UNITED’S 24-HOUR FLEXIBLE BOOKING POLICY (requesting a refund within 24 hours of purchase)
United's 24-hour flexible booking policy allows the flexibility to make changes to your reservations within 24 hours of purchasing your ticket, without incurring change fees. This includes canceling your reservation and requesting a 100% refund of the ticket price.
Terms and conditions
- Applies to tickets booked at united.com or with United Reservations.
- The 24-hour timeframe begins at the time your ticket is purchased.
- Requests for refunds will be credited back in the original form of payment.
- Group tickets and tickets purchased using Western Union, cash or e-certificates are excluded.
- Reservations that are being held but have not yet been purchased are excluded.
- Any FareLockSM fees paid to hold a reservation will not be refunded.
FROM: A U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION PRESS RELEASE - DATED: Monday, January 23, 2012
New Airline Passenger Protections Take Effect This Week
New regulations going into effect this week will help ensure that consumers are treated fairly when they travel by air, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today.
New regulations going into effect this week will help ensure that consumers are treated fairly when they travel by air, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said today. Among the new provisions, part of the airline consumer rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation in April 2011, are requirements that airlines and ticket agents include all mandatory taxes and fees in published airfares and that they disclose baggage fees to consumers buying tickets.
“Airline passengers have rights, and they should be able to expect fair and reasonable treatment when booking a trip and when they fly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “The new passenger protections taking effect this week are a continuation of our effort to help air travelers receive the respect they deserve.”
Also beginning this week, passengers will be able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date. In addition, airlines will be required to promptly notify passengers of flight delays of over 30 minutes, as well as flight cancellations and diversions, and they will generally be prohibited from increasing the price of passengers’ ticket after it is bought.
The new rules also will make it easier for passengers to determine the full price they will have to pay for air transportation prior to travel. Currently, airlines and ticket agents are allowed to publish ads that list government-imposed taxes and fees separately from the advertised fare, as long as these taxes and fees are assessed on a per-passenger basis. However, sometimes the notice of these taxes and fees is not obvious to consumers. Under the new requirements, all mandatory taxes and fees must be included together in the advertised fare. The advertising provision takes effect Jan. 26, 2012 while all of the other consumer protections go into effect on Jan. 24 of this year.
In addition, airlines and ticket agents will be required to disclose baggage fees to consumers when they book a flight online. The first screen containing a fare quotation for a specific itinerary must show if there will be additional baggage fees, and inform consumers where they can go to see these fees. Information on baggage fees also must be included on all e-ticket confirmations, and for most trips the same baggage allowances and fees must apply throughout a passenger’s journey.
The new requirements are the final provisions to become effective from the Department’s most recent airline consumer rule. A number of new measures required by the rule took effect on Aug. 23, 2011, including requirements that airlines refund baggage fees if bags are lost and provide increased compensation to passengers bumped from oversold flights.
Also beginning last August, the Department set a four-hour time limit on tarmac delays for all international flights at U.S. airports, and extended the three-hour tarmac delay limit for domestic flights to smaller airports. It also required additional airlines to report their lengthy tarmac delays to DOT.
The Department is looking at other airline consumer protection measures for a possible future rulemaking, including requiring that all airline optional fees be disclosed wherever consumers can book a flight, strengthening disclosure of code-share flights, and requiring additional carriers to file on-time performance reports.
THIS IS HOW UNITED AIRLINES TRIES TO SCREW YOU IN REFERENCE TO THIS POLICY:
United Airlines complies with this regulation but makes it harder for the consumer to get the refund: United does not offer a free 24-hour hold; it charges for that service. Instead, it allows for 24-hour cancellation BUT your credit card will be charged the full fare.
NOW, this is where United gets sneaky. When you cancel within 24-hours United won’t say a word about a refund — only that the cost could be applied to future travel on United, and with a penalty.
If you knew that you're entitled to a full refund on almost any plane ticket within 24 hours of purchase, congratulations. If you didn't know, you're not alone.
I randomly asked 10 or so smart, hardworking people who travel with some regularity, and not one of them knew of the following Department of Transportation regulation that took effect earlier this year: "Passengers will be able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight's departure date."
Obviously, there's one large wrinkle there: Travel must be booked a week or more in advance. But setting that aside — because most of us do book more than a week out — this is a powerful tool for the consumer.
The regulation was part of a broader DOT initiative also stipulating that airlines must include all taxes and fees in advertised fares. That fact got more traction in the press, letting the 24-hour cancellation rule slip past many travelers.
Though many airlines already quietly offered such cancellation policies, it is good news to have it backed up by the DOT.
Different airlines have different methods for complying. American Airlines, for instance, makes it easy: In the last stage of booking, travelers see a handful of purchasing options given equal size and weight on its Web page, including a "free 24-hour hold." I use that often.
And then there is United Airlines, which operates in a vein similar to most others when it comes to complying with the DOT rule. United does not offer a free 24-hour hold; it charges for that service. Instead, it allows for 24-hour cancellation.
I wanted to see how the process worked, so I went big, buying a $1,500 ticket to Johannesburg that I never intended to use. To United's credit, at the time of purchase, consumers are told they have "up to 24 hours to change your mind" with a link to the airline's "24-hour flexible booking policy." In the meantime, though, my credit card was charged the full fare.
The next day, I logged on to United's website to cancel the reservation. When I did, I was told nothing about a refund — only that the cost could be applied to future travel on United, and with a penalty.
This is where the airline gets needlessly tricky. To get the refund, you must know about and find United's refund Web page (tinyurl.com/9jtybwg). Once you do, the process is relatively simple: Input your pertinent information, including ticket number, and then wait. Six days later I received an email from United telling me my refund was approved and that my credit card would be credited the proper amount.
Still, a 24-hour hold in the American Airlines model makes things simpler. The moral of the story is standard when dealing with the airlines: Know your rights, and don't take much at face value.
The Travel Mechanic is dedicated to better, smarter, more fulfilling travel. Thoughts, comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include "Travel Mechanic" in the subject line. Follow him on Twitter at @traveljosh.