A class action lawsuit has been filed against United Airlines for refusing to give refunds on flights cancelled due to coronavirus.
Federal law makes it clear: if United cancels or significantly delays a flight, it must offer passengers full cash refunds, not just vouchers. Act fast to ensure you get your money back.
United passengers report receiving vouchers, not refunds
Many flights have been cancelled due to restrictions on travel to reduce to spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, United has told many passengers that they can only get a voucher for their cancelled or delayed flight.
According to USA Today, while American, Delta and Southwest have allegedly offered refunds for canceled flights, United has been “playing hardball” in contrast.
After United cancelled my 3 flights, I was refused a refund. They said no other airlines are giving refunds. I told the representative that @Ryanair and @easyJet gave me a full refund! Every other country’s airlines are giving full refunds except for the US airlines!
– Twitter user
According to USA Today, after one passenger’s flight was cancelled, he called United and was told they were not giving refunds “at this time.” After calling a second time, a different travel agent tried to process a refund but said the system only showed a travel credit as an option. It was only when the passenger asked to speak to a supervisor that he was promised a refund.
United revises its refund policies again and again
According to some travelers, United has changed its refund policies several times in March 2020.
On March 7, United said a passenger’s flight must be delayed more than 25 hours to qualify for a refund. Previously, they said flights delayed more than 2 hours were qualified. (Federal DOT regulations require refunds for flights that are ‘significantly delayed.’)
United soon backed down and shortened their requirement to a delay of more than 6 hours.
But then, on March 15, United updated its website to say that for cancelled international flights, passengers had to wait a full year before they could get a refund instead of a voucher.
However, viewing the website as of May 7, this has disappeared.
Now, the website is vague and offers little guidance: “Depending on the severity of the schedule disruption, you may also be eligible for a refund.” Passengers must fill out a form to find out whether United decides that they qualify.
Federal DOT issues enforcement notice: airlines must issue refunds
On April 3, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an enforcement notice clarifying how existing federal law applies to the coronavirus pandemic.
The notice says airlines must offer full refunds for flights that are either canceled or significantly delayed by the airline. Besides domestic flights, this also includes international flights that are to or from the U.S.
Earlier, on March 31, several U.S. Senators wrote to airline CEOs urging them to give full refunds, not only to follow the law, but also to honor the multi-billion dollar bailout the airline industry received, funded by taxpayers. According to excerpts in The Hill, the letter says:
“It would be unacceptable to us for your company to hold onto travelers’ payments for canceled flights instead of refunding them, especially in light of the $25 billion bailout that the airline industry just received from Congress…We urge you to offer cash refunds for flight cancellations so that Americans can better weather this crisis.”