United Game of Chicken

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Mar 9, 2019
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Hello,

My mom and I have nonstop flight SFO to London on UA for June 3, booked in January directly through UA. We were flying for a tour in Great Britain, which was cancelled and we have rebooked it for June 2021. Our flight has not been officially canceled. However, when I try to pull it up on the United app, it no longer shows up automatically under "my trips" unless I search it using the confirmation number. It showed up automatically in the app as recently as yesterday. When I searched London flights for that date on the UA website, my flight number did not appear. Several other flights showed up, but none were nonstop.

At the top of the page which shows the booking for this flight, a notice comes up stating that a travel waiver is in effect for my reservation. The terms are that I will get a travel certificate good for 24 months IF I cancel or change my flight by April 30. It's unclear what happens if I try to cancel after that date; the implication is that I would have to abide by the original terms of a nonrefundable ticket.

I have a feeling that our flight won't be officially canceled before April 30. It might not get canceled at all. I think the likeliest scenario is that our original nonstop flight won't be flying and UA would rebook us on an alternate flight, which would have at least one stop.

I have read the DOT regulations around cancellations and delays, and there are some things I can't figure out.
  1. If UA cancels our original flight and rebooks us on an alternative flight the same day, does it count as a cancelled flight, and are they still required to give us a refund?
  2. How many hours constitutes a "significant delay"?, according to DOT?
We'd rather have the refund and have the freedom to book on any airline next year. I'm also concerned that the travel certificate might be difficult to actually use when the time comes, if my experiences trying to book flights with miles are any indication. However, the travel certificate could work for us since we are planning to take the same trip within the 24 month window. Should we take the certificate or hope they cancel the flight and push for a refund? Thank you for any advice you can give me!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,067
23,018
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
It’s too early to cancel. Our May flights on Delta were just canceled.

If they change your flight, you may not be required to accept the change. If they change you, say, from a direct to a connecting, you usually don’t have to accept it. But a substantial change I believe is 25 hours so if you cancel a change you wouldn’t be able to obtain a refund. You are only due a refund if the airline cancels your flight

If you choose to cancel before April 30, whatever cancellation penalty is in effect that day is what you will he charged and you won’t be entitled to a refund.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
2,850
3,656
113
Maui Hawaii
Hello,

My mom and I have nonstop flight SFO to London on UA for June 3, booked in January directly through UA. We were flying for a tour in Great Britain, which was cancelled and we have rebooked it for June 2021. Our flight has not been officially canceled. However, when I try to pull it up on the United app, it no longer shows up automatically under "my trips" unless I search it using the confirmation number. It showed up automatically in the app as recently as yesterday. When I searched London flights for that date on the UA website, my flight number did not appear. Several other flights showed up, but none were nonstop.

At the top of the page which shows the booking for this flight, a notice comes up stating that a travel waiver is in effect for my reservation. The terms are that I will get a travel certificate good for 24 months IF I cancel or change my flight by April 30. It's unclear what happens if I try to cancel after that date; the implication is that I would have to abide by the original terms of a nonrefundable ticket.

I have a feeling that our flight won't be officially canceled before April 30. It might not get canceled at all. I think the likeliest scenario is that our original nonstop flight won't be flying and UA would rebook us on an alternate flight, which would have at least one stop.

I have read the DOT regulations around cancellations and delays, and there are some things I can't figure out.
  1. If UA cancels our original flight and rebooks us on an alternative flight the same day, does it count as a cancelled flight, and are they still required to give us a refund?
  2. How many hours constitutes a "significant delay"?, according to DOT?
We'd rather have the refund and have the freedom to book on any airline next year. I'm also concerned that the travel certificate might be difficult to actually use when the time comes, if my experiences trying to book flights with miles are any indication. However, the travel certificate could work for us since we are planning to take the same trip within the 24 month window. Should we take the certificate or hope they cancel the flight and push for a refund? Thank you for any advice you can give me!
Travel certificates are essentially cash and can be used for any flight that is offered, unlike mileage award flights. I have canceled flights on United in June and plan to use the certificates long before they expire in 24 months (if we are ever flying again).

I would cancel your flights before April 30 and take the certificates and use them for your planned travel in June 2021. United has not yet indicated what their policy will be after April 30. You can wait until April 29 and see what is offered for subsequent cancellations.
 
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Mar 9, 2019
22
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3
57
It’s too early to cancel. Our May flights on Delta were just canceled.

If you choose to cancel before April 30, whatever cancellation penalty is in effect that day is what you will he charged and you won’t be entitled to a refund, only a credit.

We are advising all our clients to wait the airline out.
Thank you for your help. If they put us on a different flight though, does that still count as a cancellation? I know there’s a daily UA flight right now from SFO to London that connects in Newark.
 
Mar 9, 2019
22
23
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Travel certificates are essentially cash and can be used for any flight that is offered, unlike mileage award flights. I have canceled flights on United in June and plan to use the certificates long before they expire in 24 months (if we are ever flying again).

I would cancel your flights before April 30 and take the certificates and use them for your planned travel in June 2021. United has not yet indicated what their policy will be after April 30. You can wait until April 29 and see what is offered for subsequent cancellations.
Thank you! I sure hope we’re flying again. I just retired and I’m not ready for my wings to be clipped yet.
 
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weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
2,850
3,656
113
Maui Hawaii
Thank you for your help. If they put us on a different flight though, does that still count as a cancellation? I know there’s a daily UA flight right now from SFO to London that connects in Newark.
If they change your booking/times/routing significantly you can decline the change and get a refund. However, I think that a certificate will serve your needs since you plan to travel in the future. New United certificates are good for 24 months from the date of issue and can be used for travel up to 35 months from issue. This is a big change from their historical standard practices of the past. How long they will maintain this new policy is unknown, and I doubt they will tell us until they announce their new policy.
 
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jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,758
10,556
113
San Francisco
I'm not a fan of "bothering" anybody unless necessary, but I think that before April 30 you should call United. Things are changing so fast and so often that I don't think anyone can keep up. Since nothing "airline" is ever easy, I would get a good book, take a deep breath and call to rebook your existing tix to the new tour. This may be a situation where an online chat would work even more efficiently.
 
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Mar 9, 2019
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Update- I have a promise of a refund in writing. The day after I posted this, my UA app showed a schedule change for my flight. It wasn’t really a schedule change, it was a whole new flight. I read the DOT memorandum and it was clear to me that I didn’t have to accept the new flight, although all of the information on the UA website would have you believe otherwise. I called them and the agent promised the refund in 7 days and a confirmation email within 24 hours. 25 hours later, no email, so I called again, and the second agent said I wouldn’t be hearing from them for at least 30 days, as my case was being sent for review. I was willing to wait a reasonable time for the refund but not for confirmation that I was going to receive one, so I described the situation on their Facebook page. They contacted me immediately, we chatted on Messenger, and within the hour I had written confirmation that my refund is approved and being processed, and should be back on my credit card within 21 days. Then I had to do some self-education to figure out how to back up the Messenger transcript. Just in case they try to jerk me around again!
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,758
10,556
113
San Francisco
Three cheers, Trvlngrl. You REALLY made this work, I'm just delighted that we were able to do a bit, but you sure took care of business ... well done! It is amazing what one can accomplish when one has some knowledge and communication skills .... and LOTS of patience.
 
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Mar 9, 2019
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Three cheers, Trvlngrl. You REALLY made this work, I'm just delighted that we were able to do a bit, but you sure took care of business ... well done! It is amazing what one can accomplish when one has some knowledge and communication skills .... and LOTS of patience.
Thanks- of course, I don’t have my money yet... but a written statement is better than vague. I’m pretty annoyed at how difficult this was.
 
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Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,067
23,018
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
The advice we have been giving clients, and the advice Christopher Elliott has been giving is to wait it out. Let the airline cancel your flights. The fact you have something in writing is positive but Expedia has to wait for the airline to refund them first so they can refund you.

For others reading this - just because you don’t see the flight doesn’t mean it was canceled. It can mean the airline at this time isn’t allowing anyone else to book so they don’t have to refund even more people if they do cancel. Be patient.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,758
10,556
113
San Francisco
So if you enter your confirmation number to bring up the flight and no information comes up, that's not a reason to think the flight is cancelled? How long do you wait to see if the airline cancels and notifies you?
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,067
23,018
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
So if you enter your confirmation number to bring up the flight and no information comes up, that's not a reason to think the flight is cancelled? How long do you wait to see if the airline cancels and notifies you?
Until the day before the flight. Our May 13 flights to Greece on Delta were all canceled a little over a week ago but they were gone from Deltas website a month ago. We just sat back and we received notification is was canceled.
 
Mar 9, 2019
22
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3
57
So if you enter your confirmation number to bring up the flight and no information comes up, that's not a reason to think the flight is cancelled? How long do you wait to see if the airline cancels and notifies you?
My flight disappeared in the app the day before the day before they rescheduled me on another flight. However, I was able to pull it up with the booking number when I used my laptop. It seemed like something was up.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
9,758
10,556
113
San Francisco
Yet another reason to deal with travel issues on a computer for full access to the website information. If I pulled up my res in my account and it was still there, I'd know the flight probably hadn't been cancelled yet.
 
Mar 9, 2019
22
23
3
57
Yet another reason to deal with travel issues on a computer for full access to the website information. If I pulled up my res in my account and it was still there, I'd know the flight probably hadn't been cancelled yet.
Yep, I learned that lesson!
 
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Jun 28, 2019
4
4
3
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The advice we have been giving clients, and the advice Christopher Elliott has been giving is to wait it out. Let the airline cancel your flights. The fact you have something in writing is positive but Expedia has to wait for the airline to refund them first so they can refund you.

For others reading this - just because you don’t see the flight doesn’t mean it was canceled. It can mean the airline at this time isn’t allowing anyone else to book so they don’t have to refund even more people if they do cancel. Be patient.
How long do we wait until we have to blink and cancel? I have a flight from PDX to RDU on Thursday 4/30 that I booked in Feb. It is still not cancelled. Who knows, they might even fly. If I wait too long without acting then I guess I lose everything. At some point I have to do something. I would appreciate some guidance. Thanks.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
23,067
23,018
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
Domestic flights are a little different because in many cases those flights are going to fly, because there are people that have to work, they are flying supplies and they may be flying first line responders back and forth.

You have to decide if they are offering waivers now if it’s worth canceling for a credit and no cancellation fees or waiting until up to the day before to see if they cancel.
 
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Sep 12, 2015
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How long do we wait until we have to blink and cancel? I have a flight from PDX to RDU on Thursday 4/30 that I booked in Feb. It is still not cancelled. Who knows, they might even fly. If I wait too long without acting then I guess I lose everything. At some point I have to do something. I would appreciate some guidance. Thanks.
You might consider going to a site like flightaware.com to see the recent history of your flight. It will show you if that same flight had been cancelled in the last few days, and you can register for a free account which will allow you to look back at the history for the past 3 months. Armed with that information, you'll have a better idea of what is likely to happen to your flight (but as with all things, past performance is not necessarily a perfect indication of future results).
 
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weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
2,850
3,656
113
Maui Hawaii
How long do we wait until we have to blink and cancel? I have a flight from PDX to RDU on Thursday 4/30 that I booked in Feb. It is still not cancelled. Who knows, they might even fly. If I wait too long without acting then I guess I lose everything. At some point I have to do something. I would appreciate some guidance. Thanks.
It is likely that some flight from PDX to RDU will fly on 4/30. You can wait until the day of the flight to cancel, as long as you actually cancel. If you do not cancel and are marked as a no-show you will not get a voucher or a refund. The United vouchers are good for 24 months to rebook and 35 months to actually fly.