United is already taking significant steps to reduce spending in the face of coronavirus. They’ve instituted a hiring freeze, they’re delaying raises for non-union employees, and they’re reducing their flight schedules.
While other airlines are finding ways to be more customer-friendly – Alaska is offering bonus elite qualifying miles, Alaska and American are cleaning their planes more – United is actually making it harder than before coronavirus to get a refund for tickets.
If your flight is cancelled, an airline has to refund your ticket. But if they change the schedule, and they’re going to operate at a different time than when you bought your ticket?
- United’s policy was that a schedule change of 2 hours or more made you eligible for a refund.
- United’s new policy is that a schedule change has to be 25 hours or more to make you eligible for a refund. United doesn’t even have to fly on the same day as what they sold you.
United actually says they are making things more difficult on customers because of changes to their schedule they are making to respond to coronavirus.
Word of this new policy is thanks to the sibylline Brian Sumers:
How much does @united want to conserve cash? Before Saturday, after a schedule change of more than two hours, United happily would refund you. The new policy is 25 hours. Spokeswoman said: "We do everything we can to rebook customers in as timely a manner as possible." pic.twitter.com/BgEQ1PsyHA
— Brian Sumers (@BrianSumers) March 7, 2020
The change is reflected in Jetstream and appears to apply even to tickets purchased prior to the change.
Sumers attributes United’s unwillingness to give you your money back even when they don’t give you what you purchased to an extreme desire to conserve cash in the face of a massive dropoff in bookings out of fear of coronavirus. I’d bet United will see a lot of chargebacks and perhaps Department of Transportation complaints over this policy change that says that if their schedule change (for their convenience) means you can’t make it to your meeting, you’re just out of luck.
You’ve just been Kirby’ed.