United Award: What to Do if a Partner Flight is Cancelled

United Award: What to Do if a Partner Flight is Cancelled


Your United MileagePlus Award Flight on a Star Alliance partner has a segment that's cancelled: what are your options? That was our situation recently, when we woke up to find that the last leg of our MileagePlus Business Class award to Europe had its second leg cancelled. Here are the options if that happens to you:

Refund the Award

With a segment cancellation, as with a major schedule change, you can request a full refund of your MileagePlus award ticket, both the miles and taxes paid. Before choosing this option, however, be sure you have a good alternative since award availability is dynamic. Read on for other alternatives.


Reroute the Award

We didn't want to refund our awards, since we booked many months ago and nothing was available for a similar award cost. We wanted to keep our trans-Atlantic business class flight and change to different economy flights to get to our destination (since our originally booked business class award also had its last intra-Europe leg in Economy). Fortunately we were able to find other Star Alliance flights that worked. You need to find saver award space, which is far more likely for economy flights, so if your originally booked itinerary had rare saver business award space you may be out of luck, at least if the route that was cancelled isn't one that United flies on its own metal (see below).

Note that if needed, you can try switching your destination to a nearby airport, but it needs to be within 200 miles of your original destination, for example FRA could be switched to MUC, AMS could be switched to BRU, HEL could be switched to LED, MAN could be switched to LHR, etc.


Ask MileagePlus to Open Up Award Space on United

There's a third option: asking United MileagePlus to open up award space on flights. Keep in mind that United *won't* be able to open up award space on Star Alliance partner airlines, only its own metal, so if you're hoping to magically obtain SWISS Business Class, SAS Business Class, etc. where it's not currently available as award space, that won't happen. But MileagePlus can open up space on United's own flights, so that is a possibility, although you may need to get a supervisor involved to accomplish it.


Our Experience

Since we have no United MileagePlus elite status, we initially spoke to a regular Reservations agent. It quickly became apparent that she wouldn't be all that helpful, as she focused on the refund option, which we didn't want. We asked to speak with a supervisor, who was far more helpful. We already had found the substitute flights we wanted, with Economy saver award space, so I fed those to the supervisor and she made the change, keeping intact our original business class trans-Atlantic flight and award pricing.

If you've had a United award segment cancelled recently, what was your experience resolving it?

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1 year ago

I have this exact problem right now, I have a flight PDX>ORD>WAW>DUB. The WAW>DUB section is currently canceled and there are no alternatives to get me to Dublin. I’m trying to get United to switch me to a direct ORD>DUB flight which has award availability all though at a much higher price point than I paid. Is it unreasonable to ask them to transfer me to this flight instead of waiting to see if an alternate opens up which is what the agent I talked to recommended, or he offered me a refund which of course I do not want… Read more »

1 year ago

Update: I tried for several days to talk to an agent via the messaging app on United, they said they could cancel the trip or I could just wait it out and see if another flight from WAW>DUB opened up. I then called and spoke over the phone with a very helpful agent who changed the second flight to a direct UA flight from ORD>DUB and kept me in business class for the transatlatic flight at no extra charge even though that flight is currently 3x the points that I paid for mine. Way to go United!

1 year ago
Reply to  Megan

Thanks! I am reading your comment while I sit and wait for United chat so it sounds like I’ll probably have better luck calling in.