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United Changes Its Refund Policy Again, And It’s Very Vague

United Changes Its Refund Policy Again, And It’s Very Vague
Taylor Rains

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced the restriction of travel from 26 European countries to the United States (excluding the UK, Ireland, and non-Schengen countries and only applying to foreign nationals). This sent the airline industry into a frenzy, and carriers appear to be scrambling to manage the new travel ban. United Airlines, in particular, cannot seem to get its refund policy in order and has just changed it for a second time, causing even more stress to customers.

Have questions about United’s new refund policy? Head to the FlyerTalk on the topic and join the conversation.

New-New Refund Policy

Earlier this week, United Airlines changed its refund policy to only offer refunds to passengers whose flights “had scheduled departure or arrival time changes by twenty-five hours or more.” This was an increase from its original two-hour policy, and customers were not happy. One stated, “I’ll never use @united again. Literally they get to keep $487 of my cash because my conference was canceled. The worst customer service of any us carrier. Guess Delta is the only one left to utilize for carrier services.”

Obviously, the change did not go over well, but that did not stop United from changing the policy again, and this time it is very vague. The new-new policy on United’s website states:

When a schedule change happens, we try our best to provide you with options that minimize the disruption to your travel plans. In cases where the new flight options don’t work for you and one of the following scenarios applies, we may be able to offer you a refund:

  • The scheduled departure or arrival time significantly changes.

What Does This Mean for Customers?

Based on United’s new policy, it appears everything will be case-by-case, so depending on your situation, the airline can grant or deny you a refund regardless of the time of the schedule change. As the coronavirus worsens and countries close borders, it is apparent United is trying to set itself up for the least possible loss. According to Skift, the airline explained they are ensuring “our frontline is not unfairly harmed in this unique situation.”

What do you think about the policy update? Let us know in the comments!

View Comments (6)


  1. TurboTing

    March 12, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    With customer-punishing attitude like this, UAL will bound to the first major US airlines to collapse from this current storm. Mark my words! Kirby may think he is a very smart bean counter, but customers will surely vote with their wallet and feet without a doubt.

  2. CaliforniaSteve

    March 12, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Gotta agree. We canceled a set of award flights that used AA points that would have taken us SFO-BKK-HND-SFO. The BKK-HND had a connection in SIN that was on Cathay. Cathay cancelled that flight. There was a JAL flight available at a different time (about ten hours later if I recall), but the CSR at AA, knowing we wanted to cancel the whole trip (as it had been noted on a previous call ticket) used the cancelled CX flight to leverage it with her supervisor to cancel the entire itinerary with no penalty and no point redeposit fee. My brother-in-law cancelled a similar itinerary, half with points on AS and half with points on AA. The AS CSR canceled it with no issue at all. The AA CSR used a three hour change in departure time as the reason to cancel the HND-SFO award reservation and return the points with no fees or charges.

    Another brother-in-law booked using MP miles using a combination of EVA to get to Tokyo and ANA to return to SFO. They steadfastly refuse to cancel the flight without charging a pretty heft redeposit fee. This is despite the new Level 3 Global Travel Warning from the CDC advising older folks (we’re all over 50) from any unnecessary travel.

    I agree with TurboTing that UAL is going to be the first major to fall.

  3. gotinfluence

    March 13, 2020 at 7:01 am

    As you might expect, who you speak with might be a factor.

    I had a $600 flight canceled with credit issued. It took 4 minutes.

    Another UA MP flight changed (college student) where the re-booking was less miles and money, so refunded the difference. Only about 3 minutes to fix.

    I was on hold for over 2 hours, but the help was kind and quick and acknowledged that this is frustrating.

    Grass is greener syndrome. I’ll stick with UA and not dream that they’re the worst player of the majors.

  4. mimica

    March 13, 2020 at 8:47 am

    I will definitely try to avoid using United in the future!
    Worthless customer service and ridicules rules!
    Our cruise was cancelled and United refused to redeposit the miles we used for a flight to get us to Florida unless we pay a hefty fee of $125 per person.
    They deserve to fall!

  5. CEB

    March 13, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    I must agree with gotinfluence. To get refused by UAL one must be belligerent and demanding. They do have rules and try to live by them, just as all the airlines do. However, in difficult times such as these the rules get bent beyond breaking in most cases. But you need to approach with reasonable expectations and courtesy, always remembering that the people you are talking with are that “people,” who deserve your respect and not your vitriol.

  6. t5campbell

    March 13, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    I hope that the Federal Government does not bail out the airline industry this time around. After 9/11 we were given the reward of being charged for our luggage.

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