How United hangs on to your cash after downgrade!

Having resolved never to fly United again, I did end up booking their incredibly cheap business class tickets from Amsterdam to San Diego that they had on sale recently.

Checking the seats some weeks later, it turned out that United had switched the plane to a three class 767, from the two class version it had been when I booked. Not wishing to miss a chance to use some of my miles, I applied a mileage upgrade to Global First and paid the co-pay fee. The upgrade cleared and I picked my seat.

Roll on a few more weeks and the plane changes back to a two class plane and my upgrade is no more.

I gave it a week and called United when the miles, and cash, had not reappeared. The agent reassured me that, whilst it might take a few days, my cash and miles would return. That is over two weeks ago and nothing has arrived. I was just about to decide whether to call again, when this email appeared:

We have an important message regarding itinerary XXXXXX for flight UAXX from , , (XXX) to Newark, NJ, (EWR) on 08/XX/2016. Due to an aircraft change, this flight is now scheduled on a two-cabin aircraft, and this reservation is now confirmed in United BusinessFirst, which still offers 180-degree flat-bed seats, along with personal on-demand entertainment and more.

As a result of this change, you will be issued a refund for the difference in fare class if you travel in United BusinessFirst on this itinerary. Depending on how you paid for your travel, you will be refunded award miles, the upgrade used, or the fare difference to your original form of payment. Please allow two weeks from your travel date for award miles and upgrades to be re-credited, and up to two billing cycles for fare refunds to appear on the credit card statement. Additionally, as a goodwill gesture, we will add 10,000 award miles to the MileagePlus account that is accruing miles for this flight. This deposit will be made within 30 days after travel is completed.

So now, despite what the agent said, United won’t start to process the refund until August when I travel, and even then it can take 8 weeks for the credit to appear. Good deal United, they will have had my cash for about 5 months by the time my refund appears – in the worst case.

And people wonder why I left them!


  1. Seems reasonable. They may change it back to a 3 class plane and you will get what you paid for. I’m sure you would be upset if you got refunded now and were unable to upgrade later if it does change back to a 3 class plane.

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