United improves the rebooking experience during delays, cancellations

Nov 4, 2020

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In January, I flew on Air Canada’s Airbus A220 inaugural flight from Montreal to Calgary and back.

On the way back home, we were delayed due to deicing, and I missed my connecting flight. When I deplaned in Montreal, an agent was waiting for me with a hotel confirmation, a meal voucher and a new boarding pass for the following day. A pretty seamless experience for a misconnection, or so I thought.

Well, United is upping the ante for handling irregular operations.

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Effective immediately, United Airlines has rolled out a digital — and touchless — solution to handle re-accommodations during extended delays and cancellations.

Dubbed Hotel Hub, this technology will automatically reach out to eligible customers when a controllable delay or cancellation triggers a forced overnight stay lasting six hours or longer.

The notification will be sent via text message and/or email, depending on the contact preferences you selected during booking. After clicking the link, you’ll be able to browse, select and book a hotel room at United’s expense. (UA partners with Travelliance for real-time hotel inventory that varies based on the airport.)

Additionally, you’ll have the option of obtaining digital meal vouchers during the hotel booking process. The amount and value will differ based on the severity of the delay. If your flight is delayed — but doesn’t require an overnight stay — you’ll still need to visit an agent to receive a paper meal voucher.

This touchless innovation will allow affected customers to completely avoid queuing for an agent — saving both the customer and agent time. Plus, the new United mobile app makes self-service flight rebooking simpler than ever, another reason to avoid approaching the counter.

Do note that if you’re looking to get rebooked on another carrier, like American or Delta, you’ll still need to physically speak to an agent, and possibly a supervisor, too. (Rebooking across carriers is possible due to an interline agreement between United and its two largest competitors.)

For now, Hotel Hub is available at all seven United hubs, including Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD). Following this pilot phase, UA plans to expand the program to 46 more airports beginning in January 2021, with the full list at the bottom of this post.

American Airlines debuted a similar program back in 2018. AA’s Hotel, Meal and Transportation system (HMT) replaced paper vouchers, allowing customer service agents to distribute vouchers via passenger email address. AA customers can search hotel databases to find real-time availability during overnight delays.

As a Premier 1K, I’m particularly excited about United’s new offering. In addition to the time savings, selecting my preferred hotel is a welcome improvement. Previously, I’ve relied on customer service agents to suggest nearby offerings. Now, I’ll be searching for the best — and most convenient — airport hotel offered.

The full list of airports that will offer Hotel Hub in 2021 is: ATL, AUS, BDL, BIL, BNA, BOS, BWI, CMH, CLE, CLT, CVG, DCA, DFW, DTW, FLL, HNL, IND, ITO, KOA, LAS, LGA, LIH, MCI, MCO, MIA, MSP, MSY, OGG, OMA, PDX, PHL, PHX, PIT, RDU, RNO, RSW, SAN, SAT, SEA, SJC, SLC, SMF, SNA, STL, TPA and TUL.

See below for screenshots of the Hotel Hub in action

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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