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United Airlines Compensation and Refund for a Delayed or Canceled Flight

United Airlines says in their promise to customers that “When you book with United, we’ve got your back”, but do they when it comes to delayed and canceled flights? According to the US Department of Transportation, United’s airline on-time performance for 2023 was 78.80% out of 440,426 flights. But what if you’re one of the passengers affected by a United flight delay or cancelation?

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United Airlines Compensation and Refund for a Delayed or Canceled Flight
Anton Radchenko
Reviewed by a licensed lawyer.
Last Updated: June 19, 2024

In this guide, we’ll explore when you can get compensated and the associated amounts if you run into flight disruptions with United Airlines. Plus any other perks you can take advantage of for interruptions.

Your Air Passenger Rights

As a United passenger, your rights depend on where you’re traveling or where you started. So, no matter what country you call home, you will still be protected by the airline regulations of each region or country.

The EU and UK

If your travels take you to the EU or the UK, then you will enjoy some of the best air passenger rights and protections in the world with the United Kingdom’s UK261 and the European Union’s EU 261/2004 regulations. These two sets of rules mirror each other and provide passengers departing from an EU or UK airport with care and assistance, refunds, rebooked flights, and, in some cases, even monetary compensation for delays, cancelations, and denied boarding caused by oversales.

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What is United EU261 Compensation?

If you find yourself facing any of the four problems listed below, you should be able to make an official EU261 claim for United Airlines compensation.

  • Flight delay - Passengers can request compensation on EU flights that get delayed by 3 hours or longer.
  • Canceled flight - Passengers should also be able to request compensation (as well as a flight refund) if a flight gets called off.
  • Overbooking - EU261 also applies for overbooking. This occurs if the company sells an excess amount of tickets and has to deny boarding to one or more passengers.
  • Missed flight connection - Did you miss a connection because of a delay earlier in your flight plan? If so, EU261 should be able to protect you.

What Flights Are Covered by EU261 and UK261?

Whether or not these regulations apply simply depends on the origin of your United flight. Leaving from the UK? UK261 applies. Leaving from the EU? Then, EU261 covers the flight.

The flight distance also dictates the EU261 compensation you can claim, and your flight will fall into one of these categories:



Delay Time at Destination

Total Distance

Flights under 1,500km

EU flights over 1,500km

International flights from 1,500km to 3,500km 

International flights over 3,500km

Under 3 hours

 €0

3 hours or more

 €250

 €400

 €400

 €600*

Canada

Traveling to the Great White North? If so, then you will be similarly protected by the Canadian Transportation Agency’s rules. More specifically, Canadian law requires United to compensate you for flight disruptions depending on your specific situation. This can include cash compensation, refunds, flight rebooking, and care and assistance.

United States

On domestic United Airlines flights, your rights are protected by the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT). While there are no rules requiring airlines to compensate you for delays and cancelations, you can still expect to get refunds and a rebooked flight as determined by each airline individually. In the case of involuntary denied boarding, United is required to provide you with compensation in addition to a rebooked flight or refund.

Here’s a table that will help you see how different regions protect air passenger rights.

Air Passenger Entitlements by Region

Flight Delays

Flight Cancelations

Denied Boarding

EU and UK

Up to US$650/€600 in compensation

Care & Assistance

Up to US$650/€600 in compensation

Rebooked flight OR Refund

Care & Assistance

Up to US$650/€600 in compensation

Rebooked flight OR Refund

Care & Assistance

Canada

Up to CA$1,000 in compensation

Care & Assistance

Up to CA$1,000 in compensation

Care & Assistance

Up to CA$2,400 in compensation

Rebooked flight OR refund

Care & Assistance

United States

None

None

Up to 400% of your one-way fare or US$1,550 (whichever is lower)

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Flight Delay Compensation from United Airlines

Looking specifically at United delays, according to data obtained from the DOT, we found that they had 440,426 flights in 2023, and 84,704 of those flights were delayed. That means that the chances of encountering a United delay are 19.23% (almost 1 in 5). So what can you expect from United when your flight is late?

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United Flight Delays in the EU and UK

United flights departing from the EU and UK must provide passengers with the following if flight operations are delayed:

  • Between $270/€250 and $650/€600.
  • Complementary meals, refreshments, communication, and possible hotel stay.
  • Full ticket refund.

The length of your delay determines the amount of compensation you get. Cash payouts are based on the length of your delay and the overall distance of your flight.

EU and UK Delay Compensation

Length of Delay

Compensation

2 hours or more

  • Complementary meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication

3 hours or more

  • Cash compensation up to US$650/€600 (if the airline is to blame)
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication

5 hours or more

  • Cash compensation up to US$650/€600 (if the airline is to blame)
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication
  • Full ticket refund

United Flight Delays in Canada

If you’re traveling to Canada and your flight is delayed, then you will receive the following:

  • Complementary meals and refreshments.
  • Access to communication.
  • Hotel accommodation and transport there and back.
  • Ticket refund or rebooked flight.

Passenger rights regulations in Canada also base compensation on the length of your delay as seen in the table below.

Canada Delay Compensation

Length of Delay

Compensation

2 hours or more

  • Complementary meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication

3-6 hours

  • Complementary meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication
  • Cash compensation (CA$400 if the airline is to blame)
  • Refund or rebooking

6-9 hours

  • Cash compensation (CA$700 if the airline is to blame)
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Access to communication
  • Refund or rebooking

9 hours

  • Cash compensation (CA$1,000 if the airline is to blame)
  • Meals and refreshments
  • Refund or rebooking

United Flight Delays in the States

As we mentioned, reparations for delays are decided by each airline. So, if your United flight is delayed and caused by something within their control, they say they will provide you with the following if your flight is delayed by 3 or more hours:

  • Hotel accommodation for one night when the delay lasts 4 hours or more between 10 pm and 6 am and transportation to the hotel.
  • Meal vouchers for “extensive delays.”

Additionally, if your United flight is changed significantly, you are entitled to a full refund. Previously, this was not defined, but now it means that your domestic flight is changed by 3 hours or more (departure or arrival) or your international flight is changed by 6 hours or more. Significant changes also include stops at different airports, increased connections, and service downgrades.

Have you had a delayed flight with United? See if you’re eligible for compensation. It only takes a few minutes, it’s free, and all you have to do is enter your flight details.

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United Canceled Flight Compensation

Generally speaking, flight cancelations happen less frequently than delays. In 2023, United had 7,591 canceled flights, which amounts to 1.72% of their total. Recently, flight cancelations have been caused by severe weather affecting vast areas, but many flights are canceled because of staffing inadequacies both with the airline and with airports. Another huge factor affecting cancelation rates is the delays with and grounding of Boeing planes.

For example, in a single incident in January 2024, more than 2,700 flights were canceled in and out of the country, said CBS. High winds and extremely cold temperatures. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport had to cancel 30% of flights. When asked for comment, a United spokesperson said:

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Severe winter weather has caused delays across our operations including at Chicago O'Hare and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Our operations team continues to monitor weather developments across the country and adjust our schedule accordingly.

So, if your flight with United is canceled, here’s what you can expect as compensation.

United Flight Cancellations in the EU and UK

For canceled flights scheduled to depart from the UK or EU, affected passengers are entitled to the following compensation from United depending on the specifics of your situation.

  • As much as US$650/€600 if United cancels your flight with less than 2 weeks' notice and the cancelation was caused by something within the airline’s control.
  • The choice of an alternate flight or a full ticket refund.
  • If you choose to accept a rebooked flight and you have to wait 2 hours or more, then you must be given complimentary meals, refreshments, and access to communication.
  • If your alternate flight won’t leave until the next day, then you must be given an overnight hotel stay plus transportation to and from the hotel.
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Cash compensation is decided by the length of your delay and the distance of your flight. This table will help you see how much you might get in financial compensation.

Compensation in the EU & UK

Delay Time

Flight Distance

 

Flights under 1,500km

EU/UK flights over 1,500km

Flights between 1,500km and 3,500km

International flights over 3,500km

Over 3 hours

US$270 (€250)

US$433 (€400)

US$433 (€400)

US$650 (€600)*

Under 3 hours

 €0

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* United might try to reduce this amount by as much as 50%, but AirAdvisor always works to get the full amount.

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United Canceled Flights in Canada

Canadian law requires United to provide the following to passengers affected by flight cancelations:

  • Up to US$730 if United gives you less than 14 days' notice and they are to blame for the cancelation.
  • A choice between an alternate flight or a full ticket refund.
  • Free hotel accommodation for one night if your rebooked flight leaves the following day plus transport to and from the hotel.
  • Access to communication.
  • Complementary meals and refreshments.

Here’s a snapshot of what passengers can expect for monetary compensation:

Flight Compensation in Canada

Duration of Delay

Compensation Amount

3 to 6 hours

US$295 / CA$400

6 to 9 hours

US$515 / CA$700

9 or more hours

$US730/ CA$1,000

United Flight Cancelations in the United States

If United cancels your domestic flight, then they are obligated to provide you with a full ticket refund if you choose not to continue with your travel plans. They will also offer to rebook you on the next available flight to your connection point or final destination at no extra cost. If the cancelation was not caused by severe weather or other extraordinary circumstances beyond United’s control, then the airline will also try to book you on a flight with a partner airline.

Likewise, United will help passengers with meal vouchers and even a hotel stay with transportation there and back if the canceled flight was caused by something that could have been prevented.

Unlike other countries and regions, the United States doesn’t require airlines to pay cash compensation to passengers who suffer because of canceled flights.

Scott Kirby, United’s CEO, was reportedly paid almost US$18.6 million in 2023 (Skift.com), and during the midst of a flurry of cancelations in July, he took a private jet while thousands of United passengers were stranded in airports. He apologized for the insensitivity, but many passengers were left wondering if the airline really does have their back.

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Denied Boarding Compensation

In 2023, United denied boarding to 21,511, some due to overbooking.

For better cost efficiency, airlines like United will sometimes sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. The trouble with this is that if everyone shows up on time to board, then someone must be bumped from the flight. If you are involuntarily denied boarding on United flight for this reason, then you can expect to receive compensation in most cases.

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Missed Connections

What happens if you miss a connection because an earlier leg of your journey suffered a delay or cancelation? Well, you can expect United to find another flight to help you get to your final destination as soon as possible, but you won’t receive any cash compensation unless you’re traveling from the EU or UK or in Canada. The United States doesn’t have any regulations for airlines to compensate passengers when they miss a connecting flight.

United Airlines plane flying

Extraordinary Circumstances

When your United flight is canceled or delayed due to extraordinary circumstances, it means that the airline had no way of preventing or avoiding the situation. Basically, they are not at fault. Here are some of the most commonly seen examples of extraordinary circumstances:

Always try to discern what caused your flight disruption by asking the airline or airport staff. Then make a note of their response, so you can submit this along with your paperwork when filing a compensation claim.

How To Fill Out a United Airlines EU261 Claim Form

To receive any kind of EU 261 compensation in the UK, the US, or Europe, you’ll need to spend some time filling in a form. This form can be pretty complicated, and it requires quite a lot of detailed information about you and your flight.

To get to the United EU261 compensation form, head to United’s website and click on Customer Care. You’ll then need to select “complaint” and then “flight disruption.” Next, you’ll choose the type of disruption and continue filling out your details from there. Alternatively, you can also log in to have the system find your information.

What to Do if the United Airlines EU261 Form Isn’t Working

If you encounter an error message or have trouble with the United online form, aside from mailing in your complaint, a good option is to partner with AirAdvisor. Our claim form is super easy to go through and takes just a few minutes. Our airline compensation experts are standing by, ready to help you.

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Why You Can Trust AirAdvisor

  • We have a no-win, no-fee pay structure which means we only get paid if you do.
  • Over 250,000 passengers have turned to AirAdvisor
  • We have a 98% win rate and 7 years of experience protecting air passengers’ rights around the globe.

You don’t have to fight airlines alone. Let AirAdvisor protect your rights and get you up to $650/€600 in airline compensation.

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People Also Ask

How do you know if you can claim EU261 compensation?

If you take a United flight that leaves the EU, you’re covered for delays of 3 hours or more at your destination and flights canceled with fewer than 14 days’ notice. Also, if you depart from a UK airport, UK261 applies with the same conditions.

What should you do if United gives you a voucher instead of a refund?

You should only accept vouchers if you fully understand and agree to their terms. In many cases, vouchers come with blackout dates and other restrictions, but most importantly, accepting one can eliminate your chances of getting compensation if you want to file later. The bottom line is that you are entitled to a refund, so you don’t have to accept a voucher if you don’t want to.

What happens if your seat is downgraded to a lower class cabin after a canceled flight?

United will pay you for the difference if you are involuntarily downgraded, but how much depends on where you’re traveling.

Is there a deadline for filing a compensation claim with United?

The deadline for compensation claims is different in each country. In Canada, it’s one year, but in the UK it is 6 years. Some countries have as many as 10 years to file, but most time limits hover around 3 years.

 

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What happened with United Airlines clients

Recent Comments

Philip from United States (USA) (United Airlines UA 984 Flight delay)
May 16, 2024, 9:21 am

Kept waiting at CDG without any reason why and kept getting a new departure time


Alice from United States (USA) (United Airlines UA 507 Flight cancellation)
May 9, 2024, 12:31 am

We arrived 4 1/2 hours late (11:00 pm) The airline did not tell us. After waiting the 4+ hour layover time, we found out the flight was cancelled from the flight departure board in the Rome airport. The airline provided a bus ride to destination We were very late for our pickup in Florence and our check-in at the AirBNB accommodations Very, very poor communications


Syed (United Airlines UA 316 Flight cancellation)
May 6, 2024, 9:30 pm

Originally had a business class ticket and was downgraded to economy.


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