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When it comes to discussing refund policies during the pandemic, there are two groups of airlines…United Airlines and everyone else.
I’ve written several stories about mounting passenger frustration concerning how airlines are handling refunds. However, this is the first time that I am writing about my personal experience because it’s been fairly smooth sailing so far.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve cancelled 27 scheduled flights (but that’s a different blog). Generally, my technique has been to wait until the airline:
- cancels the flight or;
- adjusts the flight schedule
With that technique, there won’t be much debate when I contact the airline and say, essentially, “hey, I’d like money back because I paid for a service that you’re not providing.”
Given that airlines continue to scale down operations and cancel flights daily, I haven’t had any trouble…until yesterday.
First, let’s talk about law. The Department of Transportations (DOT) makes it very clear that airlines have to provide refunds in the event that they cancel a flight.
“U.S. and foreign airlines remain obligated to provide a prompt refund to passengers for flights to, within, or from the United States when the carrier cancels the passenger’s scheduled flight or makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier.”
*the bold print is my emphasis*
Regardless to what “rules” the airlines have, the DOT is boss and what they say is the final word.
In fact, when this all started, most airlines were playing games with refunds but once the DOT issued a statement saying “give the people their money or we’ll take action,” all airlines fell in place.
Well, United wasn’t happy with that so they decided to, literally, redefine the word “cancelled.”
Gary from View From the Wing alerted us of this a couple weeks ago but I hasn’t paid much attention because I assumed they would fall in place too. But as my mom says…you know what happens when you assume!
Here is how United is defining “cancelled” and I’m not kidding here…this is directly from them.
Schedule change: A flight is removed from our schedule, but the customer can be accommodated within 6 hours.
Significant Schedule Change: A flight is removed, and a customer cannot be accommodated with an impact of 6+ hours.
Cancellation: A flight is removed, and we cannot accommodate the customer.
If we remove a flight from our schedule and can accommodate the customer with another flight within 6 hours, that is not considered a cancellation.
A cancellation is not based on flight number or tail number, but on the ability to provide transportation to our customer without significant delay.
Did you see the word play? United is effectively saying cancelled flights don’t exist and they will only provide refunds for significant delays.
For simplicity, Gary gives a great example and says this:
If an airline used to fly 8 times a day between two cities, and now flies just 3 times a day, that airline has cancelled 5 flights even though the airline can still accommodate the customer. United disagrees.
Yesterday, I was told that I could not get a refund for a flight that I booked with United because my flight had not be cancelled.
After debating for 10 minutes with no success, I decided to give up as I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
After all, this is the same airline that dragged a bloodied doctor off a plane and claimed he was merely being “reaccommodated.”
Has anyone else had challenges with United?