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SRQ: Will My United Miles Be Redeposited After A Canceled Flight?

by on February 24, 2013 · 4 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions, United

TPG reader Mary had a travel setback during Snowstorm Nemo that almost kept her from getting to Cancun for vacation. Luckily she was still able to get there, but she wants her unused United miles back. Here’s her situation:

“We were booked on a United flight from Newark to Cancun on Saturday, February 9, but were notified by email only that our flight had been canceled on Thursday, February 7 so we rebooked ourselves on American out of Dallas on February 8 at a cost of $1,900 (we were desperate to get to Mexico!). United then emailed me on February 8 in the evening saying that we had been moved to the next available flight on February 9, which we obviously never used. How do we get back the Ultimate Rewards points we used to book our flights initially?”

Nemo derailed a lot of travel plans earlier this month but the major airlines affected offered pretty fair change and cancellation policies that either offered free rebooking as soon as possible after the storm had passed, or waived change and cancellation fees for flights into and out of affected airports that had been booked before February 6 for flights departing on February 7-8 and revised travel commenced by February 12 in most cases.

In terms of United, your original travel fell within that specific airline’s window of February 7-9, and Newark was one of the affected airports. The change and cancellation waivers issued were formulated for paid airfares, but award changes should have been included in the policies and you should have had no issue getting your United miles redeposited.

The one stumbling block I could foresee is this phrase in United’s policy: “We may, at our sole discretion issue an exception policy designed to accommodate customers with restricted tickets who wish to change their travel in advance of any potential disruption.”

From your version of events, it sounds like you might not have bothered contacting United about your changed plans and asking for them just to redeposit your miles and that the airline automatically rebooked you on another flight. If you didn’t tell United you weren’t taking the flight, they might give you a hard time, but if you in fact did not take the rebooked flight since it sounds like you had gotten to Cancun on American via Dallas, then you should be able to get them back in your account.

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I would try calling United MileagePlus and asking (very nicely) for them to do so since your plans were altered due to Nemo and the airline was waiving change and cancellation fees at the time and you never ended up using your ticket. If they still give you a problem and you’re willing to pay the redeposit fee of $0-$150 depending on your elite status, then see if they will do that for you since you are definitely entitled to a redeposit of miles for flights you never flew.

When it comes to getting those miles back as Ultimate Rewards points, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Once you transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to a partner including United as well as British Airways, Southwest, Korean Air, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Priority Club and Amtrak, those points cannot be converted back into Ultimate Rewards, so you’re stuck with United miles in this case. That said, I think United miles hold the most value of any airline miles and you can redeem them on any of the 27 Star Alliance carriers, so there are worse places to get a refund than your MileagePlus account.

Did any other readers have their award flights canceled because of Snowstorm Nemo? What was your situation and how did you resolve it?

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  • Richard

    Better to call United and have United book the passengers on the American flight. Arrive at the airport and call United while standing in the line to coordinate with the United customer service. Credit is due to United for the notification of the cancelled flight as such notifications are often via the departures boards at the airports. The United airport staff have proved to be the more proactive options vs the United customer service staff.

  • J. G.

    didn’t the person say “Ultimate Rewards”? That wouldn’t be United programme, it would be through Chase wouldn’t it?

  • http://themilesprofessor.com/ The Miles Professor

    J.G., Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United. But you’re right, it isn’t clear in the question whether they actually booked the trip using Ultimate Rewards points or United miles. By how Brian answered it, it seems they transferred the points to United first.

    I personally have never had any issues getting back my miles in the form I used them for tickets for any schedule changes. In fact, I have never even had to call twice, which I often do when I don’t get the answer I want.

  • Phone201

    Hi and thanks Mr. Points Guy for posting my question…As of this morning, United issued a refund for the EWR-CUN portion. They stated they would credit back to original form of payment. In this case, I used UR to book; after speaking with UR rep, the “account being credited” from United is actually the UR account. I should be seeing the points deposited within the next 2 weeks. In reponse to Richard’s comment below, as soon as I received the email from United stating my 2/9 flight was xld, I called their 800#. There was already a 2 hour hold time…I drove to Newark Airport, and was told by United agent they would not be able to get me out until Monday, 2/11; I asked that they re-book me on another carrier, and they looked at me like I was crazy. Luckily my husband was able to book us on AA EWR-DFW-CUN for Friday 2/8 through American Express Travel; unfortunately, this flight cost us $1900…we had to cancel the AA return, and will have to use those tix within 1 year…perhaps another trip to Riviera Maya, hopefully without snow! :)

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