United's new app feature helps customers re-book and receive meal and hotel vouchers automatically

Photo (c) Oleg Breslavtsev - Getty Images

There’s still a few perk boxes to be checked, but it’s a major step forward

United Airlines has just made Transportation Secretary Pete Buddideg happy. The company’s latest app helps take the airline off the hook when it comes to addressing at least part of a consumer’s rights on cancellations and delays.

Now, instead of stressing out and waiting in line to talk to an agent or search for options when a flight has been disrupted, United’s new self-service tool automatically presents travelers with personalized re-booking options, bag tracking information, as well as meal and hotel vouchers. 

The company’s decision came from finding itself in a tough spot. Even though United had the lowest mainline flight and seat cancellation rates of any airline in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2023, it still has the most flights impacted by weather given the location of four of its seven major domestic hubs – Chicago, Washington D.C., Denver, and Newark.

"Our goal is to get our customers to their destination on time, but we know things don't always go as planned and that's when a tool like this can make a real difference," said Linda Jojo, chief customer officer for United. 

If you fly United, here’s how it works

Suppose you’re flying United this summer and run into an issue, forcing your flight to be delayed by more than 60 minutes or even canceled completely. In that case, you should automatically see all available options for delays and cancellations on the home screen of the United mobile app. 

Here's how it works:

  • Get notified: Before you do anything else, click the link in the automatic text notification or enter flight details in the mobile app or united.com to open the tool. Once you do that, your reservation is already loaded in the app, and you’ll see a prompt right on the home screen.

  • Check flight and re-booking status: Step two is to confirm the status of your flight and see if you've been re-booked. If you want another flight option, United also offers those and lets you book based on your preference.

  • Track your bags: Follow the status of your checked luggage to see when it is checked in, loaded on your flight and received at your final destination.

  • View eligible vouchers: Receive hotel, meal and/or rideshare vouchers if eligible.

  • Connect to a United customer service agent virtually: Call, text or video chat with a United agent who can offer the same assistance as the agents at the airport.

What it doesn’t cover… yet

While United’s new app takes some of the sting out of a canceled or delayed flight, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) customer service dashboard says there are still some holes in what it would like the airline to do. Those include:

  • Cash compensation when a cancellation results in passenger waiting for 3 hours or more from the scheduled departure time
  • Credit/travel voucher when cancellation results in passenger waiting for 3 hours or more from the scheduled departure time
  • Frequent flier miles when cancellation results in passenger waiting for 3 hours or more from the scheduled departure time

​However, United isn't the only major U.S. carrier that hasn't stepped up to make those perks available to stranded passengers. American, Delta, Southwest, et al yet to have agreed to those caveats, as well.

As of now, according to the agency's dashboard, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines are the only ones offering credit/travel vouchers when cancellation results in passengers waiting for three hours or more from the scheduled departure time.

And only Alaska offers frequent flier miles when cancellation results in passengers waiting for 3 hours or more from the scheduled departure time.

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