Flight delays and cancellations
On occasion, delaying or canceling a flight is the only way we can maintain our high safety standards. In these challenging situations, simply knowing more about your options is an important step toward getting your travel plans back on track. When complications such as inclement weather, air traffic control problems or mechanical issues arise, our concern for your safety will always outweigh the desire to remain on schedule.
Notification of delays and cancellations
You can view the most up-to-date information about your flight on the United app and united.com, or check a United flight information screen at the airport.
If you provide your mobile number or email address when you check in, you'll receive updates on your flight's status. If you made your reservation through a travel agency, ensure that your contact information is correct when you check in. MileagePlus members can add their contact information to their account and have their information added automatically to each booking. If you're not a MileagePlus member, enroll now — it's free.
When severe weather or other major events may impact our operations, we sometimes issue travel waivers to allow you to change to alternate flights. Depending on the severity of the event, we may allow you to change to another flight or travel on a different date without paying a change fee. Check united.com/importantnotices for the latest travel waivers.
When your itinerary requires rebooking because of a flight delay or cancellation, our automated systems will try to confirm you on the next available United flight. If you provided contact information during check-in, you'll receive an email or text message regarding your updated itinerary. You can also check your itinerary at united.com/checkin, on the United app, at an airport kiosk or by speaking with a United representative.
If you'd like a different itinerary than the one booked for you, the following options are available:
- If you're within 24 hours of your flight's departure time, you may select another flight departing within 24 hours through united.com/checkin, the United app or an airport kiosk.
- If there are more than 24 hours until the scheduled departure of your flight, you may change your flight through Manage Reservations, the United app or an airport kiosk.
- If you're unable to complete your desired flight changes, please contact the United Customer Contact Center or talk with a United airport representative. On days when many of our customers' travel plans are disrupted, you may experience longer wait times.
- If you're on an aircraft equipped with Wi-Fi, you can access united.com and the United app for free.
Sometimes the next available United flight may not depart for several hours or, in extreme cases, even days. In these situations, the following alternatives may be available:
- Standing by for earlier flights. If you've been rebooked on a later flight because seats are not available on the next flight, you may request to stand by for the earlier flight at no charge. If seats become available, we'll begin assigning them to standby customers about 15 minutes prior to departure. If you're not assigned a seat and do not have a confirmed seat on the next flight, you'll automatically be transferred to the standby list for the next flight. If you already have a confirmed seat on the next flight, you can board as you normally do.
- Switching to a nearby airport. If you are able to arrange ground transportation, flying into or out of a nearby airport may offer more flight options.
- Rescheduling your trip. If your flight is canceled or delayed 30 minutes or more, and you want to postpone or cancel your trip, please contact the United Customer Contact Center.
Other helpful tips
- Use the United app. The ability to modify your reservation, check in and view real-time flight status, seat maps and standby lists is available to you almost anywhere you are. The same functions are also available on united.com
- Buy trip insurance. There are many factors beyond your control that can affect your travel, such as inclement weather. 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. We offer a trip insurance option through our partner, Allianz.
- Keep essential items in your carry-on bag. You can help yourself through a delay by keeping snack items, baby supplies, medicines, travel documents and other essential personal items in your carry-on bag for easy access.
If you decide to no longer travel either because your original flight was canceled or you are delayed two hours or more, you can receive a refund to your original form of payment. Other optional services such as checked baggage and Economy Plus® can also be refunded, but ticketing fees (such as those for making a reservation in person) are not. MileagePlus miles can also be re-deposited at no cost. Request your refund by going to united.com/refunds.
Occasionally, unforeseen events such as severe weather, ill customers or mechanical issues require a flight to divert to an alternative airport. When this occurs, United will make every reasonable effort to provide for your comfort and well-being. This may include alternate transportation, meals and beverages, and hotel accommodations.
Upon request, we can provide a statement of proof that a United flight was delayed or canceled. Email your request to email@example.com. Be sure to include the names of all customers in your party, the confirmation number, flight numbers, dates of travel, phone contact and the email address or mailing address where you would like the letter sent. Please allow 5-10 business days for processing.
If your flight is canceled because of a mechanical issue or other circumstances within our control, we will try to accommodate you in a nearby hotel at our expense. If we're unable to book a hotel room for you, we may be able to provide you with reimbursement of overnight accommodations you obtain on your own, including your hotel, ground transportation and meals. In these situations a United airport representative will give you an authorization letter outlining the details for reimbursement, including a maximum allotted dollar amount. When you submit a request for reimbursement, you'll need to submit the authorization letter and all of your receipts. Please keep your receipts so that you can submit them.
For events outside of our control, such as weather, we may be able to help you find a local hotel at a discounted rate, but we do not cover hotel or meal expenses. If this situation applies to your travel, you can ask a United airport representative about discount hotel options.
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.
Your checked bags
If you are booked on a new itinerary, we will make every effort to reroute your checked baggage. Please ask a United representative about the status of your bags and if they can be rerouted.
A toiletry kit may be provided if an overnight stay is necessary and we can't retrieve your checked baggage.
If your bags arrive at your destination before you do, we will secure the bags until you claim them. If your baggage doesn't arrive at your final destination with you, please see a Baggage Service representative.
Customers with special needs
During a flight disruption, we will try to make your wait as comfortable as possible. If you need assistance during your wait at the airport, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our representatives.
Children traveling alone
Our unaccompanied minor service requires parents or guardians to remain at the airport until their child's flight has departed in case the flight is delayed or canceled. In certain cases, we may arrange for accommodations, meals and transportation if needed.
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, such as policies specific to the European Union.