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

Feb 24, 2013

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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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