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Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the unexpected can sometimes happen and you’ll need to cancel your flight. Since United is one of the largest airlines in the U.S, there is a good chance that you’ll need to cancel a United flight at some point.
Fortunately, United has a fairly straightforward cancellation policy, allowing you to quickly cancel your flight, but there are some rules you need to be aware of to ensure that you don’t miss out on a refund.
When It’s Possible to Cancel
Technically, most united tickets are non refundable, but there are a number of scenarios where you can still cancel and receive a refund.
If you realize you’ve made a mistake with your booking and it is within 24 hours, you can be eligible for a full refund with most ticket types including the basic economy fares. This is due to United’s 24 hour flexible booking policy, but your trip needs to be at least one week before departure and you need to have booked with United directly.
You will receive a cash back credit to your original payment method unless you booked your fares using a United Gift Certificate. In this case, you will receive an electronic travel certificate as a refund.
If more than 24 hours have passed after you’ve made your booking, the cancellation rules will depend on the type of ticket you’ve purchased.
- Non Refundable Tickets: Most United tickets are actually non refundable, so you won’t be able to get a cash refund. However, United customers may be eligible to apply the ticket value towards the cost of a new ticket. In this scenario, you would receive a travel credit.
- Refundable Tickets: If you purchased a refundable ticket, you can cancel your flight and get a refund. If you cancel before the flight departs, you will receive cash back to your original payment method. However, depending on the fare type, a cancellation fee may apply. Fortunately, since 2020 United has become a little more flexible, so you may find that you don’t incur a cancellation fee.
- Award Tickets: If you booked your ticket using MileagePlus miles, you’ll have the option to use the miles for another trip or redeposit the miles into your account. Unless you are a no show, there is no redeposit fee. In the event of a no show, there is a $125 flat fee to redeposit your miles at any status level.
When It’s Not Possible to Cancel
Unfortunately, there are some scenarios where it is not possible to cancel without being out of pocket. These include:
- Basic Economy: Unless it is within 24 hours of booking, you cannot cancel a basic economy fare. If you cancel your flight or you are a no show for this type of fare, you will not receive any form of refund or reimbursement.
- E-Certificates: If you book a ticket using an e-certificate, you will be ineligible for a refund or travel credit if you cancel your flight.
- FareLock: If you’ve used FareLock to hold a reservation and you’ve paid the appropriate fee, you will be unable to get the fee refunded should you cancel the flight.
How to Make a Cancellation
If you do need to cancel a United Flight, there are two ways to initiate the process. The first is to call the United helpline to request cancellation. However, if you don’t like the idea of waiting to speak to someone, you can cancel your flight online.
You will need to log into your United account and look under the “My Trips” tab to find your itinerary. Once you find the appropriate flight, you will need to click “Manage” and then select “Cancel Options.”
You will be directed to a confirmation screen, which will show you the value of your ticket as travel credit for future flights. If you’re happy to proceed, click “Cancel Trip” to complete the process.
If you used MileagePlus miles to pay for your ticket, you can cancel online or via the customer service line. The process is similar to paid fares, but the miles will be redeposited into your account with no fee, unless you were a no show for the flight.
Things to Consider When Canceling a United Flight
If you’re thinking about canceling your United flight, there are several things you should consider. These include:
- Are You Within the 24 Hour Window? All customers can take advantage of the 24 hour flexible booking policy. So, if you’re within 24 hours, you can cancel your flight and get a refund regardless of the fare class. The only exception to this rule is if you’re less than a week from your scheduled departure date.
- Is it Better to Cancel or Change? If you’re outside of the 24 hour window, you will need to consider whether it is better to cancel your flight or simply change it. United typically waives the change fees and in some cases, you may even be able to get a refund if the new flight is cheaper than your original itinerary. However, the reverse can apply and you may need to pay extra to cover the fare difference.
How to Change Your Flight Date
If you do need to change your travel dates, you can make the appropriate changes online without needing to call the United helpline. You will need to look up your flight information via the “My Trips” tab on the United website. You’ll need your trip confirmation number and the last name of the traveler to retrieve your flight details.
Below the flight, you will see an option to “Change Flight.” This allows you to “edit” to change the date or destination of your flight, but you can also add or remove a flight. You will be prompted to choose a new flight option and then purchase. This process is similar to booking a new flight, and the website will show any fare difference, so you know whether you will need to pay extra or if you’ll be eligible for a credit.
You will then receive confirmation of your new flight details.
Can I Change the Name on the Ticket?
It is important that the name on your United ticket matches your travel documents, so if you’ve made a typo or your name has legally changed, you will need to change your ticket details.
You can change the spelling of the first or last name, prefix, add or remove a middle initial or name or make corrections if the passenger’s first and last name are transposed without needing any supporting documentation.
However, if your name change is due to a legal change, United will require that you provide supporting documentation. This includes a marriage certificate, divorce agreement or government issued ID showing your old name and your new name.
To make the changes, you should speak to a member of the United team by calling the customer helpline.
Can I Change the Flight Fare, Seating or Food?
You can change most aspects of your flight using the “Manage My Trips” section when you log into your United account. This allows you to make changes to your seat and make an upgrade request. It is important to note that upgrades are provided according to a priority schedule, so they are not guaranteed.
In regards to food, you can add an in flight food request at the time of booking or on an existing reservation. If your flight is eligible for an inflight meal, you will receive an email notification five days prior to your departure to pre order your meal. You can browse the menus and choose your meal up to 24 hours before your flight. Just remember to save your choices.
Has United Been Canceling Flights?
Throughout Fall and Winter of 2022, like many airlines, United did struggle with cancellations. The winter storms created chaos for most airlines, resulting in numerous United flights being canceled. Unfortunately, it does not look like the problems are over for United.
In fact, in January 2023, the CEO of United Airlines Scott Kirby warned of continued travel chaos across the industry in 2023. He said that in the post pandemic era, there is a “new math for airlines” which most airlines are not actually prepared for.
So, if you are booked on a United flight, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on the weather conditions in your departure and arrival airports, along with any industry news, just in case your United flight is impacted.
What Happens If United Cancels My Flight?
If United cancels your flight, there are two available options. United is likely to offer you a new booking , but whether you want to accept the new booking will depend on your plans and preferences. A new booking can be a good idea if you have a non refundable booking at your destination.
When United cancels flights, it will reschedule your flight for free. This should be the next available flight where seats are available. However, this may not be for several days. In this scenario, you could ask United to transfer you to another airline. This is not a United requirement, but it can be worthwhile to ask, particularly if United has canceled a number of flights and there is a long delay.
The other option is to obtain a refund from United. You will need to directly contact United and explain that you don’t want a new flight and you would like to receive a refund. United may offer a travel voucher, but this may be non transferable and could have an expiry date.
So, you may need to fill in a refund request and when you submit the form, United may take up to 14 business days to process the claim and you can then expect your refund to be credited back to your credit card within seven business days.
In most cases, there is no fee to cancel your United flight, unless you are a no show. In this case, you will not be reimbursed for your ticket and if you paid for your flight with your miles, you will incur a $125 fee to have the miles credited to your account.
If you request a refund, United may take up to 14 days to process the request, even if you carry a United credit card. It will then take a further seven days for your credit card to receive the refund.
Yes, you can cancel the flight and have the option to reuse the miles for another trip or recredited to your account.
It may be possible to change or cancel your United flight if you booked through a third party. However, you need to check with your travel provider to ensure that you are aware of any fees that may be imposed.
United will accept a refund request if you need to cancel a United flight in certain illness situations.
The request must be initiated prior to your ticket expiry and you will need to provide proper documentation such as a letter from a licensed physician confirming a recommendation not to travel. Depending on the fare, you may receive a refund or a credit for future travel.
You can check the status of your refund request by logging into the refunds page and opening the “Check Status” tab on the right hand side of the page.
It is possible to make changes or cancel your flight after check in even if you booked using your miles. However, the above rules and scenarios apply.
If you want to call to cancel your flight, United has a toll free number. You can speak to a United representative by calling 800-864-8331.