The Guide to United Flight Cancellations

You can take a refund on your ticket or work with United to rebook in case of cancellation.
Aug 29, 2022

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Travel comes with enough headaches as it is. Even when everything goes according to plan, you’re still looking at a lot of moving parts and plenty of opportunities for mistakes.

However, almost nothing is worse than when your flights end up being canceled — especially when there’s a domino effect of other flights being canceled that impact your flight.

Before those dominoes fall, it’s best to be prepared. Let’s take a look at United Airlines flight cancellations, what to do if United cancels your flight and your rights if this happens to you.

Why United flights get canceled

So, why is United canceling flights? There are plenty of reasons why flights can be canceled. Some common situations include:

  • Air traffic control delays.

  • Bad weather.

  • Late arriving aircraft.

  • Mechanical delays.

  • Staffing issues.

Of course, even if you’re experiencing one of these situations, it doesn’t mean that your flight will be canceled. If, for example, there’s a bad thunderstorm and flights are temporarily grounded, it’s still possible that once the storm subsides you’ll be able to take off.

If that isn’t the case for you, and your flight does end up getting canceled, there are a few steps you’ll need to take.

What to do if United cancels your flight

When an airline sells you a ticket, the two of you enter into a contract of carriage. This is regulated by the Department of Transportation. That means that United needs to either fulfill its obligation to transport you to your destination or refund you your money.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Consumer protections for flight cancellations may improve this fall due to recent DOT proposals.

If United cancels your flight, you currently have two distinct options:

  • You can either accept a rebooking from United.

  • You can choose to have your money refunded.

To be clear, you don’t need to accept the new booking that United offers to you; you’re completely entitled to ask for your money back. This is true no matter the reason your flight has been canceled.

How to rebook after a United flight cancellation

The choice you make will depend on your onward travel plans. Is this the beginning of your vacation? You may want to consider rebooking your flight rather than accepting a refund, especially if you have nonrefundable bookings at your destination.

If United is still canceling flights, including yours, it will reaccommodate you for free. This means United will book you on the next available flight to your destination as long as it has seats.

Sometimes, its next available flights may not be for days. In this case, you may be able to ask United to transfer your ticket to another airline with available routing. While this isn’t a requirement for United to do, it’s always a good idea to ask. This is especially true if you’ve been delayed for a long period of time.

How to get a refund from United

If you’d rather get a refund than be accommodated, you’ll want to contact United directly. As we mentioned above, if your flight has been canceled, you’re entitled to a full refund. This is true whether the cancellation was due to weather, mechanical delays or schedule changes.

In United’s case, you can choose to contact customer service by calling the airline at 800-864-8331. Be sure to tell the representative that you’re not looking for a new flight; you’d simply like to receive your refund due to your original flight being canceled.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Airlines may try to offer you a travel voucher in lieu of a cash refund. You don’t need to accept this, and shouldn’t, as travel vouchers can expire and may be nontransferable.

Otherwise, you can head over to United’s refund request page. You’ll need to input your information, including your flight details and the reason you’re requesting a refund. Once you’ve submitted the paperwork, United will then take up to 14 business days to process your claim.

After it’s approved, you can expect a refund credited to a credit card within seven business days. Other methods of payment can incur a wait of up to 20 days.

Credit cards can get your money back

While it’s frustrating to have your flight canceled, in the end, the airline owes you money for your flight. However, that’s where the responsibility for United ends.

The airline isn’t required to give you money for expenses incurred as a result of the cancellation, such as lodging or meals. It also don’t need to reimburse you for other nonrefundable expenses that end up on your lap as a result of the canceled flight. This can include prepaid tours, hotel bookings, other flights or show tickets.

This is where travel insurance comes into play. Depending on how you paid, you may be eligible for complimentary travel insurance. Travel rewards cards such as the The Platinum Card® from American Express, for example, offer reimbursement to a certain level for expenses in the event your trip is delayed or canceled.

The The Platinum Card® from American Express offers the following trip delay and cancellation coverage:

  • Up to US$250 per covered person for alternate travel, restaurant meals or refreshments

  • Up to US$1,000 if your baggage is delayed after four hours for purchasing of essential clothing.

Terms apply.

The types of things for which they’ll reimburse you are generous and include:

  • Lodging.

  • Meals.

  • Nonrefundable bookings such as cruises and hotels.

Consider travel insurance

You can also opt to purchase travel insurance, which can provide you with the same peace of mind. Depending on the type of trip you’re taking, there are a variety of travel insurance policies from which to choose.

This includes Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR), medical insurance and trip interruption insurance.

If your United flight is canceled

Having your flight canceled is always an unfortunate situation, but most especially when the cancellation is involuntary. Happily for travelers, government regulation requires airlines to either accommodate you or give you a refund for your ticket — so you’ll never be caught flat out. However, airlines don’t necessarily need to provide for other expenses, such as food and lodging, incurred by their cancellation.

Instead, rely on credit card travel insurance or purchase a policy to cover you for ultimate peace of mind.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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