United Airlines (as I predicted) rolled back its onerous (and downright unethical) schedule policy that only explicitly permitted refunds if the schedule change was 25 hours or more. But in its place United still has a rule that is three times worse, mathematically at least, than a week ago.
Up until last weekend, any schedule change resulting in a two or more hour delay in getting you to your final destination meant you could opt for a refund. In order to preserve liquidity in light of economic uncertainty, United changed that rule from two hours to 25 hours last Saturday.
In essence, that gave United the ability to cancel your flight on one day and put you on the same flight the day before or day after, whether you wanted it or not. Sure, United was always going to work with you on securing the best schedule possible, but would not necessarily give you a refund if any of the options did not work.
I was not aware of anyone who defended the change in policy. Reservation agents I spoke to were embarrassed, but also afraid to exercise too much “discretion” for fear of repercussions. That’s leadership all right…but not the praiseworthy kind.
United’s New Schedule Change Policy – Six Hours For A Refund
Well, United has rolled back its schedule change policy, replacing the 25 hour rule with a six hour rule. Here’s what United had to say about it:
“When schedule changes occur, more than 90 percent of our customers are being automatically re-booked on a flight that leaves within two hours of their originally scheduled flight. Any customer whose travel is disrupted by more than 6 hours because of our schedule changes will be eligible for a refund. The relatively small percentage of customers who are delayed by 2 to 6 hours are eligible to cancel and retain the value of their ticket for future use. In the case of special circumstances, customers can work with the United Contact Centers to find a resolution.”
Six is better than 25, but it is still 3x as long (two versus six hours) as last week. This remains a customer-unfriendly move, just a less customer-unfriendly move.
I’m known as the United cheerleader among travel bloggers, but I’ve been tough on United this week. I’ll often give United the benefit of the doubt, but not here. Just because the new change fee policy is not as bad as the old one, doesn’t make it a good one. United is facing unprecedented pressure right now, but incoming CEO Scott Kirby and his team cannot make the mistake that disgraced ex-CEO Jeff Smisek did: customers are not simply expendable.
> Read More: United’s New Schedule Change Policy Is Indefensible