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Flight delays and cancellations

United works hard to be one of the most reliable airlines in the world. When complications such as weather, air traffic control problems and mechanical issues arise, however, our concern for your safety will always outweigh the desire to remain on schedule. While most delays don’t involve the need for rebooking, some do. During these challenging situations, simply knowing more about what can be done is an important step toward getting your travel plans back on track.

Notification of delays and cancellations

The status of United flights will be periodically updated on flight information screens located in United airport facilities. United representatives will provide information in airports and onboard the aircraft in a reasonably timely manner as to known delays, cancellations and diversions. In addition, we recommend that you subscribe to our complimentary flight status notification subscription service. Once subscribed, please provide reliable contact information, such as a mobile phone number, when making your reservation.

Verification letters
Upon request, we can provide a statement of proof that a United flight was delayed or canceled. You may email your request to delayletter@united.com. Be sure to include the names of all customers in your party, confirmation number, flight numbers and dates of travel, phone contact and the email address or mailing address where you would like it sent. Please allow 5-10 business days for processing.​

Getting rebooked

When your itinerary requires rebooking because of a flight delay or cancellation, our automated systems will attempt to confirm you on the next United flight that has seats available. Using your original confirmation number, you can find out if and how you've been rebooked as follows:

How do I rebook myself on another flight?

  • If you are already checked in, you may select another flight option departing within 24 hours through united.com check-in, or at an airport kiosk.
  • If you are not already checked in, you may change your flight at Manage Reservations.
  • If you are unable to complete your desired flight changes online, please contact the United Customer Contact Center or a United airport representative. On days when many of our customers’ travel plans are disrupted, you may experience longer than normal wait times or have difficulty getting through to us.

Sometimes, the next available United flight may not be for several hours or even days. When your trip is severely delayed, these alternatives may be available to you:

  • Stand by for flights. When you’ve been rebooked on a later flight because no seats are available on the next flight, you may request to stand by on that earlier flight for no charge. If seats become available, we’ll begin clearing standby customers approximately 15 minutes before departure. If you do not get a seat, please allow time for the flight to depart. At that time, you will be place on the standby list for the next flight or you may request additional assistance.
  • Using another airport. Flights into or out of nearby airports may be available. Although typically we won’t be able to provide ground transportation or re-route your checked bags, switching to another airport could reduce your delay.
  • Using another airline. When United has delayed or canceled a flight due to reasons such as certain mechanical problems, and you are going to be delayed more than two hours, we will try to book you on another airline with which we have an agreement for rebooking. When the delay or cancellation is due to something beyond our control, such as weather or air traffic control problems, we typically do not rebook customers on other airlines. In our hub airports in Chicago (ORD), Cleveland (CLE), Denver (DEN), Guam (GUM), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York/Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Tokyo (NRT) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), it is less likely you will be rebooked on another airline because other airlines offer fewer flights.
  • Rescheduling your trip. If your flight is delayed two hours or more, and you’d rather postpone or cancel, please let us know, and we may waive any change penalties that may apply to your ticket.
Lengthy tarmac delays

United's Contingency Plan for lengthy tarmac delays describes United's process for handling these situations in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. For more information, see our Lengthy Tarmac Delay Plan.

Amenities for meals and overnight stays


Delays or cancellations within United's control

For issues within United's control, such as required maintenance or lack of crew availability, the following amenities may be offered, depending on the length of delay:

  • Depending upon the duration of the delay, we may offer food and beverages where available. Snack or meal vouchers may be offered in locations where a beverage cart is not available.
  • For delays that exceed 4 hours, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., customers in a connecting city may be offered complimentary hotel accommodations depending on the amount of time involved and the location of the hotel. Hotel accommodations may not be provided if transportation is offered to or from a nearby airport.
Delays or cancellations that are not within United's control

For issues not within United’s control, such as inclement weather or air traffic control problems, the following amenities may be offered, depending on the length of delay:

  • Depending upon the duration of the delay, we may offer food and beverages where available. Snack or meal vouchers may be offered in locations where a beverage cart is not available.
  • If you have to stay overnight, we may be able to give you a distressed passenger rate voucher for a nearby hotel. These discounted rates, when available, will often be lower than those you would receive if you were to contact the hotel directly. Your accommodations will be at your own expense.
Flight diversions

For flight diversions to an unscheduled airport, every reasonable effort will be made to provide service related to our customers' comfort and well-being, given safety and security concerns. These could include:

  • Alternate transportation
  • Meals and beverages
  • If the diversion exceeds four hours, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., customers may be provided with complimentary hotel accommodations. Hotel accommodations may not be provided if transportation is offered to a nearby airport.
Children traveling alone and customers with special needs


Children Traveling Alone

Our unaccompanied minor service allows parents or guardians to remain at the airport until their child's flight has departed. If the flight is delayed and your child has already boarded the plane, one of our airport representatives will care for your child during the delay.

Youths traveling alone (ages 12 to 17), for whom the parent or guardian has not requested the unaccompanied minor service, will receive care, if requested, from an airport representative. In certain cases, we may arrange for accommodations, meals and transportation if needed.

Customers with special needs

During a flight disruption, United does its best to provide amenities necessary to maintain the safety and welfare of our customers, such as qualified individuals with disabilities and the elderly.

Your checked bags

Regardless of when you’re rebooked, or if you’re rerouted to another city, your checked bags will most likely continue to your original destination on the next flight. If you’re staying overnight and you’ve checked bags, you may request to get them back as long we’re able to access them.

When retrieval is possible, it can be lengthy. In our hub airports in Chicago (ORD), Cleveland (CLE), Denver (DEN), Guam (GUM), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York/Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Tokyo (NRT) and Washington, D.C. (IAD), it could take an extended period of time.

Refunds

When complications such as weather, air traffic control and mechanical delays occur, you may be eligible to request a refund for a restricted ticket. In these situations, please submit a refund request.

If your flight is delayed two hours or more, and you would rather postpone or cancel, please let us know, and we may waive any change penalties that may have applied to your ticket.

Other helpful tips
  • Provide reliable contact information. In order to contact you, we rely on the phone contact and email address in your reservation. We strongly recommend providing your mobile phone as your primary contact when making your reservation and making sure you have an email address in your MileagePlus profile. If you are not a MileagePlus® member, enroll now – it’s free.
  • Subscribe to our flight status notification subscription service. You can have your flight status and gate information sent directly to you. Enrollment is free.
  • Use united.com/info. This flight status shortcut is available from your computer and from any mobile device. It’s great for checking real-time flight status, seat maps, standby lists, and more.
  • Buy trip insurance. Many of our customers have found that buying trip insurance is an affordable way to protect against problems that could occur when traveling. While coverage will vary by provider, the premiums are usually a small fraction of your ticket price and insurance can offset most or all costs incurred due to flight irregularities, baggage delays, and even emergencies that happen while you’re abroad. Through our partner, Allianz, we also offer a trip insurance option.
  • Be prepared. You can help yourself through a delay by keeping snack items, baby supplies, medicines, and other essential personal needs in your carry-on luggage for easy access.

Additional information may be found in our United Customer Commitment and our Lengthy Tarmac Delay Plan, as well as important terms and conditions in our Contract of Carriage. Different policies may apply when traveling to and from certain countries. Learn more about policies specific to the European Union.

Exception policies

In some cases where severe weather and other uncontrollable events are impacting United’s operations, we may, at our sole discretion issue an exception policy designed to accommodate customers with restricted tickets who wish to change their travel in advance of any potential disruption. Exception policies currently in effect are listed below:​​​

Learn more about today's operations. See our daily operations summary for additional information about weather and today's operations.​

Flight status information

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