How to change or cancel a United flight

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We get a lot of questions about United’s policies and procedures, which isn’t surprising given they’re one of the biggest carriers in the U.S.

United has made some policy changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’ll review those. And we’ll also explain, step by step, how to change or cancel a United flight — both paid flights and award tickets.

(Photo by NextNewMedia/Shutterstock)

United’s COVID-19 changes

Here’s what you need to know about United’s change and cancellation policies in light of the coronavirus outbreak:

Flight changes

There have been some significant updates to United’s change policy due to the pandemic. United has announced that they are waiving change fees for most tickets for flights traveling between the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. Change fees are eliminated if you have purchased one of these types of fares:

  • Economy
  • Economy Plus
  • United First
  • United Business
  • United Premium Plus

Additionally, if you book a basic economy fare or an international flight by Dec. 31, 2020, change fees are eliminated as well.  

Flight cancelations

According to United’s most recent travel notice – you have from now until Dec. 31, 2020 to cancel your flight and rebook later without penalty. This applies to award travel booked with United miles too.

If you cancel your tickets, you’ll receive a travel credit valid for 24 months from the date of issue. If United cancels your flight and you can’t be rebooked to a new itinerary that gets you to your destination within six hours of its original arrival time, you can request a full refund to your credit card.

What are United’s fees and penalties? 

Let’s take a look at United’s updated fees and penalties for flight changes and flight cancelations. 

Flight changes

At the moment, United is stating that international flights and basic economy fares will not incur change fees until after Dec. 31, 2020. This gives a lot of additional flexibility for those who want to book travel, but also want the extra security of being able to adjust their plans due to the pandemic. 

Flight cancelations

When you cancel a flight you will receive a credit that you’ll need to use within one year from the date that you bought your initial ticket. A redeposit fee of $125 will be charged for award travel booked with United miles, but only if the cancelation is made within 30 days of the flight’s scheduled departure. And this fee is reduced if you’ve earned United elite status. Although this isn’t ideal, it’s a small price to pay for canceling a flight and recovering your miles so that you can apply them to future travel. 

How to change or cancel your United flight

Changing or canceling a United flight booked on the United Airlines website (whether it be a paid or award ticket) can be done in four easy steps:

  1. Sign in to your United account
  2. Manage your reservation
  3. Select whether you’re changing or canceling your flight
  4. Confirm your selection and receive a confirmation

Here’s a more detailed look at the process:

Step 1.  Sign in to your account

From United’s home page click the “Sign In” button at the top right-hand side of the screen.

Then enter your MileagePlus account number and password to log in.

Step 2.  Manage your reservation

After you’re logged in, select “My trips” in either of the menus displayed. They’ll both take you to the same spot.

If you booked your flight with your United account information, your reservation should automatically show up under “My trips.”

From there just click the itinerary you’d like to manage.

If your trip doesn’t display, you’ll need to enter your confirmation number and last name to pull it up and start the change/cancellation process.

Step 3.  Select your self-service option

After locating your itinerary you’ll have the option to manage your trip — things like selecting your seat and paying for bags. To change or cancel the flight click either the “Change flight” or “Cancel flight” button.

Step 4.  Complete the change or cancelation

In this example, I opted to cancel my flight. After selecting “Cancel flight,” you’ll be asked to confirm that you’d like to cancel your trip and then you’ll need to click the “Cancel trip” button. After that, you’ll be asked one more time to confirm the cancellation.

Finally, you’ll get the confirmation that your trip has been canceled.

If you elect to change your trip, the process will be very similar but you’ll be directed to select the new itinerary you want to replace your existing booking.

Last, you’ll receive an email confirming the change or cancellation details.

FAQ: Changing flights with United

Here are answers to frequently asked questions regarding changing a United flight. 

Can you change a flight on the same day?

The answer here depends on what type of fare you’ve purchased. All United MileagePlus Premier members will be able to make same-day flight changes without change fees starting Jan. 21, 2021. The flights must have the same origin and destination and be scheduled within 24 hours of the original flight. 

Regardless of what type of fare you’ve purchased, same-day standby is an option for all United customers starting Jan. 1, 2021 — a positive improvement over United’s previous policy regarding same day standby.

Can a flight be changed to another location?

Yes, you can change your flight to another location, but you will need to pay any difference in the fare. Plus, note that if the new fare is less expensive than your original fare you will not receive a refund or credit for the difference. 

Can it be changed an indefinite number of times?

You can change your flight as many times as you’d like! While this is great news and allows for a lot of flexibility, one thing to note is that you will need to pay any difference in fare between the two flights. So keep this in mind when considering a flight change. If your new flight costs less than your original flight United won’t refund the difference. 

FAQ: Canceling flights with United

Here are a few answers to FAQs about canceling a United flight. 

Can you cancel a flight on the same day?

You can cancel your flight within 24 hours of purchasing it and receive a full refund. After the 24 hour period is up, cancellations are typically not eligible for a refund.

If you cancel a flight on the same day that you are scheduled to travel you may receive a refund or a travel credit depending on the type of ticket you purchased. You can find this information by going to the “manage reservations” page in your United account.

Do you get your rewards back if the flight was booked with points?

Salvaging rewards miles in the event that you need to cancel a flight is always top of mind for savvy travelers. The short answer to this question is YES! If you opt to cancel your flight, you’ll have the option to redeposit the miles into your account or immediately use those award miles to book another future trip. You can find additional information here.

Bottom line

Changing or canceling a United flight is a straightforward process. With your confirmation number in hand, it only takes a few clicks on United’s site to alter your reservation. The conditions and fees you may or may not be subject to will depend on the fare type, your date of departure, your elite status, and whether it’s a cash or award ticket.

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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