United updates its schedule change policy for the fourth time in light of coronavirus outbreak
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
United’s made a whopping four customer-unfriendly updates to its schedule change policy in just one week.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, all major U.S. airlines have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights. In a likely effort to conserve cash and limit how many refunds it distributed, United decided to change the refund guidelines for schedule changes.
Before the update, if your flight time was changed by two or more hours, you’d be entitled to a full refund. On Saturday, March 7, a new policy went into effect that stated your flight departure or arrival time would need to change by 25 or more hours in order to qualify for a refund. You could, however, receive a United travel credit to apply to a new itinerary with the airline. But the change for a refund rankled many customers.
Unsurprisingly, United received lots of pushback with regards to this updated policy. Customers who had ticketed flights for certain dates and times were basically told to deal with the changes (or receive a travel credit), unless they were severe enough to cause a 25-hour disruption. And worse, these updates were applied retroactively to all passengers — regardless of when they ticketed their flights.
The travel community was up in arms about this change, and United quickly amended the updated policy with language stating that only a “significant” change would qualify for a refund.
On Thursday, March 12, United responded to the backlash and (somewhat) rolled back the changes with a third iteration to the schedule change policy. This time, you’d receive a full refund for flights changed by more than six hours. If your flight didn’t qualify for a refund, you could call the contact center to “find a resolution in case of special circumstances.”
And on Saturday, March 14, United changed the policy for the fourth time — and made it much harder to get a refund. Now, the latest policy is that if your international travel is changed by six or more hours, you’ll receive a travel credit to use within a year of your original ticket purchase date. If you want a refund, you need to wait until that full year elapses, and only then can you request a refund.
The updated schedule change policy joins United’s relaxed change fee waiver for all flights through April 30. This applies to all tickets regardless of when they were purchased or the origin or destination.
Now, United’s schedule change policy is by far the strictest of all the major U.S. airlines. American’s parameters permits a full refund in case a flight is changed by 61 minutes or more. Delta is just a bit more restrictive, with a 90-minute threshold. But neither gets close to United’s new six-hour rule (and one-year waiting period for a refund).
Though UA states that this new policy is about “helping customers,” it’s clear that real intention is to conserve cash. My fingers are crossed that it rolls back once the coronavirus outbreak ends (soon).
All photos by the author.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees