question about United Airlines refund policy

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Apr 29, 2020
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Without notification, United Airlines cancelled our nonstop international flights for August 2020 and booked us on inconvenient connecting flights with an unrealistically short layover outbound. They refuse to give us a refund because the new departure time is within six hours of our original departure time (it's now 5.25 hours earlier). UA was quoted in our newspaper 10 days ago as saying that eligible travelers on both domestic and international flights can request a refund "if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19." A UA rep told us their central office guidelines define "severely adjusted" to mean one thing only: a change in a traveler's original departure time of more than 6 hours.

Since cancellation of our original flights was not at our request, is United obligated to provide us a refund under DOT rules?
 

weihlac

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Jun 30, 2017
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Without notification, United Airlines cancelled our nonstop international flights for August 2020 and booked us on inconvenient connecting flights with an unrealistically short layover outbound. They refuse to give us a refund because the new departure time is within six hours of our original departure time (it's now 5.25 hours earlier). UA was quoted in our newspaper 10 days ago as saying that eligible travelers on both domestic and international flights can request a refund "if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19." A UA rep told us their central office guidelines define "severely adjusted" to mean one thing only: a change in a traveler's original departure time of more than 6 hours.

Since cancellation of our original flights was not at our request, is United obligated to provide us a refund under DOT rules?
What were your original booking details and what new booking have you been given?
 

Patina

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Dec 22, 2015
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What is the difference in arrival time from the original itinerary versus the new itinerary? If it is more than 6 hours I would use that as the reason a refund should be granted.
 
Apr 29, 2020
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Original booking details: UA 146 nonstop departing Washington Dulles (IAD) 10:25pm August 13, arriving Edinburgh (EDI) 10:40am August 14
return: UA 147 nonstop departing EDI 12:30pm Sept 2, arriving IAD 3:30pm Sept 2

Changed booking: UA 1156 departing IAD 5:15pm August 13, arriving Newark (EWR) 7:03pm
UA 36 departing EWR 8:15pm, arriving EDi 8:05am August 14
return: UA 37 one-stop via EWR, departing EDI 9:40am Sept 2, arriving IAD 4:14pm Sept 2

Patina--the arrival time difference is less than 6 hours, as shown above.

Skippy--the original flights were booked November 7, 2019.
 

Mel65

Mar 23, 2015
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I would be very concerned by that one hour layover in Newark. I had a flight changed to a 1 hour layover instead of the longer 2+ I prefer (I know you had a nonstop) and contacted United, stating that with my mobility issues, I was worried about having a one hour layover if there were even a slight delay at departure. They refunded me. So, maybe ask again?
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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Oh, this is really an inconvenience, Erik, you're definitely in a tough spot. We have n/s flights in September and I was just thinking about this. First things first: do you want to cancel your trip? If not, as soon as things start to wiggle around after this enforced isolation, United will be working on flight changes around the clock. All scheduled flights will be questionable until you actually are checked in and ready to board. Frequent travellers will be holding their breath until the plane actually takes off. I suspect international flights in August to be severely curtailed. Airlines will be massaging their schedules and number of flights on a daily basis, depending on demand. I'm afraid most international flights will connect on either coast for quite some time.

So, as Mel says, you want to discuss your connection time with United. While it may be a "legal connection", you may have issues that would preclude you "trotting" through the airport, never mind your luggage. You should request that United change the time of your departure to Scotland. I'm very familiar with EWR and have trotted from gate to gate often ... it's an easy airport to navigate, but it may be confusing for a first-timer. Most flights (used to) land early, so the connection time does not become an issue. But just one little glitch would see your window of time disappear. I would deal with this by phone, and as always, if you are connected to an agent who seems less than helpful, politely excuse yourself and call back in ten minutes. You want an agent who wants to work with you, not argue the rules. Please come back to us if we need to form "Plan C".
 
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Apr 1, 2018
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I'm in a similar situation with a ridiculously short layover. My United flight was changed from a direct flight from SFO to FRA to SFO-IAD, IAD-FRA with a 2 hour layover in IAD. But then that changed and now my flight schedule is as follows:

SFO-IAD, Depart 8:35am arrive IAD 4:50pm
IAD-FRA Depart 5:35pm arrive FRA 7:20am

That leaves me with 45 minutes to catch the flight in IAD. I have few choices so I've decided to give this a try. I checked flight status for Thursday's flight from SFO to IAD and it arrived 33 minutes early, so there is that possibility. Also, given that it is a Saturday flight departing in the morning, I'm hoping that there are no delays. Finally, last year United's policy (Connection Saver) was to hold jets for connecting passengers. I don't know if they still do that, but I'm hoping they do. On the SFO-IAD leg I am in first class so I should be among the first to exit the plane.

Good luck!
 
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Jun 24, 2019
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The issue is not so much outbound as the return, At your first stop in the US you will need to clear customs. If you have Global Entry, it may work. (I’ve deplaned at LAX and on the curb awaiting y ride in 25 minutes). If you do not have GE, it may take hours. Outbound the critical question is whether you need to change terminals And whether your bags are checked through or you need to claim them.
 

weihlac

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Jun 30, 2017
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Original booking details: UA 146 nonstop departing Washington Dulles (IAD) 10:25pm August 13, arriving Edinburgh (EDI) 10:40am August 14
return: UA 147 nonstop departing EDI 12:30pm Sept 2, arriving IAD 3:30pm Sept 2

Changed booking: UA 1156 departing IAD 5:15pm August 13, arriving Newark (EWR) 7:03pm
UA 36 departing EWR 8:15pm, arriving EDi 8:05am August 14
return: UA 37 one-stop via EWR, departing EDI 9:40am Sept 2, arriving IAD 4:14pm Sept 2

Patina--the arrival time difference is less than 6 hours, as shown above.

Skippy--the original flights were booked November 7, 2019.
If you wish to fly this schedule, you should ask UA to change your Aug 13 IAD departure to the 12:33 time slot. Then you can have a leisurely time in EWR and get a good dinner. We did this in Feb with a DEN-EWR-ZUR flight, leaving DEN at 7 AM instead of 11 AM. It worked well with a comfortable layover in EWR.

Otherwise, if you do not wish to fly, you can work on the issue of refund vs voucher (good for 24 months) with customer service.
 
Aug 29, 2018
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The issue is not so much outbound as the return, At your first stop in the US you will need to clear customs. If you have Global Entry, it may work. (I’ve deplaned at LAX and on the curb awaiting y ride in 25 minutes). If you do not have GE, it may take hours. Outbound the critical question is whether you need to change terminals And whether your bags are checked through or you need to claim them.
This is purely personal experience, but Port Authority airports tend to be slow in producing luggage -- I would not want an inbound international connection of less than three hours to give me time to get through US immigration, collect luggage, re-check it, and get through another TSA check before getting to a gate. Worse if you need to get from terminal to terminal.
 
May 30, 2019
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@Erik I went online to google flights & united.com to see what the listed connection time is in EWR, and I can't find the flight the you mention for 9/2. It could be that UA 37 may have been recently cancelled. Similar story for UA 36 -- not listed for 8/14. There currently do not appear to be any non-stops between EWR & EDI for mid-August or early September.

If this is the case, UA may have cancelled your rebooked flight without notification. I suggest you check your account to see what the story is.
 
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Apr 29, 2020
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Thank you all for your responses. I checked our reservations, Skippy, and did see that UA says our flights 36 and 37 from EWR to EDI and return have been cancelled or cannot be confirmed. (We received no email notice of this.) Since the flight schedules are constantly in flux, we are going to sit tight for a while and see what develops on both the UA front and the general issue of travel safety in August. Another factor is that, per news reports, the UK government may soon announce a policy that all arriving foreigners (and UK citizens) have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Yikes.

Regarding the ability to make connection times in EWR, we applied for Global Entry in February but have not received word on the scheduling of our interviews--probably due to ripple effects of the pandemic.
 
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weihlac

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Jun 30, 2017
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Thank you all for your responses. I checked our reservations, Skippy, and did see that UA says our flights 36 and 37 from EWR to EDI and return have been cancelled or cannot be confirmed. (We received no email notice of this.) Since the flight schedules are constantly in flux, we are going to sit tight for a while and see what develops on both the UA front and the general issue of travel safety in August. Another factor is that, per news reports, the UK government may soon announce a policy that all arriving foreigners (and UK citizens) have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Yikes.

Regarding the ability to make connection times in EWR, we applied for Global Entry in February but have not received word on the scheduling of our interviews--probably due to ripple effects of the pandemic.
Pre-Covid, GE appointments were being scheduled 3-6 months out depending on your location. Once the system is up and rerunning again, which will likely take many more months, you will find that there will be a long backlog. I would not plan on getting GE approval for a long time.
 
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Mar 9, 2019
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After reading the DOT Enforcement Notice published on April 3, I don’t believe they can just book you on another flight and refuse to give a refund, whether they get you there within six hours of the original flight or not. Read footnotes 1 and 2 especially. https://www.transportation.gov/brie...orcement-notice-clarifying-air-carrier-refund
I was in a very similar situation with United. When I quoted the language from the DOT enforcement notice on United’s Facebook page, I got an immediate response and a written promise of a refund in Messenger.
 
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May 30, 2019
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Also, depending on the booking date, wouldn't the OP have been under the Contract of Carriage before UA changed the policy from 60 minutes to 6 hours to be a (B.S.) not meaningful change?
 

Dwayne Coward

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Also, depending on the booking date, wouldn't the OP have been under the Contract of Carriage before UA changed the policy from 60 minutes to 6 hours to be a (B.S.) not meaningful change?
That specific time period isn't part of the Contract of Carriage, just a policy that allowing agents to process refunds under those conditions.

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Apr 29, 2020
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Thank you for your replies; this thread continues to be very useful to me. I haven't seen the UK's announcement of the next phase of Covid-19 restrictions yet (scheduled for today) but that could be another game changer for passengers of incoming flights in the coming months.