United Airlines Tells Employees Not To Give Out Meal Vouchers For Flight Delays Under 4 Hours

Even before the pandemic United Airlines in the Scott Kirby era was looking at ways to cut costs. In January they stopped sending out travel vouchers as an apology for flights delayed less than six hours. Of course United attributed this to ‘customer feedback’ because clearly customers are happy with delays up to 6 hours, and don’t like being given travel vouchers or receiving apologies.

Then May 1, with the need to conserve funds fully evident, they reduced denied boarding compensation by 75%. This wasn’t cash, but airline scrip, but they presumably feared a customer they had failed to deliver transportation to might choose not to spend money with the airline in the future if given a big voucher (as opposed to because the airline had failed to provide them with the transportation they had purchased).

Now United is reminding agents not to cover a customer’s meal unless their flight is delayed at least four hours.

There aren’t that many places open in the airport anyway these days, so in many cases you aren’t missing much more than what’s on sale at Dunkin’ Donuts or Hudson News. But United wants you to know that under no circumstances will they pay for your donut while they make you wait for your next flight.

United isn’t alone cutting costs by doing less for customers when they’ve already let those customers down. American Airlines, for its part, suspended goodwill compensation for service failures without warning a month ago.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It will be interesting to see which (if any) of the “Big 3” (AA, DL, UA) are left solvent a year from now. Whatever the “post-coronavirus” world will look like, flying with perquisites in anything other than a private jet appears to be headed down the same path as the dinosaurs.

  2. Always a reminder- the Montreal Convention requires reimbursement for airline-responsible delays, no matter how long. Delayed 30M? Responsible for costs.

  3. “a significant number of ou-of-policy meal voucher issuances.”
    Yikes, that sentence is just a master class in corporate-speak.

  4. “We want your business and we’re willing to give you less to prove it!”

  5. O’Hare has lots of restaurants open. It’s quite busy and sometimes no seating for passengers waiting for flights according to my son who was making a transfer there.

  6. Airlines should categorically stop providing meal, hotel, or any voucher in any circumstance.

    Not only would it save on the costs of paying meal and hotel vendors, it would also save the customer support costs of paying staff to handle the long lines of weary travelers waiting to request vouchers.

    Yes, we’d all be on our own for hotels and meals, but I submit that (a) credit cards will step up and fill in the void — in fact many already do to a great extent through trip interruption insurance, and (b) I’m tired of the crappy hotels airlines put me in, and I can’t be alone in this.

  7. Wretched companies. So if if a noon flight gets moved to 4 pm there’s no food? I assume the Department of Transportation is in on this scam. Airlines can disrupt your travel, wreak havoc on your business meetings and your family or vacation plans without suffering any costs; the moment you need to change a flight it’s fees, fees and more fees (except Southwest, of course, which is why it’s the most profitable one (or least in the red during COVID),

    @Jason’s way of thinking is what enables them to do so. It should be exactly the opposite of what he says — they should not be allowed to pick and choose hotels and food and force you to line up, they should simply be forced to accept reimbursement requests online and pay up within 24 hours. You pick the Ritz if you want, they pay. Faced with these costs, magically they’ll invest more in preventative maintenance and other costs required for reliable operations.

  8. Jason has no idea about anything but he likes to yap so let him. No one should listen to him but read and laugh.

  9. Well I was seriously thinking of eliminating all vouchers no matter how long the delay.
    Dug taught me good.

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