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United to notify passengers of crowded flights, offer free changes

May 12, 2020
3 min read
United to notify passengers of crowded flights, offer free changes
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Monday afternoon, I detailed United's confusing policy of "blocking middle seats". Essentially, middle seats are not available for passengers to pre-select, but, since the airline isn't capping ticket sales, they may be assigned at the gate on relatively full flights, if necessary.

Now, United has announced a new policy that'll empower phone representatives, gate agents and customers to avoid a potentially uncomfortable scenario in which passengers board a plane to find an entirely full flight.

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As United explains:

Travel demand has declined dramatically over the last few months and even though we have reduced our schedule by 90%, the vast majority of our flights (85 percent) are less than half full. However, because our schedule is so reduced, there are a small number of flights where our customers are finding planes fuller than they expect. In an effort to be as transparent as possible with our customers and give them more control over their travel plans, starting next week and continuing through June 30, we’ll allow customers on flights that are expected to be closer to full capacity to choose to rebook on a different flight or receive a travel credit.

More: These are the only long-haul routes American, Delta and United plan to fly in May

Ultimately, it shouldn't cost the airline much to move passengers to new flights, aside from a few minutes of work for a phone or gate agent. Passengers will get the option of selecting a flight where they'll be a bit more comfortable.

As for how the new program will work, United says:

To make it easier for our customers to plan, we’ll do our best to contact them about 24 hours before their departure time so they can decide whether to adjust their plans before they arrive at the airport – and we’ll provide this option at the gate, if more than 70% of customers have checked in.

With more than 70% of customers checked in, gate agents would have no choice but to begin assigning middle seats — hopefully this added flexibility will enable them to avoid putting passengers in an uncomfortable position, while limiting the financial impact for the airline.

More: United Airlines CEO warns of a smaller carrier post-coronavirus

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Featured image by United plans to serve Haneda with a mix of wide-body aircraft, including the 787-10. Photo by Zach Honig.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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  • Annual Fee

    $550
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more