United may have found a fix for one of the worst realities of flight delays

United may have found a fix for one of the worst realities of flight delays
By: Posted: June 23, 2023

united airlines
United Airlines will now send meal and hotel vouchers for disrupted flights right to passengers’ phones.

  • United said it will send vouchers directly to the phones of passengers with disrupted flights.
  • Meal vouchers will be sent for delays of three hours or more and hotel vouchers for overnight delays.
  • It comes after the Department of Transportation said it would push for better delays compensation.

Despite the TSA’s prediction that the number of flyers this summer will pass pre-pandemic levels, the season’s travel forecast is already looking brighter than last summer’s “flightmare.” 

On Thursday, United Airlines said that it will start sending meal and hotel vouchers via phone to passengers whose flights have been disrupted. Disruptions include issues pertaining to maintenance or technology— or what United spokesperson Amy Fisher called “controllable” delays— which means weather related issues don’t count. 

Meal vouchers will be provided to passengers after a “3-hour controllable delay” while hotel vouchers will be provided to passengers who have to stay overnight as a result of a delay or cancellation, Fisher said in an email to Insider. Flights for those with overnight delays will be rebooked for the next day, she added.

“We’ve been automatically rebooking customers and providing meal and hotel vouchers for years,” Fisher said.  “This is simply a new way for customers to access these resources, making it easier and less stressful for them to get back on their way if their travel is disrupted.” 

Right now, about half of United customers turn to the airline’s app or website to self-serve during travel disruptions, Fisher said. United’s new system will hopefully free up time for airline representatives to help those who aren’t as technically savvy as well and prefer to wait in line or call an agent. 

United’s announcement comes after the Department of Transportation announced plans in May to launch new rulemaking that will require airlines to provide compensation, and cover expenses for amenities like meals, hotels, and rebooking trips, when the airlines are responsible for stranding passengers. 

“When an airline causes a flight cancellation or delay, passengers should not foot the bill,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the DOT’s announcement. 

United is the sixth largest airline in the world according to available seat size with close to 100 million available seats as of 2021. 

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