August 26, 2021

What to do when United Airlines changes your flight schedule

What does United consider a significant schedule change?

Changes to flight departure or arrival timesChanges in frequency of flightsAddition or discontinuation of routesChanges to type of aircraft. If your plans change and you prefer not to change your itinerary immediately, you may cancel the reservation and return to it to make changes for up to one year from the date of issue. A change fee may apply.

Here’s the verbiage from Rule 24. C., bolding mine:

Schedule Change- When a Passenger’s Ticketed flight is affected because of a Schedule Change that modifies the original departure and/or arrival time by 30 minutes or more, UA will, at its election, arrange one of the following:

  1. Provided that the dates of departure and arrival must be within 7 days of the originally scheduled dates of departure and arrival, respectively, transport the Passenger on its own flights, subject to availability, to the Destination, next Stopover point, or transfer point shown on its portion of the Ticket, without Stopover in the same class of service, at no additional cost to the Passenger;
  2. When a Schedule Change results in the cancellation of all UA service between two cities, at UA’s sole discretion, UA may reroute Passengers over the lines of one or more carriers in an equivalent class of service;
  3. Advise the Passenger that the value of his or her Ticket may be applied toward future travel on United within one year from the date of issue without a change or reissue fee; or
  4. If the Passenger is not transported as provided in C) 1) or 2) above and does not choose to apply the value of his or her Ticket toward future travel as provided in C) 3) above, the Passenger will be eligible for a refund upon request. See Rule 27 A).

As you can see, the 25-hour rule is well within the 7 days of the original departure date specified in United’s Contract of Carriage, so you’d have to argue that you specifically relied on the old United 2-hour schedule change rule when booking your ticket and that the old policy, even though not part of the Contract of Carriage, should still apply.

United's Old Schedule Change Refund Policy Was 2+ Hours

United’s Old Schedule Change Refund Policy Was 2+ Hours

United’s FAQ on Schedule Changes webpage is no vaguer but the following seems to be the present policy

— reschedule flexibility for 30 minutes or more changes

  • Your origin and destination will have to be the same as on your original itinerary.
  • If you have a connection, you may be able to choose a different connecting city or airport.
  • Alternative flights must be operated by United or our United Express® partners.

— refunds for 2 hours or more changes
— we may be able to offer you a refund:

  • The scheduled departure or arrival time changes by two hours or more.
  • The change causes issues with the overall length of the trip, such as making the connection time too short or significantly longer than it was originally.
  • If we are unable to accommodate you in the same cabin as purchased – refunded either the full price or the difference in fare.

If you’re not satisfied with your new itinerary and one of the above scenarios applies, please don’t accept the itinerary in Manage Reservations. Instead, you can request a refund online.

Generally, UA is pretty good about being flexible if you are adversely affected by a schedule change. Most reasonable requests will likely be honored. Best to do some self-research prior to calling. Including opening up award space on UA-operated flights. If you had a cleared upgrade on UA operated flight, UA will generally honor that in the rescheduling if space is available (but not requiring upgrade inventory space on the new flights)

During this weekend change period and sometimes for a day later, there can be weirdness in displayed aircraft or seating maps, such as Strange/Impossible Aircraft Assignments After UA’s Weekend Schedule Update

Early in the COVID pandemic, UA initially changes the policy for the refund to require 24-hour change but quickly walked that back to 6 hours. Under DOT and public pressure, UA returned to a 2-hour policy on 6 June 2020. 30-minute change is still the threshold for flexible rebooking

More specific information is found in UA’s guidance to TA’s (on Jetstream) on re-scheduling
Quote:

  • Any segment goes from a non-stop to a connection
  • Misconnecting itinerary
  • Change to originally scheduled arrival or departure time of at least + / – 30 minutes

Change to alternate flight (original operating carrier or carrier permitted as noted in fare rule) or UA operated flight. If the itinerary includes a UA-operated segment, UA schedule change rules apply to that segment {meaning changing only to UA-operated flight}.
Same booking class. If the original booking class is unavailable, book the lowest available (higher than original booking class, same cabin) up to and including M class. Contact UA if the required class of service is unavailable. **

Change fee and add/collect waived – see “Additional parameters for flights impacted by schedule changes” below the chart. For 2 hours or more, refunds are an option unless you can be rescheduled to be under the 2 hours or Change to original arrival or departure time of 2 hours or more or cancelled flight with no protection or
Additional parameters for flights impacted by schedule changes

  1. Non-stops may go to connecting flights, and connecting flights may go to non-stops
  2. Connecting hub may be changed
  3. If original day of departure is unavailable, may depart 7 days prior to or after original departure date. If outbound flight is impacted, subsequent flights on same itinerary may be changed to maintain original length of trip. ***
  4. Alternate airports within a 100-mile radius of the original origin or departure airport***
    • Change may apply to origin and destination, but must be changed at the original time of ticket reissue
    • Customer is responsible for any additional expenses incurred

Please see the footnote below regarding the handling of United Basic Economy fares booked in the “N” class.

***Continuing or return travel dates may be voluntarily changed on UA segments only in the original inventory class to maintain the original length of stay prior to the re-accommodation. Changes to the return flight must be in the same PNR and be made in the same transaction as the re-accommodation of the outbound flight. The change fee and add/collect will be waived for changes made to the return (original class of service only).

**United Basic Economy fares booked in “N” class must remain in “N” class when eligible for self-service rebooking due to unacceptable schedule changes or irregular operations. If “N” class is unavailable, please contact United’s Customer Contact Centers for assistance. Rebooking into an ineligible booking class may result in the issuance of a debit memo. For non-Basic Economy fares, do not rebook into “N” class. ================= older information =======================
The peak time for changes is roughly 3-4 months prior to departure but changes occur anytime — especially aircraft changes within an aircraft family (such as 777-200s or 737-800 vs 737-900).

Rebooking options if a schedule change has affected your itinerary

If your scheduled departure or arrival time changes by 30 minutes or more, we’re happy to try to find other available flight options that meet your needs. Please keep the following in mind when you call:

  • Your origin and destination will have to be the same as on your original itinerary.
  • If you have a connection, you may be able to choose a different connecting city or airport.
  • Alternative flights must be operated by United or our United Express® partners.

If we aren’t able to find any other flights that meet your needs, requesting a refund may be an option. See the section below for more information.

Ticket refunds

When a schedule change happens, we try our best to provide you with options that minimize the disruption to your travel plans. In cases where the new flight options don’t work for you and one of the following scenarios applies, we may be able to offer you a refund:

  • The scheduled departure or arrival time significantly changes.
  • The change causes issues with the overall length of the trip, such as making the connection time too short or significantly longer than it was originally.
  • If we are unable to accommodate you in the same cabin as purchased – refunded either the full price or the difference in fare.

If you’re not satisfied with your new itinerary and one of the above scenarios applies, please don’t accept the itinerary in Manage Reservations. Instead, you can request a refund online. It is reported that agents will now (12 March 2020) process refunds for 6-hour changes (down from the original new 25+ hours that replaced the previous long practice of 2-hours) JetStream – Agency Rebooking Parameters

What if the schedule change doesn’t work for my travel plans?

Most schedule changes are minor, but if the changes don’t work for you, other flight options may be available. If you want to explore other options, it’s important to know who to contact for assistance with a schedule change, and that depends on how you booked your flights:

Booked through a travel agency, travel website, or an airline other than United: If you booked your flights through a travel agency or a travel website or another airline other than United, you should receive notification of the change from them, and you should contact them for assistance with your reservation.

Booked directly with United: If you booked your flights directly with United (through united.com, the United app, or by phone through the United Customer Contact Center), you’ll also be able to review your updated itinerary through Manage Reservations, and you may be given the option to accept the changes online. If you don’t see an option to continue with the schedule change, or if your new itinerary doesn’t work for you, please call our United Customer Contact Center and we’ll be happy to help. You can also learn about our rebooking policy by reviewing the section below for more information.

United Airlines Reservations Phone Numbers: Flight Tickets Booking & Cancellations, Flight Change, etc.

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