Ask United Airlines nicely and it just might…

Clinton Crampton needs to change his flight a second time because of his father’s unexpected illness — almost a year after his original purchase. He wants to ask United Airlines for an exception to its rule and requests our help.

Question

I bought a round-trip ticket roughly a year ago on United. Shortly before my scheduled trip, my father’s back required treatment, and he was in no condition to do any sort of strenuous work around their house. My brother and I took turns helping my mother (the house is on acreage with a herd of cattle).

I rescheduled the trip to a date in early fall. While [I was] planning my second trip, doctors diagnosed my dad with colon cancer. His digestive system required resection. He’s been a little slower to bounce back from this treatment (but is doing great now).

I read that extensions could be granted on the one-year deadline. Could you provide guidance or help me reach out on this matter? I sent the United twitter account a direct message, but the person I heard back from indicated it was not an option. — Clinton Crampton, Brenham, Texas

Answer

I’m sorry to hear about your father’s illness but glad that he is recovering.

When you learned that you needed to reschedule your trip, you paid a change fee to book a flight later in the year with no problem. But as you neared your second departure date, you once again needed to change your flight. Now, close to the one-year deadline from your original purchase date, you asked United Airlines to extend the expiration date of your ticket.

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According to United Airlines’ contract of carriage, a passenger may change a ticket up to one year after the original purchase. The clock resets when a ticket is reissued:

…any eligible Ticket issued by UA or its authorized agent on UA Ticket Stock will be valid for transportation for one year from the date on which transportation commences at the point of origin as designated on the original Ticket or, if no portion of the Ticket is used, one year from the date of issuance of the original or reissued Ticket, whichever is later.

You used Twitter’s direct message option to ask United Airlines for an extension. The agent responded that an extension would not be possible. You read that extensions have been granted in other cases, so you contacted us for help.

“Ask United Airlines” 

Our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, received your help request. She suggested that you use our online contacts to ask United Airlines for a compassionate exception to the one-year rule.

Friedman also advised you that there are no rules or regulations that would compel the airline to make an exception to its rule. You knew this was the case but still wanted to follow our guidelines for requesting help and ask United Airlines if it would consider your request.

You took Friedman’s advice and sent a short, politely worded email to the first person listed in our contacts. After one week without a response, you emailed the next contact on our list.

Within a few hours, you received a phone call from United Airlines. The representative asked about your father’s health and listened to your request for an extension. Not only did she grant your request, she waived the change fee.

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Following our advice and using our contacts meant you didn’t need to take “no” for an answer. I’m glad we could help, and I hope your father’s health continues to improve.

Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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