United Airlines adds extra step to get refund for seat fees

May 5, 2020

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Airlines around the world are bleeding cash in light of the near-zero demand for air travel.

So the cash-strapped carriers are attempting to save as much money as possible. One way they’ve gone about this is by circumventing the refund rules outlined by the Department of Transportation.

Though you’re eligible for a refund when an airline cancels your flight, carriers have tried to wiggle their way out of giving your money back. Many will proactively give you a voucher when they cancel your flight to discourage you from requesting a refund.

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Of the U.S. carriers, United is the worst offender here. It has made multiple updates to its schedule-change policy at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic before landing on its current version: If your flight is canceled, you can only get a refund if the re-accommodated flight departs or arrives more than six hours before or after your original flight.

And now, the Chicago-based carrier is back with a change to the process for claiming a refund for seat fees. Previously, if United couldn’t accommodate a Premium Plus, Economy Plus or Preferred seating purchase, you’d be automatically refunded for that ancillary purchase. This made it easy for passengers to be reassured that they’d be getting all the money back that they deserve.

Well, United has made a change to that policy. Though you’re still entitled to a refund for the seat fee, you now need to manually request your money back.

As noted in the carrier’s updated Contract of Carriage, “the Passenger is eligible for a refund of this fee upon request” (emphasis mine). A United spokesperson confirmed to TPG that these changes are effective immediately.

To request your seat fee refund, you’ll need to fill out United’s refund form. You’ll end up getting your money back within seven business days of when UA approves the claim (which anecdotally has been taking weeks).

Related: United updates its schedule policy, again, amid coronavirus pandemic

Though this is certainly annoying, at least the carrier isn’t changing the refund policy like it did with schedule changes. As a reminder, you’ll need to request your seat fee refund within 90 days of the date the seats were purchased or flight date, whichever is later.

All photos by the author. 

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