United further (drastically) reduces compensation

In the past, United has been well known as being one of the most generous airlines when it comes to compensating passengers when things go wrong. As a 1K, it was normal to get a $250 electronic certificate for an issue on a transcontinental or international flight. About a month ago they lowered the compensation to $200 for both domestic and international flights, which was reasonable.

Many have been counting down the days of United’s generosity, as Continental almost never provides any form of meaningful compensation. Well, it seems that compensation at United has gone the way of the tulip. As of March 1, the maximum compensation for an “appreciation card” (the onboard form of compensation) for a domestic flight is a $100 electronic certificate for 1Ks, a $75 electronic certificate for Premier Executives, etc. International compensation levels are unaffected by this most recent reduction.

There’s no doubt that this is a drastic change over a very short period of time (going from $250 to $200 to $100 in a month), though it was expected. Even at these rates, United is still one of the more generous airlines out there, so I really can’t fault them.


  1. As a 1k for two years and premexec for 2 years prior to that, I am proud and ashamed to say I only was compensated $500 in vouchers and 15,000 miles.

    I never felt the need to complain that my flight was late or reading light was out. Of course I appreciated their gestures, but I welcome a smarter and less wasteful United.

    Also look at their 2008 stock $3 a share and 2011 around $25 a share. Smart men direct ships, dumb ones sink them. History speaks for itself.

  2. Disappointed to hear that they lowered it to $100. However, are we sure that they really lowered it? I talked to a 1K that redeemed two skykits yesterday. Both we worth $200.

  3. @FS – yes…it’s $100. I just used my last one for a SEA-SFO personal r/t and it credited as $100. Oh well, UA has been insanely generous – but if they go much more below this level then it’s almost a why bother level.

  4. I had been saving one from mid-January (to extend the e-cert’s life), but the recent thread made me want to cash it in before future depreciation.

    I am a 1K, and today I was offered $200 / 9K miles / 10%.

  5. I redeemed 2 tonight, got $200 for the first one (HNL-NRT), $100 for the 2nd one (PEK-NRT).


  6. It is NOT based on the actual coupon, but based on the DATE and ROUTE of travel. As long as one doesn’t go over the I think 90 days limit, then you get whatever was in place prior.

    I think this has been going on longer than a month, our kits from December transcon were only 200$.

  7. I wonder if the same new “rules” will hold for complaints made by email to 1KVoice, etc. It makes sense to me that, for little onboard issues, $100 is fine. But when things go seriously haywire — e.g., mx leads to a missed connection and forced overnight — I just can’t imagine $100 is going to be the ceiling. If I had gotten a perfunctory $100 the last time my travel was messed up that badly, I would have seen it as a major insult. This is why I think it makes sense to lower the compensation for the little piddly things so that they have some room to more generously compensate for the larget problems.

  8. I wonder if the new compensation may be distanced based, rather than international vs. domestic. We have two reports of shorter flights SEA-SFO and PEK-NRT both being given $100 as compensation. If there is a long distance domestic flight like SFO-JFK, or DEN-HNL, $100 compensation is way too low IMHO.

  9. The writing was definitely on the wall. I absolutely benefited from them, but it makes complete sense from United’s perspective to reel back the generosity. I wonder if these new levels also apply to GS (probably so)?

  10. I also wonder if the compensation will be based on what happens. No IFE, vs. no pre-select meal choice, vs. FA spilling champagne all over your Zegna suit (trust me, this HAPPENS) and dry cleaning of that sort can be $$, so the 100$ doesn’t really go to far to cover the actual cost to remediate PLUS any sort of “appreciation” compensation.

    I honestly don’t agree however, with 1K vs. 1P getting different payouts.

  11. Yes, UA handed them out like candy in the past, and often they were out of line with the problem itself. But now they’re erring in the other direction, and the death spiral of compensation valuation gives UA that much less incentive to actually fix things and not simply hand out stacks of skyktis which will for the average pax on the plane be worth $25 or so, tops.

    Lower value certs also make me more likely to complain to the FA and request them for what I’d have left unvoiced and passed as simply a normal travel glitch before. Ooh, my audio jack is crackly? Lines on the IFE video screen? Go ahead, give me an e-cert, I suppose.

  12. As a 1P I recently got nothing for a 4 hour delay caused by a canceled flight due to mechanical issues, is this the new normal?

  13. @tivoboy

    Were you on my ORD-LAX flight where the FA spilled wine all over a guy’s laptop while he was working and all over his shirt as well??

    For compensation, I think it should not be a flat rate, but based on the situation… If a flight goes mechanical resulting in us being delayed significantly or misconnecting and then I think the compensation should be around $200-250… Or for situations where there was discrimination involved [an IAD TA asked my friend are you gay yesterday and said deaf people can’t fly in first class, not kidding], etc… Also paid F/J customers should get more compensation for any issues that they paid for and did not receive like broken AVOD.

    For broken lights, air vents, not getting your meal choice, a plain stupid rant about how the FA was lazy, or whatever should be compensated around $100.

  14. @Nick, I got $200 when LAX-SFO went mechanical causing me to be stranded in LAX for over 4 hours… I was in paid F too…

    Email customer relations and explain this situation to them… Any mechanical delay that is over 2 hours for domestic flights or 3 hours for international flights should be compensated no matter what IMO… After all it really fouls up our plans on many levels and most of the time those issues are VERY costly for business travelers…

  15. Literally was just issued a CS email appology this morning by web support for some ridiculous hold time. Still $200.

  16. I’ve always been a little jealous of the compensation folks are getting. So far I’ve not had anything happen that would cause me to write in; haven’t ever been given a Skykit for anything. I did once write in to compliment some great FAs and unexpectedly got some e-certs which was nice.

    I have seen others have difficulties – a guy in the seat beside me with broken IFE, MX cancels, etc. Now that they’re lowering compensation I suppose I will have a rash of problems!

    Of course, how many of these compensation certs/vouchers actually get redeemed? I’m sure the rate is high among the FT’er crowd buyt I’d be curious to know in general.

    Just from reading the FT “HOw much were you compensated…” threads, it does seem like UA went a little overboard at times. But now it sounds like the pendulum is swinging the other way. Somewhere there has to be a happy middle ground that is fair all around.

  17. I was on the 3/1 ORD-PVG UA835 flight that was in the air for 2.5 hours before turning back to Chicago for mechanical problems. I was in 13J on the 777 and the seat was broken the leg prop would not stay The flight was cancelled and we were stuffed into the 3/2 flight. Lost my business class seat, had used a SWU and put into a middle seat in E Plus. Missed a very important meeting in Shanghai and had prepaid a hotel stay.

    As a 1K for 3 years I was offered $350/25,000 miles. just compensation?

  18. @fileandplot, you should have been rebooked into C, not Y as your ticket was confirmed. If you United did not have C space to PVG, then they should have rebooked you into another TransPac flight that gets you close to PVG in C and then perhaps a short Y connection. The $350 compensation is about right for a cancelled flight in the US, but the fact you lost a prepaid hotel room should warrant additional compensation. Did you book directly with the hotel or through a 3rd party? If through the hotel’s site, you could call the reservations line and plead your case. If I use Priceline, I alway buy the room insurance fee. Nontheless, call 1K customer relations and inform them of your whole situation. Rebookings should be done in C. And get your SWU back!

  19. Personally, I don’t really mind that the compensation goes down a bit, or becomes more incident specific. What I would REALLY like to see is the simple ability to apply the $$ off voucher to ANYTHING other than a single passenger purchased ticket. WHY oh WHY can’t I simply apply the discount to a party of two purchase? Put in a cliff of purchases, the amount cannot be LESS than the voucher amount, but having to use these e-certs, $$ of coupons only of single itin is really annoying and in the end possibly creates more problems the airlines having to manage multiple upgrades for multiple passengers, possibly joining PNR which seems difficult if not damb near impossible, etc. Just have it be some form of credit please.

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