airline is not considering its passengers enough.

This policy change is, of course, no mistake. United would have known that the policy negatively affects its passengers during a slightly more unstable travel climate. So, why did it decide to update its policy at this time?

United Airlines
Financial gain during the coronavirus outbreak is still important. Photo: United Airlines

Many believe that United Airlines is using the policy change to mitigate the financial damage from the coronavirus. By denying more refunds, the airline can safeguard profits and it’s evident that it might need to. There has been quite a decline in the number of passengers choosing to fly as a result of the coronavirus. The situation has brought on somewhat of a fiscal bleed. Undoubtedly, the updated policy will help in this regard but at what cost?

Will passengers protest United’s new policy by taking their business elsewhere? Perhaps, but the benefit might outweigh the risk.

With customer demand at a slump, there’s not much that airlines can do to stop hemorrhaging money. However, the escalation of the coronavirus has caused airlines to get creative. Some are trying to entice customers back on board with free flights and cheap seats which could in turn help keep their finances up. But what if those win-back tactics still don’t work?

Is United’s approach is different? Yes. However, it’s essentially just trying to do what others in the industry are doing: stay in business. Whether bad or good, United’s solution is a novel workaround to a unique situation. Can it be blamed?

Let us know what you make of United’s policy change in the comments. 

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Tom

This crisis is not new. Before corona virus. There was SARS and MERS. Actually the airlines have nothing learned from this crisis. They do not have any playbook or crisis management for this type of crisis. How long they know about this problems 2-3 Months ? I think they did… Read more »

Cody

We have many other options. This policy will effect my choice of airlines in a major way. Brilliantly bad idea. Time for a new board.

Steve

This is worth boycotting United Airlines! Post you complain on social media!

Joe

Disgusting

JAMES T LIPSCOMB

As a frequent flyer, I’ve given up on flying American Airlines. They’re unpredictable and their service is lousy, not to mention the crowded economy section. I guess now, I’ll also stay away from United.

James Thurber

Let me make sure I understand. If United CANCELS your flight but has another United flight that departs within 25 hours then they do NOT have to refund your money? Correct?

Foxbat 25

No Choice, No Sympathy. Boycott United Airlines. The CEO and entire Board need to be replaced NOW. We passengers want an airline that gets us from A to B on schedule in the class of service we booked. That’s the carriage contract we signed up for. Bad stuff happens, so… Read more »

Sam G

It’s United, of course it was done to s***w customers. Do to them I had Thursday night departure that arrived one am Saturday and missed a day off a conference. Never again on United

Sam G

It’s United, of course it was done to s***w customers. Do to them I had Thursday night departure that arrived one am Saturday and missed a day of a conference. Never again on United

Led

I agree with others, United will fall down to the airlines like spirit, whom I choose only out of desperation when nothing else is available. Bad move Unite . Over the past year, Delta has begun to win me ove . This may seal the dea .

Joseph Muscato

So it appears that if I am delayed 24 hours and this miss an important meeting it’s just tough. Why should I ever book with United again? I imagine that their agents will have little incentive to help out.

Thomas L Sanders

When this virus has subsided and done, Frontier and United will be also. Watch Delta and American NOT follow, and the flying public will take notice.

Reggie

I’m convinced United hates its customers. There really is no other explanation.

Gordan

This is a tactical decision due to reducing frequency form daily to 4-5 times a week.

Hugh J McMenamin

Yes,They can be blamed for such actions.Tgats why I stopped using them over 5 years ago on my yearly flights to and back from Hong Kong to ZHUHAI China. Cathy Pacific let’s you have 2 suitcases free,drinks free and better service and cleaner,among other things.Id never Fly with them again,no… Read more »

Anne Marcum

United sucks. Several infectioud dirseasr doctors have recommended that those over 60 should not fly, particularly if they have other conditions. My husband, age 70 has diabetes. Because we booked our flights on February 20, we are not eligible to postpone our flights on March 30. Thanks for nothing.

Anne Marcum

Boo to United. Several infectioud disease doctors have recommended that those over 60 should not fly at this time. My husband is 70 and has diabetes, which naturally concerns me. However, since we booked our long flights on February 20, we cannot postpone our March 30 flights. That’s just so… Read more »

Bob Williamson

I purchased my tickets for flight on United to Hawaii in May I purchased my tickets in January. At that time they did not have a 24-hour. I don’t plan on canceling my tickets but if I did I would certainly contest it. Maybe I wouldn’t win but it would… Read more »

Satji

I have had gold or platinum at United for the past few years. But their policy was always frustrating. Slightly better than AA. So was tolerating. Now I am done. No more business to UA.

Jim

United has still not agreed to waive change fees for previously scheduled flights to Italy, even though the govt has urged non essential travel to not go. United is putting the health of its customers at risk.

Kym

This airline r***d us on luggage fees. And … We bought economy tickets, which translates to no leg room, 2 tickets seated 3 rows apart, and only one personal item. Yes, or rather no … we were not allowed to use the overhead bins. Apparently economy class equals … deplorables.… Read more »

Lori Lake

Horrible idea. I might could understand several hours, but more than a day? Most people are busy and schedule their flights accordingly. I won’t be using United. So long 300K miles

Barbara Cook

I have requested a change and willing to pay a change fee, but they won’t allow me because I purchased a nonrefundable ticket through a broker. I can’t go on this flight because my elderly mother is terrified of the virus breakout and lives in an elder care facility. They… Read more »

John Bott

How do you say South West

Grace

I called United 2 weeks ago to see if they would postpone my electronic voucher ,which expires in aug. 2020 . Yes its only a voucher, but i would still have to pay more to get to my destination. Theres is 3 of us that have the same voucher. They… Read more »

Patty

Typical subway United. Always looking out for themselves in a time when they could build customer loyalty.

AF Kay

United would not have done this without knowing that passengers (even the top frequent flyers among them) have absolutely NO bargaining power. Witness how they have wantonly debased the MileagePlus program. Unfortunately, I am not sure any of the other majors are any better.

Christian

Why did Continental merge into this? Continental was, in my opinion, the best airline in the US, what a decline in service.

EthanS171

>25 hours or no refund?
Kind of unfair. 2 hours or at maximum maybe 6 hours is reasonable; but 25 hours is extremely long time.
That’s why I purchase travel insurance.

Tiffany

Wow – United – you really know how to s**k in a big big way. Unreal that you would seek profits over people, at a time like this. You just lost me as a client. forever.

Michael Scoles

Another way to sc__w the public, especially when you have this virus, and our government hasn’t the foggiest idea what to do

Tom Reese

This is an anti-customer, unfriendly move by United in a time when they should be very sympathetic and pro-customer. This will make me question any purchase on United in the future. If they can’t be dependable/flexible when the going gets rough….customers need to get going to another airline. I understand… Read more »

Deborah Dulepski

I have a United flight booked for March 17th which I booked in December. I bought the AIG Travel Insurance for it. I have been trying for days to get a refund and neither United nor AIG will refund any portion of the flight. United referred me to Expedia. Expedia… Read more »

Max house

I stopped flying United after they stopped allowing a carry on bag for their basic fair.

Deborah Seigler

My last flight with United is booked for the end of April. Everything is geared to hurt consumer. Our president is thinking tax incentives to help airlines through this difficult time. Guess what, that is our money too! Who protects the consumer? No one.

Marilyn King

My husband and I have United tickets to fly from Sea to SFO, then Tahiti on March 25th.. We booked last summer. We are in our 80′ and my husband has a serious pulmonary disease, we have been advised by his Dr not to go. If Unitedcontinues this practice we… Read more »

Raymond Hernandez

I live in N Italy and the government suddenly implemented new quarantine measures. My town isn’t in the red zone but for me to get to the Venice airport I need to drive through 3 red zones. With no specific information about being able to drive through the zones and… Read more »

Etan Nasreddin-Longo

This is an airline that has repeatedly demonstrated that they dont care about their customers. Stop using them! Boycott!

Sue

Maybe 2 hours was not enough time, unless an energency like a medical prob or car wreck. But going to 25 hrs is too extreme. If you’re flying to an event, you could miss it. Depending on time of day you might have to fly a day or two before.… Read more »

Daniel Hostetler

Clearly the message UAL is sending is “PLEASE fly with some other airline, we dont like you and dont want your business.” Message received and I’m happy to accommodate UAL. A person would have to be nuts to fly with UAL when you see this change added to the abusive… Read more »

Mark C. Potter

We’re older people in our late 60s and flown United all my life and the last 5 years United had left myself partially blind and my wife deaf stranded at the Denver international sleeping on benches overnight because of there goofed up scheduling, and the would have done it to… Read more »

Robert

I have other travel options and will not fly United. They lost my business. My wife was concerned about flying into Seattle on Alaska and they gave her money back for a future flight. I will fly Alaska in the future. Go Alaska

Helen Shearer

I wouldn’t fly united before the change and I wont fly it now or ever..
United is one of the worst airlines… And alienating customers is their motto…

Edgar

What is frustrating is that passengers who live in the US Territories in the South Pacific are forced to abide by United’s policies because we have no choice. Under the Cabotage Law, US citizens are forced to fly on US based airlines if traveling between US destinations,a law that IMO… Read more »

John A Mercer jr

United made me wait 5 hours bc of an early arrival and refuse me to get on a similar regular flight to same city that then ask for volunteers to give up their seat even get paid to get off. Just anti customer service.

David Johnson

Will the cruise ship wait the 25 hours for a customer to get to marina or if you have to catch a connecting flight on another airlines good luck

Max Max

This situation with United just confirms everybody should avoid to have any business with this greedy and unwise company. Without any doubts the United confirms it’s status of worst company ever. Beware!

AJ Rossman

I wonder how much bankruptcy hurts customers

Gordon Manke

I this this airline is showing the people that they have no human morality.All people should have a right to cancel their flight with 100% refund. Boycott this company and force them to bankruptcy!

W. Suhr

This concerns me very much since we have a flight to a cruise on May 7th 2020. This could cost us a lot of money.