With United Airlines facing financial uncertainty like it has at no point in company history, United will defer schedule change refunds for a period of one year from date of booking.
I’ve covered the schedule change saga in depth. For years, the policy was that a two hour schedule change allowed a customer to cancel for a full refund.
But there’s a catch. Reservation agents have been told that if a passenger cannot be rebooked (even if they are not allowed, at the moment, to travel to the Untied States), they will have travel credit valid for one year from date of booking. It is only after that one year from date of booking that cash refunds will be issued.
“Our goal remains to automatically re-book as many customers as possible within 6 hours of their originally scheduled flight. For any customer whose international travel is disrupted by more than 6 hours because of schedule changes resulting from government restrictions, they will retain a travel credit equal to the value of their ticket. That credit can be used towards any flight, to any destination, for 12 months from the time of purchase.
If the customer chooses not to use the credit, they will receive a cash refund at the end of that 12 month period.
Importantly, this new way of helping customers manage through changing flight schedules also applies to residents from other countries who effectively can no longer travel to the U.S. because they would face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival as well as customers impacted more broadly by government-mandated travel restrictions or quarantines.
In addition, this change also maintains our ability to manage our business through this evolving and difficult set of circumstances.”
I think the last line is key. And while I cannot defend the policy, United is in survival mode right now, so part of me cannot blame United for such a policy. Why? Because the bleeding right now is beyond United’s ability to stop it. We know what happens if someone is bleeding and it cannot be stopped…
As the situation gets worse, I cannot defend a policy that penalizes a consumer for no fault of their own. But I also understand why United has felt the need to preserve cash as the worldwide air travel situation continues to deteriorate.