Where’s the credit for my United Airlines flight?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Jina Lee cancels a United Airlines flight, the airline promises her a credit. She never gets it. What does the company owe her?

Question

I recently canceled a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Porto, Portugal. A system glitch voided the credit and United could not issue another flight credit. I couldn’t rebook my flight and had to buy a new ticket.

I spent hours on the phone with United, but it offered no solution. They just passed me from one department to the next. Eventually, United asked me to fill out an online form.

I want the flight credit United promised me. Can you help me get the flight credit that I was supposed to receive? — Jina Lee, Pleasant Hill, Calif.

Answer

You should have received a full flight credit, as promised. But it looks like you encountered some kind of system hiccup which invalidated your credit. 

How did that happen? It’s possible you didn’t cancel the flight on time. Remember, you have to cancel before your departure, otherwise, you’re listed as a “no-show” and you lose your entire fare. But I’ve reviewed the paper trail between you and United, including the back-and-forth with United’s customer service bot, which was really painful to read, and it looks like you did everything right.

When something goes wrong with your airline ticket, the least you can expect is for your airline to quickly fix it. But a look at your correspondence with United Airlines shows the opposite happened. You called, you wrote and you used United’s chat feature. Every time, you reached someone who promised to help you but then didn’t. (Related: Forced to “upgrade” on a United Airlines flight – is this deceptive?)

My least favorite part: The representative who offered a refund in “one to two billing cycles” without explaining a billing cycle or giving you any indication of how long it would take. I can’t blame you for feeling angry. (Related: United may not be a lost cause after all.)

Southwest Airlines is dedicated to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to providing our employees with a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

I list the names and numbers of United’s customer service executives on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. I think a brief, polite email to one of them might have helped.

But it’s no guarantee. Even my involvement in your case does not ensure a positive resolution. I reached out to United on your behalf. It reviewed your case and agreed to restore your ticket credit and refund you for the additional expense of buying a new ticket. But then it dilly-dallied, leaving you waiting for your money. I contacted the airline again and again, and each time it promised a refund. Finally, after a lot more back-and-forth, United refunded your fare.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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